Comment on the mother-daughter relationship in "I Stand Here Ironing." 

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The relationship of the speaker of this monologue with her daughter is one that is characterised by past hurts and regret. In particular, it is clear that the speaker feels real guilt about the decisions that she made during her eldest daughter's upbringing, seeing the problems that she faces now as being a direct consequence of her failures, as she sees them, as a parent. In particular, there is a real sense of missed opportunities. Note how the speaker at one point remembers how, when her daughter would call for her at night when she was upset by a dream, she would only call back. She only got up twice to sit with her, but that was then she had to get up anyway for her younger daughter:

Now when it is too late (as if she would let me hold and comfort her like I do the others) I get up and go to her at her moan or restless stirring. "Are you awake? Can I get you something?" And the answer is always the same: "No, I'm all right, go back to sleep Mother." 

It is interesting that the mother herself says it is "too late," as if now that she has made all of these mistakes, she is unable to try and go back and heal the damage in their relationship. The mother, as she stands there and irons, reflecting on her daughter and the mistakes she has made as a mother, therefore feels that in many ways she is responsible for the problems that her daughter faces. In particular, she feels tremendous regret at the way that she allowed herself to be persuaded to do various things to her daughter by other people, such as put her into a nursery school and put her into a convalescent home when she was ill, even though she recognised that these two places seemed to do her daughter more harm than good. The relationship between the narrator and her daughter is therefore very strained and difficult, but the mother feels massive guilt as she reflects on her failures as a mother. 

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