In Tillie Olsen's short autobiographical story I Stand Here Ironing, she gives the reader a glimpse into her life, the choices she made as a mother, and a single parent. The question of whom or what is to blame for Emily's problematic childhood remains a mystery though, even after having read the story. Does the blame lie on the shoulders of the mother, or is it the circumstances of the world Emily was born into? When analyzing it psychologically, you could even (since the story is an autobiography in which she portrays herself as the mother) attribute the plight to the manner in which the mother was raised. You could even venture out and blame Emily for her own misfortune. .
The unfortunate circumstances that Emily was born into seem to contribute largely to Emily's calamity. The mother "believes," or tells herself and the person with whom she is speaking, that things such as her husbands abandonment, and her struggling economic situation gave way to little or no chance of proper care and nurturing. She even hints that the volatility of the socioeconomic and political situation of war contributed by mentioning in her final affirmation that she is a "child of her age, of depression, of war, of fear." There is no doubt that the mother feels that Emily has been deprived of a "normal" childhood as defined by the social standards of the time, but never really claims herself as responsible for it.
She also implies inadvertently that Emily's character, or lack there of, contributes to her calamity. She hints at this by giving examples that portray Emily as passive and pessimistic. She speaks of Emily's lack of "direct protest and rebellion." She claims that Emily never had "the explosions, the tempers, the denunciations, the demands" that were common to three and four year old children. This implies that Emily was too passive, and was not clear enough when expressing her grievances to her; therefore resulting in the mother becoming misinformed about what Emily wanted or "demanded.