Olsen's story is a significant work of realism, specifically social realism, a genre of writing that focuses on the everyday life of the working classes. The emphasis in this genre is an almost journalistic accuracy that tries to convey the material realities of working-class life. In a few pages, Olsen's story gives us a concrete sense of the life and struggles of the working-class narrator.
"I Stand Here Ironing" is also a coming-of-age story, following Emily, the narrator's daughter, from birth to the end of adolescence. We only get Emily's story in fragments, from her mother's perspective. But this perspective enables the story to reveal how the circumstances of Emily's upbringing have a profound effect on her personal development.