In the essay “My Mother Never Worked,” Bonnie Smith-Yackel recollects the time when she called Social Security to claim her mother’s death benefits. Social Security places Smith-Yackel on hold so they can check their records on her mother, Martha Jerabek Smith. While waiting, she remembers the many things her mother did, and the compassion her mother felt towards her husband and children. When Social Security returns to the phone, they tell Smith-Yackel that she could not receive her mother’s death benefits because her mother never had a wage earning job.
A tremendous amount of irony is used in this essay. The title, in itself, is full of irony; it makes readers curious about the essay’s point and how the author feels about the situation. Smith-Yackel uses the essay to convey her opinion of work. Her thesis is not directly stated; however, she uses detail upon detail to prove her mother did work, just not in the eyes of the government.
Although her mother never was employed at a public or private business, she worked at home relentlessly. During the day, she worked on the farm, cooked for her family, and cleaned the house; at night, she sewed rugs and clothes for her children. Martha Smith continued to sew and plant a garden in her old age as well as when her children were grown and on their own. The passing of time was revealed in the years Smith-Yackel’s siblings were born. They were also revealed in the passing of seasons for farming.
I think this essay was very unique; she uses irony repeatedly in her essay. It keeps you interested throughout the essay and even after I finished. I wondered what her response was to the person at the Social Security Office after they said, “Well you see-your mother never worked.” Even though she didn’t express her feelings about not getting any benefits from her mother’s death, I can tell that she was upset and shocked that the government overlooked the work her mother did daily. Smith-Yackel uses the telephone conversation as a frame for the essay, which is very interesting. It makes the story a little more realistic and it closes the essay nicely.