Nicole Knepper">

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

This article, entitled Moms who drink and swear - The gift that keeps on giving comes from Nicole Knepper, writer of Moms Who Drink and Swear © on chicagonow.com.

I wonder if Erma Bombeck ever got bombed?

Before anyone gets offended and prepares to defend the witty Ms. B, take a moment to remember that she had a wicked sense of humor about everything, including herself. Not only did she not shy away from controversial topics, she was quite often the one to initiate the discussions about them! Erma Bombeck fearlessly explored both her own ideas and the most current social, political and cultural issues of the day.

Observant, clever and irreverent, Erma Bombeck gave a voice to harried housewives everywhere in the 1960s and 70s. She knew what it was like to hurt, to feel different, to want yearn for motherhood and so much more. Never had a woman writer so boldly revealed her struggles with traditional roles with such confidence, sass and heartfelt honesty. She was loving and desperate without being bitter or needy. There had never been anyone like her and even today, her words hold a unique place in the world of parenting literature.

She had harsh criticisms for her husband, often complained about men in general. One of my favorite Erma jabs on men was, “God created men. I could do better.” She repeatedly called her kids ROTTEN. More Erma quotes here.

Oh yes she did!

She complained about the never ending, overwhelming demands of motherhood saying, “One thing they never tell you about child raising, is that for the rest of your life, at the drop of a hat, you are expected to know your child’s name and how old he or she is.”

Right on! I don’t know about you guys, but I call the kids the dog’s names and the dogs the kid’s names every single day, at least once, (maybe more) and I’m not ashamed to say that like Erma, I would rather bang my head against hard surfaces than iron clothes. I don’t even know where our iron is.

My mom, along with millions of other 1970s housewives had her columns and articles clipped and hung on our refrigerator as a reminder that not only was cleanliness not next to Godliness, but also indicative of some seriously screwed up priorities. The wispy strips of newsprint were like permissions slips for wives and mothers everywhere to giggle away guilt and eat dessert – I think that if she were still alive and writing today, Erma Bombeck would have a legion of followers wearing t-shirts with her picture on the front and the words “Just do it,” on the back, or “Hugs before suds.” Suck it housework!

Erma was extraordinary. And not just because she was brave and highly intelligent, or because she was fearless and ahead of her time for the majority of the time she was actively writing and speaking on behalf of women. Because she lost her father when she was only a child and tasted poverty, worked tough jobs, went to college, read thousands of books, fell in love, got married, adopted a child, gave birth to a child, spent years as a working mother, suffered pain from chronic illness and survived cancer, Erma had first hand experience with the fine line between joy and pain, humor and heartache. She damn well earned every shred of respect and adoration she received from her fans.

Erma experienced a tussle with rejection and negative backlash, but it was very brief, and a result of her choice to embrace the politics of the day, demanding equal rights under the law for women. Her magical way with words during this time was nothing short of groundbreaking because she didn’t tell people how they should do things; she just shared the way she chose to approach her job as a parent. Her words changed the way women saw themselves and was living proof that if she could embrace both the traditional and modern roles, so could they.

And they did! I don’t think Erma or anyone else for that matter could have possibly anticipated what this would really mean for women. In 1996, just as the Internet was exploding in popularity, changing the way we communicate, Erma Bombeck died from complications related to her life long battle with polycystic kidney disease. She was 69 years old. I often wonder what she would have to say if she were alive today about the World Wide Web and the thousands of discussion forums, blogs, social networking and shopping sites, but especially the mom blogs.

I would have love to been bombed, or even buzzed with Ms. Bombeck and discuss that and so many other things. Would she have been comfortable on a girl’s night out, drinking wine and exploring the madness that is today’s parenting culture? As a champion for women’s rights, Erma used her influence to empower women, to encourage them to be the best version of themselves while being okay with the fact there is a range of best. I think she would be disgusted with the “Mommy wars,” and the way we all dissect each and every word and decision we made with it comes to our children.

Many fine sound bites are attributed to Erma Bombeck, but one of my very favorites is this one –

“I love my mother for all the times she said absolutely nothing…thinking back on it all, it must have been the most difficult part of mothering she ever had to do: knowing the outcome, yet knowing she had no right to keep me from charting my own path. I thank her for all her virtues, but mostly for once having said, ‘I told you so.’”

I knew next to nothing about Erma Bombeck until someone said that my writing was similar to hers – with less f-bombs and references to booze of course. This is the best compliment I have ever received about my writing, probably the best I will ever receive. There are so many writers whose words get me through the rough spots in life. Each day I learn something from a particularly thought provoking piece, or I get the laugh I need to de-compress from a stressful day. This morning, one of those writers indicated that he could hardly believe people actually care what he has to say and continue to read his blog. I can relate. I’m really grateful for the gift you all give me, reading my stuff and sharing it.



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