Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Erma Bombeck

Well, this battle outcome is a totally forgone conclusion....

I am rereading At Wit's End. I don't really need a reason to do this; reading Erma Bombeck is it's own reward and should be done often. But this time I am reading it for my March bookclub, and you can tell how much I adore Erma, given that I am foregoing my usual procrastinate and read the book 2 days before the bookclub date. I love Erma, but reading her comes at a price.

The problem is that I read her and laugh so hard that the pen simply falls from my hands. I can't write a thing. What on earth do I have to say that hasn't already been said, in the wittiest and most wonderful way ever, by Erma? Not much. I mean, get this:

"It's those rotten kids. It's their fault I wake up feeling so depressed. If only they'd let me wake up in my own way. Why do they have to line up along my bed and stare at me like Moby Dick just washed up onto a beach somewhere?"

Oh, Erma. You totally get it. Or how she deals with snow days:

"I cry a little in the dishtowel, then announce sullenly, 'All right, don't sweat in the school clothes. REPEAT. Don't sweat in the school clothes.'"

Perfection. Or any of this:

"If you can't make it better, you can laugh at it."

"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."

"It is not until you become a mother that your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding."

"When a child is locked in the bathroom with the water running and he says he doing nothing but the dog is barking, call 911."

I can't compete with that. I just can't. I should hang up my pen. But before I do, I reread why she wrote At Wit's End:

" I wrote the book for the original model - the one who was overkidsed, underpatienced, with four years of college and chapped hands all year round. I knew that if I didn't laugh a little at myself, I would surely cry."

And maybe that is what I need to remember. Erma didn't write to be rich or famous. She didn't even write to share her wisdom, which happened anyway. She wrote so that she wouldn't go insane in the daily crazy that parenting can be. She wrote because she didn't see any other way to deal with the thousands of dramas that can happen within the length of one episode of Curious George. She wrote to try to corral the emotions that ebb and flow within you as you gaze, somehow angrily and adoringly, at these little tyrants who rule your life and won't let you pee without an audience. She wrote because she needed to. There was some deep need within her that she had to follow. I have the same need, so I write. A ton, as you, unfortunately, are forced to read on a weekly basis.

Will I ever write anything other than this blog? Or the numerous journals that clutter the various hidden spots around my house? Or the emails to my mother? I don't know. Probably not. Aren't they enough? I would be lying if I said there wasn't a not-so-secret desire within me to be published. Most writers are lying when they tell you that they don't think about it. But more and more, I am seeing my un-published writing as valuable in and of itself. Or even as my blog as a form of self-publishing. Money would be nice, but what is publishing really but a way to connect with a larger group of people. And that is how this blog began anyway; a lonely mom who had just moved to a new place, who was longing to connect with other moms. A need to relay the ridiculous experiences I have in my awkward attempts at parenting because if I don't share them, they are going to fester in my mind and convince me that I can't do this. I couldn't possibly be a mother, I am too awkward. But something magical happens in the telling; the humor sneaks in and suddenly it isn't that I am too awkward to be a mom, it is that: even I, with all my awkwardness, can be a mom.

I don't need to compare myself to Erma. I will never be her, and that is OK. I am who she wrote for when she says:

"This isn't a book. It's a group therapy session. It is based on six predictable depression cycles that beset a woman during a twelve-month span. These chapters will not tell you how to overcome these depression cycles. They will not tell you how to cope with them. They will have hit home if they, in some small way, help you to laugh your way through while hanging on to your sweet sanity."

And in some weird way, she is who I write for. Her and the billion other moms in the world who bravely wake up every morning to children staring at them and chose to get out of bed and deal with them. Who make it through their days by whatever means possible (Netflix included), and then creep into their children's rooms at night (if they ever get them out of their own beds in the first place) to watch them sleep because it is the only time they are still and look like the babies they miss. I write for moms like me. I write to know there are moms like me. I write to connect to all of you, and that connection is what helps me get up every day and deal with snowdays, locked bathroom doors, and the tragedies that somehow morph into comedies in telling you about them.  Thank you all so much; you are the reason I can call myself a mom at all.

Well, she is definitely more Awkward then Erma, but she's alright. We'll keep her around, if only because, with her, stuff like this happens:


  1. You totally need to try to get published!! You are amazing! And as for blog, just a friendly advice - move GFC followers on the side because I bet lots of people would totally want to follow you and read your awesome blog, they just don't know how :)

    1. Thanks for the advice, Lena! I never even thought of that!

      And I am still waiting for your home and garden show on tv...until then, I shall have to content myself with your blog. Oh poor me. :)

  2. I am eagerly awaiting our next trip to the library so I can pick up this book. I have a feeling I'm going to love it. It will probably strike me as far funnier now than it would have before Katie. Just like Dilbert never used to be funny to me until I started working in a corporate office.

    Keep up the awesome writing, yourself! I (obviously) totally dig your awkward adventures. They are TOTALLY a group therapy session - I can't tell you how many things I've read on your blog and thought, "Thank goodness, I'm not the only one who does that!" Like vacuuming the kitchen table, for example. :)

    1. It is such a fun book. Kinda dated, but that makes it even more fun. The mom stuff doesn't change and the references are so delightfully 60s! :)

      Ah, thanks! And I am really glad to know that I am not the only lazy kitchen table cleaner out there.....