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A Dinner Guest, a Mom from the Midwest and Compassion Expressed

If I could invite anyone to dinner, dead or alive, Erma Bombeck, a role model that I never met, is a top contender on my list! It is only fitting that tomorrow, April 22, marks Erma Bombeck Celebration Day, the anniversary of her death.

Bombeck was THE Mom Blogger well before the Internet was a thing.

She wrote syndicated humor columns in the 1960’s-1990’s, and a number of bestselling books, about the humor in the ordinary life of a Midwestern suburban housewife. She was a favorite of my own mom, perhaps looking for her own sanity and humor in raising my siblings and me.

I respect a person who not only finds humor in the (at times) mundane, but also vividly recounts a moment of chaos when a mom hides in the closet to take a phone call -- from a cold-calling salesperson no less -- and the rest of the family eventually ends up in the closet with her because they need her for this or that.

Erma Bombeck perfected the prose of irony in the little, relatable moments, and had us reading newspaper columns, books and laughing. She has a number of famous quotes attributed to her name, including this one:

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

My most favorite, memorable story, however, that inspired me to write is from her 1983 book, Motherhood, the Second Oldest Profession. Bombeck had been corresponding with a mom in her early twenties who was in jail for killing her child, and read Bombeck’s books while in solitary confinement. She told Bombeck,”Had I known I could laugh at those things (housework, raising kids, being less than perfect) I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.”

That story haunts me. Do we put so much pressure on each other that a mom, even if only one among us, feels the need to kill her child when she does not measure up? In that same book, Bombeck says at some point we all get on our judgmental high horse and say, “What kind of mother would…” And then she says it is not until you become a mother that your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding.”

It is compassion that propelled me to share my own vulnerable stories as a way to pay it forward. I am the mom who forgot the diaper bag. I am the mom of four children, who may or may not have yelled at my children about a red chair. I may or may not have had some parenting fail moments that I share in ZagZig Parenting, so that others can smile, laugh and feel not alone in the parenting chaos.

In the early 90’s Erma Bombeck wrote this in the Washington Post: "Failing is what most of us do...but we have still managed to go on breathing...I have several reactions when I hear people introduce me [with] glowing that I don't even recognize myself. I figure Mother Teresa just flew in...I would like to propose a new wrinkle to introductions. Instead of listing a speaker's successes, why not list the failures? Born average, our guest tonight never rose above it...Her first and last comedy album ... raced to oblivion...She has never won a Pulitizer Prize...never been interviewed by Barbara Walters...”

I look to forward, someday, well in the future, to meeting my average guest for dinner.

Read more stories by Kori, with commentary from her husband Mike, in ZagZig Parenting: (Mis) Adventures from a Career-Drive Mom and a Stay-at-Home Dad, available for purchase on Amazon. The book officially releases Tuesday, April 25.

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