What I learned from Erma Bombeck


For Mother’s Day this year, my husband gave me tickets to see a play about the life of Erma Bombeck. If you are unfamiliar with her, here is a short bio:

Humorist, writer, columnist and journalist Erma Bombeck found the humor in the everyday experiences of being a wife and mother and shared it with her readers. Already known for her wit, Erma Bombeck’s career as a humorist really began to take off in the mid-1960s. Entitled “At Wit,” her humor column developed quite a following and gave voice to suburban housewives. In addition to her column, she wrote for magazines such as Good Housekeeping. She also authored several popular books. Beginning in the mid-1970s, Bombeck also became a TV personality.

~Taken from Biography.com

I had fond but vague memories of her from my childhood, as I grew up reading her column in the Dayton Daily News. I also remember listening to my mother and grandmother laugh and rehash her latest book. So, I understood and recognized the humor in her writing, as much as one could at that age, but I wondered a little bit what the fuss was all about.

But, sitting in the theater that night, I discovered the true art form of her humor through the lens of motherhood. It was a one woman play and Erma’s most famous quotes were interspersed in the dialogue of Erma speaking to us during a typical day at her home. I laughed out loud as I finally understood her saying: “Motherhood is the second oldest profession.”  I watched in amazement at a mother and housewife from the late 1960’s, who had the same troubles and tribulations as a mother in 2017.

We get very preoccupied with the nostalgia of the past. We idealize it, and wonder why it is so much harder now. But this show and her books (that I have since read) showed me that motherhood has always been hard. Maybe we just have forgotten how to find the humor in it. So take some time to pick up one of her books and learn to add a little bit of humor back into motherhood. It is time to stop taking life so seriously.



  1. So happy to read this! My twin sister and I wrote the play (Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End), and our fondest hope was that it would introduce Erma to new readers. Her observations and humor are as needed now as when she was writing her column. Thanks for this!

    • Thanks to you Allison and Margaret! It was so wonderful to reconnect with Erma and to learn so much about what she did for woman and motherhood. I hope that your play will continue to spread her humor and compassion. Bravo!


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