Thursday, November 13, 2008

Remembering Erma Bombeck

Remember Erma Bombeck? She wrote a syndicated column that was eventually turned into a series of books. I came across one of these books in tenth grade, and was immediately enamored. It was the first time I realized that women can be smart and funny. She was the best kind of feminist. She acknowledged the heroism of women but made a woman's struggle humorous. Erma's strength was her humor, and it's only now that I realize that she is probably the source of my belief that as women we should be smart and strong.

I was reminded of Erma today after reading Tina Brown's article about Sarah Palin where she wonders, "Sarah, who does look after the kids?"

I wondered the same thing. I work full time, I have two kids less than Sarah Palin, I have parents and a partner who pitch in, but I'm still exhausted. There are times, when I pull out the Golden Lasso, and for a brief moment believe I'd look great in a bustier on an Invisable Plane but, I've come to realize that doing it all usually means something or someone will suffer. Sometimes it's the house, that hasn't had a proper dusting in a month. Other times it's the dog who looks longingly at her leash. And yes, sometimes it's the kids, who go to school without socks on, not because they don't have clean ones, but because they don't have the time or patience to dig in the communal sock bin for a pair that matches.

As women, we no doubt do amazing heroic things every day. But as women, we also sacrifice more. Some might want me to give up my feminist card for stating this, but it's true. And that ability to sacrifice turns back on our heroism. This makes me wonder what would have happened had Sarah Palin said, "no thanks, my family is stretched enough." Sadly that's not what happened. Thus, I'm reminded of a passage by Erma Bombeck where she ridicules a magazine spread that celebrates the woman that can do it all.

She wrote about how the pictures were absurd with the woman on the job site in a suit reading blue prints, her yellow shoes smartly matching her yellow hard hat, and then in the next picture at home the kids were lovingly setting the's a myth. Bombeck reflected that the pictures failed to show what really happens before dinner, when she was running around trying to defrost pork chops under her armpits. This of course was before microwaves were such a vital part of life.

Yes, as women we have to do so much more, especially when we have a family. And because of this, if we are ambitious, if we put something else first, the family will suffer. Fair? No. Realistic? Sadly, yes.

I kind of like Laura Bennett's approach to this conundrum. If you're family already feels neglected, they won't notice the difference. And it's not that I believe Laura is a neglectful mother, but that she raises her brood to be more independent and not require a doting mother. Doting is fine in spurts, but as I lay in bed, typing this on my laptop, my ten-year-old is dutifully making his own lunch for school. Of course, I'll check to be sure it contains more than a pudding cup and a juice box, but I know when this kid is on his own in 8 years, goddess willing, he'll be fine. He won't screw up his laundry, and will have the good sense to pack a peanut butter sandwich when he leaves the house.

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