In the past few days several friends have shared with me their frustrations over parenting issues. These discussions brought to my mind a book I read years ago - Motherhood The Second Oldest Profession by Erma Bombeck. This book came out when women were just being liberated. We were wives; we were Moms. We were professionals; we were super women. We were foolish! Growing up in the apathetic 50s we also carried that mother model which conflicted with our new superwoman.
Thank you Erma wherever you are! I devoured every page and story. The professional Mom whose kids preferred their friends’ Moms who lived the traditional model, who didn’t work outside the home (We all know they worked in the home…no credit for it because that’s just what Moms were supposed to do) and who baked cookies greeting the children as they came home from school. But then those children preferred their friends’ Moms who didn’t stay home but worked professionally - lawyers, nurses, teachers, bankers, entrepreneurs .
Trying to be one of those “super women” three memories remain vivid in my brain. My daughter was a Girl Scout where the leaders were the stay at home types. One year they were having a celebration meeting for Moms and their daughters. It was scheduled in the afternoon at the close of the school day. I made certain to clear my schedule so I could attend. I can’t remember right now if one of the leaders was ill or what. I do remember that celebration session was rescheduled three times making it impossible for me to attend. I was furious! Then my husband stepped up to the plate, and he went to that meeting. These days thank heavens that would not be unusual. But then – oh my the tongues did wag!
The second time was when a parent meeting to cover information about the upcoming trip to Europe some children including my son,were taking that spring. I remember this happened after my divorce. I told my son to go to the meeting ; I would come as soon as I could. I was to attend a different meeting where I was being honored for my work with the Very Special Arts Festival. I planned to do both but arrived at the parents’ meeting just as it ended. I was greeted by a very disappointed son.
The third happened when I was head of a Statewide group for implementing a comprehensive arts plan in the schools. A few days before our meeting I literally dragged my husband to the Doctor. He had a burst appendix. Our Doctor told me if I hadn’t got him in when I did he would be dead. I knew I had to go to the state capital for this meeting the third day my husband was hospitalized . Feeling torn in two I went, and it was a disaster! Much later I realized that we “super women” were as I described it “burning the candle at both ends only to realize you collapse in the middle”!
Erma also had stories of single parent Moms and Moms who had children in prison. Wow! I hadn’t thought about them before. Remember this was in the sixties. Teaching in recent years I’ve had many of those single parent Moms; they are almost the norm. I also remember a student who told me she had to miss school on the day of her report and hoped that I would let her give it later. When I asked why she would be missing. She told me she had to go to prison to pick up her mom. She added “I’ll pick her up and drop her off somewhere, but I don’t want anything to do with her after that!”
I’m sure the current generation operates under a variety of Mom models. However, I also believe this book still has meaning for them. The second to last chapter she talks about her mother. She thanks her for never giving her advice except when asked for and also for not being one of those “I told you so but you wouldn’t listen!” types. The message I wrote in the copy of the book that I had given my Mother was that Erma’s Mother seemed to be like her. So often I heard my Mom say “I don’t give advice unless I’m asked.”
The last entry in the book she calls “Epilogue “. Over the years I have seen this piece in a variety of places, but I read it first in this book. I’m assuming Erma did write it though when I’ve seen it elsewhere no author credit is listed. I quote it here . I don’t care what generation you are; past present or future, this selection will have meaning! In just the past three days four different friends have talked with me about Mom issues which have once again stabbed at their hearts. I will not talk about this here because of privacy concerns. I suspect those reading this will understand.
Epilogue from Erma Bombeck’s book Motherhood
While the Good Lord was creating mothers He was into His sixth day of “overtime” when the angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.” And the Lord said, “Have you read the spec on this order?”
She has to be completely washable, but not plastic.
Have 180 movable parts . . . all replaceable.
Run on black coffee and leftovers.
Have a lap that disappears when she stands up.
Have a kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair.
And have six pairs of hands.
The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands . . . Not possible.”
“It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” said the Lord. “it’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”
“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.
The Lord nodded. “One pair that see through closed doors when she asks,
‘What are you kids doing in there?’ When she already knows. Another here
in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t, but what she has to
know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he
goofs up and reflect, ‘I understand and I love you’ without so much as ordering a word.
“Lord,” said the angel, touching his sleeve gently, “come to bed. Tomorrow . . .“
“I can’t,” said the Lord, ”I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who Heals herself self when she is sick . . . Can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger . . . And can get a nineyear-old to stand under a shower.”
The angel circled the model of The Mother very slowly. “ It’s too soft,” she sighed.
“But tough,” said the Lord excitedly. ”You cannot imagine what this Mother can do or endure.”
“Can it think?”
“Not only think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.
Finally, the angel bent over and ran her fingers across the cheek. “There’s a leak,” she pronounced.” I told you you were trying to put too much into this model. You can’t ignore the stress factor.”
The Lord moved in for a closer look and gently lifted the drop of moisture
Julius finger where it listened and sparkled in the light.
“It’s not a leak,” He said.” It’s a tear.”
“A tear?” asked the angel. “What’s it for?”
“It‘s for joy, sadness, disappointment, compassion, pain, loneliness, and pride.”
“You are a genius,” said the angel.
The Lord looked somber. “ I didn’t put it there.”