30 Erma Bombeck Quotes

Erma Bombeck close up, color photograph.

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Erma Bombeck worked as a journalist in Dayton, Ohio, right out of high school, interrupting her career for college. After marriage, she left the workforce when her first child was born.

Erma Bombeck began a weekly humor column 11 years later, focusing on the life of a suburban family. It was soon published twice weekly and later, three times per week. By 1968, her column was syndicated in 200 newspapers and by the late 1970s, it was in over 800 papers.

Erma Bombeck died in 1996, shortly after receiving a kidney transplant.

Columnist Erma Bombeck was known for her quick wit and her wisdom about motherhood and family life. Enjoy a few selected quotations from Erma Bombeck.

On Housework

"The Rose Bowl is the only bowl I've ever seen that I didn't have to clean."

"No one ever died from sleeping in an unmade bed. I have known mothers who remake the bed after their children do it because there's a wrinkle in the spread or the blanket is on crooked. This is sick."

"Housework is a treadmill from futility to oblivion with stop-offs at tedium and counter-productivity."

"My theory on housework is, if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch on fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one cares. Why should you?"

"Education is so important when it comes to domesticity. I don't know why no one ever thought to paste a label on the toilet tissue spindle giving one-two-three directions for replacing the tissue on it. Then, everyone in the house would know what Mama knows."

Wise Advice

"Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died."

"People shop for a bathing suit with more care than they do a husband or wife. The rules are the same. Look for something you'll feel comfortable wearing. Allow for room to grow."

"Spend at least one Mother's Day with your respective mothers before you decide on marriage. If a man gives his mother a gift certificate for a flu shot, dump him."

About Motherhood

"When 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.'"

"Those rotten kids. 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?"

"I defy any parent who has been on a trip with a child who kicked the seat for 50 miles, threw his shoes out the window, lost his pet snake in Cleveland during the five o'clock traffic, and spilled his slush down your back to tell me she has never considered abandoning him at the next Shell station."

"Giving birth is little more than a set of muscular contractions granting passage of a child. Then, the mother is born."

"I'm going to stop punishing my children by saying, 'Never mind! I'll do it myself.'"

"What mother has never fallen on her knees when she has gone into her son's bedroom and prayed 'Please, God. No more. You were only supposed to give me what I could handle.'"

"As a mother, I'd rather do away with foam cups and have hot coffee poured into both of my hands and drink fast than do away with disposable diapers."

"When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they're not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They're upset because they've gone from supervisor of a child's life to a spectator. It's like being the Vice President of the United States."

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

"You become about as exciting as your food blender. The kids come in, look you in the eye, and ask if anybody's home."

"My mother phones daily to ask, 'Did you just try to reach me?' When I reply, 'No,' she adds, 'So, if you're not too busy, call me while I'm still alive,' and hangs up."

"Graduation day is tough for adults. They go to the ceremony as parents. They come home as contemporaries. After 22 years of child-rearing, they are unemployed."

On Food

"I just clipped two articles from a current magazine. One is a diet guaranteed to drop five pounds off my body in a weekend. The other is a recipe for a six-minute pecan pie."

"Fruitcakes are not different. They all tend to be the same, each having an assortment of incompatible fruits and the distinction of weighing more than the stove they were cooked in."

"Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart."

Battle of the Sexes

"Shopping is a woman thing. It's a contact sport like football. Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase."

"Making coffee has become the great compromise of the decade. It's the only thing 'real' men do that doesn't seem to threaten their masculinity. To women, it's on the same domestic entry level as putting the spring back into the toilet-tissue holder or taking a chicken out of the freezer to thaw."

"We've got a generation now who were born with semi-equality. They don't know how it was before, so they think, this isn't too bad. We're working. We have our attaché cases and our three-piece suits. I get very disgusted with the younger generation of women. We had a torch to pass, and they are just sitting there. They don't realize it can be taken away. Things are going to have to get worse before they join in fighting the battle."

Funny Observations

"Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving."

"I have a theory about the human mind. A brain is a lot like a computer. It will only take so many facts, and then it will go into overload and blow up."

"I was terrible at straight items. When I wrote obituaries, my mother said the only thing I ever got them to do was die in alphabetical order."

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.'"


  • Bombeck, Erma. "Forever, Erma: Best-Loved Writing from America's Favorite Humorist." Kindle Edition, 1st edition, Open Road Media, 15 January 2013.
  • Bombeck, Erma. "If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?" Kindle Edition, Open Road Media, 15 January 2013.
  • Bombeck, Erma. "When God Created Mothers." Kindle Edition, 1 edition, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 11 May 2011.
  • McIntire, Bill. "Erma Bombeck." University Libraries, Wright State University, 22 March 2012, https://www.libraries.wright.edu/community/outofthebox/2012/03/22/erma-bombeck/.
  • Mikkelson, David. "Erma Bombeck's Regrets." Snopes Media Group Inc, July 2009, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/erma-bombecks-regrets/.