My oldest daughter was born June 3, 2001. Many of you readers were in college, high school, or (gasp) junior high during that time. I was 30 years old and pregnant. Now I know it really doesn’t seem like much would be different between moms-to-be and young moms back then, and moms-to-be and young moms now, but I’m here to tell you, it is vastly different. Here are just a few differences I have observed as I watched many of my much younger friends have children.
5 Ways Motherhood Has Changed in 15 Years
I adore looking at baby pictures. I love it. I’m the type of woman who sees a picture of a baby and starts talking like a crazy person and pinching the two dimensional cheeks right through the computer screen. I have several friends who have little ones now and I have to say I am so incredibly envious of the photography options they have. From cute and clever pregnancy announcements, to adorable newborn pictures, they are all so original. I mean the ones where the 2-week-old baby is asleep in a basket with butterflies and looks so angelic and peaceful make my heart melt. There is so much creativity and beauty in these photos. The fact that you are able to capture such a precious moment in such an artistic and beautiful way is incredible.
Let me tell you how we older ladies had to do it. We had to schlep our bundle of joy through the busy mall, past the automotive section, to get to the Sears Portrait Studio way in the back of the store. After that, we were ushered to a row of folding chairs where we had to wait for a very long time for our turn to be photographed. During this time, it was inevitable that the baby you dressed so carefully and was sleeping so peacefully would wake up and be hungry and/or need changing.
When your name was called, you were instructed to awkwardly place your blotchy-faced infant in front of a 1980’s shag carpet. For an extra $12 you were able to get a second background. This one was usually some cheesy outdoor scene or some 80’s looking retro rainbow scene. Sometimes they would stick an old, creepy looking stuffed animal in the shot with your kid that had God-knows-how-many germs on it.
You had to wait two weeks to see how the pictures turned out. For $45 you got an 8×10 that you had to decide to either keep for yourself or give to grandma, two 5x7s for your mantle and your desk, and 50 wallet sizes that ended up in a shoe box somewhere for years, because even though you aren’t using them, you just can’t fathom throwing pictures of your sweet baby away. Photography has come a long way in a decade and a half.
2. Reveal Parties
You girls are brilliant. You created a perfectly wonderful way to celebrate this special time in your life.
Not only do you get a party that is in addition to a “baby shower,” but you created an event that involves a special cake or activity. How fun is it for family and friends to gather and celebrate and have that anticipatory moment where you cut into a cake or bite into a cupcake to see if the inside is pink or blue! Fantastic!
Back in my day (yeah that’s right, I said it) this is how we announced the sex of our baby. We’d find out at our ultrasound (if we even had one) and it was a special moment between husband and wife. Then the wife would go home and call her mother. The mother would call her sister, who would call your cousin, and so on and so forth. You only had to make the one phone call. Reveal parties are so much more fun.
Pregnant ladies have so many resources now. Back then we had “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” (The one with the lady looking miserable in the rocking chair on the cover, not the one with the fit, happy mommy in sporty jeans) TLC’s “A Baby Story,” and “BabyCenter.com.” That’s it. Once the baby was born we had “Parents” magazine.
You have the never-ending world of Pinterest at your disposal. Although I can see where this could actually make life more difficult. I mean, the choices for a 1st birthday party, for instance, is enough to make your head spin. When my daughter turned one, I picked one theme out of about 8 available at the Hallmark store and worked around it.
The so-called “Mommy Wars” are worse than they ever were. Back when I was a new mom we had the classic: “Breastfeeding vs. Bottle Feeding,” and “Stay at Home Mom vs. Working Mom” themes.
You ladies still have those old standbys, but now (I blame the internet) there are so many more topics that spark feuding. Here are just a few:
- Attachment Parenting
- Crying it Out
- Organic Food
- Birthing Preferences
- Baby Wearing
- Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers
- Glass vs. Plastic Bottles
The list goes on and on. This is an area where I am not envious of younger mothers. In fact, I’m sad to say that as much as we all have had enough of women criticizing one another’s choices and allowing ourselves to feel like failures, I’m afraid the “Mommy Wars” still exist. More information means more choices, and more choices means more criticizing of those choices in public forums like the Internet and the media.
Communication is really about taking someone else’s perspective, understanding it, and responding. However in this age of technology, commenters are often anonymous and thus unaccountable for their rudeness. Second, they are at a distance from the target of their anger — be it the Facebook post they’re commenting on or a comment on an article. Also, people tend to antagonize distant abstractions more easily than people who are engaged in a face-to-face conversation with them. Third, it’s easier to be nasty in writing than in speech.
“Getting Your Body Back”
I hate this term, because frankly the body I had before my baby wasn’t all that great in the first place, so “getting it back” was not some big coup for me. My generation of mothers was one of the last that could deal with a postpartum body fairly pressure-free (this was not the case with my daughter born in 2007). Today headlines are abundant with “Miss Covergirl 2014 Poses in Swimsuit Three Weeks After Giving Birth.” It’s insane. I’m happy that pre- and postpartum health education is more accurate these days as compared to when I was newly pregnant, but the pressure to look amazing before, during, and after is too much. (See “What to Expect When You Are Expecting” cover above.)
I’m glad I got to enjoy my first pregnancy under the oblivious shroud of tent dresses, “eating for two,” and a postpartum body that emerged about seven years before the low-rise jean nightmare hit stores everywhere.
So you see, things were different in many ways just 14 short years ago, just as they were different with the generation before me. (Remember your grandmother’s photo albums of herself pregnant with a cocktail in one hand and a Virginia Slims cigarette in the other?) They will be different when your kids have kids. Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to conjure up a giant spinning hologram of your ultrasound at your birth reveal party.
One thing that will never change, though, is that being a new mother is thrilling, terrifying, miserable, joyous, exhausting, exhilarating, challenging, and guilt-ridden. These are emotions for the ages, and whether the first pictures of your baby are of them in a basket with butterflies or in front of a ghastly shag carpet, they are still the cutest babies you’ve ever seen.
If you are an older parent, what differences from your new mommy friends have you noticed?