My mom once told she didn’t know any ’80s music because she spent the decade jamming out to Raffi in our Dodge Caravan. She was a stay-at-home-mom to four kids — my three younger brothers and me.
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My childhood memories from the ’80s and ’90s include days spent playing Barbies in our unfinished mess of a basement, riding my bike to my best friend’s house, and cutting through the backyards towards the one neighbor’s house who had a trampoline. I feel lucky to have grown up in a time when the only screen in our house was the one TV in our living room, the only electronics in our hands were the Speak and Spell and the Game Boy, and each afternoon found my mom in our kitchen gathering us after-school Handi-snacks and Hawaiian Punch.
Naturally, becoming a mother sparks a lot of reflection about your own mom. You imagine what her daily life must have been like. You might search for common ground, and often you find some, which can bring you closer. Often too, you’re met with commentary like, “We didn’t have any of these things, and you turned out fine.” And of those “things,” there are a few I’m happy to have that our moms of the ’80s and ’90s didn’t.
1. Mom-focused product innovations
Let’s start with the basics — lightweight strollers we’re able to collapse one-handed, safe car seats now weighing just over five pounds, and convenient car trunks and doors that open or close with the swipe of a foot or push of a button. Nursing pillows now make everyone more comfortable, swaddles keep babies safe and warm, breast pumps are ever-evolving, and baby gear now blends into our home decor rather than sticks out like a primary-colored-eye-sore. Plus, clever mom-created products perform crucial tasks like sucking the snot from our poor sick baby’s noses.
There are always new frontiers when it comes to innovation in the parent-sphere, and while some aren’t necessary, I’m grateful I have everything on this list that our 1980s moms did not.
2. Maternity fashion
No shapeless sacks anymore, we have so many stylish (and functional) options when it comes to maternity and nursing fashion to help highlight our bumps if we want to, not hide them deep within a polyester jumper.
3. Convenience apps
If our moms wanted dinner delivered, it was pizza. If our moms needed to get groceries, we probably waited in the car while she ran into the store. Certain apps have made mom-life so much easier, whether it’s tracking your cycle to get pregnant, delivering nearly anything, paying the babysitter, and more.
A friend of mine and a new mom of two shared her experience trying Shipt grocery delivery for the first time: “Is it weird I wanted to hug the delivery driver?” Not weird at all.
4. Social media moms’ groups
My mom also once told me she didn’t have an adult conversation for 10 years. As her child, I figured she was happy enough being our mom. She was our constant, always there, even if often late (which I now totally understand as a mom with only two kids of my own).
But she struggled as many new stay-at-home moms do. In 1982, she was home with a one-year-old who couldn’t talk, and she would sit crying on our front porch as she waited for my dad to come home from work. She’d just moved to a new city and hadn’t found other moms to connect with.
I too, moved to a new city when my daughter was one. Unlike my mom, I knew two people in the new city, but social media helped me feel connected to not only the friends I’d left behind but also helped facilitate new interactions. I found a community of women going through the exact same life stage. And thankfully, our neighborhood was full of moms with young children too, so the mix of online and IRL connections made early motherhood feel much less lonely.
Now, as much as access to social media via my smartphone answered my new mom questions and helped me feel less alone, I’m well-aware of the dark side of social media. So it’s here I transition towards nostalgia for one thing from my 1980s childhood.
Amidst playing Barbies, Cabbage Patch Kids, and riding bikes around the neighborhood, my brothers and I did watch a lot of television. We had cable, unlike some of my friends, which meant we had Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel. And as a mom of four kids, I’m sure she sometimes used the one TV in our living room in a similar way as I use screen time for my kids — as entertainment, learning, and a break from the constant needs of young children. But TV in the 1980s was usually a shared experience.
What I’ve realized in my home lately is that the screen options available outnumber the people living in our house. The endless amount of choice we experience on a given day sometimes isolates each of us — my husband and me included. Psychologist and sociologist Sherry Turkle described this trend with her now-famous term “alone together” (also the title of her book) which captures the idea of spending time on devices to the neglect of interacting with other people physically nearby. And it happens right on our couch as screens offer our kids a multitude of shows to stream, games to play, and toys to uncover, while my husband and I have our own phones too.
I know screens aren’t going anywhere, and with young children, our household screen time use is 100 percent regulated by my husband and me. However, I sometimes wish our collective screen time could go back to an hour spent together around one TV in our living room, laughing together at Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor or Steve Urkel.
Actually, with streaming services bringing back our favorite shows from the ’80s and ’90s, maybe it can?
What things do you want to bring back from your own childhood?