My mom once told she didn’t know any ’80s music because she spent the decade jamming out to Raffi in our minivan. She was a stay-at-home-mom raising four kids in the ’80s and ’90s—my three younger brothers and me.
My childhood memories include days spent playing Barbies in our unfinished basement, riding my bike to my best friend’s house, and cutting through the neighbors’ backyards towards the one house with a trampoline. I feel lucky to have grown up in a time when the only screen in our house was the TV in our living room and the only electronics in our hands was the Game Boy, and each afternoon included my mom gathering us after-school Handi-snacks and Hawaiian Punch.
Millennial vs. Boomer Parenting
Naturally, becoming a mother sparks a lot of reflection about your own mom. I imagined what her daily life must have been like in the ’80s and ’90s—especially with four kids, compared to my two. When her and I talk with my new lens of motherhood, we often find common ground. Sometimes, though, she’ll say things like, “We didn’t have any of those things back then, and you turned out fine.”
There will always be generational differences in motherhood, like between Millennials and Boomers. And there are a few things I’m happy to have that my Baby Boomer mom didn’t. And I’m not talking about the big societal differences like laws requiring a private place to pump at work or (the still limited) paid parental leave. Rather I mean the smaller everyday things I’m grateful to have as a Millennial mom—and one thing I’d love to bring back from my mom’s parenting era.
1. Parent-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 while breastfeeding, swaddles keep babies safe and warm, breast pumps are portable (and ever-evolving), and smart baby bassinets rock as a reaction to baby’s cries. Not to mention 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 for every product I mentioned that my Boomer mom could not appreciate back then.
2. Maternity fashion is actually cute
No shapeless sacks anymore! Moms today have so many stylish (and functional) options when it comes to maternity and nursing fashion to help highlight baby bumps if we want to or access our boobs if we need to. Moms today never need to hide either deep within a polyester jumper—unless they want to, of course!
3. Apps make day-to-day tasks easier
If our Boomer moms wanted dinner delivered, it was pizza. If our moms needed to get groceries, we probably waited in the family car while she ran into the store. In addition to grocery delivery, certain apps have made mom-life so much easier, whether used for tracking your cycle to get pregnant, managing family calendars, taming temper tantrums, paying the sitter, and so much more.
4. Social media helps moms find connection
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).
But she struggled as many new moms do. In 1982, she was home with a 1-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 yet.
I too, moved to a new city when my daughter was one. Social media helped me feel connected to not only the friends I’d left behind but also helped facilitate new interactions. I found an online 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 real-life 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. We’ve all seen the comments section take a bad turn. So here’s where I transition towards nostalgia for one thing from my 1980s childhood I’d love to bring back.
What I wish I could bring back from my mom’s parenting era
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 my mom 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 much-needed break from the constant needs of young children. But TV in the 1980s and 1990s was usually a shared experience.
What I’ve recently realized when it comes to Millennial vs. Boomer parenting in my own home 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. 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 look at 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 Steve Urkel or America’s Funniest Home Videos.
Actually, with streaming services bringing back our favorite shows from the ‘80s and ‘90s, maybe it can?