Jennifer Graham Kizer
Being a mom is a private journey, but the events that shape us as moms are often lived out loud on the national stage. Here, 81 moments that have made motherhood what it is today.
The first Mother's Day (May 1914). President Woodrow Wilson designates the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day, calling it "a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country."
The epidural (1930s). Before John Bonica, Mla.D., invented the epidural block, relief for the pains of labor meant being knocked out. Today, women can be awake for this momentous occasion.
The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946). Once upon a time, doctors (mostly men) preached a strict, one-size-fits-all approach to raising children. Pediatrician Benjamin Spock gave moms permission-revolutionary at the time-to trust their own instincts. Dr. Spock's guide has sold more copies worldwide than any other book besides the Bible.
Folic acid (1940s). A groundbreaking medical discovery: the nutrient helps prevent birth defects. In 1998, food companies begin using it to enrich bread, pasta and other cereal grains. Birth defects of the brain and spinal cord drop by 26 percent.
Lucille Ball's pregnancy (1952). The star's pregnancy is written into I Love Lucy-a prime time first. Scripts are reviewed by a priest, a minister, and a rabbi to be sure they are inoffensive, and CBS executives insist on using the word "expectant" instead of "pregnant." But fans love it, and the episode featuring Lucy's delivery sets a new ratings record.
La Leche League (1956). At a time when formula was fashionable, seven determined moms banded together to create a breast-feeding support network. Today, LLL boasts over 7,000 volunteers dedicated to educating and supporting women in the nursing process. (Yes, some of those dedicated volunteers can be a teensy bit scary sometimes, but the fact that breast milk is better for your baby can't be denied.)
Are You My Mother? (1960). When we were kids, this classic children's book summed up our love for our mothers-and every child's longing to belong to someone. That message of mother love still rings true for moms and kids today.
Disposable diapers (1960s). Invented in the late 1940s, they weren't widely available until 1961, when Pampers were introduced-and became an instant hit.
JFK's funeral (1963). The endlessly reproduced photo of a stoic Jackie Kennedy holding the hands of her young children, Caroline and JFK Jr., is now a classic image of maternal strength and grace.
The digital ear thermometer (1964). It makes taking temperatures faster and more comfortable than the anal alternative-for both moms and babies!
The breast pump (1960s). Even after Mom goes back to work, babies can still have breast milk. And now dads can participate in feeding, too.
Husband Coached Childbirth (1965). Robert Bradley's book was an influential first step in opening the delivery room door to dads. (In 1973, only 27 percent of hospitals even allowed fathers to be in the delivery room; today, it's taken for granted that Pop will be in on the birth.)
Sonograms (1960s). Doctors begin monitoring babies just weeks after conception. Nowadays, mothers can even order a sonogram in 3D. No more waiting for the birth to wonder, "Does he have his dad's nose or mine?"
Rosemary's Baby (1968). No matter how colicky your newborn seems, Rosemary's Baby is worse. Which is why this horror movie is strangely comforting.
911 (1960s). When government and law enforcement agencies call for an easy, universal emergency phone number, AT&T suggests 911. Even a six-year-old can remember it. (In fact, last December a 4-year-old girl in Salt Lake City used it to save her mom's life.)
Sesame Street (1969). Designed to help preschoolers transition from home to school, it was the first children's educational show of its kind. And arguably still the best.
Shirley Partridge (1970). The Partridge Family's Shirley Jones plays TV's ultimate single mom-so cool, she's in a band with her kids.
Free to Be You and Me (1972). Marlo Thomas's children's album helps moms teach their daughters to be strong and their sons to be caring-and all kids (and parents) to be a little more open-minded.
Rise of midwifery (1970s). Even if natural childbirth isn't for you, the increase in midwife-attended births (up 13-fold since 1975) has led a broader trend toward a woman-centered approach to birth-and more choices, from at-home water births to "walking" epidurals, for all moms-to-be.
Flex-time (1973). Hewlett-Packard (the computer and electronics company) is the first to institute flexible working hours, or flex-time, letting moms schedule work around their kids, and not vice versa.
The first home pregnancy test (1977). The test takes two hours and includes a test tube, a medicine dropper, and premeasured ingredients to be mixed together-a far cry from today's pee-on-a-stick technology!
Mompreneur Mrs. Fields (1977). Debbi Fields-a young mom with no business experience-opens her first cookie store. Today Mrs. Fields has over 650 stores in the U.S. and is an inspiration to female mompreneurs everywhere.
In vitro fertilization (1978). Louise Brown, the first "test tube baby," is born in England. Since then, over a million children have been conceived through IVF.
Mommie Dearest. The book (1978)and the cult film classic that followed (1981) feed our fascination with the Bad Mother, and demonstrate how not to raise kids (making us feel a little better about how we do).
Nickelodeon (1979). Kids get their own network! In 1999, Nick sprouts Noggin, a kid sister network of educational shows for the preschool set. For moms, that means two safe zones on TV.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (1980). When her 13-year-old daughter is killed by a drunk driver, California mom Candy Lightner turns anger into activism-by starting MADD. Thanks to MADD's efforts, the drinking age is now 21 in all 50 states, drunk driving penalties are stiffer nationwide-and the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths has dropped by 44 percent.
Bikinibabe Princess Diana (February 1982). After the pregnant princess is photographed on vacation, the Queen declares it to be "the blackest day in the history of British journalism." (Hey, we thought she looked pretty good!)
What to Expect When You're Expecting (1984) begins its reign as the most loved-and loathed-parenting guide in America. Some swear by it. Others say it reads like a worst-case-scenario guide to pregnancy, but whichever is true, it still reigns supreme.
Roseanne Barr (1980s) puts a stake in the heart of women's striving for Donna Reed perfection: "As a housewife, I feel that if the kids are still alive when my husband gets home from work, then hey, I've done my job." (We couldn't go that far, but we were relieved all the same.)
Kid-friendly vacation resorts (1980s). Selected Club Med resorts offer children's clubs, babysitters for hire, and even circus school. Beaches resorts offer an array of kids' activities-led by Sesame Street characters! Even Four Seasons resorts offer amenities like kid-size bathrobes and milk and cookies on arrival. At last, we can get away from it all-together.
Clair Huxtable (1984). On The Cosby Show, Phylicia Rashad plays a sexy wife, a successful attorney, and a no-nonsense leader of her flock of five kids. As Rashad, a real-life mother of two, once told an interviewer, "The Cosby Show is a beautiful picture of what realistically can and should be."
Warning labels on music (1985). Talk about mom power: Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center pressure the recording industry to label albums with explicit lyrics, allowing parents to know just how grown-up their kids are trying to be.
Baby Boom (1987). Some say the movie is anti-working-woman. Others applaud its honesty about the difficulty of having it all. Either way, Keaton's performance as reluctant mom-turned-mompreneur strikes a nerve and defines an era.
Tax-free college savings plans (late 1980s). Today, all 50 states have programs, now known as 529 plans, to help parents save for college tuition. (Too bad no one's giving matching funds, too.)
Marge Simpson (1989) begins her run as America's favorite cartoon mom. A typical Marge-ism: "Bart, don't use the Touch of Death on your sister." Hey, we've all been there.
The rise of telecommuting (1990). By 2004, over 44 million people are working from outside the office-great news for moms who want to work and be close to their kids, too.
Hot mama Demi Moore (August 1991) poses for a Vanity Fair cover eight months pregnant-and in the buff! No more hiding in maternity muumuus!
Erasable crayons! (1992)
The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992). A chilling, over-the-top reminder to all mothers: For Pete's sake, check your babysitter's references!
Dan Quayle vs. Murphy Brown (May 1992). Vice-President Quayle accuses the TV character of glamorizing single motherhood. Murphy fires back, defending all non-traditional families in a later episode of the sitcom.
Hail the Internet! (c. 1992) Planning play dates, helping with book reports, finding sisters in diaperdom and postpartum blues-it all gets easier. (Not to mention back-to-school shopping in the middle of the night!) And soon after...
Internet filtering software (mid 1990s). Because, unfortunately, it's now easier for kids to stumble across pornography, predatory strangers, and hate literature, too.
"Nannygate" (1993). Zoe Baird, then Kimba Wood, withdraw their names as nominees to be attorney general after both admit to employing illegal immigrants to care for their children. The news ignites a national conversation about nannies and childcare-one that's still going on today.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (August 1993). Now all working moms (and dads!) can get up to three months of unpaid, job-protected time off after giving birth or adopting-plus health benefits.
Anti-SIDS "Back to Sleep" campaign (1994). Teaching this motto to new mothers means fewer babies sleeping on their stomachs-and fewer deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Since then, rates of SIDS have dropped more than 50 percent.
It Takes a Village (1996). Hillary Rodham Clinton may be controversial, but her message isn't: Kids need loving parents, but they also need safe neighborhoods, nutritious school lunches and good healthcare.
"Soccer moms" (1996). The term is first used in a political context by Susan Casey, a Denver City Council candidate who described herself as a "soccer mom," but is later popularized during the 1996 presidential election. Suddenly, both parties realize they need to woo a powerful voting bloc: young moms with kids. Well, duh!
Spas and treatments for expecting moms (1990s). More spa practitioners are now trained in the special needs of pregnant bodies. Result: Tummy facials that soothe stretched skin! Aromatherapy that helps morning sickness! Massages that target circulation problem spots!
Megan's Law (1996). After the rape and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka, Megan's mother campaigns for (and wins) a change in the law to give parents access to information on pedophiles in their area.
Baby Einstein videos and DVDs (1997). Babies get Beethoven-and moms get 30 consecutive, scream-free minutes to themselves.
Harry Potter mania (1997). Writing in cafes while her baby naps in a stroller, divorced mom J.K. Rowling conjures Harry Potter. The result: a blockbuster publishing and film franchise that's still going strong nine years and six books later. You never know what a mom might accomplish during nap time!
Liz Lange's maternity line (Fall 1997). Once upon a time, maternity wear meant floral frocks festooned with bows. Thanks to this Vogue fashion editor-turned-designer and the other hip maternity lines she inspired, pregnant women no longer have to dress like children themselves.
Chic baby bedding (late 1990s). Pooh Bear sheets are no longer your only option, as elegant home design companies from Pottery Barn to Dwell begin creating modern, sophisticated lines for the nursery.
The McCaughey septuplets (November 1997). Mom Bobbi McCaughey is much admired. And not at all envied.
Ally McBeal's dancing baby (January 1998). It's a creepy symbol of Ally's ticking biological clock-and it perfectly captures the exaggerated but nonetheless real fears of single career women nationwide.
A Baby Story (1998). The show forever erases the mystery of childbirth for first-time moms-to-be-in a good way. And adds lots of sweet, pass-the-hankie moments to daytime TV.
Pregnancy over 40 (1990s+). Thanks to advances in fertility treatment (like the use of donor eggs), more older women are giving birth. Two high-profile examples: Elizabeth Edwards-wife of Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards-hits the campaign trail with kids she gave birth to at ages 48 and 50. And in the spring of 2004, 48-year-old actress Geena Davis gives birth to twins.
The Bugaboo Frog stroller (1999+). Off-road tires. Suspension systems. Gear shifting. Finally, baby gear your husband can get (really, really) excited about. (Too bad it's priced like a Hummer.)
The V-Chip (1999) helps parents make sure kids stick to age-appropriate shows-even when Mom isn't in the room.
The evolution of the fully loaded SUV (c. 2000). Your restless kids can now stay occupied by the flip-down DVD players-playing mother-approved, educational programs, of course.
The Million Mom March (Mother's Day 2000). After reading about a gunman who shot at a group of children in California, New Jersey mom Donna Dees-Thomases decides to organize a march on Washington. Nine months later, 750,000 people gather to demand sensible gun laws. Seventy-five chapters around the country now work at the grass-roots level to educate the public and pass laws that protect children from gun violence.
The Kate Spade diaper bag (2000). A nylon tote worthy of Jackie O-with plenty of storage room and an over-sized changing pad.
Coed baby showers (2000+). And why not? After all, parenting is a shared experience.
The emergence-no, more like eruption-of mom blogs (c. 2000). Moms are sharing, advising, and venting like never before. Just check out the funny/frustrated mothers of fussy.org or dooce.com for a taste.
Dad blogs, too! (c. 2000) Theblogfathers.com gives a sampling of hilarious daddy humor and wisdom.
Madonna's mommy transformation (2000-03). Like the "me" decade that hatched her, Madge's Material Girl image is ancient history after she gives birth to two kids and a series of children's books.
Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift (May 2001) becomes the first governor to give birth-to twins, no less!-while in office. Though she decided not to run for reelection when her term was up, she has said, "I believe I was a better governor because I had children, and I hope that someday my daughters will tell me that I was a better mother because I was governor."
Cool kids' music (2001-02). With adult-friendly kids' CD's-like No! by They Might Be Giants and House Party by Dan Zanes-kids aren't the only ones dancing around the den.
Patricia Heaton's post-caesarean tummy tuck (2002). In her memoir and in interviews, she confesses to having had plastic surgery, saying, "When women come up to me who've also had four caesareans and say, 'My body's shot, but you look so great,' I'm not going to lie to them."
Karen Hughes' resignation (April 2002). Top presidential counselor Karen Hughes leaves the White House for the sake of her family-then returns when her son graduates high school. It's a noteworthy example of how a satisfying career-and home life-doesn't have to be lived in one straight line, even for the most high-powered moms.
Allison Pearson's I Don't Know How She Does It (2002). Ah, but we do know: You don't need poise to juggle work and motherhood-just a sense of humor.
Catherine Zeta-Jones's Oscar performance (March 2003). A month shy of delivering baby number two, she belts out "I Move On" (from the movie musical Chicago) onstage. Later, when she wins Best Supporting Actress, she gushes from the podium, "My hormones are too way out of control to be dealing with this!"
Another step forward for breastfeeding moms (2003). Burger King now allows breastfeeding in all its restaurants; moms have joined forces to campaign to get Starbucks to do the same (nurseatstarbucks.com).
Mom Inventors, Inc. (2003). Tamara Monosoff founds this California-based company whose products are by and for moms. Her latest product? Shoe Clues-durable stickers that teach children to put the right shoe on the right foot.
Amber Alerts (2003). Named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who in 1996 was kidnapped and killed near her home in Dallas, this emergency broadcast system gets the message out when a child has been abducted. Amber Alerts have helped save over 200 children nationwide.
Reel Moms (2003). No sitter? No problem. On Tuesday mornings at Loews theaters, parents and infants are welcome to see the latest movies. Lights are dimmed (not lowered completely) and the sound levels are lower than usual so you can hear your baby.
Cool maternity clothes-for everyone (2004)! In the last two years, chains like Old Navy, the Gap, H&M, and Target have all introduced or broadened their (affordable!) maternity lines, making it possible to stay stylish while pregnant-without blowing baby's college fund.
Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter Apple (May 2004). Go ahead, name your kid whatever you want. If Gwynnie can do it...
Dads devoting more time to kids (2004). According to a study by the Families and Work Institute, Gen-X dads (between the ages of 22 and 37 at the time) are spending over an hour more per day with their children than dads in 1992.
Brooke Shields's postpartum depression (2005). Following her 2003 revelation that she struggled with infertility before conceiving her daughter, Rowan, through in vitro fertilization, Brooke helps women talk honestly about an illness that was previously under wraps. (Even Tom Cruise's public criticism doesn't stop her.)
Felicity Huffman on 60 Minutes (January 2006). After making us laugh for two seasons of suburban antics on Desperate Housewives, she makes us sigh with relief at her honesty when she admits that motherhood is hard-and that she doesn't always know if she's a good mom. Finally, a star who's not afraid to admit the truth about motherhood's challenges and joys.