92 Years of Amazing Mom Moments
Jennifer Graham Kizer
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
Disposable diapers (1960s). Invented in the late 1940s, they weren't
widely available until 1961, when Pampers were introduced-and became an instant
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.