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Erica Ford Headshot

How Parents in the '70s And '80s Had It Made

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I often wish I were raising my kids in the '70's or '80s instead of today. It seems that the more we know, the more we worry. And the more kiddie "conveniences" we have, the more our once-elegant living rooms resemble church rummage sales. But maybe I'm glamorizing yesteryear.  After all, those poor moms had to cook with avocado-green appliances and dig for their kids' lost retainers in five-inch-high yellow shag carpet. Did parents of Gen Xers really have it better? I decided to compare "modern parenting" with "X parenting" in four key categories. Here are the results!

Telephones.
Modern parents win.  We have it made with phones. We can talk on the phone anytime, anywhere. We can dial by saying a name or by pressing a button. We can shut up a screaming toddler with an app of brain chemistry-altering talking dinosaurs. We can watch our kids at the park while ordering crocheted diaper wipe container covers from etsy.com. We can tackle our children to the ground and pull marbles out of their mouths without missing one word our friend tells us about what happened on The Bachelorette via Bluetooth.

I'm amazed that X parents could talk on the phone at all. It took a half hour just to dial. For those of you born pre-1980, do you remember how long it took to dial rotary? Six. Tick-tick-tick-tick-tiiiiick... Four. Tick-tick-tick-tick-tiiiick... Twenty minutes later, when you finally got through the first six numbers and thought you were home-free, the seventh digit was invariably a nine or a zero. You wouldn't push the wheel far enough and would have to start all over again.
           
Then, when X parents finally did make a call, they were shackled to the wall by a two-foot cord.* If little Roger scaled the china cabinet, the conversation was over. If little Tanya yanked off her pants and then mysteriously bolted for the next room, the conversation was over. We all know that the minute a mom gets on the phone, children find the missing Exacto knife, guzzle play paint, decide to play Kitty Dentist, stick their hand into the ceiling fan and finally get curious about what is in their diapers. Those parents didn't stand a chance. No wonder my Mom sent me to the neighbor's house to borrow sugar and butter. She sure as heck couldn't call them to ask.

Travel.
X parents win big on this one. After giving birth, they stayed in the hospital for weeks, or at least until the horse-grade anesthesia wore off. We're heaving car carriers into SUVs before the placenta has even come out. 

When X parents brought babies home from the hospital, they put the babies in some sort of Tupperware container with straps and let them roll around the car. When kids were old enough to sit up, they sat in the front seat. Mothers' right arms were the only safety restraint. This usually caused their cigarette ashes to fly off and burn holes in many a corduroy jumper. 

In 1974, my "car seat" doubled as a feeding chair. How convenient!

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X parents didn't have to drag a 60-pound Britax across the schoolyard every time their kids wanted a playdate after school. Kids didn't have "playdates" then, anyway. Parents told them to go outside and they'd roam the neighborhood, seeing who was home. 

I am in awe of my fellow moms, lugging car seats and baby carriers and strollers the size of golf carts everywhere they go. We don't need to worry about looking good at our 30-year reunions: we'll all be so hunchbacked from hauling around car seats that we'll only see the tops of each others' shoes. So forget cosmetic surgery. Just buy some super-cute Burberry flats. 

Food.
X parents definitely had it better. They could nuke a Hungry Man dinner in those newfangled radiation "science ovens," or serve Steak-Umms with green Jell-O and feel good about giving their family a well-balanced meal. Food was getting easier and easier to make. It was also becoming less "food" and more "amalgam of laboratory chemicals" -- but people figured if the FDA approved Spam, it was good for you! 

Nowadays, moms know too much. We have to grind our own flax seeds, make our own organic vegetable purees and grow our own lettuce in order to avoid diseases, mutant strains of listeria and arteries so coated with hydrogenated oils that you could bobsled in them. Reading labels and learning all the different words that mean "genetically altered corn and soy" is a full time job in itself. 

Equipment.
Again, X parents win. The accoutrements that modern moms deem necessary for child-rearing have chased us out of house and home. After my husband and I set up our exersaucer, pack and play, plastic high chair with safety legs spanning the width of a buffet table, bouncy seat with pinball machine lights and a baby swing, the only furniture we had space for were two folding chairs and a Watchman. When company came over, I set up plates around the perimeter of the exersaucer and filled the middle with pot roast. 

All X parents needed were tall, easily-collapsible wooden highchairs that tucked nicely into a corner and a system of trapeze cords that hung from a doorway. The contraption girded up the baby's crotch so the baby could jump up and down. It induced bowlegged-ness and sterility, but it was unobtrusive. As long as no one forgot the baby was dangling there and decided to slam the door, that thing was world class.
         
So, X parents win 3 to 1. Things just aren't like they used to be. Sadly, my kids will never know the joys of rolling freely around the back of a station wagon or eating Twinkies as part of a healthy lunch. 

*You know that theory that if an animal is kept in a cage long enough, they won't come out even when you eventually open the door because they've become accustomed to their prison? My parents proved this theory. When talking on the cordless phone we got in the late '80s, my parents still would not move more than two feet away from the telephone base. 

  Would you rather be a parent now or then?