From diaper-changing dads to sleep safety, two moms dish about how raising kids has changed in the last 30 years.
Editor’s note: In honor of Columbus Parent’s 30th anniversary, we’re taking a stroll down memory lane. But rather than writing the usual look-back feature about how the magazine has evolved since its 1989 debut, we wanted to shake things up. Instead, we decided to look at how parenting has changed in the last three decades—from the actual process of having a baby to the role of fathers, baby gear, food and more. We hope you agree it’s a fun and enlightening look at how raising kids has changed in the past three decades.
Becky Graves became a new mother in 1989. Like most women, she raised her daughter, Caela Ingram, and Caela’s younger brother, Ethan, with advice from her mother and the norms of the time.
Now, Caela is learning the ropes as she raises her own daughter, Lindynn, who was born last year. But things have changed since her mother’s child-rearing experiences.
Becky, who works in the family’s Key Construction business in Chillicothe, and Caela, a nurse educator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, sat down to share some of what they’ve learned in the ever-changing world of parenting.Get top reads, event recommendations, guides, parenting trends and more ideas for family fun. Subscribe to Columbus Parent’s weekly e-newsletter, The Bulletin.
CP: Let’s start at the beginning. What were your birthing experiences like?
Becky: I never had the option of knowing if I was having a boy or a girl. It was all a pure surprise. I had one ultrasound during my entire pregnancy, which was not unusual then.
Caela: We had, I think, six ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy. And we found out her gender through a blood test when I was two months along.
Becky: I know when Caela had Lindynn, she had a list of things she wanted the nurses and the hospital to do in terms of care.
Caela: A birth plan.
Becky: For me, you just pretty much went in and they told you what to do. She was eating, kind of, during her labor, and I was able to have a minimal amount of ice chips and that was it.
Caela: And you just had Dad in the room when you were delivering. I had my husband, Jacob, and I had both my mom and my dad in the room, helping me through labor. And I had hospital midwives help deliver my daughter. Was that an option for you?
Becky: Not that I ever knew of.
Caela: You did Lamaze class, didn’t you?
Becky: I did Lamaze.
Caela: I did a Bradley Method class, but I know there were a ton of options for me to choose from. How long did you stay in the hospital?
Becky: I stayed in the hospital overnight one night.
Caela: We did the same. We both gave birth naturally, by the way. Neither of us had any medication. Dad went to work the next day, didn’t he?
Becky: Yes, my husband actually went to work. He didn’t have any time off; they didn’t do the paternal leave some places do now. My father actually brought us home.
Caela: My husband, Jacob, he’s a teacher, and Lindynn was born in July, so I got probably a good month and a half of him being home and helping. That was a huge blessing.
Becky: The baby was my responsibility. Back then, I felt like the care was put entirely on me, where now the fathers are much more involved, extended family is more involved.
Caela: Dad never got up with us at night, never changed diapers. Jacob changes just as many diapers as I do. I don’t think I could do it without him helping. You just get so tired and so overwhelmed sometimes. He is definitely a hands-on dad; he doesn’t shy away from anything.
Becky: I’m not saying that the dads didn’t participate back when I had my kids, but it was nothing like it is today.
CP: How about differences in things like car seats?
Becky: (laughs) I’m probably not the best person to ask. When we left the hospital, we didn’t even have a car seat for her.
Caela: They wouldn’t let us leave the hospital without one. They had to have her in the car seat and checked before we were allowed to leave the hospital.
Becky: One of the things we picked up on the way home from the hospital was a car seat.
CP: What about sleeping arrangements?
Caela: We had a bedside crib—a crib that attached to the bedside. That was helpful when she would wake up and cry, I could just reach over, nurse her and lay her back in the crib. But when she grew out of that where she could climb out of it, we tried to transition her to a regular crib, but that didn’t work out too well so we co-sleep right now.
Becky: I always kept her in a crib from Day One. At night, if she would cry, I would get her, breastfeed her in my bed and take her straight back to her crib. We had a Jenny Lind bed, which was the name brand back then. We didn’t have money for much else, but we made sure that was something that was safe.
Caela: Was mine a drop-side crib?
Becky: Yes. But I know the big thing back then was to make sure the spacing of the rungs was at a certain width. We made sure we did that. She used her crib a lot.
CP: How about all the bumpers and things people used to use?
Becky: We did the bumpers. They wanted the bumpers there. They insisted we always put our children on their bellies, always with their head to one side; from the time we brought them home, we never, ever laid them on their backs because they said if they were to throw up, it would suffocate them. Then I went to this class as a grandparent and they explained why that had changed and it made sense to me. Now, you don’t do any bumpers, you don’t do any blankets, you don’t do a pillow, stuffed animals, anything in the crib besides them. And you lie them on their backs. We never did that.
CP: How about food?
Caela: I waited a long time to give her food because I was afraid if I started to give her food she wouldn’t want to breastfeed. That didn’t turn out to be true. She was over 6 months before I started to give her food. I started her with pureed green beans and sweet potatoes, stuff like that.
Becky: My mother had told me to wait until they were 6 months and then put a little cereal in with their last bottle before they went to bed. It was supposed to make them sleep through the night, which it seemed to do, and they only introduced foods after that. I started with the jar foods because that’s what everybody did. I don’t think my kids ever ate a whole jar of baby food, so it didn’t take long before I started mushing up bananas and feeding them regular foods.
CP: What about strollers, monitors, things like that?
Becky: I had a baby monitor that I used, but it was merely sound, where the monitor that she has has a very good picture. Ours, basically, you could just hear them cry.
Caela: One thing we use is the baby carriers where you can wear your baby. I remember Mom saying I didn’t like to be put down, so she learned to do everything one-handed. She would hold me with one arm and do everything with the other, where I can wear Lindynn and I have two hands free and [am] able to do a little bit more.
CP: What sort of toys did you each have early on for your kids?
Caela: I’m trying to find stuff that Mom had for me because those were the fun toys. I don’t necessarily like the toys that they have now. We don’t do any screens with her and won’t until she’s 2.
Becky: We didn’t have a TV when she was little, either. I remember having just the basic toys, rattles and things. When I was making dinner, I would take out things like measuring spoons and they’d play with those.
Caela: I think my daughter prefers anything that’s not a toy. She has a coffee measuring scoop. She has oven mitts. She has an inflatable beach ball, that’s her favorite right now.
Becky: I did a lot with books when the kids were little, and they’ve always loved books.
Caela: I’m trying to do that with my daughter, too. We read a couple of books a day. We always had books around that we could get to.
CP: What’s the best advice that you’ve gotten from your mothers?
Caela: I think the best advice Mom gave me was to be calm and relaxed. I know I was colicky when I was a baby, and she said that around 7 o’clock she would start crying because she knew at 8 o’clock I was going to start crying and just wouldn’t stop. And she told me, ‘Probably if I would have been more calm, you could have been more calm.’ I know there were a couple of times when I was just frazzled with Lindynn being upset and crying and didn’t know what to do. So I would take a couple of deep breaths, relax my body and Lindynn would calm down.
Becky: I’m trying to think of actual advice my mother gave me. My mother had five children and I was the youngest, but I know anything that would come up, I would just call my mom.