Thursday, January 13, 2011


1. Velcro – This time-saving, energy-saving, sanity-saving product was invented in 1941 by George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer who returned home after a hunting trip with his dog one day and was intrigued by all the burrs stuck to his pants and the dog’s fur. He put the burrs under a microscope, discovered their configuration of “hooks” that attached themselves to anything with fibers or hairs, and was inspired to create Velcro (from the French words velour and crochet which, in English, mean velvet and hook). George’s eventual invention is considered by many to be one of the greatest of the 20th century. Any mother who has ever tried to put sneakers on a two-year-old will agree.

2. Disposable diapers – I used cloth diapers with my first two children, convinced that only pure, white cotton cloth was appropriate for my precious babies’ bottoms. By the time Child Number Three came around, I had completely changed my mind, deciding that disposable diapers—while perhaps not the best option for the universe—were definitely the most comfortable, most hygienic, and healthiest option for my little guy. You may disagree, and that’s fine; cloth diapers did well by many centuries worth of babies. But there’s no denying that in certain circumstances—long distance travel, for example—disposable diapers make life infinitely more pleasant for everyone. Even my mother, a purist who continued to make pimiento cheese from scratch long after Kraft offered it up in a jar, sang their praises. She told me how hard it was to be on the road with a baby in the ‘40s and ‘50s. “They had what they called disposable diapers,” she said, “but they were nothing like what you have today. Mothers had a really hard time of travelling with a baby back then. This is a wonderful choice to have.” I agree.

3. Gas pumps that take credit cards – Do you wake up your sleeping child and drag him inside to pay for your gas or do you leave him in his car seat, alone and unattended, but sleeping peacefully? This is the decision I was faced with every time I bought gas in those days after station attendants had stopped coming to the car and pumping gas FOR you but before anyone came up with the brilliant idea to install credit card readers at the pump. Bless whoever that was! Maybe it was a mom.

4. Board books– As a book lover eager to share my passion for reading with my children, I learned the hard way that babies’ enthusiasm can be lethal. I saw more than a few beautiful books destroyed before I figured out that board books was the better choice for the under-5 set. No, you might not find all your favorite tales available in a board book format, but that’s okay; they’ll appreciate a good story later on, even if they haven’t had a chance to gnaw on it first.

5. Baby seats in grocery carts – Why did it take so long for this to be invented? When I think of all the years I hauled pillows and towels and car seats and belts in and out of grocery stores trying to keep my children safe and secured in a grocery cart . . .

6. Playpen – Should you leave your child in a playpen for hours at a time? Of course not. But if you have to go to the bathroom, answer the phone, deal with an emergency, catch your breath, tend to an older child, prevent a disaster, etc., a playpen is a godsend. At least until he is old enough to climb out of it, it’s a place to keep your child safe and in one place long enough for you to deal with the problem at hand.

7. Microwave – Yes, you should nurse your baby if at all possible. But if you can’t, a microwave is a blessing right up there with sliced bread and electricity (and thanks for that, too, Mr. Franklin!) when all that stands between a screaming infant and instant gratification is the temperature of the milk. We moms appreciate microwaves all the way from infancy up through those home-from-college-and-heating-up-leftovers days.

8. Camera – Yes, you were there for the moment, but years after that first birthday, that first day at school, that first dance, that first competition, those photos can transport us. A camera lets you hang on to those memories forever. Digital cameras have made that even better, because they’ve eliminated the expense of printing photos. Click away, mamas! Those moments will never come again.

9. Skype – If you’re not blessed to have your loved ones close at hand, keeping your kids connected to extended family can be a challenge. My brother-in-law was on sea duty when my nephew was born; it was months before he got to see his son. Today, moms and dads in service can tell their children good night every night, read them a bedtime story, and be there for everything from birthday parties to skinned knees thanks to the miracle of Skype. Grandparents don’t have to go months without seeing their grandchildren; they can spend a few minutes together every day. Truly a gift and a miracle when you think about all those pioneer families for whom heading west to a better life meant not seeing their families again for years at a time.

10. Libraries – Books for you, books for your child, as many as you want, and all FREE! Not only that, most libraries offer children’s story hours and special programs such as puppet shows, craft classes, and discussions that will enrich the lives of your whole family. Some of my best memories as a young mother are library outings: watching excerpts from “The Nutcracker,” listening to authors talk about their books, “petting” symphony instruments, looking at art exhibits and, best of all, coming home with armloads of books that translated into hours of quality time together each week . . .now that’s a treasure!

What inventions have you enjoyed and appreciated most as a mother?


Man Martin said...

As a dad, I may not count, but currently my favorite invention is the cell phone. Now that my daughters have flown the coop, they call once a week!

Jayne Jaudon Ferrer said...

Dads count a lot, and your input is welcome and appreciated!