Those of us who grew up in the '90s look back on it fondly and starry eyed and filled with a substantial amount of nostalgia. It was the era of brick phones and hammer pants and hair crimping (dear god why), sure, but it also felt like life wasn't nearly as frightening. We weren't constantly under the supposed threat of mosquito-born illnesses and terrorist attacks and school shootings and, well, you get the picture. Once you have kids, you almost start to wonder if being a parent was just easier in the '90s. It wasn’t, to be sure, but nostalgia is funny like that. In fact, there are plenty of inventions '90s parents wish they’d had that we, now, take for granted.
First and foremost, we have made plenty of great technological advances in the past two decades. The past 10 years has provided us with some amazing progress in the field of medicine. We’ve also made a lot of strides in social justice and awareness, though some could argue that some folks and even politicians have also regressed in this area. We’ve also have new, mouth-watering foods and fantastic new ways to watch television and our Tamagotchis aren't on the verge of dying every five minutes so, you know, we have some things going for us.
Tamagotchis aside, the advances our society has made since the '90s affect our parenting and our children and how we prepare our children for their future and whatever it may hold, in a number of ways. Many of said advances can, and are, used to improve our parenting, or at least enhance the parenting experience by making it somewhat easier. I have no doubt that while I would do unspeakable things to be able to have a few days without a single social media account, there are plenty of parents who, in the '90s, would have loved to have had the following:
If you grew up in the '90s, you probably remember experiencing those awful, itchy bumps and ridiculously high fever that was, you guessed it, the Chicken Pox. In the '90s, a vaccine was finally approved to combat varicella, a.k.a. the worst itch you’re not allowed to scratch. But it wasn’t really until the 2000s that basically everyone started getting their kids vaccinated for it.
I’m not a Prime user, but many of my friends are, and they all swear by it. I can’t say that I blame them. Having to purchase everything in person when you’re 8 months pregnant and then when you’ve got a newborn can be, well, tough. Amazon has totally streamlined this process and you can now subscribe to baby products with the push of a button. Also, kudos to Amazon for finally changing Amazon Mom to Amazon Family. I see you.
Trans Characters On Major Television Shows
While trans folk have been around for just as long as cis-gender folk, it seems that it’s only in recent years that they’re finally beginning to gain more positive coverage, not only in news but in pop culture. By now, most of us are familiar with the beautiful and talented Laverne Cox of Orange Is The New Black, but she’s only the tip of the iceberg. The great thing about more trans visibility, especially on television (which is a major thing for kids and teens), is that we are finally opening a dialogue on acceptance and inclusion. At least, this is what I hope is happening in most homes.
Back in the day, some friends and family members were unable to meet the new baby for weeks, months, even years. Now, you can quickly introduce the world to your family via laptop, tablet, or smartphone. There’s even been cases where a mom met their baby via Skype for the first time! Technology is rad.
Widely Available Target
I, too, long for the days of shopping at small businesses and small businesses only, but if I have to choose between Target and other corporate chains, I more often than not choose Target. And why not? They’re the business that stopped labeling their toys for “boys” or “girls” and who actively took a stance on allowing people to use bathrooms according to the gender they identify with. Target already existed in the '90s, but not in the numbers they do today, and I’m not too sad about that.
I hate to admit it, but I have no idea where I’d be if YouTube wasn't available to assist me in entertaining and educating my toddler, especially when he’s restless. This little miracle is so helpful when we’re somewhere for a lengthy period of time and my kid is tired. Thanks to educational toddler-friendly YouTube channels like Little Baby Bum, Hoopla Kids, and ABC Kid TV, my kiddo is well-versed in nursery rhymes, the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, animals, even planets.
The Almighty Google
WHAT DID PARENTS DO BEFORE GOOGLE?! Need a doctor’s number? Google. How often do we need to sterilize the baby bottles? Google. Where’s my closest indoor playground? Google. When’s the next mommy meet-up in my area? Google. Will my kid ever sleep through the night? Google. GOOGLE! Seriously. We are so spoiled.
GPS So We Don't Get (Too) Lost
Although it has existed in some form or other for several decades, it wasn’t until the 2000s that GPS became open to the public. With the advent of smartphones, GPS exploded into an absolute necessity, and now it seems like no one can get around without it. Sure, we could all open a paper map but, well, who in the hell has time for that?
Noise-Cancelling Headphones For Everyone
In the 1950s, noise-cancelling headphones were a tool of the aviation trade. But in recent years, they’ve become widely available to tired parents (and I guess the rest of humanity) everywhere. While I don’t recommend using these while caring for your newborn on your own, they are excellent for catching a few coveted hours of sleep while your partner stands watch.
Hear me out. I know some folks are of the camp that it was nice when you weren’t constantly aware of how much fat and sugar and salt was included in all your favorite foods. But really, I think a lot of parents wish they’d had a bit more awareness of what they were feeding their kids, way back when. I mean, have you taken a look at the new nutritional labels? Let’s hope they help parents make healthier choices for their kids (while remembering that an active lifestyle is also necessary).
Streaming Television (Hello, Netflix!)
Did you really think I would leave this out? There are so many streaming TV services available these days: Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBONow, SlingTV, and of course, Netflix. Our kids will never really understand that we often had to wait for a certain time of day to watch our favorite television show, that we didn’t have a library of hundreds of movies at our disposal at any given time. The struggle was real, you guys.
Without which most of the things on this list would not be possible. Wifi is the glue that holds it all together. Okay, no, the internet is the glue. Wifi is like the plastic Elmer’s bottle in which the glue is in, and the little orange cap is our smart phone. I don’t know where this analogy is going, either, but hey, if you’re reading it, that means you’re probably using wifi and not dial-up (a tech struggle our 90s parents had to deal with so we don't have to)! So, full circle?
The Ability To Constantly Wax Nostalgic Via Lists
No generation has ever been as nostalgic as ours, and it’s all thanks to, once again, the internet (and the Wifi! And the smart phone!). No other generation was busy making lists all afternoon about the sounds that gave ever '90s kid all the feels, or the things ever cool '90s girl did in the summer, or about the things '90s parents made for dinner. Previous generations probably bored the hell out of their kids telling them about what it was like back in "their day," but our kids are endlessly fascinated by our ability to condense our childhood into gif-laden lists! Seriously. We might actually be the first generation of sincerely "cool" parents. At least, I hope I'm cooler than my mom.