Motherhood and the great diaper divide

It happened while I was helping set up the nursery for my new grandson. He'd caught us unprepared by arriving a month early, and his father and I were trying to play catch-up before he and his mother arrived home from the hospital.

It didn't happen immediately. At first, I was in familiar mother territory. Although it had been three decades since I'd had a baby, I was acquainted with most of what we were unpacking and setting up: a bassinet, tiny knit shirts, a comfortable place to nurse, soft blankets.

Then my son-in-law asked me to help move the changing table to "the long wall with the plug on it." I started to ask why he thought they'd need an electrical outlet to change a diaper. But l didn't. I just helped move the thing.

When we were finished, he said, "Now we have space for the Diaper Genie and a place to plug in the electric baby-wipe warmer."

That's when it yawned before me. The generation divide. The Baby Equipment Gap.

My initial foray into this area had been when another daughter, pregnant with our first grandchild, had taken me shopping. Interestingly enough, it had involved the exact same two pieces of equipment. First she grabbed a box from the shelf, saying, "My friend says that a baby-wipe warmer is really important."

I did not say, "Why not use a wet washcloth?" Instead, I said, "What will they think of next?"

The answer to my rhetorical question came on the next aisle - a Diaper Genie. She explained that the contraption, a hard plastic canister about two feet tall, with a plastic bag inside, makes a disposable diaper disappear into a twist of plastic. It produces, when the bag is fully used, a string of plastic-wrapped diaper beads. I now had three items on my life list of things I do not want to watch being made: laws, sausage, and Diaper Genie output.

My second experience with these two pieces of baby gear reminded me that, although I'm not sure that an electric baby-wipe warmer and a Diaper Genie are particularly important for successful child-rearing, it is obvious that my children and their spouses do. So I have let it go. Mostly because I remember my mother saying the same thing about disposable diapers. When I had defended them as a convenience for traveling, my mother noted that babies had been traveling for centuries without them.

She also pointed out how fortunate I was to have an automatic washer and dryer, not the wringer washer and clothesline she'd had. And I had that new thing, a diaper liner. It flushed down the toilet so I didn't have to rinse the dirty diaper off in the toilet, like she had to. (Diaper liners have disappeared, it seems. Whatever happened to them?)

Mother envied me my collapsible stroller. So much easier to handle than a big baby carriage. The umbrella strollers my grandchildren ride around in are even more convenient. I love the slings and front packs my daughters use. Such an improvement over the old backpack I had. And car seats. Our kids freely roamed the cargo section of station wagons. My grandchildren are pinned like butterflies to the back seat.

No, it's not wars or depressions that mark the difference between generations. Nor is it the great events of public life, like elections or assassinations. It's not even music or clothes. What causes the generation gap is the difference in baby equipment.

Wait. I think l just realized what happened to diaper liners. Some manufacturer turned them into baby wipes when we stopped using cloth diapers. And come to think about it, is using a Diaper Genie really that much different from wrapping dirty diapers up in plastic bags, as I do when the grandchildren are visiting? Maybe I'm making too much of this Equipment Gap thing.

But maybe not. I still don't get that electric baby- wipe warmer.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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