On Christmas day, I managed to take a few minutes to sit on the couch to review a few of the recipes I’d stored on my smart phone to be cooked later that day. At the same time, my Roomba (a brand new Christmas gift) was sweeping the floor for the second time, clearing the living room of bits of paper and ribbon from the mess of unwrapping (or violently ripping as my children tend to do) that morning. My dishwasher was humming away—cleaning the dishes from the morning’s breakfast spread. I’d managed to start the washing machine that morning and dry a load that had been started the night before. Two of my kids were quietly playing (a Christmas miracle) on their new tablets and one was watching an On Demand movie on the television. We were all warm and happy, safe and well-fed and it was mainly because of the progress and innovation that continues to make life better for all mankind.
I often compare my own situation as a parent to my mother’s and grandmother’s experience decades ago.
When I was a baby, my mother didn’t have cable or the Internet to distract me. In fact, my parents didn’t have a television for many years. Air conditioning was rare in Navy housing in the 70s as was a clothes dryer (although my parents did have a clothes washer), meaning line drying was a daily chore. I think my mom got her first dishwasher in the late 70s and I can still remember the excitement in the house when my dad lugged a brand new, state of the art microwave oven into the house (it was the size of a mini-fridge). My mom didn’t have a cell phone or a smart phone to help her navigate around town. She had one (awful) grocery store at which she shopped—not the dozen or so most people can choose from today. Mom couldn’t Google “easy chicken recipes” when she needed to make a quick dinner, nor did she have a credit card or access to her own cash through an ATM machine (when I was a baby and toddler) to buy ingredients at the last minute. Instead, mom needed to make the cash from her weekly trip to the bank last as well as the ingredients she's bought on her weekly trip to the store.
Things were even tougher for my grandmother and great grandmother when they were young parents. Vaccines weren’t readily available (my great aunt Gertrude died as a baby from a now-preventable disease). Many of the modern medical treatments we enjoy today weren’t yet developed, meaning sickness was far more dangerous than it is today—particularly for babies and young children. Common electrical appliances that make preparing food easier weren’t yet invented and other nice things like indoor plumbing, central heating, and modern transportation were still decades away from being the norm.
Progress and innovation is a wonderful, freeing thing! In 2019, let’s gain some perspective by taking a look around to appreciate just how easy life has become compared to those who came before us.