We have this cultural blind spot. If something's around for just a generation or two, we seem to think it's been that way forever. If we haven't noticed something, no matter how old it is, we think it's brand new.
I saw on Facebook earlier today that one of my friends had commented on the status of a page called Baby Love. It was one of those "anonymous fan question" things; some gal all het up because her sister-in-law was insisting on a home birth and--quelle horreur--turned down the offer of a matching Pack 'n' Play, baby swing, and bouncy seat, saying that she didn't plan to use these things.
The reaction from the unwashed masses was pretty much what you'd expect from the unwashed masses. Shock! Horror! Not nearly as much for the home birth, mind you, as for turning down the furniture.
She needs that stuff! the people cried. You can't hold or wear your baby all the time, and besides, the father needs to be involved as well.
The anonymous gal even asked if this refusal to use the trappings they wanted to buy her was some new fad.
Look, I'm not going to deny the occasional utility of a baby swing. I've had one for three out of four kids and certainly intend to buy one for the fifth. When a baby wants rocking to soothe her sore tummy, it's a handy thing to have. But necessary? Not hardly.
The other two things fall into the same category: they are perhaps handy under some circumstances, but nothing your baby is going to explode without. Women have been caring for their children for generations without the use of these things--I can't find a history on the bouncy seat, but the first infant swing dates back to the mid-1950s, and the Pack 'n' Play (which is smaller than a playpen, by the way) to 1987. Which means that most of the women swearing these things are necessary were themselves raised without at least the latter.
It's odd to me that there are so many parent substitutes out there at a time when the pressure to constantly amuse/educate our children is so strong. Actually, I'm fairly certain the two are connected. While my mother probably thought nothing of putting me down on a blanket to amuse myself when she had something to do, this isn't enough for modern moms, so baby gets strapped into something and passively amused. Mom continues on about her day, perhaps congratulating herself for building her little tot's brain--because of course flashing lights and noise do just that--all the while with zero clue that she actually stands a good chance of harming her child.
Expecting your children to amuse themselves is the older thing by far, but it's considered nigh neglectful by modern parents--and even a good many modern grandparents, who certainly didn't devote their spare time to playing cruise director. I'm well nigh convinced that this is a large portion of what's wrong with modern society--we've raised a whole generation of kids to adulthood who can't amuse themselves and so expect the world to do it.
I'll let you read your own political conclusions into that.