Moms carry on, and on

Recently I returned home after spending 10 days in Alabama with my middle daughter, Heather, and my 6-month-old grandson, Rorke. What a hardship assignment for Gram (me).

We didn't do anything special during my stay, just spent every waking moment playing kiss-and-tickle and rock-a-bye. We took long walks with Rorke in his stroller and took turns making funny faces to distract him or create a Kodak moment.

Heather and I took turns showering, cooking and changing diapers so he was never left unattended. We lunched and shopped with Heather's friends, always with baby in tow. I had almost forgotten what an exhausting 24/7 job mothering is.

Heather has chosen to be a stay-at-home mom, and she is loving every second of it. She's completely committed to giving her child the very best care and education possible. That includes breast feeding now and home schooling eventually. The feeding part is going well, and since Heather has a master's degree and 10 years of experience as an aerospace engineer, there is no doubt she can handle the teaching role as well.

Helping care for Rorke brought back fond memories of the years I spent at home with my three children. Much about being a mom is still the same, and I was able to reassure Heather that she is doing a great job of it.

However, I was amazed at how much has changed, like:

1. If Heather has a question about anything from treating diaper rash to relieving teething woes, to finding kids clothes at a bargain, she just does a quick search on the Internet, and up pops a dozen baby-care blogs by experienced moms, or a zillion websites for everything from designer baby wear to local children's consignment shops. How cool is that?

2. Virtually every public ladies room now has a convenient diaper changing station. Not so 30 years ago. I remember trying to change a diaper with the baby in a stroller or even on my lap. I also remember that, all too often, a good share of what was in the diaper wound up on me in the process.

3. Today, many public places, like churches, shopping centers, and even libraries, have a quiet private room reserved for breast-feeding moms. They are equipped with rocking chairs, soft music, and a play area for preschoolers. Wow! When I was breast feeding even other moms said, "Ich!" and tried to talk me out of it. I remember having to leave the shopping mall and go to my car to feed the baby.

4. Baby equipment has taken a giant leap forward. Cribs now come with attachments that turn them into full-size beds so one investment furnishes the kid's room till he leaves for college. (Or moves back in after, but that's a whole other discussion.) Strollers now fold at the touch of a button and have airplane wheels so moms can actually steer the things. I remember struggling to collapse a stroller so it would fit in the back of our mini-van and wondering if World War II took as much effort.

Despite all the changes, mothering is still the hardest, most frustrating, most rewarding and important job any woman will ever have. It is also the only one that never ends.

My children are 33, 31 and 29 years old now. Yet they still call their mother when they have a problem or a victory to report, a quandary or an insight to share, or just a need for counsel and companionship.

I don't carry my children in my arms anymore. But they know I still carry them in my heart.