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Moms of the decade

In the past decade, there have been parents who have challenged our notion of parenthood, influenced how we define a family and sparked plenty of water cooler conversation. From the notorious to those with noble intentions, these are the mothers and fathers who shaped our national conversation about what it means to be a parent.

10. Military parents.

In October of 2001, President Bush began the war in Afghanistan. In March of 2003, he launched the second Iraq War. In this decade defined by terrorist attacks and wars, the parents who have served and continue to serve sacrifice months, sometimes years, away from their children. And too many come back broken.

9. Brangelina.

Long before Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, celebrities adopted children. But this power couples' personal rainbow coalition of children -- three adopted, three biological -- representing a variety of ethnic backgrounds, is a virtual U.N. Goodwill Mission in its mere existence.

8. Celebrity parents.

The baby bump was the must-have fashion accessory this decade, with Hollywood's hottest starlets each sporting their own. From Halle Berry to Gwyneth Paltrow, Katie Holmes to Nicole Ritchie, the public was fascinated by iconic baby fashion, strange baby names and even stranger parenting behavior. Who can forget the image of Michael Jackson dangling a blanketed baby out of a balcony or erase that unfortunate phone message Alec Baldwin left for his daughter? Bad behavior notwithstanding, we're glad that celeb moms brought sexy back.

7. The Duggars.

Jim Bob and Michelle recently gave birth to their 19th child, and their supersized family has become reality television darlings. With their religious convictions and homeschooled brood, they seem like families from another era -- with cameras rolling, of course.

6. The helicopter parent.

Thanks to these hovering, problem-solving, hyper-protective parents, there is a generation of children unable to survive on their own. Or least, their extended adultolecense continues well into their 20s.

5. Jon and Kate, plus 8, minus 2.

The reality-TV parents who showed us just how ugly it can get when a family breaks up in front of millions. They sacrificed their privacy for stardom, and neither seems willing or able to leave the spotlight. Our collective obsession with their dsyfunction seems to have spawned deranged offshoots like Balloon Boy's parents, who appear so desperate for their 15 minutes of faux-celebrity, their children become an afterthought.

4. Political parents of the decade:

Sarah Palin, mom and grandmother, and her teenage daughter (also a mom) Bristol. Barack and Michelle Obama. The hockey mom prompted a new round of questions about what it means to be a mother of young children while fighting for one of the country's top jobs. Meanwhile, the First Lady sidelined her own career for an ambitious spouse and young daughters they are trying to shield from the public eye. Diametrically opposed, both Palin and Michelle Obama, whether they were being idolized or vilified, shaped the public discourse about motherhood and modern families.

3. Rosie O'Donnell.

When she quit her popular talk show, saying she wanted to spend more time with her children, Rosie brought gay parents into the limelight. In the past decade, families with two daddies or two mommies have become increasingly mainstream. So much so, that the popular new sitcom, Modern Family, features an adoptive gay couple as two of the main characters, and they seem like the most normal family in the bunch.

2. Octomom.

Certainly, the most ethically perplexing womb of the decade belonged to Nadya Suleman, the single mom of six young children, artificially impregnated with octuplets. Her story sparked such an outrage, possibly because the wild west of fertility treatments seemed to abandon the multiple tiny human lives involved once they exited the womb and entered Suleman's crazy, celebrity-seeking world.

1. Dooce.

"Dooce," aka Heather Armstrong, is the original mommy blogger. She became famous on the Internet for losing her job because of what she was posting on a blog. But, it was her ability to write so openly, often starkly, about becoming a parent that gained her a following of millions and has earned her family a new livelihood.

She is the ultimate symbol of how the Internet has changed parenting. Her willingness to sacrifice privacy for confession and validation has spawned a nation of mommy bloggers.

These virtual communities and social networks have transformed the way parents communicate about our children, the way we make decisions for our families and how we connect with other parents. Perhaps, in the process, we have not fully considered the trade: Will our children ever recognize or value their own privacy once it's been so exposed and commercialized?

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