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The Mother of Inventions

You were probably too busy wiping kids' butts with your pink slip to note that March 8 was International Women's Day. However, the moment was not lost on L'Osservatore Romano, the semi-official newspaper of the Vatican, which commented on women's lib in an editorial that declared the washing machine as the most liberating advancement of the 20th century for women.

We're assuming they weren't talking about the pleasurable perk of jumping on the machine during the spin cycle.

The article – entitled "The Washing Machine and the Liberation of Women - Put in the Detergent, Close the Lid and Relax" – was actually a sarcastic commentary on the absurd claims made by modern products. But in the decree that the washing machine has contributed more to the emancipation of Western women than the pill, Roe v. Wade and even the jet engine, artificial heart or personal computer, writer Giluia Galeotti (a woman) set off a big stink. Guess not too many Western types are used to humor from the Holy See. Written in Italian, the tongue-in-cheek probe got lost in translation by the time it made it across the pond, with everybody from NPR to The Huffington Post lodging indignation.

"Guess if you follow the Vatican's no-contraception policy, you REALLY need the washing machine to keep up with the mountain of clothes from the mountain of children you'll have and to give you more free time to create more babies," one blogger fumed. In another response, entitled "Freedom, Thy Name is Front Loading," Emmy Award-winning commentator John Ridley remarked that "to say the washer has liberated the lay-dees is kinda like saying the cotton gin liberated slaves."

Let's seize this moment of mass confusion to come up with our own list of modern-day breakthroughs that have really altered what it means to be a mom. I'm not talking about the vote or "equal pay for equal work." It's time to honor true life-changing doo-hickeys, such as:

1. Super Target, where I can get chicken breasts and a new bra in one place.

2. The SunPass, so we can knock 30 "are-we-there-yet?" minutes from the time it takes to get to Disney World.

3. Velcro. No more repetitive deep knee bends to tie those annoying laces on kids' shoes.

4. The disposable diaper, invented by a woman. (This is a documented fact.)

5. Purell, most likely invented by a woman who used cloth diapers. (This is an undocumented fact.)

6. The iPod and earbuds. No more suffering through the same three Kidz Bop songs over and over.

7. GPS. No more fights with hubby over stopping to ask for directions.

8. Caller ID. The most brilliant time-saving device in the world.

9. Salad in a bag. With or without e coli.

10. Spanx, those wearable sausage wraps that get you through your high school reunion looking 10 pounds lighter.

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