Don't say this out loud to Mom and Grandma, but there are certain times we think our days of parenting are a tad harder than theirs were, especially working moms. After all, research wasn't in about drinking and smoking during pregnancy. A lot of partners were able to bring home enough money to buy houses and cars without the need for a second income, and college debt wasn't suffocating. The economy was up. Parenting expectations (even car seat safety knowledge) were down. Life was simpler.
Not to mention, there was no Pinterest to hold them to unattainable Suzie Homemaker-ness, no Twitter to see how awesome everyone else's lives look, and no Facebook to compare other mom's journeys to our own. Are some of these things self-inflicted? Maybe. Does that mean we can't gripe about them? Not at all.
Image: YouTube / ゆりやんレトリィバァの
Need to smoke to settle down? How about a drink? Why, go ahead! At least, that was the way they did it back then. According to one Mom, as quoted at the bbc, "Yes I smoked during my pregnancies in the 1970s. We all did. We even smoked on the wards next to the babies. There was no change in perception. Even in the doctor's waiting room you could smoke. " Then, in this Outlander Medicine article, it says that, "As recently as the 1960s-1980s in the US, alcohol was given intravenously to women in preterm labor as a tocolytic – a medication to stop uterine contractions calm and halt preterm labor." Yep, that's right. Not only were women allowed to drink during pregnancy, there were shot up with booze to help them relax. While medical knowledge is ever evolving, our mothers didn't have to worry that every substance they touched would lead to toxicity, listeria, or some other sort of lifelong consequence for their little ones.
In the 1920s, breastfeeding numbers tanked. Mothers had access to refrigeration, and corporations started taking advantage of cheaper marketing and technological advancements. Thus, moms stopped breastfeeding and the majority (maybe as many as three of four), used prepackaged formula to feed their kids. This remained true into the 70s and 80s, meaning most of us of childbearing age now weren't breastfed or at least weren't breastfed long or exclusively. While we know it's healthier for both babies and moms to take advantage of nature's little gift, the mommy wars around feeding didn't exist for our own mothers. There was no mommy shaming for moms that couldn't produce. The expectations simply weren't there. Mom could have a baby, go back to work, and not have to pump in the bathroom.
Before, it was conceivable for Dad to hold down a blue collar job and support a wife and kids with a house and family car. All that, without an out-of-the-house income from Mom. Moms had the choice to stay home to raise the kids. In fact, push back existed in the opposite direction. People wondered why mamas chose to pursue careers when they did. Think of shows like The Goldbergs and The Wonder Years. That's not just TV fiction. It depicts a life where Dad worked, Mom managed the household, and the kids had the run of the neighborhood, a life proven to be easier to achieve then as it is now.
Image: LeVar Burton Kids
Most of us grew up without the internet because it wasn't a household commodity yet. If we did have computers they were the clunky, desk eating variety that once filled the Best Buys of a bygone era. If we had a childhood of internet use, we remember the telltale sound of logging in with dial-up. The internet then was a way to share information and research school projects, not a hotbed of x-rated ads and creepy apps that let professional weirdos link directly to kids. Our parents didn't have to worry about our online identities because we didn't have one. Now, we have to monitor what our kids are doing online, who's reaching out to them, and what kind of images they're being influenced by on sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and a myriad of others.
Image: Comedy Central
Nowadays, car seats are mandated, regulated, and still as clunky as carrying around a strapless purse full of heavy groceries (seriously, can someone work on that?). Yet, for many of our moms, it's not something they ever had to worry about. The first child passenger laws didn't even make land until the mid 80's, and they were decidedly less exacting than the ones we operate under. Up until then, kids were cavorting around the backseat like it was a personal jungle gym. Lap sitters were fine, and it was okay if your car was an older make without straps at all. The things a mom was forced to lug around were considerably less.
Whether it's because fewer people felt like vaccines were dangerous or people simply didn't have the outlets to blast their opinions, our parents didn't deal with the vaccinate/don't vaccinate paradigm that so many of us do. In fact, they dealt with doctor visits less all around. In the mid 80's only seven vaccines were regularly given to healthy children. Now, that number is almost doubled at 13. We're lucky that there're more preventatives for our kids than we had (which equates to less time operating while ill), but we do have to deal with the additional stress of extra doctor visits. No one likes those; not the kids, not the moms that are stuck hauling them there against their developing but very vocal wills.
It was far more acceptable to let younger kids run around their neighborhood and into and out of their friends' houses in the 70's, 80's, and even early 90's. This was before the Amber Alert program came out (which happened in 1996, according to this government site). It was before we all knew names like Elizabeth Smart or Elizabeth Fritzl. Back then, aside from neighborhood wide adult games of 'telephone', the way people found out about missing kids and their abductors was from milk cartons. While we're sure the program was a well thought out line of communication at the time, it had nothing on the immediate and reactionary effect of social medial today. The world then seemed smaller and safer, a thing a lot of us moms wouldn't mind feeling again today. Jerry Seinfeld famously tells the story of how his mom would put him on a string and attach it to the garage door. Then, she'd turn around, go inside, and do whatever housework needed to be done. He managed to get himself off the string and out into the neighborhood everyday, somehow never alerting his mom. Seriously, I'm pretty sure we'd get arrested for that. You can hear the hilarious Jerry interview here.
Image: Four Roses Bourbon
Moms that came beforehand not only helped themselves to a drink now and then with doctor's permission, they also dosed their cranky kids with booze, too. When babies teethed, Moms were told to reach for the whiskey and rub it on the sore part of gums to help both mother and child sleep. Here we are, avoiding sushi and only eating our Subs nuked, while our parents were putting babies to sleep with jungle juice. Okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but come on! Have you ever heard of Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup? It was a teething product meant for little ones with two primary ingredients- alcohol and morphine.
We pluggged-in mothers use the internet the same way Japanese mamas use school lunch edo boxes to compare and judge one another. It's true, even if you try not to take part in the never ending mommy wars. We look at each other's perfectly posed pictures. We hear whose kids made honor role. We see holiday ornaments made out of baby's newborn mementos and think to ourselves, "How the hell does she have time to do that?" The thing is, most of us only post the perfect version of ourselves on social media. We see these other moms' curated family life and think that in comparison, we're on the sucking end of the spectrum. We're not, probably not by a long shot. Yet, the perils of comparison or oversharing are stresses we deal with everyday that our mothers had in much smaller, more localized doses.
We moms seem to be in a viscous cycle of signing our kids up for sports and activities, running them to said programs, watching them finish up a season, and then beginning all over again. There's often overlap. Soccer and debate share a couple months of the year. Cheer leading and gymnastics go hand in hand sometimes. Most of our mothers didn't have to worry about this. The driving, the helicoptering, wasn't the trend when they were parenting. They didn't feel the need to compete with other mothers' children on a global scale. Now, we're looking at our partners and saying things like, "Did you see kids in China are outpacing American kids in mathematics by a berjillion percent? Do you think little Miranda needs a math tutor?"
While there was television and cartoons in the 70's and 80's, there wasn't prolonged or vastly published research on its effects on kids. Mothers could turn on the television and go about making their casseroles and drinking their mint juleps without guilt. Kids were expected to self monitor or give over the tube when someone else's program was on. Now, with streaming and instant access to entertainment like YouTube, the need to hand over the television or other device is gone. Kids can literally sit around all day, switching between movies, specials, and content influencers without pause if that's what they want to do. However, I just read that moms used to worry that the radio was too "emotionally overstimulating" for young people. Maybe it's just in our natures to overthink this parenting thing?
The idea of checking labels and boycotting GMOs hadn't sprouted yet. Moms in the 70's and 80's fed their kids SPAM, made "salads" with absolutely no lettuce or earthy things, and literally supported the invention of hamburger helper. As this mom said over at Scary Mommy, "Poor kids face lives without ice cream or peanut butter. Eating was simpler back in the ’70s and ’80s." Crunchy moms or moms that avoid meats, cheeses, and processed sugars and therefore have their children nix these items as well were unheard of. There were no Kourtney Kardashians pushing the benefits of clean eating and bodies weighing under a hundred lbs. Honestly, living like that sounds like culinary heaven (cause there's no diabetes or food allergies in heaven, right?).
In the 70s, the majority of parents weren't college graduates because they didn't need to be. When a person did decide to pursue higher education, more than half of their expenses were covered by grants. People left school able to go right to work and buy into the American dream. Now, millennials are likely to have spent time in or after college living with parents, leave school with crippling debt that will follow them around for decades, and are in no way guaranteed to find a decent paying job in their field of study. Depressing, right? It's one of the reasons many scholars believe this generation has put off having families later than their own parents. Bummer.
In the 70s, mamas gave birth via 'twilight sleep', a method in which doctors anesthetized women during the whole of the labor and delivery process. Moms were brought to when the baby was ready to be placed in their arms. Many mothers recall having no memory of the event or the pain. They simply woke up and "met" their babies. All this happened with Dad out of the room, usually waiting in the lobby with cigars on hand. Then, in the 80's, nitrous oxide became the popular and common method of pain relief during labor. This was set aside in the United States for the epidural, but many countries including Canada and the UK still use it. Now, mothers are faced with the crowds crowing the benefits of "natural" delivery, IE delivery unassisted by pain meds. If you ask us, any delivery is "natural." Did a baby come out of you in some form? Yep, natural. However, this is a topic the mommy wars rage over.
Image: GIFs of the 80s
Now, pregnancy fashion can be expensive. Yet, it seems to be a nonnegotiable part of being in the family way. You've got to look good! You've got to post those glowing maternity shots to Facebook and Instagram! You've got to show everyone that you haven't put on that much weight! Blech. In the 80s, you simply donned a tent-like mumu and went about your day not caring that you were decked out in a circus tent. It was a comfortable circus tent and if Princess Diana could do it, so could you. We instead have Duchess Kate who appears on the steps of the hospital hours after giving birth looking like an angel miraculously delivered her baby without going the traditional, painful route.
Image: GIPHY Originals
While it's super convenient and we're all guilty of using it, WebMD or any symptom searches can cause moms to lose a great deal of sleep. A simple headache or chest soreness in our kiddos can become something much scarier (and patently unlikely) while searching the internet. We can start the search certain that our kids can be treated with a few milliliters of Tylenol and end up believing that if we don't get them to Immediate Care right away something horrible will happen. We've all told ourselves we're never doing it again, typing in symptoms, and we've all broken that promise to our own horror. Next time Mama, just skip the internet fed worrying and call the doctor.
Image: Crossroads of History
Maternity clothing was less nuanced and so was school drop off fashion. Moms could look perfectly put together in the 80's donning stirrup leggings and chunky headbands that kept back wild hair. Frankly, we're jealous. While we know we're not supposed to show up to our kids' schools in pajama pants and tee shirts, getting both ourselves and our kids ready in the mornings can take up way too much time. Those neon track suits, while maybe eye watering, were probably considerably easier to slip on then our put together, matching separates. Also, they doubled as summer and winter fashion, staples so few us manage in our modern closets.
If your mom did work in the 70's and 80's, she was more likely to work part time than you are. This is because moms were still seen as the managers of the household, even if they helped contribute to the family coffers. They worked shorter hours than their male counterparts and than you probably do. You, modern lady, are much more likely than your mom to work full time and yet still take on the majority of the household chores as well as serve as the chief medical officer of the family. Your mom only had a 30 some percent probability of participating in the workforce. Yours is in the seventies. When moms did work it was usually in fields pigeonholed for ladies. Nursing. Secretaries. Teachers. You have all the advantages (wooo, feminism!) but also all the drawbacks (boo, society still in need of catching up) of being able to reach higher in your career than your mother was encouraged to.
Image: New Line Cinema
In the 70's and 80's it was more common and more acceptable for people to ask for time off for family vacations. There were boozy beach trips, amusement parks, and road trips to see family for no particular reason. According to CNN, American workers of today are asking for less time off than at any time in the past four decades. This means that despite burnout and the demands of family, and despite how much you may really need a vacation with or without the kiddos, your mom probably spent more time reclining on a beach chair than you do. Vacations during those past decades tended to be cheaper as well, so maybe that's why.
Sure, dads were expected to throw around a baseball or clean up the technique of a basketball shot. Moms took care of the basic needs like bandaging, feeding, and teaching general hygiene. Yet, the expectation that mom or dad would get on the floor, provide endless activities, and be the leader of playtime wasn't there. Parents were parents and busy with adult things. Kids, when not in school or preoccupied with homework, were supposed to find ways to keep themselves busy. This was especially so if Mom worked outside of the house for some hours and needed to catch up on meal making or cleaning. Kids were allowed to be bored and were on their own to figure out how to cure it.
Back then, schools just had less events. While this is truer of parents in the 70's than the 80's, most mamas weren't expected to make regular appearances as classroom volunteers. In fact, this commenter on Today's forum said, "“No mom was ever in our classroom. We rode the bus to school on the first day, had one Christmas party that consisted of store-bought cookies and cherry kool-aid, then school ended and we played outside until Labor Day. That was the school year.” Honestly, that sounds great. While many of us love seeing our kids in the classroom environment, thinking of ways to entertain twenty plus kids as well as having to clean up after them as an unpaid teacher's assistant for the day isn't our jam.
It wasn't unheard of in the 70's or 80's for adult children to live around the block from their own parents. Living in the same town was even more common, meaning that kids often grew up with a sprawl of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents that they could hang out with if their parents were busy. Needing a sitter was less likely since families were bigger, support networks wider, and kids were trusted on their own more. Working moms had several people to rely on when it came to ride sharing or supervising. Now, we tend to work and then come home, living insular lives. We also don't necessarily stay in the towns we grew up in. This means grandparents taking on childcare duties are fewer and farther between.
In our childhood, parents worried less about kids' test results. This is because there were fewer standardized tests, and the research of the times influenced parents to believe that school made little difference in the eventual earning potential of their children. Now, science has proven that's not at all true (damn it, facts!). Instead, we parents are presented with our children's test scores at every parent teacher conference. We know that girls need additional encouragement in math and science because, as they enter the teen years, they tend to score lower due to a lack of confidence. We know that reading comprehension can effect what career paths are available to our children. And, because of all this knowledge, we stress.
A lot of the gestational screening tests we moms receive during pregnancy weren't yet invented when our moms were having their families. These screens include testing for sickle cell, autism, and Tay-Sachs. Moms were poked and prodded less and knew of fewer possible health conditions their children could suffer from. Pregnancy itself was treated as a condition, but those health complications that could come after weren't given the same amount of treatment (or stressful worrying) that we mothers experience today. While we're lucky we can prepare and allow for early interventions, our mothers had it easier in the doctor's office.
Image: Julie Winegard
Our mothers gave us toys like G.I. Joes and He-Man. We shot at each other with water guns and didn't think twice about the implications of having large scale battles with our soldier toys. Now though, parents worry incessantly about what they're teaching their kids and the values each gifted toy instills. Yet, we know the opposite extreme is out there as well, with kids playing first person shooter games with overly realistic blood and gore splashing on their screens. We have to monitor these things, just like the dads in this Mommyish piece do via their grassroots app. Our violence was contained to Dinobots and Power Rangers. Seriously, those mighty morphin' ninjas were the best and beat out Paw Patrol by leaps and bounds.
Which of these things do you wish you could do like your mom? Tell us in the comments!