When my first son was born I really took on board everything I was told by health visitors and midwives. By the time son 2 came along all the advice seemed to have changed, so I started to question any advice given at all! My mum told me that in "her day" the advice had been different again, which lead me to ask, what was motherhood like in the 1970s? Here is her story...
Having had nothing whatsoever to do with babies when I was growing up in a mining village in North East Derbyshire in the 1960s, I surprised myself by taking to motherhood like a duck to water at the tender age of 25, in 1975! Of course things were different then, there were no ultra sound scans so you didn’t know the sex of your baby until it popped out, plus the sex discrimination act hadn’t yet become law so most Mothers opted to give up work when they had their first child, otherwise you were back at work when your baby was 6 weeks old, which played havoc with breast feeding routines.
The other big change is NAPPIES, terry towelling ones in my day! I remember a friend of mine demonstrating on a teddy bear, how to make up a terry towelling nappy in a kite shape, which I could have done with my eyes closed after many months of practice even down to inserting the safety pin without either stabbing myself or the baby! The soaking and washing of said terry towelling nappies was another saga. All Mothers had a nappy bucket for soaking the nappies in a pungent smelling powder and I remember knocking the nappy bucket over on a few occasions which was not advisable! Now, disposable nappies are the order of the day, by and large, and they don’t seep or disintegrate like 1970s disposable nappies used to do.
Whatever happened to liga rusks which were strongly recommended by Health Visitors when you wanted to start weaning your baby? They were considered to be better alternative to Farleys rusks because they were less fattening for your baby. Generally Mothers (and Fathers) followed the Dr Spock (Benjamin Spock, not of Start Trek fame!) method of raising your child and our copy of ‘The common book of baby and childcare’ was read and re-read as we coped with each new phase in our children’s development.
Now I am in my 60s and have 4 grandchildren which is wonderful. It has been like starting again but without all the responsibility, and knowing that you can hand them back to their parents at the end of the day is a very comforting! Toddler groups are still going strong but Playgroups have been replaced by Pre-school and there is a whole plethora of different classes that babies can do from birth including baby yoga, baby massage, baby ballet, baby music groups and at the click of a button you can soon find out what is available in your area. The internet is a fantastic tool for all of us, but I particularly like printing off pictures to colour in, or researching topics and sitting with grandchild on knee while I do this.
The big change now is that most Mothers return to work at the end of their period of maternity leave, which is good in that they still keep a foothold in the work place but not good in that they are constantly juggling and have less time to spend with their children. Otherwise, lots of things are the same - trips to the park, playing with other children, building sandcastles on the beach, visiting friends and relatives are all activities that all Mothers and Fathers do and will continue to do.