How Times Have Changed: Motherhood in the 1970s vs. 1990s

Written by Sara R.

I personally don’t know any other parents my age in my situation, but I’m sure there are a few out there. All my friends that I graduated with are experiencing “empty nest syndrome.” But with 4 children, ranging from teens to 30′s, I on the other hand, have not had the opportunity to experience this syndrome quite yet.

I have two teenagers at home – ages 14 and 16.   My oldest daughter, age 34, is married and has a 3 yr old son, my grandson, who calls me “Nonna.”  They live about 2 ½ hours away, a term they lovingly refer to as the “buffer zone.” My oldest son who is 20 just moved out 3 months ago, I sometimes wonder if he’ll be back.

Statistics show 85% of college grads move back home, aka boomerang kids.  I don’t know if he’ll return, as he seems pretty happy living on his own.  After all he doesn’t need to answer to mom or hear me nag him about cleaning his room, taking out the garbage, feeding the dogs, etc. I’m in the process of re-doing his room into a guest bedroom. I’ve always wanted a guest bedroom.

There have been many changes from the mid 70′s when my first was born to the late 90’s when my youngest was born.  Here are a few:

  • 70′s – When I gave birth via c-section to my first born, I was in the hospital for 7 days (that was the norm). Five of those consisted of a liquid diet only.  Believe me when they brought that tray of Jello, broth, & hot tea on the fifth day, I started crying……I was sooo hungry.  The good news was once I left the hospital I fit back into my pre-maternity jeans.
  • 90′s – My doctor encouraged me to have my next three children by regular birth, which I did. I  was in the hospital a total of 3 days, if even that.   I chose my meals from a menu.  It took months to fit Into my pre-maternity jeans again.
  • 70′s-Right after I had my oldest, the nurses whisked her away and I didn’t get to see her for about 12 hrs.   Back then they had a nursery where you and other members of the family could view the babies from a large window. The nurses took care of the babies for the most part.  They feed, changed and bathed them. The mothers concentrated on getting better and relaxing.
  • 90′s – The baby stayed with you the whole time. You had to feed them, change them and get up     in the middle of the night when they cried.  That was a rude awakening. I kept wondering when that nurse was coming to take the baby so I could get some rest!
  • 70′s – Fathers were confined to the waiting room until after the child was born and then they could view their newborn child from the nursery window.
  • 90′s – Fathers were expected to be with the mother from the time you entered the hospital and stay to coach the mother through her labor and hold the baby as soon as it’s born.
  • 70’s- Breastfeeding was something only the “hippies” did.  I breast fed which meant they brought my baby to me for feedings only and then she was whisked away again.  I had to either go down to the nursery to see her or ring the nurse to bring her to me.
  • 90’s – Breast feeding was encouraged and strongly suggested.

In the 70′s I had never heard of ultrasounds, amniocentesis, birthing rooms, water births or hypno births. We were not required by law to have our children in a car seat.  When I brought my oldest home I held her in my arms, heck I don’t think I was even wearing a seat belt. As my daughter got a little older, 3 or 4 she sat in the front seat and the seat belt was my arm going across her chest if I had to make a sudden stop.  There were times when she was standing up in the front seat. Now that I think back of that it scares me to death.

Today the law requires all children to be in a car seat/booster until they are 4ft. 9 in. Due to my Italian genes and my husband whose family is not what you would call on the tall side either, my youngest was barely 4 feet tall in the first grade! I remember taking him to soccer practice when he was seven, one of his friends came running up to the car to meet him and when he saw my son was sitting in a booster seat his friend looked a little puzzled and asked “Why are you sitting in a baby seat?”  I went home, took the booster seat out of my car, put in on the garage shelf and never put it back in my minivan again.

One thing that never changes is I still worry about my children and would like to be able to keep them safe and happy whether they are 14 or 34. I will say having children later in life keeps you active and young at heart!

About Sara R.

Sara is a mother of four. She has two daughters – Jamie age 35 and Taylor age 16 – and two sons – Justin age 20 and Christopher age 14. She is also a grandmother of one – Andrew age 3. She lives in Mantua, Ohio with her husband Bill. She has worked at Step2 for the past 12 years (before that she was a stay at home mom for 9

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5 thoughts on “How Times Have Changed: Motherhood in the 1970s vs. 1990s

  1. Gladys Parker

    I am so with you on this! My oldest is 29. When he was born everyone had to wait to see the baby. I was kept there 3 days for a very normal, quick birth. No one I knew breast fed and because I cloth diapered I was considered “poor folk.” Oh how things have changed. There was no seat belt law or car seat demands. I am really glad some of those things have changed. (Here from Crunchy mama of 3)

    Reply
  2. Christine L....

    according to the new careseat guidelines, I the almost 30 year old adult should still be in the back in a booster seat lol!

    Reply
  3. Gladys Parker

    Do you remember how cloth diapering was looked upon in the 70′s? I was embarrassed sometimes the way people talked of the “poor” using cloth. Now The “in” thing is to use cloth and they make them so cute. Unlike the big ole white pieces we had to fold to make a diaper then use rubber pants over! (Here from Newly Crunchy mama of 3

    Reply
  4. Missy L

    I love the progress that’s made in my lifetime in terms of making things easier for parents and safer for children.

    Reply
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