It’s an interesting hypothesis: with modern conveniences like instant bottle warmers and the constant availability of Peppa Pig it seems that such a concept must be implausible. However, many insist otherwise. So, is it the 1980s Mum or today’s Mum who should wear the Parenting Champion Badge?
Firstly, let’s look at the nappies. As a modern mother of twins, in the early days, I could change up to 20 nappies a day. This is nothing compared to a twin mum in 1980. This twin mum would’ve had 2 buckets filled with water and a solution of Nappysan, and these would have held all the dirty towelling nappies for soaking. When these buckets were full they were carried down the stairs WITH CARE (pooey water would have flooded your stairs if you dared not) and then the twin mum tipped the towels into the kitchen sink, rung out them out by hand and then finally they went into the washing machine. And- it’s important to note- a twin mum might go through 30 towel nappies a day in those early days. The poor woman!
The mum of 1980 would have spent that first year doing a triathlon while wading in poo with a house smelling like a multi-storey cesspit. As a modern twin mum, good old pampers made my life easier with their perfumed nappy bags and non-spill packaging. I have buckets of gratitude that I gave birth in 2012. However, there were SOME perks to being a mum in 1980.
It was the ‘done thing’ to push your baby to the back of the garden and leave them there for a couple of hours while you ‘worked on keeping the house straight.’ But, no doubt, Woman’s Weekly, a pot of tea and some chocolate digestives were also part of that equation.
And you had some time to yourself in the 1980s. It must have been glorious for my mum to switch on the TV and watch last Wednesday’s ‘Dallas’ on the VCR tape during those delightful hours when I would ‘play out’. ‘Playing out’ referred to me knocking on doors asking if small people like me might go out and play. And, as a mother, I can only reflect on this with highly charged envy. Having that two hour breathing space must have been like a two-day trip to the Bahamas!
HOWEVER, I have CBeebies! I know that those fifteen minutes of Peter Rabbit are waiting for me at 5pm. Plus, I’ve had ‘Topsy and Tim’, ‘GiggleBiz’ and an array of instant Disney films at my fingertips. I can always guarantee at least an hour’s peace per day, as a result. Whereas I can imagine heartfelt wails from the 80s mum when ‘playing out’ and wellies were no match for the torrential rain. It would’ve meant a child stuck indoors with only 30 minutes of kids’ TV.
Also, there are far better garden toys now. Back in the day, you were the lucky kid if you had a wobbly climbing frame. Now, with bubble machines, industrial sized paddling pools and trampolines the size of spacecraft our kids can pretty much stay out of sight in the garden for a good few hours. We just have the obligation of popping our head out of the window from time to time.
Essentially, parenting isn’t harder now. The judgement we face is just harsher. If you fed your kid on bread and Jam, and egg soldiers, there was no Anabel Karmel wannabe shaking her head or raising an eyebrow or sending you angry emojis on Facebook. People, more or less, just got on with it. And if your baby was like me and didn’t walk till they were over 18 months, there weren’t hundreds of parenting websites telling you that your child was backward, lazy or addicted to telly. You just believed your child would eventually put one foot in front of the other.
If one could withstand the wave of judgement in today’s world, one could see what an easier task parenting might be. I mean, that smell of dirty towel nappies would make me retch! The 1980s Mum can wear the Parenting Champion Badge- I just don’t have the stomach for it.