From the stereotypical Fifties’ stay-at-home mom to today’s ‘having it all’ version, the modern mum has certainly come a long way……
The making of the modern mum
We’ve all seen those 1950s’ American films, haven’t we? The ones where ‘mom’ – in suitable dress and pinny – holds her babe in arms at the front door as she waves goodbye to hardworking dad as he drives off. Scary, isn’t it, that that was only fifty odd years ago?
While it may be stereotyping, that image of the Fifties’ housewife waving goodbye to hubby wasn’t too far from the truth for most women! Unlike today, most women of this era stayed at home, looking after their kids and ‘keeping house’. What’s more, these women needed to be home all day just to carry out the standard household tasks such as laundry and cleaning the floors. This was, remember, in the days before our all-singing, all-dancing washing machines/driers/entertainment centres! The Fifties’ mum had to grate soap from a block simply to work up a lather and then rub the clothes briskly down a washboard. Excess water was squeezed out by rolling clothes through a mangle. When it came to the floors, more grating was required for the cleaning fluid. Perhaps, not surprisingly, the arrival of laundry detergents and floor cleaners during this period was greeted with open, prune-looking arms!
The Sixties heralded the arrival of the television in most homes across the country. Where it had previously been deigned a ‘luxury’ item, the TV now provided an outlet for manufacturers of cleaning materials to show off the capabilities of their products. Fairy Liquid made its first appearance in 1960 and became so successful that, by the end of the Sixties, it was being used by 60 per cent of households. The contraceptive pill also made its first appearance at this time, changing the face of family life and personal choice forever.
The concept of the working mother began to gain in popularity during the Seventies but, as happens so often today, working mums found that, once they arrived home, they were still primarily responsible for much of the household work and childcare! During this decade the old-fashioned top-opening washing machines and twin tubs (which spun with so much verve that they practically breakdanced across the floor), were replaced by the more modern front-loading washing machines. To accompany this technological revolution, biological washing powder also took its first bow, allowing mums the length and breadth of the land to wash at lower temperatures.
It was during the Eighties that the idea of ‘having it all’ really gained momentum. Only problem was that then – as now – no-one could agree on what defined ‘it’! This was the decade when the word ‘disposable’ was introduced. From disposable nappies to processed ready-made foods, the modern mum had everything at hand to ensure that she could fully function in all capacities with the greatest of ease. ‘Time-saving’ was the buzz word but women’s interest in themselves was also riding high, with sales of beauty products on the increase.
The Nineties was the decade when the world as we know it today really came into being. The arrival of the internet, or the ‘information super highway’ – as it was generally referred to – was to revolutionise the way that we work and play. Suddenly working from home became an option for many women, who found that they could combine home and work life with greater ease.
Where previously the only ‘get together’ opportunities for women were coffee mornings, the baby clinic and mother and toddler groups, during the Noughties the internet continued to expand to provide a forum for social networks and blogs. Women up and down the land were now able to chat online to other mums, whether they were at home or at work. The isolation that had previously been experienced by stay-at-home mums was effectively obliterated by cyberspace friendships. Perhaps not surprisingly, online sales also soared as women surfed the internet for products.
This decade will see the continued use of the internet for both work and social opportunities. Around 60 per cent of the population now use the internet and online sales recently reached the incredible figure of 31 million orders per day! With increased choice and wide-ranging freedom, this is definitely the era of the modern mum……
One wonders what the future holds?