Parenting Now Compared to 100 Years Ago

This week is the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War and I am looking at how being a parent is different to how it was 100 years ago. Although most parents think that being a parent is far more difficult than they thought it would be, in a lot of ways, we have it a lot easier now than we did 100 years ago, and in other ways, maybe it’s harder.


Whether you’re making an enormous contribution to landfill with disposables or hammering the water, gas and electricity supply with cloth nappies, we have it easier now than they did back then.

I don’t know any other parents who have tried using terry towelling squares, they are a nightmare – I used them briefly while working as a nanny in Australia in 1997 and even with the sunshine to dry and bleach them once they came out of the washing machine, it was a LOT more hard work. A century ago, they would have been washing by hand, wringing with a mangle and drying by the fire or stove in cold, wet weather, and babies certainly don’t wee and poo less now than they did.


How did they cope without “The Circle of Neglect” (Jumperoo)? And the baby gyms, bouncy chairs, electrical rockers and shakers, perfect prep machines, electrical sterilisers and travel systems? And how did parents entertain their children ALL DAY LONG without TV and iPad? But without any of these gadgets on the market, parents didn’t need to think about which would help their baby’s development, which were safe, and which would be least damaging to their bank balance.

Can you imagine a home without toys that make a noise? Wouldn’t it be heavenly! Toys probably didn’t even need a room of their own in all but the most affluent houses, and children used their imaginations to find fun in the objects surrounded them in everyday life.


How many mums, 100 years ago, went back to work within a year of having their baby? How many went back to work at all after their children were born? But then how many families had two cars and two or more family holidays abroad each year that they needed to fund? Money was probably tight 100 years ago but there wasn’t as much to spend it on.

There is now pressure from all angles for women to get back to work within a year of having a baby. One salary is rarely enough to cover the expenses of life as we know it. There are arguments and justifications for sending babies to nursery, even though the “settling in period” is often torturous for both mother and baby, and the following year is a constant flow of illness and infections. Maybe 100 years from now, this will have changed again.

Shared Parenting

In 1918, mum was the main carer for the children, she did all the cooking, cleaning and taking care of the home. Dad earned the money. There wasn’t much crossover. Now the roles are pretty much interchangeable although not always balanced. We are seeing more and more men splitting parental leave, and some even taking career breaks to stay at home with the children when mum goes back to work.

I could go on writing for days about this, but I won’t. What I think, is that our lives as parents would be easier now, if we could care less about what others think, if there wasn’t so much information available about what we should or shouldn’t be doing, if there weren’t as many ways of making life easier that actually make life more difficult (see my technology blog above this one), but the worries and difficulties that parents faced at the end of World War 1 were far greater in many ways.

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