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50 years of parenting

16th September 2011 Print
Modern Family

This September marks the 50th birthday of Mothercare and to celebrate they have collated a retrospective look at parenting in Britain from the baby boom of the 1960’s to today. From mum’s attitude to work to her lifestyle and family dynamic as well as the support available to parents and the Government’s stance on benefits and maternity leave, the outlook for parents today is considerably different to what parents have faced over the past five decades.

The month of September is traditionally a baby boom period, with recent figures predicting 20% more births. The research has shown that these new babies will be born into a considerably different family environment to the babies of the Sixties. Fifty years ago, at the start of the historic baby boom of the 1960’s, just 6% of mums were not married when they gave birth compared to nearly half (47%) today and mothers were, on average, two years younger (27.4) than today’s mothers (29.5).

The typical family dynamic has changed too – there are now nearly three million lone-parent families (nearly one in five of all families in the UK). The role of grandparents has also evolved within the family unit, with nearly one in four of modern day parents financially aided by their grandparents.

Attitudes towards parenting have shifted dramatically over the past fifty years, especially when it comes to the world of work. Back in the Sixties, mums were expected to leave work after having a baby and stay at home to bring up the children; maternity leave had not been established and remained a patchy issue until 1970. In stark contrast, the busy life of the modern mum has become a real balancing act. Most mothers today work and either want to manage a career alongside parenthood or feel the pressure to; two-thirds (66%) of UK mothers with dependent children are in work, with over a quarter (29%) working full time.

Compared to that of 50 years ago, there are new and different challenges facing not just today’s parents but tomorrow’s too. Our lifestyles are busier than ever and with significant squeezes to child benefits in this difficult financial period and new proposals from the Government to halve maternity pay for up to half of all mothers, parents have plenty on their plate. A majority no longer live near their relatives and are consequently reliant on a wealth of information and services that didn’t exist fifty years ago – including the internet and extensive parental services. This wealth of information - on and offline - to help parents deal with their childcare challenges can often be useful, but can also leave some parents feeling confused and overwhelmed in terms of the choice and what is trustworthy information, whilst also pressured to ‘have it all’.

For more information on Mothercare’s 50th birthday, visit

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1960's baby Modern Family