Source: Bounty (UK)

… or are we? How has motherhood changed in the 50 years so since the first Bounty guide appeared? We take a look at what’s new, what’s different and what’s stayed pretty much the same.

  • Pregnancy & birth
  • Baby names
  • The bottom line
  • How many children
  • Bringing up children & family life
  • Work – life
  • Shopping & transport
  • Help!

Being pregnant

Expecting a baby has never had so much going for it and is now almost a lifestyle choice rather than a life stage. Now you can find out if you’re pregnant with an off-the-shelf pregnancy test, show off your bump in trendy maternity wear from the likes of Top Shop and Blooming Marvellous, have a relaxing pregnancy massage and go online to get the answer to any question you might have about your pregnancy. In 1959, your GP told you if you were expecting, and your choice of outfit was a frilly smock top or voluminous tent dress that made you look even frumpier than you felt. To relax, you lit a ciggy, and instead of being able to ask Bounty, all you knew about birth and babies came courtesy of your nearest female relative or next door neighbour. One mum, Bozena Brophy, who had her first baby in 1965, didn’t realise she was pregnant: ‘I felt like I had the flu for ages, and I was telling a friend who’d already had a baby how ill I’d been feeling and she was the one who told me that I was pregnant!’

Giving birth

It may be hard to believe if you’ve had a difficult birth or a caesarean, but having a baby is less of a medical procedure than it was 50 years ago, when soap and water enemas were par for the course. ‘The biggest difference in having a baby now compared to the 1960s is that we work with women rather than do things to them,’ says senior lecturer in midwifery, Yvonne Sweetland, 63. ‘We didn’t think about feelings back then.’ And you’re not likely to be alone as you labour – your partner, mum or a friend or birth partner are welcome. In the 1960s, the dad-to-be was expected to pace up and down outside and only the medics and midwives were there to see the baby’s head emerge.

Baby names

Today, Holly and Jack top the polls of most popular names for babies, with Ruby and Oliver in second place. In 1959, mums’ favourites were Mary and Michael, closely followed by Susan and David.

The bottom line

We get through eight million of them a day in the UK alone, but the all-in-one disposable nappy didn’t exist in the 1960s – we had to wrap our babies’ bottoms in terry towelling and wait another 20 years. That’s why so many 40-somethings were potty trained early – there was only so much soaking-in-a-bucket and boil washing a mum could stand.

How many children

In 1961 we waved goodbye to big families and said hello to the pill. Unsurprisingly, we’ve had fewer children ever since – in 1964, the average was 2.95 kids; now it’s 1.77. And we’re having them later – in 1971, the average age a woman became a mum for the first time was 23; now it’s nearer 30. And if you couldn’t have children, there was no IVF around to help give you a chance – you’d have had to wait until the late 1970s. The first ‘test tube’ baby, Louise Brown, was born in 1978.

Bringing up children

Even though we have dozens of magazines, books, TV shows and websites telling us how to bring up our kids, it’s never been more confusing. The 1960s may have been swinging, but old-fashioned values were still part of most mums’ lives – you simply did what your mum had done before you and were loving but strict, firm but fair. Smacking aside, some parenting experts believe that there’s a lot to be said for this style of child rearing.

Family life

What was guaranteed to set tongues wagging in the 1960s is now quite unremarkable: more of us are having kids without getting married. In 2004, 42% of children were born to women who hadn’t gone down the aisle first; in 1980 it was just 12%. And the traditional family is an endangered species – a quarter of families are now headed up by one parent, and one in 10 are stepfamilies.

Out to work

By the time our babies are a year old, half of us have gone back to work. In the 1980s, only one in five mums worked outside the home after they’d had a baby. We take paid maternity leave for granted now, but statutory maternity pay wasn’t coughed up until 1987. Back in the 1960s, you could still quite legally lose your job if you got pregnant, ‘I loved my first job as a secretary in west London in 1964, but as soon as my boss found out I was going to have a baby, I got the sack,’ recalls Bozena Brophy, 62.

Round the house

White goods have made housework a whole lot easier – automatic washing machines for one, were still a luxury in the 1960s. But some things never change… we’re still doing the lion’s share around the house – in 1960 we racked up nearly two hours a day cooking, cleaning, washing and childcare. Nearly 50 years and many advances in labour-saving appliances later, we manage to cram in 90 minutes of chores a day, and go out to work on top of that. ‘There’s no way in the world I’d be without my washing machine,’ says TV’s How Clean Is Your House star, and mum of two, Aggie Mackenzie, ‘but even with all these electrical goods that my mother’s generation didn’t have, I think women do far too much.’


Few things have changed for mums as much as how we do our weekly shop, from how we pay for it to how we get it home. In the 1960s we walked or caught the bus to the local shops – there were 150,000 grocery stores around the country in 1961, and only three out of 10 households had a car. But within 20 years, two-thirds of these local shops had closed down to make way for supermarkets, many of them a car ride away. By 1998, seven out of 10 households had at least one car. And online shopping is fast becoming our favourite way to buy everything from nappies to nursery furniture.


From Bugaboos to car seats, slings to three-in-one travel systems, there are now dozens of options for getting baby from A to B. In the 1960s, cars were commonplace, but car seats would be the stuff of science fiction for another 10 years. The revolutionary, umbrella-fold Maclaren buggy was invented in 1965, but it wouldn’t be till the early 1980s that it overtook big and bulky prams as our ideal choice of baby transport.


We rely on help with childcare at least some of the time, whether it’s from childminders, nurseries, friends or relatives. In the 1960s, most mums stayed at home to look after their children, and were expected to care for them full time, all of the time, perhaps with help from sisters, aunts or their own mum if they were nearby. ‘Mums in those days were 24/7,’says Sylvia Thomas, 73, ‘husbands didn’t participate in child rearing, especially with babies. The mother was the main carer – there was no slowing down, no lie-ins, even at the weekends, because we didn’t work [outside the home]. If they were sick or teething, we were the ones who had to be up in the night, every night, however many nights in a row.’