Seems that not only are the times changing, but mothers are changing along with them.
If you recall Leave it to Beaver, you might remember the idea of the moms of the 1950s: June Cleaverish women who took care of the home and the family while dressed in pretty outfits and pearls.
Not that we don’t have that now. In fact, most of the women I know still do the majority of housework and cooking and cleaning; it’s just that they are out and about more, too, working, attending meetings for their children and their own interests, and participating in a variety of activities, from running to scrapbooking to volunteer firefighting (yes, I have a friend who does this, and loves it!) And, most of the moms I know have ditched those heels for some comfy sneakers!
Motherhood has changed over time, and data from the National Center for Health Statistics and Census Bureau comparing mothers of 2008 to mothers of 1990 shows just how much things have changed.
For one thing, moms are older than they used to be. You don’t have to tell me this – I see it all of the time, friends of mine nearing forty who have decided to put their careers on hold to start a family.
In 1990, teenagers accounted for more pregnancies than women over 35, but in 2008 this had reversed.
Women aren’t waiting for a wedding ring, either: In fact, 41% of new mothers were unmarried in 2008 compared to 28% eighteen years earlier. While single parenting was virtually unheard of in the 1970s (I can remember stories about my mother announcing her divorce and being shunned by quite a few friends), today’s mother may not have a counterpart with whom she’s sharing parental responsibilities even from the start.
Mothers in the 35 and over range are educated, too: 71% had at least some college education.
What accounts for these changes?
Marriage is not seen as a prerequisite for families these days; at least, it is more accepted to be a single mother than it was decades ago. Attitudes are more open when it comes to unwed mothers, too, particularly mothers who are older and/or college educated. According to a Pew Research study, most Americans know one woman who became a mother out of marriage, though most people believe it is bad for society to do so.
In addition, having children at a later age is becoming more the norm. While the average age of childbearing still remains in the 26 year old range, more mothers are putting off parenthood until their thirties and, sometimes, forties. Since this has become a popular trend – women are working more, fitting in careers prior to parenting, traveling and exploring before settling down and starting a family – it makes sense that many moms are in their thirties when they have their first child. I became a first time mother at the age of 33, and many of my friends were around the same age when they had their first.