Review: a 1950s Mother by Sheila Hardy

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You may not know this about me, but I’ve been an au pair for a few years. I worked in three different military families, and I studied to be a teacher for a while, so childcare is something that’s really interesting to me. When I saw this book was around about bringing up kids in the 1950s, I had to read it!

From how to dress baby (matinee coats and bonnets) to how to administer feeds (strictly four-hourly if following the Truby King method), the child-rearing methods of the 1950s are a fascinating insight into the lives of women in that decade. Here author, mother, and grandmother Sheila Hardy collects heartwarming personal anecdotes from those women, many now in their eighties, who became mothers during this fascinating postwar period. From the benefits of “crying it out” and being put out in the garden to gripe water and Listen with Mother, the wisdom of mothers from the 1950s reverberates down the decades to young mothers of any generation and is a hilarious and, at times, poignant trip down memory lane for any mother or child of the 1950s. 

This book was really interesting, the author interviewed several women about what it was like to be pregnant and have children during the 1950s. What better way to do research about an era than by asking people who actually lived it? The book is divided in several chapters, such as being pregnant, newborns and the child’s first year, but also illnesses, holidays, and adoption, especially the adoption part made me really happy as I’m big on adoption myself (though I do realise adoption isn’t for everyone!).

I really liked the use of photos in this book, when it was talking about baby fashion, it showed some pictures, which made the experience a lot more real, as you can actually see children wearing the clothes. Something almost nobody talks about, is being pregnant and giving birth. I own a LOT of fashion books, as this is my favourite subject, and almost none of them talk about pregnancy. Which is ridiculous, there have always been pregnant people, I mean, we wouldn’t be here without pregnancy! I’m not sure if it’s still a taboo (which honestly is infuriating) or that people can’t be bothered, but we don’t talk about it often enough, so this book discussing pregnancy and actual childbirth is a huge plus to me. I actually learned a lot about the era, as for example , if you gave birth in the hospital, you weren’t allowed to be with your child for about a week!

Another interesting thing is that we do get some information about child care in the 1930s, as advice has changed from one mother to the other. The 1950s (and 60s) saw a big change in childcare, so we get told what was the norm around the 1930s and what has changed in the 50s and what hasn’t changed at all. On the same advice page, we learn quite a bit about the books that were written and how (and if!) mothers used this. Did you know, for example, it was normal to potty train your child with 3 weeks old?! Something I never knew before and completely ridiculous to think of now!

This book is a quick read, and really interesting. If you have an interest in childcare or in the 1950s, this book is something for you!

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads, and you can get your copy here!

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