What It Was Like to Be a Mom in the 1960s

Photo: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC Photo: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

We’re totally obsessed with Mad Men over here. We love the salacious storylines, the retro fashion and of course, dreamy Jon Hamm. But it really did suck to be a woman back then. We recapped the worst parenting moments on Mad Men, but what was it really like to be a mom back then? Do we need to cut Betty Draper some slack on her parenting skills?

If you were a mom in the 1960s, here’s what would be the norm for you:

Childbirth would shorter

Childbirth took two hours less in the ‘60s than it does in 2012.  That’s partly because women were less likely to receive epidurals, which can increase labor time by 40 to 90 minutes. Also, delivery practices have changed since 1960 — more docs back then were more likely to use forceps or perform episiotomies (yikes!).

You’d spend (slightly) less

You would spend $185,856 (inflation-adjusted) on one child from birth to age 17 (for middle-class families), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2010, the total cost of raising one child was $226,920 (yowza!).

You probably wouldn’t breastfeed

La Leche League reports that breastfeeding rates steadily declined in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1956, breastfeeding rate was only 20 percent. It stayed low during the 1960s and didn’t resurge until the 1970s.

Odds are, you wouldn’t work while pregnant

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that only 44 percent of women who had their first birth between 1961 and 1965 worked while pregnant, compared to the 66 percent of women between 2006-2008. Of the 44 percent in 1961-1965, only 40 percent worked full-time during pregnancy. You also would be less likely to return to work after giving birth, since only 17 percent of moms who worked during pregnancy in 1961 to 1965 went back to work three months after delivery, compared to 59 percent of women in 2005-2007. For moms who didn’t work during pregnancy, 5 percent of those women returned to work after three months in the 1960s, while 15 percent returned in 2005-2007.

You wouldn’t have maternity leave

What maternity leave? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of women who received paid leave before or after their first birth was 16 percent from 1961 to 1965. Nowadays, the opportunity for maternity leave depends on the level of education, over 64 percent of women who have a bachelor’s degree or higher received paid leave in 2006 to 2008.

You’d likely name your baby Dave, Mike, Mary or Susan

You would probably name your baby boy David, Michael, James, John, Robert, Mark, William, Richard, Thomas or Steven. If you had a baby girl you’d probably name her Mary, Susan, Linda, Karen, Donna, Lisa, Patricia, Debra, Cynthia, or Deborah. According to the Social Security Administration, those are the top 10 boy and girl names in 1960.

Do these facts surprise you? Would you like to have been a parent in the 1960s?