How to Worry Like a 1970s Mom

by Sharon Holbrook
Originally Published: 
A 1970s mom in a striped sleeveless turtleneck holding a toddler and baby in her living room


The grandma types are forever saying we younger mothers worry too much, right? There’s so much to worry about, though: buying organic (or not), figuring out the right extracurriculars, feeling angsty about occasionally losing our tempers—well, you know what I’m talking about.

But were our mothers really so relaxed? Before I add “I worry too much” to my list of daily worries, let’s consider that maybe those 1970s and 1980s moms did have a few concerns that we don’t:

Medieval Feminine Hygiene Products

My fifth grade puberty handbook, vaguely threateningly titled Growing Up and Liking It, was a wee bit outdated and mentioned something about “belted” vs. “beltless” pads. I never found out what that meant, and I don’t want to, but I assure you our moms probably know what that means. I’m still not asking.

No Seat Belts in the Car

No, let’s not be silly—they weren’t concerned because it’s unsafe. They had to worry about it because their very sanity was at stake. Imagine for a moment you had to deal with a loose 3-year-old in the car while, remember, you were also expected to drive without crashing said car. Nowadays, the car is a relatively peaceful time in a mom’s life because those wiggly little ones are all on maximum lockdown. Sure, they’re all yelling and crying and fighting, but at least no one’s crawling out car windows, sitting on his brother’s face, or catapulting herself into the front seat. (This, by the way, was why no one thought spanking was cruel back then. Necessities of life, my friend.)


Does anyone still wear these? I certainly don’t if I can help it. Sure, it means you’ve got to shave, but what is that compared to your mother wearing her thick brown L’eggs in an un-airconditioned Buick in an August traffic jam? That crank window wasn’t doing anything for her sweaty legs on a hot vinyl seat.

Ugly Color Schemes

Orange, brown, avocado and gold? This problem speaks for itself.

Uncomfortable Clothes

Ah, yoga pants and leggings—need I say more? These, ladies, are the blessings of modern womanhood, no matter what any self-appointed fashion critic says about our attire. Sure, we like to get dressed up, but not while we’re managing breast milk, snots, sticky fingers and the muddy shoes of the toddler on our left hip. Glorious, stretchy, cozy pants! Polyester will never compete.

OK, fine, truth be told, we probably do worry a lot more than our mothers did. But next time I start to worry, I’m going to try to remember where to look. Not ahead because I don’t know for sure that my kids will wind up sane, healthy and responsible. Certainly not sideways because we’re all in it, and deep, and we’re all fretting and comparing and struggling.

Nope, I’m looking back. I’m looking at the way my brothers, now responsible family men, used to drive my mom crazy with their immaturity. In public, mind you, and regularly. I think of the dramatic crying fits I used to throw in my own childhood, and my parents’ acceptance of the drama as just normal, and not to be looked up in a book or brought to a parenting expert.

And I’ll listen to the hilarious story of my sweet, sweet mother-in-law chasing her kids around with a wooden spoon trying to smack them for a transgression of some sort. They’re good grown-up people, too, and my mother and mother-in-law are serene, lovely grandmas. Someday my kids will be too (please, God!) and that calm, wise grandma will be me. I’ll be the one wearing yoga pants.

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