Then and Now: Momming in the ’80s

Cabbage Patch Dolls were all the rage, The Cosby Show reigned supreme on America’s TVs, and kids could still ride in the front seat of a car.

Much like these trends of the 1980s have come and gone, parenting has morphed and evolved into an unrecognizable art form, where balancing a dizzying amount of responsibilities and expectations is the norm.

And it seems today’s savvy and intuitive moms are up to the challenge. According to Pew Research, women who are also mothers are increasingly college educated and well-prepared to pass down their knowledge, expertise and life experiences to their children.

From focusing on safety to providing enriching activities, here’s how momming looked in the 80s vs. today.

Safety First

“Be home by dark!” and “Try to eat at a friend’s house!” were commonly heard throughout households of the 1980s. Kids regularly went out on their bicycles and skateboards and joined up with roaming packs of kids in the neighborhood or beyond. Parents didn’t ask a lot of questions when their kids got back; after all, what did they care if their kids chose to climb a tree or the monkey bars? That’s all changed.

Latchkey kids are a thing of the past, as today’s helicopter parents make it a point to keep close tabs on their kids via smartphones and planned activities. Still, streamlining safety is a welcome change where parents can now rely on apps to help monitor their homes. Cutting-edge security systems can capture who’s at your door, replay footage, and let parents see exactly what’s going on at home without worrying about their kids’ safety.

Social Media Fodder

In the ’80s, the closest thing to social media was sending snapshots through the mail, along with a handwritten note. Of course, today’s moms are quite a bit more connected and can post play-by-play of everything from their kids’ first day of school to their enviable beach vacations.

We’re no longer saying, “Hey, let’s go get a treat and head to the park,” but instead, “I looked at the local mom influencer blogs and activity calendar, and here’s our itinerary for today of what to see and do.”

The upside to social media is that moms have created their own online communities. Hopping onto Facebook and inviting everyone out for a spontaneous popsicle at the park followed by a hike on the local trails can help keep kids and families connected in a fast-paced world.

Endless Vacations

Sure, Disney was around in the ’80s, and lucky kids got to see and explore it once or twice during their childhood. But it’s not unusual to see people’s Instagram photos of Euro-Disney or an adventure to Japan with Vacations By Disney.

You might even see families who decide to split town for the entire summer, work remotely, and post their coveted nomadic lifestyle across social media, only to come home and talk about how much their kids saw and learned.

In the ’80s, parents weren’t thinking much about whether their child needed to be a global citizen and explore the world as their personal classroom. After all, that’s what a collection of hardback Encyclopedia Britannica were for.

They also didn’t necessarily prioritize travel as an enriching and necessary experience. Moms in the ’80s also weren’t lugging around 50-pound car seats to the airport and were instead tossing kids into the car while everyone fought over who had shotgun.

Technology Overload

Remember in the ’80s when we had Atari and basic, handheld devices that only played one game without color and all the bells and whistles? Today’s Moms have iPhones, wearables and tablets to help keep their schedules and fitness on track.

And kids have their own arsenal of technology at their fingertips, including Xbox, Kindles, smartphones and gadgets, to help with everything from schoolwork to entertaining themselves on the weekends. In the ’80s, kids relied on car games — and complaining — to help pass the time.

Today’s advanced technology also means kids have more opportunity to master the latest gadgets and apps to prepare them for the workforce. Conversely, in the ’80s, computer coding was practically a thing of science fiction. Today, kids have already launched their own app and are showing their parents how to use an iPhone.

So, Has Momming Really Changed?

Momming in the 80s may have seemed simpler, but it also didn’t come with the modern conveniences of security, booking a last-minute vacation online, or easily keeping up-to-date with friends and family. Perhaps neither lifestyle was better or worse, but could instead meet somewhere in the middle for a happy parenting medium.