Modern Moms: What’s changed between two generations

July 30, 2019
6 min read

Nearly all moms agree that they’re doing a good job raising their kids and the person they are most likely to credit their parenting success is to their mother, according to Mintel research on marketing to moms. However, a lot has changed in one generation of parenting and moms may be getting advice that isn’t relevant to the challenges they face today. According to Mintel research, parents agree that being a parent today is harder than it was for their moms.

Moms today are older

In 1980, the average age of a woman at the birth of her first child was 22.7 compared to now, when the age is 26.8. This shift is mostly attributed to a decline in teen births and an increase in births to women aged 35+. As women become parents later in life, they approach their role as moms with a different set of skills and a different set of challenges.

In general, women who become moms later have more resources at their disposal, such as education, higher household income and more life experience. While the advantages may make it easier for modern moms to handle the responsibility of raising kids, moms may feel like they’re making more of a sacrifice when they start their families. In 2019, women are further along in their careers and earning more money when they have kids. Putting careers on pause may force moms to make tradeoffs between personal and professional goals.

What moms say:
Do you believe that raising children is easier or harder now than for your mother’s generation?
“Harder; [there are] more distractions.”

Moms today are a larger part of the workforce

In 1980, more than half of moms were part of the workforce compared to now, when seven in 10 moms continue to work after they have kids.

Most parents are working parents, balancing long to-do lists that include work tasks, household chores and childcare. However, parents today may have been raised in households with only one working parent so they don’t necessarily have a model for what a household with two working parents looks like. In 2019, moms are more likely to default to the position of “primary caregiver” and take on a disproportionate share of household and childcare duties, even though they also work outside of the home.

What moms say:
Do you believe that raising children is easier or harder now than for your mother’s generation?
“Harder. There are more demands on us in society these days.”

Kids today cost more to raise

The cost of raising children is climbing. For a child born in 1980, education and childcare only made-up about 1% of the total expense of raising a child; for a child born in 2010, it is 17% of that budget, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, paying for the basics (ie food, clothes, personal care items) has become more affordable.

Most family households include two income-earners, but parents may find that a substantial portion of their take-home pay is relegated to childcare expenses. This leaves parents in the unenviable position of cobbling together care for their children from a variety of paid and free sources. In 2019, one in five parents with kids under the age of twelve rely on a grandparent or other adult relative to babysit during the week, according to Mintel research on young families.

What moms say:
Do you believe that raising children is easier or harder now than for your mother’s generation?
“I believe that raising children is much harder now than it was back then. The state of the economy is much worse as well it’s hard to get by even if you’re a two-parent household.”

Moms today have more information

In 1980, moms had a sense that “if it didn’t happen to you or your friends, it didn’t happen.” Moms’ sources of information were word-of-mouth, local TV and the morning paper. They weren’t inundated with social media posts and parenting podcasts giving them a constant stream of things to worry about. Today, everyone is connected, especially moms. According to Mintel research on marketing to moms, more than seven in 10 moms say they visit Facebook every day. Social media is a connection point for moms, with more than half saying they use social platforms to connect with other moms.

Previous generations of moms didn’t have the internet as a parenting resource – or a parenting distraction. Moms today are suffering from information overload, and while they can find the best way to swaddle a fussy baby on YouTube, they can also see an online map of sex offenders in their neighborhood just as easily. In 2019, moms are informed, but they’re also worried.

What moms say:
Do you believe that raising children is easier or harder now than for your mother’s generation?
“Raising children is harder now because the world is harder now. All you had to deal with in my mothers’ time was the neighborhood, not the entire planet.”

Moms today expect perfection

Mintel research shows that Baby Boomers (aged 55-73 in 2019) are more likely than Millennials (aged 25-42 in 2019) to say “it’s okay to be average.” A combination of social media, start-up and self-help cultures have convinced the younger generation of adults that they have to be exceptional – and so do their kids.

Social media has put moms’ parenting wins and losses on display. Millennial parents who have done everything they can to optimize their own productivity through life hacks and morning routines have high expectations that their kids will achieve as well. In 2019, moms and their kids must be ‘living their best life’ and have ‘pics’or ‘it didn’t happen.’

What moms say:
Do you believe that raising children is easier or harder now than for your mother’s generation?
“It is easier and harder. Today kids are pushed to the limits with sports and or studying, they don’t get to be kids and enjoy their childhood.”

What we think

Between the Millennial and Baby Boomer generations, the economic conditions, social norms and cultural context has changed. However, moms today may still be measuring their success against the model set by their parents. Brands have perpetuated this cycle with marketing strategies that reinforce moms’ belief that they need to “do it all.” To stand out from competitors, brands that target moms should think about how they can create solutions to help moms do less and not more.

The competition among brands to get moms’ attention is fierce. Find out everything you need to know to stay on mom’s good side and ahead of the competition with Mintel’s Marketing to Moms Report series.

Dana Macke
Dana Macke

Dana is the Director of Trends for the Americas at Mintel. She has been with Mintel since 2014, covering lifestyles and leisure topics with an emphasis on family research. Her background in marketing strategy helps her generate insights based on market developments, consumer data, and cultural trends.

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