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My Turn - Reflections on motherhood

As we pause to celebrate Mother’s Day again this year, we follow a tradition that began in the USA well over 100 years ago. Mother’s Day tributes have grown considerably through the years and rightly so.

 However, motherhood itself has changed dramatically in the past few decades. In 1970, 40 percent of children had stay-at-home moms. By 2012, only 20 percent had them. Why? Because more and more women were working moms. Some by choice, others by necessity.

That trend continues today.

The “breast is best” message has brought about another change in motherhood. In 1971, only 25 percent of women breast-fed their children. However, by 2013, 77 percent of babies in the USA were being breast-fed. That trend also continues today.

When I was growing up in the late 1940s and early 1950s, “Spare the rod and spoil the child” was still a rule to live by, not only in the homes of most Americans, but in the schools as well.

Even as late as 1986, 82 percent of American women agreed that sometimes children need a “good, hard spanking.” By 2012, only 65 percent still held that view. Based on what I’ve read recently, the propensity to paddle children continues to decline, in the home and even more so in the school.

 Mothers with infant children in America are also more educated than ever, according to Pew Social Trends. In 1960, roughly 80 percent of women in this category had only a high school diploma or less, and just 17 percent had “some college.” By 2011, those figures had changed to 41 percent and 59 percent, respectively. Now, with even more women going to and completing college, some are delaying having babies until their late 20s and early 30s.

The number of single moms in America has grown considerably as well in recent decades. And this trend transcends “every income level, every education level, among whites, blacks, and His-panics,” according to the New York Times. There are many reasons for this social and cultural change in American motherhood, too many to cover here.

 Although motherhood in America has changed a lot from “the good old days,” whenever that was, our annual tribute to mothers, married or single, past and present, on Mother’s Day is still a tradition to honor and preserve. That’s exactly what we’re doing today in Pleasant Cove.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B.Vaughn can be reached at