Day 5: I Don’t Care How You Did It in the ’70s

May 24th, 2015

Joslyn Hamilton, freelance editor, Salt Lake City, Utah

I’m taking part in a 30-day writing experiment. See Kale & Cigarettes for details and the Facebook Group to read stories by other 500-words-ers.

Getting back to the book I’m mentally writing, I Don’t Care How You Did It in the ’70s. Genre: parenting, self-help, memoir.

My mom was kind and generous enough to come out to Utah and stay with us for the first three months of my daughters’ lives. I am not just being gracious, nor am I exaggerating, when I say I could not have done it without her. Her grounding and mellow presence allowed me to retain a semblance of sanity through round-the-clock feedings, screamings, and other twin-baby goings on. Not only does she turn out to be incredible with babies, which for some reason actually kind of surprised me, probably because I don’t remember being a baby and no one thought to take any pictures or home videos when I was one, but she is a professional cook and made us 5-star restaurant-quality dinners almost every night.

I also have to insert a caveat here that my mom is not the traditional overbearing mom-mom who feels compelled to dispense advice or correct the parenting of others, even her own daughter. Quite the opposite: she’s pretty much a live-and-let-live person, super mellow, the opposite of uptight.

That’s kind of the problem, actually, because I am uptight. I should not have been born in the ’70s; I wasn’t enough of a free spirit. My dad, for one, definitely thought I was a square because I was not at all into his plan to sneak us into the county fair every year by hopping the fence around back under the bleachers. “That’s illegal!” I’d chastise him, my adult parent, who actually, at the time, was not really an adult—he was in his early 20s.

My parents—all parents, at the time—were big fans of the “Why don’t you go outside and play, and not come in until it’s dark or you’re bleeding” school of parenting. My parents bought land in a rural town in provincial Western Massachusetts, land that technically was not even on a through-road at the time they bought it, and was just about as hillbilly as it gets. They built a house heated solely by an iron woodstove, and we stored the firewood under the front porch in the winter. But in the summer, that area was just a big ol’ pile of dirt, and my brother and I were fond of “playing in the dirt,” which was what we told my mom we were off to do when we went outside.

At my dad’s house, a few towns over, we didn’t even have to tell him what we were off to do. We just had to be neither seen nor heard until sunset. That was the ’70s.

I think I would have done better in the ’50s, where there were very obvious rules—not just to childhood but to gender, class, and just about everything else. I like rules, and I like boundaries. Come to think of it, I would probably have done a pretty good job of being a kid if I was born a millennial in this, the era of the helicopter parent.

I’m not saying that I am or want to be a helicopter parent to my own children. I just think I would have done well if my parents were helicopter parents.  You understand the difference?

Baby Joslyn no car seat

Anyway, back to my book. It’s going to be about the kinds of conversations I had with my mom during the first three months of my daughters’ lives. Things like:

Me: “I’m trying to keep the girls on a very strict every-three-hours feeding schedule during the day so they gain weight and start sleeping through the night sooner.”

Judith: “Oh geez, just relax and go with the flow. In the ’70s no one knew about feeding schedules. We just fed our kids when they were hungry.”


Me: “I need to make sure I get these car seats installed before I go to the hospital.”

Judith: “Car seats? We didn’t have car seats in the ’70s.”


Me: “I shouldn’t drink too much wine. I’m breastfeeding.”

Judith: “Please. We didn’t worry about things like that in the ’70s.”

You get the picture.

I’m not expecting this to be a very popular book. My contemporaries who were also raised by hippies in piles of dirt are more interested in the idea of going back to their ’70s roots than in embracing their control freak natures. But I figure maybe there’s a small subset of others who, like me, will never live up to how awesomely laidback everyone was in the ’70s and are just relieved they didn’t have to raise kids in that era. Too much pressure. 

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One Response to “Day 5: I Don’t Care How You Did It in the ’70s”

  1. Alice Riccarrdi says:

    I think the tail end of the 50′s into the 60′s were the same as the 70′s. Or else we just had the same MOM. I came home from school through the front door and she would open up the back door and say “don’t come back till dinner”. After dinner we would go out, play, “ride bikes”, etc and were told don’t come back until the street lights go on. My Mom does not understand the concept of play dates in any way, shape or form. She never had to organize playtime for me and if she had to, she probably wouldn’t have done it anyway… just who she is. I guess in the end it works out if we can take the good we got, discard what doesn’t work and integrate in to some whole new approach. I did a few sessions with a therapist who specializes in working with new moms after Sophia was born. I was having difficulty with breast feeding and keeping my milk “supply” up to speed due to my anxiety of my new “momness”. I wanted to change to bottle feeding but was feeling extreme guilt because of it and that my fellow moms would judge me harshly for giving up. I will never forget what this therapist said to me, “if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for your baby. She’s not going to remember if it was a bottle or a breast but the feeling she had being in your arms and the connection between the two of you. Do what works for you so that you can feel more relaxed and connected”. I think my Mom really did what she thought was best for me and I got that from her. In the end, it’s all a crapshoot anyway. Love your posts Jossie, much love to you always!

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