Motherhood and the Cost of Living Over the Last 50 Years

Despite the myriad of ways that life in the UK has changed over the last 50 years, it’s still the case that, by age 45, most women will have given birth to a child… 

Compare life insurance

Get a life insurance quote and start saving now

Get a quote

Babies, babies, babies

If you have a child then you will have experienced the ups and downs of pregnancy (you know, the swelling, the irrational hatred of all noises, the overwhelming desire to buy decorative cushions) and been rewarded with a truly perfect bundle of joy.

Unsung heroes

But as all mothers know, the birth is only the beginning. What you’re signing up to is a lifetime of nurturing, nagging and never-ending fun.

Caring for your child is a mammoth emotional, moral and financial responsibility and mothers are the real unsung heroes of humanity, in every culture, in every time.

Times are changing

But, of course, over the last 50 years we’ve seen huge changes in what it actually means to be a mother in the UK. The fertility rate is higher for women over 40 for the first time since 1947, and people are also having fewer children. The number of births in the UK has dropped over 2013-4 since a peak in 2012.

Plus, even though we’re earning more than ever, the cost of living is rising. House prices, transportation costs and the cost of food all rose in 2016 meaning the cost of raising a family also increased. Holidays to Europe are set to be up to 20% more expensive due to the drop in the value of the pound after Brexit. The outgoings seem endless.

Was it always like this? We’ve examined motherhood through the ages to see whether things really were any easier back in the day…

The 60s

The 60s may have been a time of rebellion, mini-skirts and reckless fun, but when it came to motherhood, the stats show that life was still fairly conservative. The average first time mother was just 23.92 years old  – settling down quickly after finishing school. Of course, most of these mothers were also married, feeding their kids the latest food fads like fish fingers, frozen chips and chocolate biscuits. One huge thing to remember is this: the 60s brought us the contraceptive pill,  so mothers at least had far more control of when they wanted to have their kids.

  • The average age of first time mother in the 60s was 23.9 years old
  • 10.8% of births were to mothers over 35
  • The average house price ranged from £2189-£4312 over the course of the decade – that’s the equivalent of £46,263 and £65,131 in 2016
  • The average weekly income over the decade was about £99
  • The most popular baby names are fairly traditional: Susan and David
  • Only 7.3% of births in the 60s were registered as out of wedlock


motherhood and cost of living in the 60s

The 70s

The 70s were a great decade for women – feminism was rising, women had more control and female ambition became a legitimate, respected phenomenon. The daughters of the 60s swingers would grow up and cause quite a stir, but what would these empowered 70s mothers – drinking their newly acquired instant coffee and watching their colour TVs – think about motherhood today?

  • The average age of a first time mother was 24.1 .
  • The number of births to women aged over 35 fell to just 6.3 %
  • The average house price ranged from a low £4378 to a staggering £21,966 by the end of the decade, foreshadowing the excess of the 80s
  • But the average weekly income stayed relatively low at just £125
  • The most popular baby names were: Paul and Sarah. Influenced by a childhood love of the Beatles, maybe?
  • There was a significant rise in births out of wedlock – 9.2 % to be exact
motherhood and cost of living in the 70s

The 80s

Excess. Glamour. Opulence. The 80s was known as a time of Western wealth and over-the-top spending. We became ultimate consumers and it was a minefield of temptations for mothers who wanted to splurge on gadgets for their perfect poppets. Walkmans, VHS tapes, sportswear. Tired mums could finally order takeaway, or drink imported wine. Convenience was key, but you had to be able to loosen the purse strings to solve your day to day problems. No wonder the average weekly earnings rose so steeply…

  • The average age of first time mother rose marginally to 24.8 over the course of the decade
  • Yet again, the number of births to women aged over 35 was just 7.6%
  • Your average house price was a startling £22,677, rising to £61,495 by the late 80s
  • And average weekly earnings somewhat increased with the rate of inflation, to £162
  • The most popular baby names saw a double-up on Sarah, with Christopher edging in for the boys
  • A staggering 19% of births were registered out of wedlock in the 80s. Looks like people’s idea of what makes a family was starting to change…
motherhood and cost of living in the 80s

The 90s

The 90s saw more and more women working and carving out a career (partly due to ambition, partly due to the rising cost of living). It’s natural that of having children starts to get pushed back. Families are targeted with more convenience-oriented products, like ready meals, package holidays and flat-pack furniture. And Oasis happened. Probably shouldn’t forget about that.

  • The average age of a first time mother rose significantly over the 90s, from 25 to 27 – averaging at 26.4.
  • We start to see births to mothers aged 35 and over rising again, this time to 11.7%
  • The average house price evened out a bit – ranging from £59,587-£74,638
  • While average weekly earnings increased a lot – up to £211
  • The most popular baby names were classic and timeless: Thomas and Rebecca
  • Get ready for a social shift. 33.8% of births in the 90s were out of wedlock
  • Just under half – 44.3% – of economically inactive women in the 90s were stay at home mums
motherhood and cost of living in the 90s

The 00s

Welcome to the future – the millennium seemed like a hugely significant moment for our country as technology embedded itself in our lives. As we became an online society, mothers had to navigate through the troubling world of ‘the internet’ when parenting their children. Suddenly there is so much to do, see, buy and get right. Being a stay at home mother is a financial luxury that many women can’t afford, which may be why the numbers are all rising…

  • The average age of a first time mother was 27.5
  • 10,000 births in 2005 were to women aged 40 and over, and 19% of all births were to women aged over 35.
  • If you wanted to buy a house in 2005, you’re looking at parting with about £157,000
  • However, your weekly earnings have been bumped to £372
  • The most popular baby names for this decade were Jack and Emily
  • Who needs a wedding? 42.6% of noughties births were to unmarried women
  • Only 38.3% of economically inactive women in the 90s were stay at home mums
motherhood and cost of living in the 00s

Present Day

We now live in a very different time to the 60s. Every type of food we could possibly want to feed our families is readily available with the swipe of a finger on our state-of-the-art smartphones. However, we’re obsessed with healthy eating and home-grown organic produce. We surround ourselves with technology and TV subscriptions, but also spend a lot of money travelling the world with our children to experience different cultures. The empowering news is that women are finding it easier to have children at an older age, which means it’s possible to carve out a career and experience life before settling down to raise a family. The future is now, folks.

  • In 2010 - 2015 the average age for a first time mother was 28 and two months
  • Over half of all live births in 2013 were to mothers aged 30 and over, and 66% had fathers that were 30 and over
  • The average house price in July 2016 in England was £232,885
  • And the average weekly earnings in 2016 are £480 – that’s just for women as well
  • The most popular baby names in 2010 were Olivia and Oliver
  • Continuing the trend against marriage – in 2015, 47.7% of babies have been born to parents who weren’t married or in a civil partnership, but 60% of these were cohabiting parents)
  • About 26% of women are stay at home mothers these days
Pesent day - How has motherhood changed

Whatever decade you became a mother, you always want to protect your children and give them the best in life. And what better gift could you give than peace of mind? Why not have a look at life insurance and see how this could help you and your family

Compare life insurance

Get a life insurance quote and start saving now

Get a quote