Are Today’s Moms Longing for a Return to the 1950’s?

June cleaver

Mad Men, Pan Am, The Play Boy Club…what's up with all these shows focusing on life in the 50's and 60's? That was a time when women had limited opportunity and sexism was rampant. So why do men AND women look nostalgicly at this era? ( is nostalgicly a word?)

A new study about moms from Women at NBCU might shed some light.


Here's an excerpt from the study:

"Today’s moms are aspiring to be modern day June Cleavers, according to a just released Women at NBCU study. At the most unconventional time in motherhood, where only 4% of today’s families fall into the US Census definition of “traditional,”[1] a remarkable 49% of moms say “Traditional” is the number one parenting style they aspire to be. Reflecting this bent towards values of a different era, an astounding 77% of the moms surveyed prefer to have children with good manners over good grades."

[1] US Census defines “traditional” families as working father and stay-at-home mother with kids under 18

Wow – at a time when so few families fit the traditional mold, women are craving traditional parenting styles.   What's going on here? Again, here's the Women at  NBCU study:

”Although moms are not saying they want to go back to the 1950s, they are clinging to certain values and traditions associated with that time period,” said MelissaLavigne-Delville, VP of Trends and Strategic Insights, Integrated Media at NBCUniversal. “There’s a backlash to the complexity of current conditions like the economy and fragmented families. Brands with strong “roots” have an opportunity to play up their heritage or consider resurrecting brand assets from this past. Ultimately,though, women will need products and services that are modern and can keep pace with their everyday realities – traditional cannot mean ‘old school.’”

Here are some other highlights from the report:

  • 11% identified themselves as Soccer Moms
  • 77% of moms want kids with good manners over good grades
  • 1/4 of moms say housework is evenly shared – 2/3 of dads say it's evenly shared
  • The fastest growing demo of moms is 40+
  • 12% of moms feel they are accurately portrayed in advertising

Why do only 12% of moms feel accurately portrayed in advertising?

I think part of the answer lies in the earlier stat that only 4% of today’s families fall into the US Census definition of “traditional."

I also think it's easy to misinterperet what moms mean by "traditional."   

Case in point, at the breakfast event where Women at NBCU shared the report, the lovely Sarah Jessica Parker was a featured guest.  Watch her here.  LOVE her.

What does Sarah Jessica Parker have in common with June Cleaver?  Parker had a great answer when asked what she loved most about her husband (Mathew Broderick) that included "intellectual swordplay."   Can you imagine June giving that answer?  (Can you imagine Ward's face if she did?) As we've seen, today's mom looks very different from the mothers of the 50's.   

And yet, moms say things like family game night, and eating together, and good manners are hugely important to them.  

So what's a creative director to do?   Moms don't feel accurately portrayed. They are not traditional.  Yet moms are embracing certain traditional parenting techniques.  

Here's my answer

Show non-traditional familes doing traditional activities.   Let me give you an example.  Here's a promotion from Netflix.


Keep the activity – a family enjoying watching a movie together.  But show a more realistic family (other than husband wife and 2.4 kids, one male, one female).  Show two or three moms with a variety of kids.  Show different generations.   Throw in some unruly animals stealing the popcorn.   (The animals can have bad manners, but not the kids.)

What are your thoughts?  Do women want to go back to the 50's and 60's?  Or are they wishing for a simpler life with more time, support and togetherness?   Would you go back to the 50's and 60's if you could?



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15 Responses to Are Today’s Moms Longing for a Return to the 1950’s?

  1. Kat Gordon says:

    I watched SJP’s interview through the live stream last week + yes, she’s wonderful. The stats shared via the study were really interesting, too. My take is that women long for more family time and rituals. Life is so fragmented and always-on technology makes it even more so. We don’t want to bring our husbands their pipes and slippers. We just wish these were more opportunity for unrushed togetherness.

  2. No, we don’t want to be June Cleaver, making dinner in a dress, heels and pearls, but what I and so many of my friends want is a chance to raise our kids (instead of visiting with them for a couple of hours a night after daycare and an exhausting day at work), a job market that does not turn its nose up at women who have a “gap” in their resume because they spent some years as a full time homemaker, and a general feeling that our society values mothers (really, not just Republican-esque lip service) and fathers (ditto) and families (ditto).
    The value can come in the form of tax breaks for moms who choose to stay home (instead of just for people who pay for daycare), genuine commitment to flexible working situations (just try to work remotely at most companies..even if they SAY they allow it!) get the idea. Actions, not platitudes.

  3. Jeff says:

    Can’t help but see this as part of a larger societal trend from Idealist to Civic generation, with “Generation” understood more as an outlook or mindset and less as a group of age/birth cohorts. If you believe Roy Williams on this (and I do) it seems natural that of course a rising civic generation will look back towards the last civic generation and identify with the best of what they have to offer, including traditional parenting values. Add to that everything mentioned by Kat Gordon and TheLoneTrainer and you’ve got some rather compelling fuel for nostalgia.
    But really, does anyone recall the term “Latchkey kid”? Of course parents look back to the 50s for parenting models! Who the hell would look back at the 80s for it? Answer: Only Gen X-ers who were raised by parents who modeled their parenting on the 50s.

  4. Being a father of four who will return home so my wife can work (which is her choice and I support it), I don’t see this traditional stay at home mom while dads work as real.. I’m 50, and when I was a kid, I don’t recall my mom ever staying home while my dad worked… They both worked, and they both participated in raising us… Although things changed over time, there were always two working adults in my family…. Although my wife decided to stay at home for the kids, and I worked, we are reversing the role for awhile because I have a business that I can actually work from home with… My wife is an individual who is partnered with me to raise our four healthy children, without all of these traditional role models…

  5. We all want as much time as possible with our famalies, I don’t think that has changed much along with good manners it transends generations.
    For me the key is what is right for the family and the great thing today is that we have moved away from the stereo types of the the 50’s to an acceptable mix of mum working or dad working or both.
    The internet has made it possible for a business to be run from home providing flexibility around working hours. That provides so many more options to suit the family, so there is no desire what so ever to revert to the 50’s!

  6. Great information and discussion and for me there’s no need to go back to old days and women nowadays are flexible enough to support family needs and present good parenting.

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  9. misty says:

    I have been married for 15 years and have 3 amazing children that i have been blessed to be able to raise and homeschool…but i tell ya, I would go back to the 50s in a heartbeat!!! I would love to be able to allow y children to go to a decent school that wasnt run by drug dealers, where most young people were happy with “just” holding hands. There was an innocence from that time that we dont have now. And not all women were repressed and miserable…i have known many women from that era that loved it and were so sad to see if fade away. We think that we have evolved so much and that we are better off for it, but myself and others out there dont think so. If they didnt then there wouldnt be a recognizeable longing!

  10. kamagra says:

    As a parent I want that my wife should be at home taking care of our children, rather than being a working mom. Time past by that our children grow we will not be able to see their development at school and at home if both parents work.

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