Four Reasons Why Having Children May Have Been Easier 200 Years Ago

In  early Victorian times 50% of recorded deaths in England were those of children under the age of five. There was smallpox, consumption, diphtheria and cholera. In the earlier Reformation period, causes of death included “suddenly” and “teeth”. But there are some ways in which Victorian parents had it easier than us.

1 Sleep-deprived much?


There isn’t a parent I know who hasn’t thought about 6 weeks into their bundle of joy’s life, ‘I can quite simply not function like this for another day’. Of course, you do manage (sometimes even at work while operating heavy machinery). And never mind another day, you can actually function on that little sleep for YEARS. I know we have probably all used the Stopayne on occasion just to get one good night’s sleep. At least I have, I’m not overly proud to admit. But the Victorian mother had a far fiercer arsenal than The Contented Little Baby Book. She had opium.

Domestic bliss compliments of the poppy.

2. No car seats or seatbelts

Not once, not ever, did a Victorian mother have to shout while dodging trucks traveling at 1/12th the speed of sound, “if you so much as touch that seatbelt, I will stop the car right now! On the side of the highway! I will stop. Right now!” And if she felt a little piqued, she could always turn to Dr Miles’ Nervine to steady her nerves.

3. There was no Lego*

* or Dora the Explorer/ Barney/ Bakugang/ Ben 10/ Teletubbies/Barbie/ My Little Pony. Insert as appropriate.

Our kids NEED a lot of stuff! The tragedy of giving it to them is that three weeks post Ben 10 room makeover, they will have moved onto to something else and you’re left with a cupboard full of Ben 10 underwear and a duvet cover you may as well use as a cleaning cloth.

Lego was originally produced in wood in 1932. Plastic Lego was first made in 1947.

Wooden Lego

4. Teething with focus, drive and determination

Cocaine was used to numb the gums in early teething remedies. Now I don’t know about you, but my school mornings go something like this.

“Luke, please get dressed”…10 minutes later…”Luke, PLEASE get dressed”…5 minutes later…”Are you dressed yet?”…5 minutes later… “Please GET DRESSED!”…2 minutes later…”GET DRESSED NOW!” Wash rinse and repeat for hair-brushing, tooth-brushing, eating and getting into the car. By the end of the morning, I am quite ready to weep in frustration.

Now, if I had me some Cocaine Tooth Drops to encourage focus, that would be 15 cents well spent.

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