The big differences between your life and your grandmother's life(48 Posts)
I'v been thinking about this a lot recently, just how different my life has been from the lives of my grandmothers. I have been so much more privileged than they were, to the extent that we wouldn't really have anything in common these days.
My dad's mother had 14 children, 10 of whom made it to adulthood, 1 of whom is disabled. From the age of 16, after her marriage, she would have been constantly pregnant and child-rearing. She passed before I was born, but I really admire what a fine job she did with my dad and his siblings. I dion't think I could have coped with her life at all.
My mum's mum had six children, 4 of whom made it to adulthood. One of her dead children had to be buried in Germany as that was where my granddad was working at the time (in the army). Therefore she never got to visit his grave. She had a very poor life as my grandad turned to drink after his army days. My grandmother had to raise the kids, plus do any work she could just to feed and cloth her kids. My mum always jokes that my grandmother's big ambition is life was to have an indoor toilet, nothing more.
I myself am late twenties, no children, with a good life and future ahead of me. I've travelled, been to university, got loads of friends, and have never gone hungry. My life is so far removed from all the negative things which happened to my grandparents, and I know that a lot of this is due to feminism and social change.
Let's not make this thread too negative though! Does anyone else have a huge difference to share?
Interesting to think about your grandmothers' grandmas as, depending on age, they gained the right to vote in 1918 and 1928. In a hundred years of change, the greatest gains for me, personally, have been choice. I have choice, a voice that will be counted (not particularly heard but felt), and some unique opportunities, such as travel, if I'm willing to strive to achieve them.
One gran was born in 1890 the other in 1900 huge technological advances from horse and buggy to landing on the moon. Both had children die of meningitis. Both were single parents (one husband died when the youngest of 8 was 2 yrs) the other was separated due to a term in jail (bank robber during the height of the depression). Both sewed clothing for their children, sewed curtains etc. knitted or crocheted at night listening to the radio.
But the lifestyle they experienced by the 1970's is probably not much different to my current lifestyle.
I always find inspiration in how well they did and how well their children did.
I agree @Out2pasture
I find the lives of past women very inspiring. They got through so much more than I ever will, yet still made such a good job of things. I think that was what I meany when I said that i dont want this thread to be too depressing.
I have a weird family. So my grandmother was a single mother while I'm married
twice but who's counting. She worked fabulous jobs (London clothing) while I did nights in homeless shelters. And her sister danced on the stage in nowt but feathers
She was a terrible cook and housekeeper while I bust my arse cooking gourmet stuff. My 'grandfather' was kind, gentle and loving and while he never had a child of his own, he treated us wonderfully. She was beautiful, political, strong and inspiring. Although I wonder what she could have done with a following wind.
My great grandmother by all accounts was a terrifying force to be reckoned with. Who ruled the town. And broked no nonsense regarding my GM's 'condition'. I wish I could have met her.
It's not just time but situation. They were poor but the women were mighty. And the men in my family have always supported that.
I have load of choices now. I doubt she had any at all.
(Although I was shocked recently to see a photo of her 40 years ago wearing almost identical glasses to me, so maybe not enough choice in that department)
The fact that I get to choose when I have children is the biggie that makes my life different to hers.
My dad's mum had 11 children she also looked after her aggressive husband who i think probably had pts after being a paratrooper in the war I kind of rember him but he died when I was 6. She went onto remarry in her 70s as in her words "she couldn't live without sex " much to my teenage horror hearing that. But she seemed so much happier she suddenly was with someone she really liked and it's kind of sad to think she did more in those last 10yrs than the rest of her life. I always admired how strong she was even after being made to kick each of her kids out at 16. She taught me alot. Her life was so different to my own.
My other nan who is still alive (79) had a different life again. My mum had me at 17 and my dad was 12yrs older hence the difference in grandparent age. She had to work from a very young age as her father died and her mum couldn't afford to pay bills with 3 children. She met my grandad and was instantly expected to give up work as he didn't want his wife to have to work. She suffered a still birth with her first child and was put in a mental institute by my grandfather for a month and didn't even get to attend the funeral she still to this day doesn't know where he is buried. She talks about it alot now my grandad has passed away as he never liked it mentioned. She went onto have two children and carried on as a housewife. She looked after my siblings and me when we were born and has never worked since being married. She can't seem to understand why I work or why my mum does but also says she wished she did in some ways as she missed out on things. She has said quite a few times she is glad that times have changed and women are more independent as she knows alot of women who stayed with horrible men because they either couldn't leave or because divorce was so frowned upon. She says how sad it is that women put up with so much. She still has very old fashioned views and loves to tell me I shouldn't ride my motorbike as I'm a mum but when I questioned the fact that why was it ok for my children's dad too she said dad's aren't as important to children and motorbikes aren't for women they should be on the back as people won't take you seriously. I gave up arguing and bit my tongue.
So even between my two grandparents their experiences were do different.
My grandmothers have had quite different lives to me: my maternal grandmother less so as she got older, but her early life was quite strikingly different. She was the eldest of 12 children (eight of whom lived to see adulthood) and married at 19, mainly just so she didn't have to live at home with all of those siblings anymore! She went to grammar school but had to leave at 14 to earn a wage. She only had two kids at 24 and 26 but didn't have a career until both children were in their twenties when she went to night school. She did end up with a degree that way. She and my Grandad also brought their house and were the first in the family to do so. They also owned cars which, again, was a first, and moved from the overcrowding of East London into the Suburbs.
My paternal grandmother and I have more contrasting lives. Born one of six living children they lived in total poverty and hardly made it to school. She didn't go past primary school age. They lived on a family farm so she worked there. She was pregnant at 14 and had my Dad at 15. She married my grandfather as soon as they could but he went off on National Service and never came back! She remarried and had two more kids in her mid teens/early twenties. To this day she still lives in a council house and is pretty poor. She never got any qualifications or did more than a basic job earning a low wage and now, in her eighties, lives off state pension and nothing else.
However my great grandmothers are where their lives were really incredibly different. Maternal GG born in 1910 and paternal GG in 1905. Neither went to school past a very young age as they were needed at home to help with younger siblings (maternal GG oldest of 7, paternal GG second eldest of 12!) Both had more than ten pregnancies starting when they were 17 and 16 respectively. Both married because they were pregnant. Both had philandering husbands who openly had dalliances and other children to other women that the GGs knew about (but weren't discussed). Both started life crushingly poor and not much changed as their lives went on. Maternal GG died at just 58 (although paternal GG lived to be 99 so she more than outlived the expected age for her generation!) Me and my GGs have such starkly contrasting lives tht it's almost unbelievable that so relatively little time separates us.
I'm from farming stock. I love and work on the same farm as my maternal grandmother born in 1914 did. I LoVe thinking about how much the farm has changed. She had horse and carts, threshing machines and all sorts of animals. Our combine is bigger than the house she grew up in! The pure physical labour she had to do blows my mind. No supermarkets. No automated feeders.
My other grandmother lived a very traditional middle class/upper middle class farming lifestyle up north. She was born in 1934 and is like a mix of Mary Berry and Alan Titchmarsh. Her father used to buy the children a new fur coat if they'd had a good harvest. Some things don't change though. When I had my ds in a sling whilst working on the farm she said that's how her grandmother coped in the 1800's - slings out of shawls for the babies!
My paternal grandmother was married at 20 (1948) and had her first child at 21. Two more followed quickly. Her husband ran off (quite literally) with another woman when my dad was a teenager. She then went out to work, and later remarried.
She's still going strong!
My maternal grandmother also had three children. She brought them up in coastal countryside areas with a maid/housekeeper whilst my grandfather worked 'in town' all week. He also kept his lover of 25 years in town...
I think both my grandmother's were held by much tighter social constructs than I have had to face. I have more choice and freedom than they had, and definitely more disposable income than my paternal grandmother.
My lovely nanny is still alive and kicking and we write to each other regularly but had no relationship while I was growing up because of her controlling husband. She was involved in the whole dig for victory era when she was a child and it has instilled a great interest for her through out her life in growing her own veg and not wasting anything. Much like the current state of things, she moved in with her parents when she married my grandad so they could save for a mortgage. The housing market was terrible then too. Once she had children she didn't work again and my grandad controlled all the finances. He actually had a really well paid job but insisted they save save save which meant she had to make all hers and kids clothes herself. And is a very skilled cook, learning to make meals stretch. She was taught to obey and respect her husband. They did love each other dearly but he rarely showed it. She was very controlled by him but still now isn't able to see it. Was just normal for her. I'm thankful that we live I different times now. I wouldn't put up with that kind of marriage. She had no rights really. She just had to be the obedient little wife and always agreed with her husband. That caused a huge rift between her and my mum. They only now have a relationship since my grandad died (I only met him maybe twice when I was a toddler?) She is without a doubt the coolest old dear I've ever met. She's so independent now and well in her 80s.
I'm not married to a child molester. She protected me, but hadn't been able or willing to protect my mother.
I didn't see four brothers and my father die of tb before I was 22.
I went to university.
I divorced my inappropriate husband.
I worked outside the home.
She had two daughters, I have one.
That was the grandmother I knew. My other grandmother died aged 53 of cancer of the uterus and brain.
My paternal grandmother was born in 1900 as one of 12 children. She trained as a nurse and never married until she was in her late 30s when my grandfather, a doctor, proposed. She had to give up work as a nurse which she found very very very hard. She gave birth to my dad age 39 which was ancient back then and it was during the war and she still couldn't nurse despite begging too help injured soldiers. She got PND before drugs were available and killed herself when my dad was 4. Nowadays she could have carried on with her career and would probably have been happy, also she would have had access to anti depressants.
My maternal grandmother lived through Nazi occupation in Europe, she worked in clubs and bars before meeting my grandfather who was part of the D Day liberation forces. She was an amazing woman, fiercely loyal, proud of her family but also refused to speak of her time under occupation. She could shuffle and deal cards like no one else and was the woman who got my Mum and then me into feminism. She never worked outside the home but was unofficial business attire for my grandfather's prestigious London chartered surveyor firm. My grandfather adored her and they were very happily married for over 60 years before they died within months of each other.
My paternal grandmother was a WREN and followed my grandfather around his Royal and Merchant Navy careers. She had 4 children with the first dying aged 2 from a hole in the heart. Due to moving a lot she didn't get to visit her grave as much as she'd like. She never worked after the war instead focusing on bringing up her family and (at times) trying to make the money stretch enough for the next move. Grandad was away a lot as his firm provided expeditions with equipment (Mountain, Artic etc). She was very old fashioned in her view of women's roles which was an interesting clash with my other grandmother as I grew up!
My grandmother ran her own successful business, was fiercely independent, and travelled all over Europe.
Amazingly she wrote a lot of her life down. She describes precisely what she had to wear to her own grandmother's funeral. She was about 8 - in 1906. From underwear to the hat. Layer, upon layer, culminating in thick serge stockings and lace up leather boots. Sweltering in mid July.
The piece ends with "When I look at my granddaughter, I realise how much more sensible girls' clothes are, these days."
My maternal grandmother got herself upduffed at 19 and her mother wouldn't give her permission to marry so her husband to be went to court - not sure my grandmother had any say at court, she always said that her husband got permission to marry her.
He died before I was born and my mother never had anything nice to say about him. As my grandmother was under 40 she didn't get full widow's pension and had to work. My mother was always horrified by this where as I think nothing of it.
On her first day at school she decided she didn't like school so went to find her older sister. She was allowed to stay with older sister and sat between her and a girl she was convinced was Rose Red from the fairy tale, Rose Red became known to me as Nana, as she was be my father's mother.
My paternal GM qualified as a doctor prior to 1920.
She was widowed, with a baby and her two nephews to bring up.
She was instrumental in introducing Scouting to her country.
She worked in the Diplomatic service.
She was interred in a work camp during WWII, where she used her medical skills to help other internees.
She never saw her DS after 1939.
She died in her fifties due to the depravisions she suffered in the war.
My grandma didn't have a freezer! I didn't realise until mum was reminiscing about her preserving the runner beans that they grew with salt for the winter. It's stupid of me, but I never thought. Just those little conveniences make such a difference, even if I am also in the throes of runner bean preservation myself right now, two generations later. At least I don't have to start mucking around shaving blocks of salt!
My grandpa used to work split shifts and come home in his break to do housework and childcare with her. He also used to do chores after work, so the family could sit down and rest together. Mum always talks about this as being hugely unusual for the times, and is (rightly imo) very proud of her dad for going against the grain of the times he lived in. Whereas I just expect dh to muck in, and not to leave it all to me (not that this can be taken for granted, as many posts on here sadly demonstrate). However, at the very least the expectation of equality is there now, grandma didn't even have that. We just need to achieve it now ('just'...!).
All our grandmothers (except those with servants) would have had to raise children with out disposable nappies, wipes, probably without a decent washer, certainly no dryer, likely no central heating. Cleaninwoild have been more of a chore with fewer gadgets, no dishwashers, no help from the husband. Life would have been more isolated, less likely to have cars and pop to a friends, less cafe culture, no phones to call friends regularly, no internet. Some may have been lucky to have stayed near extended family to help but those without that support must have been so isolated and bored.
My grandmothers were born in the 1920s into poverty. They were uneducated. One married at 18, raised 4 children and worked all hours of the day in family business and massive vegetable garden. The other, being the eldest of 14 and having raised them all, waited until she was 25 to marry, 28 to have her only child and quietly sewed and kept house. I never married, didn't have children. Traveled. Studied to phd level.
One of my GMs was taken out of school aged 8, as soon as she could read, write and do arithmetic, and apprenticed to a trade. As were all her sisters. There was apparently no point educating girls, but their income could go towards educating their brothers, as all girls could hope for was to get married, whereas boys had prospects. As it happens, the girls kept the family going through WW2, as they had marketable trades. And all their dds have university degrees and professional qualifications.
My other GM was brought up as a lady of leisure, with no life skills other than social graces and how to manage a household. It was...interesting...when my parents got married. Obviously I wasn't there, but the atmosphere carried over, despite the fact that my working class GPs were now financially more secure than my bourgeois GPs.
I'm a bit ashamed in that I'm the first generation to be a SAHM!
One grandmother was a famous artist married to a very successful engineer. The other caused scandal by returning to her school headship after marrying and continued working after having each child.
One main difference though is that both sets of grandparents had staff - housemaids, gardeners, nannies etc. Both grandmothers were very glamorous and energy out to society "dos" while I skin in leggings and never go out as I don't want to leave my children with a babysitter while still young.
All the women in my family though have been determined forces to be reckoned with. Suffragettes, prison reformers and early female doctors. I have been left with the privilege of their hard work - I am not rich - we have made choices so I can be a SAHM, and scrimp in a way that would be unimaginable to them - but I can return to my career, I can vote, I can choose with censor.
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now
Already registered with Mumsnet? Log in to leave your comment or alternatively, sign in with Facebook or Google.
Please login first.