What Motherhood Used To look Like (21 Pics)

Since the dawn of time, motherhood has always been an important and vital aspect of not only life but society. Life would literally cease to exist without mothers, both to birth us and to raise us. Over time, things do change with how motherhood looks, but many things stay the same. Baby bumps and birthday pictures are the norm, it’s almost a passage of womanhood to have kids and mother them while people snap their photo. Whether they’re feeding their kids, helping with some event activity like unwrapping gifts, or simply holding their tots; moms can expect to have their picture taken for any and all motherhood related activities. Sometimes they’re flattering pictures, sometimes they’re not so great and we might wish to delete them. We shouldn’t! It’s good to keep the photos regardless of why we might think of how we look, it’s good to keep those memories for later, too.

While some things are done differently, time changes and so does the way we do things, so many things stay the same. We still want to feed our children and keep them safe, raise them to our best ability and keep them happy. Our kids take priority, we do everything for them, but we have to also be ready to deal with the moment caught on camera too. It’s wonderful to have the photos so we can keep the nice memories, but we’re constantly under watchful eyes and people who will try to judge us. It doesn’t change, but we can still enjoy the photos of us as we get older and remember the different events.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

21 We always took baby bump pics

From the moment someone announces they're pregnant on social media, you can bank on tons of belly bump pictures to come. It's part of the important ritual of motherhood. You take a photo to show off your growing baby and tummy, let other people share in the joy of having this new life growing inside of you. You're nourishing and protecting this baby before they're even born, you love them more than anyone else ever will. You want to give family and friends a chance to share in that love and joy, to know how things are going. It's a personal, private time, but it's also a time to show off all the work you're already doing for your family and new baby.

In a time before social media, when computers were as big as an office room, sharing these sorts of moments with other’s was different. But we still took belly bump pictures, still showed off to everyone about how we’re doing. It was done differently, usually in person, but we still wanted to show that joy and remember those moments, too. Long after our kids have grown and moved out, we can look back at the photos and remember the fun of being pregnant, of growing a new baby to bring into this world. The fun and excitement we felt, how proud we are of our grown children, once so small they fit in the crook of our arms.

In this photo, my mom is pregnant with me, beaming with happiness as she gets a belly bump photo taken.

20 It’s always been a power struggle with kids

Kids like to be in charge. Whether the event is important or not, they want the control, they want to rule everything themselves. They act like they have the better ideas, they go their own way and do their own thing. Even if someone’s trying to take a picture at the moment. In this photo, my brother has decided that, even in the middle of a picture being taken, he’s going to drop out of my dad’s lap and flop on the floor. Dad's still all grins, enjoying a party while trying to wrangle the rowdy kid. Of course the boy is all smiles too, my brother was hardly ever still and in this photo you can really see how fast he can drop from a lap to the floor, making the picture different than before and interesting.

Kids don’t think about photos before they take flight, before they move and change how the photo is originally supposed to look. Sometimes it’s during group photos and you want them in a certain place, sometimes it’s when something funny is happening and they stop before we get the chance to snap a shot of them and their antics. They see something interesting and take off, it’s part of why we have to be so careful to keep an eye on them. They just move, just split. Photos or anything else, they move fast and unpredictably.

19 Driving with kids looked a little different

This image might be alarming to some but the rules were different. The child safety laws have actually changed many times over the years. This image might have been taken for an ad or simply to showcase how comfortable this car was for moms and their kids. According to GoodHousekeeping, child car seats weren't invented until the 1980s. Below is an example of a booster chair that was invented in the 1970s, to allow kids the chance to see out the window.

The years following would include hundreds of different child safety prototypes, one even included a blanket for youngsters to lie down on while going for a ride. It wasn't until the mid-1970s that laws became more strict, forcing parents to follow certain rules while traveling with their youngsters. In 1971, "National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, required all seats be held by safety belts and include a harness to hold the child into the seat — though, no crash testing was required." Which was a big step for that time, however, was still lacking extra a few extra safety measures. That is why in 1985 the law was passed that made it a requirement for parents to have their kids (of a certain age or younger) in car seats. These chairs look absurd to the lavish safety items we can buy today.

18 Family photos were always important

Every parent is proud of their family and wants to show them off. This has always been true, and once we were able to take photos, we started family group pictures. It can be hard to get everyone together, but when we do, the pictures are amazing. Sometimes they face different directions, but when it’s nice and orderly, it’s nice. In this photo, one of my great (or great-great) aunts is with her family. They're standing in front of their vehicle and looking at the camera. Some are smiling, some are not, most are squinting against the sun. But they're a healthy little family, happy to be together for a rare photo together.

For as far back as the start of time, mothers have wanted to show off how well they keep their family taken care of. It wasn’t always with photos, as cameras didn’t always exist, but you can bet some of the first families to have cameras around went out to take photos of their family. It’s an exciting thing to know you’ll have those photos forever, to show people as they grow, or new people to the family. To be able to pull out a photo and show someone who their relatives were, how things were in the past, is incredible.

17 Sometimes it’s not as orderly of a family photo, though

With so many kids and adults at family events, it can be hard to gather everyone in one spot. My brothers, cousins, and I are all present with aunts and uncles, no one looking at the camera. Some of the kids are just babies, they can’t move or do much for a photo. Some of the kids are in action, moving and dancing, playing with a football, going crazy and having fun. The adults work to keep the kids safe, keep their decorations from being destroyed, and enjoy Christmas time together. No one is worried about a photo, except for the photographer.

Someone, probably my grandma, seen the group enjoying themselves and wanted to keep the memory. They wanted to take the family photo, the kids doing their thing, the adults trying to keep them wrangled in. It's not as formal of a photo with everyone facing the same direction, but it's a fun peek at the fun they’re having and a great memory to look back on for that Christmas. Personally, I don’t remember the event. I’m the little one to the left in red, maybe a year old. But looking at the photo and being reminded of family and love, it fills my heart with happiness.

16 But usually the kids are just happy to be photographed

I took the focus of this photo, big cheesy grin and curly mom of hair. My mom sits on the couch, mid sentence while trying to wrestle with my baby brother. There are cousins around doing their own thing, everyone going every witch way. Back in the day, you didn’t know how a photo turned out until you went and got it developed. There was no preview to look at that you could deem well done or not, ask everyone to retake the photo or just take a few in a row. It’s a little crazy to see technology has changed, but motherhood has stayed the same.

We hold our babies, watch our kids run around, try to capture as many memories as possible to keep and remember later. It doesn’t change, wasn’t changed one hundred years ago, won’t be changed another hundred years from now. The method to remember different events might change, it used to all be in our minds and now we have physical photos and even digital pictures we can show everyone we wish. But how we make those memories hasn’t changed, raising our babies into adults is still the goal and still the main thing we focus on.

15 A lot of work in the past was a family event

In a photo with my great-great grandparents, they are getting ready to do some hard labor on the turkey farm. They're working hard and it's a family event. In the past, kids did as much if not more work as their parents. They would miss school or drop out entirely to help the family. Still, they had time to stop working and take a photo, wanting to remember their hard work and being together. It wasn't easy, but doing it as a family helped time go by quicker, helped the family get their work done as quickly as possible, maybe to spend more time together in a more casual setting instead of working. Whatever the reason, the work would get done quickly and they could move on to the next part of life. It wasn't always happy work, but working with your kids or parents makes it so much more bearable.

Even with the hardship of having to work, especially somewhere as demanding as a turkey farm, the family still made time to have a photo. Maybe they just wanted to keep the farm in mind, tell their great grandkids about it when they came around, or just to keep record of it happening. Regardless of the reason, they made time to pause work and take the photo, forever catching the moment for generations later to enjoy seeing.

14 Eating cake is always a fun memory

Cake and birthdays go hand in hand, it's hard to imagine a kid's birthday without having cake. It's unheard of! So it's no surprise to see my mother helping my baby brother with eating his cake during a birthday, surrounded by family and friends looking on and snapping photos. It's so fun and cute, a chubby cheeked little boy contently shoveling cake into his mouth, spoonful after spoonful. My mom sits and holds him in her lap, tries to keep him safe and probably as clean as she can, which is a next to impossible task with a tot and cake. She's happy to do it, too. It's enjoyable to watch him feed himself, trying to get as much sweetness in his mouth as possible.

Birthdays are always a fun memory, another year older and how happy the kids are. They’re excited to have a party, have cake, have the attention. And we’re happy to give it all to them, gifts and sweets, celebrate being another year older. Kids love to age, they don’t worry about life’s responsibilities when they get older, they just look forward to the party. They want the cake and the gifts, they want everything they can get because they’re kids. And we want the memories of making them happy, of giving them what they want. Photos make it so much easier to recall those memories even years after they pass.

13 All smiles while still in the hospital

As I've said before, people have been having children since the dawn of time. There were cave women who had kids alone in the night, and there’s women who have children in bathtubs or pools, or even in weird places while having unexpected labor. It's gotten easier and safer as time has gone on, less people die from childbirth, more people can get through birth and do physical activities shortly after. Babies are being born safer, more healthy too. Nothing makes us happier than having a healthy little kid, a new little baby that’s been born safe and sound that we can hold in our arms and keep safe ourselves too.

When I was born, my mom had a photo taken of her while holding me, born just a few hours earlier. Despite a hard labor, she’s all smiles to have a healthy baby in her arms. It’s a nice memory she wanted to remember her entire life, and although it would be hard to forget, it’s easier to find the memories with a photo to hold. And it’s easier to share with people, so they can share in the joy of the moment too. I, of course, have no memories of being born. To be able to look back on this photo, after thirty years, is amazing.

12 Motherhood looks so much alike across the board

No matter who we are, as mothers, we all want the same thing. We want our happy kids to be safe, we hold them, we keep them safe. It’s all we want. Raise them right, into adulthood. It’s not just a job, it’s what we love to do. Help them, be there for them. Every little thing they have go on, they call on us to help with. There isn’t a single thing we can’t fix in their minds, and we do our very best to do that for them, too. We’re their superheros, we fix anything they need us to without worry, simply because they ask.

In this photo, my aunt is holding one baby, my other aunt is holdind her two kids. They're two very different people, but regardless of their differences they still hold their babies. They keep them close and help them. We always want to help our kids, keep them safe and happy. We want them to know we can be there for them, no matter what. Even if it’s just a family event that’s taken all of it out of the kids, we’ll be there to hold them and help them feel safe and rested.

11 It’s always good to make a fussy baby laugh instead of cry

Family trips are stressful. Even if it's just to the zoo, kids get fussy and things are too hot and while you're having fun, it has as many downs as ups. The younger the kid, the harder it can be to keep them entertained and not fussy and grumpy during trips. They get tired and they get extra cranky, ready to fuss and scream until they feel better. The screams and tears can make any trip less fun, and as much as you try to muscle through it, it gets harder and harder to handle. The best thing is to take a deep breath and try to relax, try not to let it get to you.

When possible, it’s the best to try and distract them. In this photo, my mom is tickling my younger brother, making him laugh and giggle instead of cry from exhaustion. After such a long day at the zoo, kids get sleepy and their patients leave very quickly. They want to rest but want to see everything, they need a nap but they don’t want to miss anything either. They just know they’ll go to sleep and miss something important or fun, and they try to muscle through to stay awake. The best thing is to make them laugh, make them stay more focused on you until they drift off to sleep for a quick nap. Even a little nap will help, reset their energy and make them feel better, and it’ll make your trip that much more fun, too.

10 But parenting is hard work, too

It's no secret that parenting can be hard work. Between feeding the kids, keeping them safe and happy, doing house work; we can get really worn out really fast! So it’s no surprised to see a photograph of my grandpa holding me while we both crash out. After a long day hard at work playing, I was too tired to fight a nap. Grandpa was likewise too tired, no doubt after a long day of hard work at his mechanic shop then coming home to a hyper, excitable toddler too. As a true grandpa’s girl, I hopped in his lap and promptly fell asleep. Cuddling in close, we sleep off the long day and enjoy each other’s company.

Kids have as much taken out of them as we do watching them. They run and go crazy, they get into everything with with reckless abandonment, no sense of self preservation. We wear ourselves ragged, trying to wrangle them in and keep them in one place for at least a moment. We lose ourselves quickly with trying to keep them safe, it’s more than a little exhausting. We do everything we can to keep them alright, to raise them along with keeping them okay. It takes a lot of energy, but they’re more than worth it.

9 Squinting in the sun happens with some photos

My grandparents with my aunt stand in front of one of their first homes, happy to have a healthy baby and a home. They want to remember the event and ask for a photo to be taken, however they can't fight the sun. My grandma looks down and so does my aunt, my grandfather squinting against the brightness. As the cameras of the past don't show a display of the photo, they couldn't request another one with everyone looking up. They have to look away from the brightness, but the photo is still great. It’s a nice memory to look back on, too.

We usually want everyone looking at the camera when we take photos, we want to see their entire faces looking nice. But with the lack of a preview or display, it used to be difficult to do this. But that's alright, they look great anyways. It’s nice to have the memory, regardless of which way people face. It’s nice to catch the moments, the memories to keep in mind later when we get older. Memories can have holes, we can forget things. By taking photos, we can help remember those things. It’s not easy to throw caution to the wind when we’re in the photos, especially one’s without a preview, but it’s clearly the best thing to do anyways to help preserve the memories.

8 Happiness always followers the birth of a new baby, even if we’re tired

Healthy babies make for happy parents. Even after hard labor, even after we're tired and ready to throw in the towel and sleep, having a healthy baby after so much work makes it so much easier and worth it. My parents are all smiles as they hold me, just a few hours old. Her labor was full of troubles and difficulties, and you can tell she’s tired, see how sleep deprived she is and how little energy is left in her body. Yet she still manages a smile, my father who was there for all of it, also tired, has a smile as well. They hold a healthy baby and smile, happy to have the hard part over to start their lives.

Photos might be the last thing on a parents mind after finally getting through the hardship of labor. You’re tired, you feel like crap, and feel like you look how you feel, too. The idea of taking a picture while looking like that really sounds unpleasant. But honestly, the best thing you can do, second to holding your new baby, is have some pictures taken. You’ll want to have those memories, you’ll regret it if you don’t get as many pictures as possible to immortalize the moment.

7 Family trips are always exciting

In the past, people traveled for work or new prospects. They didn't have as much time for leisure travel, but sometimes they could find time to enjoy a small vacation. As time has gone on and we've had other jobs rather than having to deal with crops or such, we've taken more and more vacations. At least small trips together as a family. In this picture, my mom holds my brother as I climb on a fence, wanting the best look at the animals of the zoo on the other side. We enjoy our vacation together, visiting a local zoo and enjoying the time together. Clearly we're all happy as can be, grinning and laughing in the photo. It's a gorgeous picture, beautiful faces all happy and looking like they're really enjoying the zoo trip. Either my dad or grandma snapped the shot, with no one looking at the camera but that's fine. We're happy and the photo really captures that.

Trips around can be difficult in the summer and with kids, and the idea of taking a photograph after a hot, sunny, sweaty day walking around can be daunting. But it’s the best idea to do, enjoying each other’s company and enjoying the photos years after they’re taken.

6 Birthday parties are always full of fun

You can bet if there's a party, someone is going to grab a camera. No matter how hard we try to be photo ready, there's always a chance we'll be mid word when someone snaps a photo. Here, my mom is helping me as a baby open a wrapped gift. She's mid word, maybe explaining to me what it is we're looking at or simply saying it out loud, could even be thanking whoever gave the gift to me. Whatever the reason, her mouth is open and mid talk when the picture is taken. But that's alright. I look happy as possible with the new gift, as my cousins look on to see what is shown. My mom doesn't look necessarily unhappy or anything, she's happy with the birthday too.

There's tons of photos taken from this party, as well as all our birthday parties. It's a fun way to keep the parties memories alive years after they pass. As we age, we can look back on birthdays five, ten, even fifty years in the past and enjoy the happiness of the scene. We might not want our picture taken as we age, we start to get self conscious and dislike certain parts of ourselves, we want to hide and just remember it in our minds as a good time. But it's a great practice to keep taking pictures anyways,

5 More cake is always the answer

At another birthday, my brother is again munching on cake, this time without a spoon. He's just digging in with his chubby baby fingers, not a single care in the world that photos are being taken. My mom is holding him again, looking away from the camera and smiling, probably talking with someone off camera. They're happy to celebrate the event, even at the cost of getting messy from the cake. The photographer seen the two of them sitting together like this and thought it was a perfect time to take a picture, forever imprinting the moment on film. Now we get to see these photos, some twenty eight years later, and enjoy how different yet the same life was.

In the past, they celebrated birthdays as well, sometimes with cake, sometimes just with a hug. Mothers always try to make the birthday special, even when they can't afford more or there isn't a lot of time for a party. Getting together and acknowledging the moment is great, and getting the chance to capture it on camera is even better. It’s always been a special time to parents and kids alike, birthdays are fun and growing older is exciting for kids.

4 The zoo is always a favorite

There's a zoo nearby that we like to visit every summer since it opened, we love to see the animals as kids and adults alike. For this photo, we're standing in one of the many informational displays around the zoo, all smiling and happy to be there. While there's plenty of space to stand, I'm kneeling and looking away from the camera but smiling nonetheless, my brother is standing as tall as he can with a likewise big smile on his face. Our mom crouches in the back, keeping a close eye on us so we don't split without warning, and smiling happily for the picture. No doubt my dad is the one taking the photo, maybe it was his idea for the pose too. The zoo is an easy crowd pleaser, since we were kids to now with our own kids. For dozens and dozens of years, we take the trip to the zoo, see the animals, and take as many pictures as we can. We're smiling happily, glad to be there and enjoying it all as a family.

Families all around the globe enjoy the zoos, seeing the animals that we wouldn’t normally see is exciting. Since zoos first started, people have gone with their families to see lions or rhinos, creatures we don’t normally see in our everyday life. It’s great to snap pictures of these moments so we can look back at them and remember.

3 No matter how hard we try, there’s always an escapee

We get the kids together, we try to get them all facing the same way- even if that way isn't at the cameraman, and we try our best to get a good shot of them. We want to see when they were little, remember the moment, and see how much they grow between pictures. However, kids have their own agenda, always have since they first started being born. Kids like to look every which direction, they love to be the center of attention, or simply escape. There's almost always at least one kid who tries to make a run for it, while the adults are all focused on a picture, even if it's just a few seconds of freedom. It's usually a younger child, and we assign an older child to try and hold them in place.

Such is the case in this picture. My dad is the escapee this time, with his red pants and little baby tummy hanging out. His cousins are all around him, one trying to keep him in place and one interested in his attempted to get free. Some are looking at the camera, some are looking at someone off camera, but he's looking off to the side, ready to make his escape the second he can get the older kid's hands off of him. With kids, there's always someone trying to do this, sometimes successfully. It's cute, and now I can show my kids pictures of their papa trying to break free when he was young like they have attempted in the past.

2 Someone is always looking away from the photo

With any group picture, there's a chance someone isn't paying attention. When you add in kids, you can bet someone’s going to be distracted. Here, we have my brother, parents, and myself, most of us looking at the camera and giving our best, happiest smilies. My baby brother, however, is looking off camera, at something else more interesting than the cameraman trying to get a nice family picture. He’s smiling, clearly happy as can be, but is definitely not paying a single ounce of attention to the photo being taken.

Kids are easily distracted, their focus switches so fast from one thing to the next we as adults can hardly keep up. But that’s okay, even for a family picture during holidays. It’s especially nice if they’re still smiling, still happy in the moment and having their picture taken regardless of what they’re distracted with. It’s wonderful to see the picture now, as an adult, with no real memory of the event. To look back at it, even with him looking another direction, is a real treat. Kids have always and will always be distracted by anything else except for what we want them paying attention to. That’s alright, take the photo anyway and keep it forever. It’s a nice prize to have later in life.

1 Kids always have that independent streak, even in the past

Kids will be kids. There's no explaining why they have to be the way they are, they just do their thing and we just try to guide them through it all safely. Kids are very stubborn and independent and always have been since the start of time. It’s just part of what makes them kids, they hear their own drum beat and follow it, while we hover nearby to pick them up if they fall or in case they call on us for help. They make our work as parents harder, but their happy explorations of themselves and their environment and relationships is as beautiful as educational.

In this photo, my dad hovers nearby to help and watch my brother, who is eagerly opening a gift on his own. He doesn’t want or need help, he wants to handle it himself! He stubbornly rips at the wrapping paper, tearing and pulling to get it off so he can enjoy his new toy. My dad is smiling while my brother has a determined look on his face, focusing all his might on freeing his toy. Most kids have at least a streak of being stubborn and overly independent, it’s something kids have always done and always will do. My son reminds me of my brother so much, even with such an age gap, because of moments like this.

More in Lifestyle