Expert advice on raising children, straight from the minds of the 1980s.

How were the influential baby experts of the 80s brought up and how did they raise their own kids? The Observer on April 14, 1985 conducted a series of visits to homes to investigate.
In her “spacious pine kitchen” in a Victorian semi in Hampstead, Penelope Leach’s mother, who was “exceptionally affectionate,” influenced her advice on parenting based on attachment and focusing on the baby. The expectation of mothers to be committed all day, every day without the support of family and the wider community made it seem impossible to be a “good mother,” she explained. She relied on a cleaner and childminder named Vi to make it possible for her to work and take care of her own family. When asked about her academic husband’s involvement in raising the children, she hesitated because he was “very determined to have a baby” but also a workaholic.
Interviewed in her “Regency mini-mansion” while her children waited in the billiard room, Dr. Miriam Stoppard advocated that “happy parents mean happy babies.” She grew up without much motherly love, she said, with a mother who worked and her and her sister being “latch-key children.” Although she wrote that fathers should be understanding if the house is not perfectly tidy, Tom, her husband, played his part in taking care of their four children, even sharing night shifts. “A series of nannies” also provided assistance. She believed it was “nonsense” that children would end up preferring the help; her own children agreed to take on more tasks if the nanny era could be limited. Stoppard firmly declared that “it’s important for children to realize from the very beginning that life is not always sweet and entertaining.”
Living out his retirement in a vast garden with peacocks and pheasants, Dr. Hugh Jolly had played the part of a “reliable version of God” for a generation of worried parents. Raised by a full-time nanny named Narna, who joined the family at 16 and stayed until 80, Jolly admitted that he also saw little of his own three children’s early years due to his demanding career as a pediatric consultant. His wife, Geraldine, put her high-flying career in gynecology on hold. Maybe that influenced his statement: “The most important thing is for parents to enjoy their children.”

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