Survey shows lost arts of baking and mending
Mothers always know how to do traditional household tasks such as altering clothes and baking - don't they?
The answer is ‘no’ - at least, not if they’re under 35.
Research carried out in Britain has found that most younger mums struggle with a string of skills their own mothers would have carried out with ease.
Nine out of 10 mums in the age group don’t know how to starch a shirt, half can’t sew and three-quarters can’t make gravy. The survey, commissioned by kitchen appliance manufacturers Neff, found that mothers over 45 were a little more skilled - 38 per cent could starch a shirt, 75 per cent could sew, 67 per cent could knit and 62 per cent were able to make gravy.
Nearly half of the younger mums said they made more of an effort to learn traditional ‘mum skills’ after their children were born - yet despite this, less than a third could make pastry, only 38 per cent could bake a pie and just 23 per cent could knit.
Sue Flowers, brand manager for Neff, says: “We all like to rely on our mum for help and advice, which is why it’s such a shame that younger mums now are too busy to enjoy time spent baking with their children and other traditional tasks.”
Four out of 10 still rely on their own mum to help them do things like cook a casserole and bake bread because they’ve never learned how to do it.
While it emerged that more than a third were embarrassed at not being able to perform typical mum duties, a fifth admitted they couldn’t be bothered to learn a new skill, and 21 per cent said they just didn’t have the patience.
Commenting on the study, Siobhan Freegard, founder of the parents’ social networking site Netmums, points out that motherhood is a full-time job and keeping traditional skills alive takes time.
“With two-thirds of mums with young kids now working, we simply don’t have the hours to devote to these skills which our own mothers and grand-mothers had,” she says. “Jobs like knitting a sweater from scratch or making pastry take up precious time mums could be spending with their kids - and many shop-bought items are now better value than making it at home anyway.”
Freegard stresses many mums are rediscovering traditional crafts such as making jam and baking, but she adds: “Mums shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for not having time to starch their sheets when they’re working as hard as they can, both at home and in employment, to keep their family happy.”
What does the more traditional mothering organisation Mothers’ Union think about ‘mum skills’ dying out?
Rosemary Kempsell, worldwide president of Mothers’ Union, says the increased pressure on mothers to work means the demand on their time and energy leads to quality time with their children taking priority.
She says: “For this generation, the pressures of the commercialised world, where the provision of the latest label or gadget is more real to mothers than baking the best homemade bread, has inevitably played its part in the demise of traditional skills.”
Justine Roberts, co-founder of the parents’ social networking site Mumsnet, says the bottom line is that most mums are simply too busy trying to juggle a vast array of responsibilities and says: “There aren’t many who have the time to starch a shirt, and life is way too short to fret about it,” she says. “You don’t have to bake cupcakes to be a good parent, and that usually ‘quick and hassle-free’ trumps domestic goddess.”
British expat and mum of three Kate O’Mara says:
“With tailors being so cheap here and being able to afford help around the home, it means I can use the few hours I do have spare having fun with my children. I work long days so I always feel evenings or weekends are better spent playing with my kids or reading to them than baking bread or sewing clothes they’d never wear anyway!”