Working moms contribute to childhood obesity? Really?!

30 Jun

Today, I read an article on Yahoo! Shine “Are Working Moms Contributing to Childhood Obesity?” What I thought I was going to read was a well-informed, somewhat researched piece on the correlation between working moms and obese children. What I actually read was nothing more than a poor summary of one study conducted by some researchers of 8500 British adults born in 1958.  But this article, and study, have struck a chord with me for the simple fact that I am a working mom.

I could discuss the poor writing and snotty tone of the article such as the first line, which reads ” As if you didn’t already need another excuse to quit that pesky nine to five.”  (The author is right–I don’t need another excuse to quit that pesky nine to five. Unfortunately, I have about an infinte amount of reasons NOT to quit my nine to five.) I won’t, though, because then there wouldn’t be enough room for why this study made me so mad. The basic component of why this article and study made me so angry is this–why do mothers have to take the fall for everything? We already have so much to do and to worry about, why is it ultimately our fault if our kids are obese as adults? Yes, it is up to us to model good eating behaviors. Yes, it is up to us to instill good eating habits in our children when they are young. Yes, it is up to us to teach them the difference between, as Cookie Monster so eloquently puts it, sometimes foods and every day foods. Yes, it is up to us to give them healthy options to eat. And yes, it is up to us to teach them to make good choices. But is it really up to us to police every piece of food that goes into our children’s mouths? Doesn’t there come a time when personal responsibility needs to take over and moms are let off the hook? 

I was not a heavy child. But I have become a heavy adult. I would never, ever blame my mother for my weight issues now. She always cooked dinner and we had plenty of healthy foods in the house. Sure, there was junk food, too, but my mother never forced it down my throat. I made that decision on my own, just as I made poor decisions as a teenager and adult. It is not fair to my mother, who did everything she could to instill good eating habits in me and my sisters, to pin the blame on her for my adult weight issues. And it is not fair to blame mothers who have to work for their children’s obesity.  Doesn’t this study make the assumption that all stay-at-home moms cook and most working moms don’t? Is that really a fair assumption?

No, it’s not. I know plenty of stay-at-home moms who don’t cook healthy meals from scratch and I know plenty of working moms who do. I also know stay-at-home moms with obese kids and working moms with kids who are healthy weight. To make the assumption, as this study did (according to the article that I read), that “children of working parents were given fewer home-cooked meals and had less healthy diets, in general”, is, in my opinion, unfair. We don’t know the circumstances behind why these people didn’t have home-cooked meals. Maybe mom didn’t know how to cook. Maybe mom wasn’t taught proper eating habits and couldn’t pass them along to Junior. Maybe mom couldn’t afford healthy foods (that is a discussion for another time). Or maybe mom didn’t want to cook. Whatever the reason, it is still brutally unfair to  blame only working moms for being a contributing factor to the ongoing obesity epidemic.

The article I read does address the fact that the study did not really discuss lifestyle choices, such as TV and computer time, walking versus driving and portion sizes. And it is crucial that we don’t forget these elements as well. While it’s all fine and dandy to discuss whether mom cooks or not, there are so many other factors at play that have nothing to do with mom’s employment.  So not only does this study fail to make a valid point and only furthers the Mommy Wars (really, what better ammunition for ardent supporters of stay-at-home moms than “Oh, you know if you work, your kid is going to be fat?”) but it neglects important factors that may contribute to obesity. Now that’s good research.

As a working mom, I can say with all honesty that I am doing whatever I can to teach my child to be healthy. I cook at home most nights, I take her grocery shopping with me, treats and sweets are limited and she is encouraged to exercise and play whenever possible. The fact that my daughter is 3 ½ makes it much easier for me to control what she’s doing. But as she gets older, I can only hope that what I’m teaching her will stick and she’ll make good, healthy choices. I refuse to believe, however, that the fact that I have to work will make my daughter obese.  And I think there’s a lot more moms out there just like me.

Please feel free to leave any comments below but please also remember to be respectful.


2 Responses to “Working moms contribute to childhood obesity? Really?!”

  1. carol July 1, 2010 at 6:45 am #

    thanks for sticking up for me

  2. duncanfisher July 2, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    The article, and the research that it reports, both make a big wrong assumption: that the only influence on the child is the mother – so only she is to blame if things go wrong. This is nonsense. Fathers are just as much responsible for a child and highly influential on all matters of health. Other members of the family are extremely influential too.

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