A study about working mothers is getting a lot of buzz. The official title of the paper is ”.” Most media summaries, however, are entitled something like this: “Mothers Who Work Have Fat Kids.” I’m not kidding.
I hate seeing studies and media reports like this. Not because they’re not helpful or worthy of our time, but because they examine the effect of mothers working — not mothers and fathers working — on our childrens’ health. In addition, the media/blogosphere goes bananas. This is the stuff that sells — studies on working moms get our attention. They feed the so-called “mommy wars.” They suggest that with the rise of women in the work force over the last five decades, our children are suffering. No mention, though, that fathers have been working during this time, too. No mention that, “in general, children whose mothers worked outside the home were less likely to live in low-income families.” (That’s a direct quote from the “Results” section of the study.)
These studies dole out merit to the ever-present struggle that most working moms feel — the constant tug-of-war in our hearts between the need to be home and the need to work outside our home. I don’t read about men having this struggle. Is this biologic? Why are woman held more responsible for our child’s health? Can’t we evolve and get past this archaic notion? How many more studies will narrowly look at women in the workforce while leaving the role of fathers’ employment aside? As we come to embrace a more diverse family unit, we must rid ourselves of these rigidities. Studies like this suggest that men aren’t to blame if kids are overweight, but that women are. Most of the children in the study had more than one parent at home (on average, children with working mothers had 1.91 adults at home, therefore the far majority had either an additional parent or adult around.) Seventy nine percent of working moms were co-habitating or married.
It just can’t all rest on the mom’s shoulders. Really, overweight is more complicated than finger pointing — the authors know this. They didn’t set out to create blame, rather to create ideas for solutions for busy families with working moms.
*This blog post was originally published at Seattle Mama Doc*