Add this to the heap of working mom guilt many women face -- a new study shows children are more likely to be fat if their mothers work outside the home. And the longer women work, the more weight their kids gain. The study found that by third grade, children packed on one extra pound for every six months their mother worked. As children get older, they gain even more.
Ready to quit?
Researchers say they're not sure why there's a link, that it could have to do with everything from sleep, to television viewing habits to the number of meals families eat together -- all of which are influenced by a mother's work. And this isn't the first study that's found a link.
Unfortunately, it's not surprising.
More than 70 percent of mothers work, including me. And while I want to jump up and shout at these researchers for daring to say working women aren't providing as healthy of a lifestyle for their children as non-working moms, the truth is we probably aren't in a lot of cases. At least, I know I'm not.
When my son was born we ate a whole lot differently than we do now. A lot of it was organic, as I had time to go to various farmers markets and places where the healthy fare was on sale, and I experimented and cooked new healthy foods regularly. We still ate out in restaurants, but it was because we wanted to get out and try someplace new, not because we were in a hurry and needed some food NOW.
There were less portable snacks that we grabbed on the way out the door, and more cooking together. We played outside almost every day, and knew all the parks in town. I did work back then, but much, much less than I do now.
Life with a 40-plus hour a week job looks much, much different. Managing to get to even one grocery store during the week is challenging enough, forget leisurely strolling farmers' markets. After working most of the day, it's time for pickup at two school, then a host of after-school activities, an occasional coveted visit to the gym, plus homework, and any housework that needs to be done. Somehow flipping through magazines for healthy new recipes gets lost in the shuffle, and we're back to taco night on more nights than I can count, because at least I know what goes in them when I finally make it to the grocery store. And as much as I hate to admit it in print, frozen pizzas are lifesavers.
And that's when I do cook. After a full day, I often call my husband and request he stop for takeout. We don't generally do drive-thru fare, but I know no matter where we get food from, it's not going to be as healthy as if I'd make it myself. And oh, there are drive-thru days too.
Hours outside playing ball, going for walks, finding new parks ... they still happen, but sometimes an entire week will go by before we've found a minute for any of them.
All moms are busy; life is busy, but add a job to the mix, and sometimes things have to go. On the one hand when I'm bringing in an income, I'll cough up a little more for the organic stuff (organic frozen pizza is good), and I sign my kids up for more sports and activities because there's more room in the budget. So money can help with the equation, but earning it, as this study shows, can also hurt your efforts. It's all about trade offs, which is why this study is particularly guilt-inducing because there shouldn't have to be any trade off when it comes to your child's health.
I guess in the end, instead of letting this study make us feel guilty, we should use it to empower our efforts, to remind us we have to work harder at providing healthy lifestyles for our children. Though, if you're like most working moms I know, you're already working as hard as you possibly can ... and then some.
If you work, do you feel like your child's healthy lifestyle is compromised because of it?
Image via Anamorphic Mike/Flickr