Your Job Is Making Your Child Fat


working momAdd 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

eating healthy, obesity, family, in the news, kids nutrition


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Bree1984 Bree1984

Oh come ON! Quit making excuses. I work full time, my boyfriend and I commute together but have 2 hour differences between our work schedules. So, we leave at 6:30 AM and don't get home until 5:30 PM. Throw on top; I'm vegan, he's not. Do you know how hard it is to not only shop vegan, but shop organic, AND live in the country. Don't even try and tell me you can't make an effort to feed your kid better.

Bree1984 Bree1984

Oh, and just to throw this out there, I cook one meal for me and a separate one for my boyfriend who is not vegan. So two separate breakfasts, lunch, and suppers every day. Plus, I cook most of my grandma's suppers as well. I still get to the gym everyday, keep a clean house, take care of my pets, have many fulfilling hobbies, AND get a full 8 hours of sleep every night. Go buy some damn vegetables and take better care of your kids.

Karen... KarenOlsen

@Bree - since you totally have life and raising kids figured out, you really have so much to teach.  I'd recommend you write a book, but then you might have to come on down from the mountaintop that you are shouting from.  

Lians... Liansmommie

Bree didn't mention her kids. One has to wonder if she understood the post?

I don't work but I do go to school fulltime and have to work around hubby's also fulltime schedule. Sometimes spending time with the kid is more important than extra time in the kitchen.

nonmember avatar kse123

Meh...Both parents worked and my brother and I were latchkey kids. Both my stepdaughter's parents work (as do I) full time and none of us were/are overweight (me/brother/stepchild). I understand both the research and the post as well as the fact that what I wrote above was anecdata and not real data...BUT, I think it's a good idea to look more closely at the big picture than just one aspect. For instance, you may work for a living but you may be able (as you noted) to provide more opportunities for exercise and social interaction...Or, perhaps you are able to more effectively provide nutritious snacks/meals. I admit this is tough and some can't do this but it often feels like these types of studies focus on small control groups and a single factor rather than something more holistic.

nonmember avatar Anon

As a single working mom of two 4-year-olds, I think the problem is the whole "moms need me time" thing. I take a lot of effort to plan and keep a schedule that is healthy for my kids, on balance. During the warm months, we go to parks almost every day, usually having a healthy picnic there instead of supper. During the cold months (when it gets dark before we can get home from daycare), they usually go swimming twice a week and I plan for other physical activity on most days. I make sure they attend a daycare where they will get a healthy amount of activity and which serves good food. When we do go to restaurants for a quick dinner, I choose a place where we can order healthy food, and I make sure our order is healthy. What I do NOT do is come home and watch TV, go to fast food more than once weekly (and when we do, I choose only the healthier options), and feed the kids snacks / juices throughout the day. I closely monitor my youngest, who has a tendency to gain weight easily, and make adjustments before things get out of control. Once they could walk, I very rarely used the stroller, even though that would have been convenient for me (and left more "me time"). Thing is, until the kids are old enough to maintain their own healthy schedule, a working mom needs to give up "me" priorities. Because the choices she makes when the kids are little will follow them throughout their lives.

Bree1984 Bree1984

Mountaintop my ass. It took a long time to get as organized as I am. Make the effort. It's worth it. And kids or not I still have a number of people who depend on me to take care of them, so get off your high horse. Having children doesn't make you a martyr or better than anyone.

Ursul... Ursula187

Bree - Having children does not make you a martyr or better than anyone else, it's true.  BUT it does complicate life in ways that make even the most well-organized, super-woman, vegan-cooking woman into a spinning tornado of confusion.  (We're out of toilet paper... again?)  Kids are not people depending on a mother to care for them.  They are not pets.  They are germy balls of energy who depend on their parents for EVERYTHING and suck time like a turkey baster.  I say this as a relatively new mother (one daughter, age 1 and 1 on the way).  I love being a parent, but there is nothing that prepared me for the upheaval that would take place once my daughter was born.  I work from home primarily, and I have for several years.  Before my daughter was born, I was an efficient, self-motivated, productive machine.  I had meals planned out for the week.  My husband and I alternated cooking duties.  I always met my deadlines, and we still had at least one scheduled date night every week.  NOW?  The introduction of this child into our lives has turned everything topsy-turvy.  We order pizza way more often than we used to.  Meals we DO cook are simpler.   We exercise less.  This article is not about making excuses, but about the realities of being a parent.  Realities that, I'm sorry to say, are just about impossible to understand until you become one.

nonmember avatar missy

@Bree Nice to hear you are organized. Maybe you understand how much time and energy kids take up, maybe you don't. Either way, you come of as a bitchy know-it-all. You may want to work on that.

Even as a stay at home mom for almost 6 years now, it can be hard to get it all done. Easy dinners happen. I want to spend time playing with the kids after school, not working in the kitchen. Some days I live and die by my crock pot.

angev... angevil53

i love how bree has everything for eveyone figured out, that's just it...we're all LAZY! let's see how much gym time/shopping time/cooking time or just freakin time in general when she has two or three kids to care for. she certainly wont be getting a shower that day. ps, im a sahm so this study doesn't affect me. i just thought she was being very rude.

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