I love a good lead. I was sitting at my desk early one morning, preparing for clients, when I received an email with the following in the subject line “I look forward to you debunking this (because I think it’s crap).” Now if I love a good lead, I love a good debate even more. I clicked through and found a story that has caused quite a commotion in the blogosphere. A study published in the Journal of Child Development found that there’s a correlation between mothers working and higher BMI for their children. Translation working mothers have heavier kids.
Patience isn’t a virtue I naturally possess and when irritated I have difficulty disguising it but my first reaction to this wasn’t anger or even surprise. I have an unusual schedule in that some days I work early and I’m home to make dinner and do homework. Other nights, I am in the office until 7:30pm. There is a distinct difference in the 2 scenarios when it comes to my children (similar ages to the children studied by the Cornell team). On the nights I’m home, I am there to make dinner. I have time to make sure the kids start homework early enough and get to bed on time. On my late nights, it’s all a rush. Dinner (though we’re talking Applegate or Amy’s) may include a convenience item and bedtime can easily be delayed. My children are far from obese and I’m a nutritionist but I get it.
Much of the outrage stemming from this story had to do with finger pointing. After all, children’s weight is affected by many factors: activity level, food choices, sleep, and genetics to name a few. So why “blame” mothers when this is likely a more complicated issue? This reminded me of a conversation I had when my 8 year old was a baby. I called my mother for advice, I was upset and complained, “why is everything on my shoulders? I work but still have to grocery shop and organize Louise [babysitter] and put Myles to sleep, Marc just has to go to work.” I happen to have a very helpful husband but when it came down to childcare, things weren’t even-Stephen. My mother said “you’re lucky, Marc is hands-on but there is only one Mother.” As Oprah would say, it was a “light bulb moment”. The reason a father’s working status isn’t mentioned is because feeding children and all that goes along with it continues to be more the mother’s “job”.
With slightly over 70 percent of mothers working, the question is what to do with this statistically significant link. Mothers need tools for timesaving meals they can perhaps make on the weekend. Additionally, perhaps kids can sign some sort of pledge limiting TV or video games when their parents are at work. And parents, mothers and fathers, need to get home whenever possible so as not to disrupt bedtime. In my eyes it comes down to time and not neglect or guilt or blame. Anything you’d like to “debunk” in this study?What emotions does it evoke in you? Did the bulk of “feeding” responsibility fall on your mother growing up? Is that different from your current situation? Does the 70% statistic surprise you? Let the debate begin.