Have you seen this? A study published in Child Development links rising BMI in children with maternal employment. The longer a mother is in the workforce, the fatter her children become.

The reasons are unclear.

“The implication is not that moms leave the workforce,” said Morrissey, who is an assistant professor in public administration and policy at American University. “If that were to happen, childhood obesity would not go away at all.”

In the United States, 71% of mothers work, according to the 2008 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The father’s employment was not measured in the study, because there were not enough stay-at-home dads in the study to make comparisons.

There could be several factors why moms’ employment and children’s BMI were linked.

Working mothers could be pressed for time, which could cause them to turn to fast food and restaurants.

Hmm, working mothers could be pressed for time? Women who make family a priority are often thought of as workplace dilettantes. I’ve had few jobs that allowed me to leave when my shift was scheduled to finish. Overtime is not always a choice; even if it’s not officially mandated, employees who choose to leave “on time” are often viewed as disloyal.

I’m not convinced that working mothers are more likely to eat at restaurants. They’re too expensive. Even going to McDonalds isn’t cheap. Amy at The Motherload broke down the exact cost of a Mickey D’s Chicken McNugget Happy Meal vs a homemade version. The cost difference for one meal: $2.22.  If you multiply that times four meals, four nights a week, the extra cost is $35.52. I just don’t know many people who can afford an extra $142 a month.

No, I think the real problem is that most people turn to pre-made, pre-packaged, prepared foods like jarred spaghetti sauce and canned soup. The frozen food aisles are bursting with frozen meals and meal kits. Few make their own salad dressing. If you don’t roast a whole chicken, how are you going to make chicken stock for your soup? People have largely gotten away from making food. Instead, they heat and reconstitute. My mother-in-law used to make her own noodles, for goodness’ sakes. That is unthinkable now.

Maybe instead of pointing the finger at working mothers, we need to examine our shifting cultural expectations.  We don’t value the “feminine” tasks of cooking and caring for children.These things should be valued: their importance to society’s continued health and well-being is paramount. But the work needs to be equally shared between the sexes. You can’t expect a healthy meal from a box, or well-adjusted children from a work-soccer-dinner-bed schedule. If 71% of women are working, then 71% of their partners need to step up and take on their half of the responsibility. In case I’m not making myself clear: when no one is home to roast the chicken or play Uno with the kids, you can’t replace those things with a quick trip to the store. Instant gratification is not always an option.

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