Overweight Kid? Blame Mom

Ready for your weekly dose of mommy guilt?

If your child is overweight, and you're a working mom, this recently published paper says it's all your fault.

According to the study, children whose mothers work outside the home are more likely to struggle with obesity than those whose mothers do not. Basically, if a mother works in a "high-intensity" job situation, then she's more likely to be stressed out and hit the local Burger King on her way home from work, rather than cooking her children a nutritious meal at home. And her kids also don't play outside as much (resulting in calorie-burning) because she's not around to watch them. As a result, her kids are overweight.

Unfortunately, what this study has done is to not only ignore the myriad other reasons childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate, but to also place the blame for these children's health problems on the shoulders of only one parent. Once again, the "good mother" standard, whereby nothing but unattainable perfection in every aspect of the motherhood role can pass society's deep scrutiny, has thrown mothers under the proverbial bus.

This study ignores the fact that every time they switch on the tv, children are inundated with commercials toting every conceivable high-calorie, sugar-laden, nutrient-poor food on the market today.

This study ignores the fact that good, nutritious food costs quite a bit more than so-called junk food. If you're a poverty-striken working mother with a minuscule weekly food budget, are you going to hit up the supermarket for fresh organic fruits and vegetables, or are you going to try and stretch your dollar as far as it will go, and opt for the cheaper, but less healthful foods to feed your family?

And this study ignores fathers. Why aren't working fathers getting blamed for childhood obesity? In homes with two working parents, each of whom presumably has two functioning arms, I would think dad is just as capable of preparing a healthy meal for his children as mom is.

Mothers shoulder the blame for the vast majority of ills that befall her children. Sarah not reading at grade level? Her mother must not be reading to her at night. Brady acting out in Kindergarten? Clearly it's because he went to daycare when his mother should have stayed home with him.

It's not fair and it's not right. When are mothers going to catch a break?

13 Responses to “Overweight Kid? Blame Mom”

  1. # Blogger My Wombinations

    yuck. This angers me to no end. Why should the mother shoulder all the food responsibility? I am home most days and I still rarely cook anymore. Who has time? And now it will be my fault if she is fat?  

  2. # Blogger Kris

    Yes, it's all our fault... because mom's aren't allowed to be human- we have to be perfect or everyone scoffs- even other moms!  

  3. # Blogger MsPrufrock

    Well, you know my hatred for the domestic imbalance. Everything is the mother's fault, all the time.

    Anyway, I actually think quite the opposite about the fat kids of working mums thing from my middle class perspective. P will watch less TV being in nursery all day, because I surely will (and do) have the TV on sometimes during the day. As for her diet, I don't think it has to do at all with how busy you are. When I work full-time I will surely be more busy, but that doesn't necessarily lead to making bad dietary decisions.

    Additionally, a lot of PARENTS who work full-time utilise weekends to their fullest by doing a lot of active things. Also, do kids of stay at home mums really run around outside all day with reckless abandon? No, a lot of them probably watch a lot of TV and drink gallons of Kool Aid.  

  4. # Blogger Damselfly

    That's funny -- I would think being home all day where snacks are handy just steps away in your fridge would make being overweight a lot easier!  

  5. # Blogger The Princess

    I think you hit the nail on the head....You never hear any of the responsiblity put on Dad's which in a way underminds the major role they play in a family.

    But also, has anyone ever actually taken a look at the ingredients in the foods advertised for kids? Take the yogurts for instance...the grams of sugar are almost tripled in what you would find in a normal cup. Plus the nice sugar impact comes in a smaller size cup!! Or even take a look at that innocent cup of flavored apple sauce. Compare it to the cup of plain apple sauce and you'll be shocked!

    We really need to train ourselves to actually turn over that package of food and read the ingredients. It's amazing what you'll discover and shocking at the least of what you are actually eating!  

  6. # Anonymous Anonymous

    I don't think this article is "blaming" mothers - or taking the responsibility away from dads. It is merely asking if there is a correlation between mothers working outside the home - because mothers have traditionally been the caretakers - and the rise in childhood obesity. There is obviously a rise - and in turn, obviously a cause, or several causes. Since it's an epidemic, I appreciate articles like this to get people thinking about it.

    This article brought up the fact that it very well could be the school systems and the increase in sugar added to processed foods that is causing it. I think if a mother does stay at home, she might be less likely to serve processed/fast foods. It doesn't mean it is her fault, and her fault alone, however if she works and the family chooses to serve more processed foods. At that point, it's simply a fact of that family's life.

    I don't think it's accurate to assume that this is blaming mothers - it isn't saying that it's the woman's fault - it's saying that there very well may be a correlation between the two things. And, honestly, I think there is.  

  7. # Blogger My Wombinations

    I see your point, Mr./s. Anonymous, but the danger with studies like this is that they contradict themselves. Does soy cause or eliminate cancer? Do we breastfeed or not (there have been studies indicating that both cause obesity)? In the end, mothers run around in circles trying to respond to the surveys and their result? Guilt, guilt and more guilt. Since you chose to post anonymously, we will not know whether you are female or male. But this study feels dangerously close to the incredibly flawed anti-choice propaganda study that found a link between breast cancer and abortion. There is enough evidence to support just about any claim and you have to read a little deeper than just what is printed on the page. And that is exactly what Kristi has done.  

  8. # Anonymous Anonymous

    In response to My Wombinations:

    I am actually a woman, and I have two young children.

    I understand your point about how studies can give basically any result that the creator wants - there are more blue bunnies and there are more overweight kids, so therefore blue bunnies must cause overweight kids. I get it. And, I am quite capable of more than merely "reading" what is written on a page.

    I just don't happen to agree with what everyone is posting here. I don't think the intent of the study was to say that if your child is fat and you are a mother, then it is your fault and no fault of your husband's or anything else for that matter.

    However, I am curious to know what you (and Kristi, and everyone else for that matter) think are some of the reasons that there are far more obese children now. Do you not think that it could be in part due to more mothers working outside the home?  

  9. # Blogger Kristi

    For Anonymous: Why post anonymously? We’re all friends here.

    The underlying and sub-textual message of a “study” like this is that mothers who work are harming their kids. Studies such as these are everywhere these days, and include the daycare study I linked to in my post. As “My Wombinations” writes, this is yet another way to make mothers who want to work or must work feel guilty about their situations.

    There are far stronger correlations between childhood obesity than that which may or may not exist between maternal employment and the epidemic. Besides those mentioned in my post, I believe the rise in use of high-fructose corn syrup in just about every food a kid finds appetizing over the last 30 years, the skyrocketing numbers of the “working poor” in this country, the growth of child-centered technology (PS2, Xbox) that encourage kids to stay inside and physically inactive, rather than going outside to play, and even the relative fitness level of BOTH parents can potentially play a role in a child’s weight.

    The bottom line is that even suggesting a correlation between maternal employment and childhood obesity without giving due justice to the myriad other (and, I believe, stronger) potential causes is to essentially state that working mothers are bad mothers. And I believe the over 50% of mothers who work outside the home would take issue with this.  

  10. # Blogger My Wombinations

    I worry it is an oversimplification to say that mothers working outside the home is partly responsible for the epidemic. The obesity epidemic is a relatively recent phenonmenon while mother have been working outside the homes since the late 1970's.

    My guess is that the obesity epidemic is due to a combination of factors, including more television and video games, ie a more sedentary lifestyle for today's kids. Combine that with the marketing proliferation of fast food (specifically marketed to kids) and the poor quality of school lunch programs and it is fairly obvious why we are fatter than our parents.  

  11. # Anonymous Veronica

    Recently I was listening to an NPR segment on the weekend, and their theory on childhood obesity was that parents weren't letting their kids play outside as much as before because there was the belief that it is more dangerous today to be outside, alone, than ever before.

    So, what do you get? A lot of kids playing indoors, and since most moms don't want that ball being thrown or three little kids running around the house, they end up watching TV or playing video games or on the computer... and thus, sedentary lifestyle.

    I think the parents' responsibility is to teach their kids to eat healthy. I read earlier that Kristi was feeding Isabella organic vegetables -- good!

    But, Kristi took the time to learn about it and she knows she doesn't eat healthy, so she wants her daughter to eat better. However, not all moms realize that they don't eat healthy.  

  12. # Blogger Shannon

    women/mothers will never catch a break... first they say it is great for the moms to work and put kids in daycare because of all the social stuff, etc... then it is bad and SAHM is the good one because she is home... etc... what I think is funny is all the SAHMs I know in this area are the ones more likely to hit up fast food than cook at home because they are so tired after being home all day...

    And I hate it that to be healthy the good foods are 4 times the cost as the junk/crap food... this soooo needs to change!!  

  13. # Blogger sunShine

    Well, let's see, mother's get blamed for everything else, why not add obesity to the list. That really pisses me off, working moms have enough guilt to deal with, but unfortunately we can't all stay at home and raise our children. I can either work everyday and help to provide a roof over my child's head, health insurance and be able to put food on the table or I can quit work and let the government support us. Another thing, do they think that our children just sit in a corner all day while we are at work. My MIL keeps my son and they go outside and play and do all sorts of things, just like we do on the days that I am at home with him. I know most of the daycares that I drive by have playground equipment and a few of them in our area have pools and I always see children out there playing, while their moms are at work. Okay, I am done ranting!  

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