Working mothers have unhealthiest children, study finds

[deleted account] ( 17 moms have responded )

Children whose mothers work are less healthy than those with stay-at-home mums, researchers said today.

Working mothers are more likely to drive their children to school and the youngsters are more likely to watch TV, drink fizzy pop and eat too few portions of fruit and vegetables, the study found.

The research, on more than 12,000 British schoolchildren, was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Mothers who worked full-time had the unhealthiest children, followed by those who worked part-time.

A total of 30% (4,030) of the mothers had not worked since the birth of their child but the rest (8,546) were employed, typically working 21 hours per week.

The mothers were questioned about the hours they worked and their children's diet, exercise and activity levels when the youngsters were five. This included how much sweets and crisps, sugary drinks, fruit and vegetables the child ate and drank, whether they took part in organized exercise, and how they got to school.

The research found that many children had habits that could lead to them becoming overweight: 37% of children mostly ate crisps or sweets between meals and 41% mostly drank sweetened drinks, while a total of 61% watched television or used the computer for at least two hours a day.

When the researchers took away factors that might influence the results, such as socio-economic background, they found a definite link between a mother working and the health of her child.

The researchers, from the Institute of Child Health in London, said: "Children whose mothers worked part-time or full-time were more likely to primarily drink sweetened beverages between meals (compared to other beverages), use the television/computer at least two hours daily or be driven to school (rather than walk or cycle) than children whose mothers had never been employed.

"Children whose mothers worked full-time were less likely to primarily eat fruit and vegetables between meals (compared to other snacks) or eat three or more portions of fruit daily (compared to two or fewer)."

The researchers also looked at whether flexible working had an impact, but found no strong effect on the health of the children.

The researchers called for more support for working families and concluded: "Currently, approximately 60% of women with a child aged five or younger in the UK or USA are employed. For many families the only parent or both parents are working.

"This may limit parents' capacity to provide their children with healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. Policies and programmes are needed to help support parents and create a health-promoting environment."



Julia - posted on 03/21/2010




ok this is as nice as I can say it. Horseshit!

When I gave birth to my first daughter I didn't just work a full time job. I was a Soldier in the Army...on call 24/7! Sometimes literally working 24 hour shifts. My oldest daughter loves healthy food! She may only be 3 now but she has never had pop, she doesn't really eat junk food, eats her vegetables Hell she gets excited when I say do you want an apple! I'm a SAHM now and the same goes for my 10 month old. I mean it has nothing to do with the fact that I worked or not. If you are a capable caring mother then you can do whatever you need to!!!

Alison - posted on 03/22/2010




This is a study on general trends, they have taken the socio-economic background into consideration. I think it sounds pretty fair. I know my family ate healthier when I was on mat leave.

I really liked the conclusion; not that moms need to stay home, but that working moms need more support. I know I sure do!!!

Johnny - posted on 03/20/2010




Perhaps it depends on the "mommy culture" where you live. Most moms I know work, I actually only have a couple of acquaintances with kids who are stay-at-home moms, all of the rest have part or full time jobs. But I never see any of my friends giving their kids junk or pre-packaged food. They are all very conscientious about what they are feeding their kids. The only obese kid I know is actually the daughter of one of the 2 stay-at-home moms that I know (not her fault though-she's actually divorcing her husband over his constant over-feeding/junk feeding of their kid to the point of illness-it's abusive)

What we feed our daughter is very important to us. I work part-time (1/2 time) and I am extremely concerned about what kind of food I am feeding my daughter. I cook all her soups from scratch, make her bread & muffins, use homemade, vegetable or spelt pasta, organic meats & veggies, home grown veggies when available and we do not allow her junk food (she's still at an age where she doesn't know what that is). Her nutrition is extremely important, and we make it a priority to fit food preparation into our schedule.

When our daughter is not with us, she is with my parents who are very careful about what they feed her and make anything she eats. I would say that I could count on one hand the number of times she's had pre-packaged food in her 19 months.

I used to work as a child-care worker and in summer camp programs, and I never observed any differences between the food brought by working parents vs. at home parents. I did notice a difference in the education level/income level of parents and the food that their kids brought. Much more packaged junk amongst parents who were less educated. Although, I should admit that in my city, stay-at-home parents are quite uncommon so I did not really have the best sample for comparison.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom and fed me pre-packaged food all the time. She'd bring me McDonald's at school, and cook me Kraft Dinner and canned beans for lunch. She also always let me have soda pop after school and other junk food. She regrets it now, and understands and agrees with my desire to raise my daughter with a more healthy lifestyle.

Perhaps this survey was accurate for the region and sample, but I suspect you'd have a difficult time replicating it in another place with a different sample.

[deleted account]

First I would like to say that I have nothing against working mothers. I chose to stay home because that is what is best for my family.

But (as Gillian said) from my own observations I tend to agree with this study to an extent. I taught elementary school and had 50 children to "study" when it came to things like this. Generally speaking, the students who had two parents living in the same home with the mom being a stay at home mom, were better behaved and performed better academically. Not to say if you work or don't have a partner your child will be wild. I did have a very few students in that situation who thrived despite their home lives, but it was based more on their own merits than their parents.

My theory is that moms who worked or were going it alone were simply tired or not present during homework and meal time. While being a stay at home mom is not easy, it does allow me to focus solely on my family and their well being.

With all that said, I do firmly believe that there are exceptions to every rule. Some people have to work, are better off without their partner, etc. But that just means they have no time to be lazy. After work they must make an effort to help with the homework and make sure their kids eat a good meal despite how tired or busy they are from their jobs. It can be done. And I'm in awe of mothers that raise their children alone or work all day, I really am. Especially those that make a real effort be an exception, like Krista pointed out.


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Jane - posted on 03/27/2010




Interesting....I am a working mom and always have been. My kids are now 20 and 16 but honestly, my kids are extremly healthy and always have been. Of course, I'm only 1 person but this study does not fit at all with my household. My kids ate/eat healthy, I made dinner every night, they had a strict bed time....I still make my 16 year old son go to sleep by 10PM and that 10PM is only new to this used to be 9 through 9th grade.

As for walking to school, my kids could never walk to school...schools are too far away, however, they were/are extremly active in sports and actually exercise regularly because they like it.

I don't know...sometimes these studies drive me insane.

[deleted account]

I'd have to say the study does have credibility. I think some working mums simply don't have enough time to make freshly prepared meals, walk the children to school etc. But if they're working out of necessity then that's not really in their control.

Heather - posted on 03/22/2010




Brandi, I agree with you...I used to be a nanny and those kids lived on ramen noodles, chicken nuggets, and mac n cheese for like 2 years...they would not eat anything else, and if something healthy was ended up on the floor! They all turned out just fine...they are healthy teenagers, none of them are overweight and the oldest girl is a vegan and eats healthier than most people I know.

Your absolutely right...there are way too many variables. I mean i think we all know a family or two who let there kids eat junk all day and sit in front of the T.V. playing video games instead of going outside to play. I know families where the mom is a SAHM and she eats just as bad as her kids do...I also have a friend who is a full time working mom and she cooks every single day for her kids, and even makes her own butter and cheese...who the heck has time for that! lol I think that for the majority of working moms...and all moms for that matter, there is a balance and some, maybe even most days you make healthy decisions, then there are the days when you order out or have fast food. I dont think it matters whether you work or not, its a personal choice as to how you raise your family, and it may be a little more difficult to find the time to cook a healthy meal rather than picking up KFC on your way home from work, it can be done.

Brandi - posted on 03/22/2010




What about the fact that when kids get to be toddlers, they figure out they can refuse to eat certain foods and start refusing to eat pretty much everything except what they really like? My niece is almost two. Her parents never constantly offered her junk as a baby when she started having table food. She ate fruits, veggies, soy, whole grains. Now? She eats cheese, fries, chicken nuggets, and most fruits. She drinks chocolate milk. THAT IS ALL. lol She will starve if offered anything else. I don't blame my SIL's job for that.

I think there is just too many factors to look at here and no study can look at all of them.

Nicole - posted on 03/22/2010




I'm a SAHM and my son eats junk more often than I'd like to admit. He eats fish sticks and chicken nuggets and Chef Boyardee. But he also eats fresh fruits and veggies every day too. I try to make dinner a good meal but it doesn't always happen. I'd like to know how these other SAHMs can make healthy, from scratch meals with a hungry toddler clinging to their leg, whining! And it's exhausting cooking and cleaning all day as a SAHM, that's why we have packaged food for lunch, I don't have the time or energy to make meals from scratch and clean up the kitchen 3 times a day! The only difference I see between a working mom and a SAHM is the SAHM has the opportunity to take her kids to the park for an hour and play with them.

Carly - posted on 03/21/2010




I can see how this study is true because I do know so many families like that. However I am a working mom and I walk my child to and from school/daycare and only prepare healthy meals and snacks. Yes I am tired at the end of the day but that is one sacrifice I promised myself I would make. I also make sure we get plenty of active outdoor time instead of sticking her in front of the tv. I think it can be done (working full time and a healthy lifestyle) as long as you know what is important to you and stick to it no matter what.

Heather - posted on 03/20/2010




As much as I dont like it, I too think the study may be true. Its so hard being a working momma, especially full time, and still get everything done. I work full time right now...not by choice, but necessity. My son is only 11 months and between myself, his father, and his grandparents, he is very well taken care of and is very healthy. It helps to have a good support system! I feel very lucky to have one.

I know many moms, both single and married, who dont have good or any support for that matter. They do what they gotta do to make a living and support their family, and if that means driving the kids to school, or getting Mc Donalds once in a while because you are too tired to cook a well balanced meal after working all day....hey who am I to judge, I can totally understand...I imagine that when my son gets a little older hes going to get a happy meal once in a while and I highly doubt he will get a well balanced home cooked meal every night...sometimes you just have to do the best that you can...and hope for the best :)

Meghan, I agree with you that if some of these moms didnt work, they would have no money to buy food, healthy or otherwise...there is A LOT of guilt put on us working moms...but personally, I have decided that this is what I have to do for my family and I cant let myself feel so guilty.

[deleted account]

Based on my experience, I would agree with the study. I worked part time for 2 of my son's 5 years and I was not as adamant about his nutrition as I am now that I stay home. At the end of the day (I worked 4 hours, 4 days a week) I was tired and stressed and I just didn't have the focus or energy to prepare meals from scratch. I also bought a lot of "prepackaged" meals for him to take to daycare.
I admit that I don't know many working mom's, but the few I know do send their kids to school with less nutritious meals, the let them watch hours of TV in the evenings, and they and their kids are overweight. They are less involved with team sports (b/c work keeps them from attending) yet they don't work out on their own or practice individual sports either (not sure why).
I'm sure there are exceptions to both sides, but being that I don't know any I would say that they would be just that--exceptions to the norm.

[deleted account]

I don't think any study can really predict the outcome of ones children. At the end of the day healthy eating is a choice and I'm sure many working moms do just fine in that department.

My fear is that I'll be one of those moms in the study when I go to work. I'm planning to work full-time, but I don't honestly see how I'll ever get the things done that I do at the moment. The diet thing concerns me the most. I guess I'll just have to be more organised, but it will probably kill me.

[deleted account]

I don't think it's a comprehensive study, there are a few holes. As others have mentioned, what about single parents and lazy stay at home mom's?

I work part time, hubby works full time. When hubby comes home, then I go to work. Before I leave for work I make sure that there's a good supper prepared. My son gets fruit after every meal and I'm trying hard to get veggies into him (he decided a couple of months ago that he no longer likes them, so I've had to be sneaky about it). Sure, my son gets junk food too but I limit the amount.

My husband works at a school that has about 800 students. It's considered a walking school becasue all the students live in the community and are within walking distance. There is only one bus that goes to his school and it's for a blind boy with CP. Of those 799 remaining students only about 30 actually walk to school, the rest are driven to school by their stay at home moms (it's a well off area and most of the mother's don't work). These same mothers show up at lunch time with bags from McD's (or wherever).
Had this school been included in the study I bet the resuls would have been different.

I think studies like these are useless, a waste of time and waste of money. All they do is make hard working families feel bad about doing their best to provide for their families.

Krista - posted on 03/20/2010




There really are a lot of variables out there that could be affecting that. But either way, each mother makes her own choices. So why should I give a damn if a study says that working moms' kids are more likely to eat crap between meals? I still have the choice of being the exception to that study, and fully intend to do so. If other working moms want to give their kids Cheetos for their afternoon snack, I don't have to follow suit.

Studies like this do annoy me for a different reason, though -- mainly because there WON'T be more support given to working families. Instead, all that will happen is that this study will be used as yet another bit of ammunition with which to make working moms feel guilty.

Lady - posted on 03/20/2010




Going purely on my own experience of seeing working mums v's stay at home mums I would have to agree with the study. The working mums I know do drive their kids to school or nursery because they are then rushing off to work, they are too tired at the end of the day to make a meal so simply stick some sort of ready meal in the oven or microwave. And because they are tired from work or still have more work to do they kids are more likely to be stuck in front of the computer or television with salty or sugary snacks to keep them quiet.
I totally know that thre are plenty working mums out there that don't do these things and plenty stay at home mums that do but just in my experience between the mums I see it is deffintly more often the working mums kids that are the unhealthiest.

[deleted account]

Since when does working "limit parents' capacity to provide their children with healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity"? I would have thought having no money, i. e. being a stay-at-home or someone in a low-paid job, would limit the capacity to buy healthy food. This sounds like another of those studies designed to make women feel guilty about not following "the call of nature" and being a stay-at-home. There are any number of reasons why these children are unhealthy. For instance, there is no distinction between two-parent and one-parent families and no research on the men or the general eating habits of the family. In short, a primer example of BAD SCIENCE.

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