Entering the Mommy Wars from the Tomboy door

Today, ABCNews once again proved they are stuck in the 1950’s by posting this obviously unvetted story.

The premise of the article is a study which supposedly links working mothers to fatter children.  Since there is no actual link in the article to the actual study, it is hard to tell if that is the actual conclusion of the study, but from where I sit the study, or the article at least, is sexist, one sided and fatally flawed because it forgets the fundamental truth of parenthood and that is that it takes two to tango.

In other words, if working mothers are to blame for fatter children, than working fathers are too. 

The study would have been more accurate and also easier to swallow if it had focused on the two parent (or single parent) working household without bringing gender into the mix.  The inability of a working mother to both work and make suitable healthy meals for her children is also by the same token an inability of the working father, and does not have anything to do with their respective genders.  It has to do with how many hours there are in one day.

As it stands, though, this article implies that it is working mothers that are the problem.  It doesn’t matter if, like in our instance, the husband is not working.  I am a working mother and therefore my children are statistically more likely to be fatter.  Q.E.D.

What bugs me about this study is not that it re-ignites the apparent guilt trip that some women feel about having their cake and eating it too in the form of home, hearth, family and career, or the constant debate between the Stay-At-Homes and the Go-To-Works, but that it completely relegates the father to the background role and once again places all blame for any abnormality in a child’s development solely on the mother. 

Children can be raised by single parents, don’t get me wrong.  I was.  But for those couples who do choose to marry and start a family together, they have an obligation to see the family through the end point and not to delegate the majority of the responsibility and all of the blame on one party for any part of a normal functioning household.  That means not blaming your husband for not mowing the lawn and not blaming your wife for not doing the laundry.  Or in our case, vice versa.

If such a study does exist and it–for once– does not cloud the issue with Man versus Woman and Wife/Mother versus Career Woman, maybe the outcome could be better and easier food choices for all, more healthy work environments which encourage life/work balances, universal healthcare, mandated maternal/paternal leave, etc.  That would be useful.  Pitting society against working women, not so much.  Calling stay at home dads Mr. Mom, definitely not.  Try again, ABC.  You haven’t got it right yet.

Update:  we finally did find the study sparking the headlines: it is here.

Trying to wade through research studies isn’t my favorite pass-time, but I did try to get through it, although I immediately became concerned when one of the conclusions of the study was that in general mothers are African American, single, hold down a job with a high income and that they have a lot of children, a statistical anomaly in and of itself.  But Lionel kindly waded through it last night and sent this back to me:

Kay, so I read the full article and the main author’s resume.  She’s a real researcher, not a plant, although she has worked as a child care expert/lobbyist for Senator Tom Harkin (a democrat).  Her creds are good, as good as could be expected from a research/policy wonk (she has NEVER taught or professionally cared for kids herself, she has only studied them!)

The study relied on a mass of data from a long-term voluntary program that measured a variety of things on kids, including extensive questions about their home lives.  The study started out with more than 2,000 kids, but attrition over the years winnowed it down to 900 by the time the kids were in 6th grade.  So, the data set is suspect, as it only includes kids and parents that were willing to provided copious information about themselves over an 8 year period (not us, I reckon!)

So, the racial and other statistics the study cites are from this sample population, which comes from only urban families, I think just from PUBLIC SCHOOLS, from 10 cities across the US. It’s not a representative sample, but they don’t really care about it!

The researchers did not deal with fathers at all.  In fact, only the mothers were interviewed – fathers were completely left out of the study.  There were only 2 questions asked of the mothers that may have captured the fathers – 1) do you live alone, or is there a co-habitant in your home environment?  and 2), if there is a father, does he work more or less than 35 hours a week?  Obviously, these questions would completely fail to describe our particular arrangement, but even if it could, the researchers did not use the data from these 2 questions in their analysis – they deliberately ignored the fathers in the study, as if they did not exist, and did not matter.

So to one of the 900 African American single mothers  with eight kids out there, I’m sorry but one of your kids might be a little heavy due to all that work you’re doing.  But since you’re making a high income maybe you’ve saved up enough so that you can take some time off and be a good mother.  Go ahead, screw up the study.  It can’t get much worse.


Comments are closed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: