In yet another study that points to the dangers of mothers who work out of the house, researchers from American University found that kids whose moms work are more likely to be heavier than their peers. According to CNN, the increase in weight was minimal — about one pound for every six months the mom works — but still, they said, a clear link exists.
The authors of the study say that their research wasn’t intended to make working moms feel bad, or to suggest that moms should step out of the workforce. But in that case, what was the intent?
What, indeed, is the point of this kind of research?
I don’t think it takes a Ph.D to recognize that for working moms who read this study (and others like it), there will almost certainly be two negative effects. The first is that they will very likely experience guilt, defensiveness or self-doubt, and wonder if they’re harming their child by working. The second (and perhaps less important, although also perhaps more irritating) is that traditionalists will re-assert that women shouldn’t be working, which will cause working moms to feel another round of guilt, defensiveness and self-doubt, and will flame the ever-escalating mommy wars.
The idealistic researchers go on to suggest that, hey, maybe studies like this could mean that the government will think about providing better policies to support working families! And also, maybe unicorns will dance into my living room wearing gold lame tracksuits and performing choreographed moves to “I Will Survive.”
The reality is that the government isn’t paying attention to every study that comes out of every sociologist’s office in every research institution in the world. Maybe some elected official, somewhere, will someday push for legislation that will include support for working families, and maybe there’s a small chance that research like this will be used to make that case, and that legislation will get drafted, and passed in the House, and passed in the Senate, and then enacted in the states, leading to real changes for real people.
Yes….maybe that will happen. But what’s a lot more likely, while we’re waiting for centaurs to fly to the moon and declare it inhabitable for humans, is that this research will do one of the things I already mentioned: inflame fighting between women and encourage and finger-pointing, which leads to stress, which we actually know leads to obesity and other health problems, in both parents and kids.
So again, I ask, are studies like this helping or hurting? What do you think?