Children whose mothers work part-time are less likely to be overweight than children whose mums are in full-time work or not in the workforce, according to new Australian research…
The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, in collaboration with the University of New England and the Australian National University, looked at the impact of mothers’ hours of paid work on children’s lifestyle and weight at ages 4-5 years and 6-7 years, using data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.
The study, published by Social Science & Medicine, found at both ages, children whose mothers worked part-time were less likely to be overweight, watched less TV, ate less junk food and were more physically active than children whose mothers were working full-time or at home full-time.
Author, Associate Professor Jan Nicholson, of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, said the study, the first of its kind to report on maternal working hours, demonstrated the positive impact of part-time work for mothers with young children.
“What we’re seeing is that mums who work part-time are better able to balance their work demands with family life, and are more able to monitor their children’s eating habits and activities, which has direct health benefits for children,” she said.
For years there has been a continual debate between stay at home Mums and full time working Mums as to what is best for their children. Stay at home Mums argue that their greater influence is better for their children whereas full time working Mums talk about the greater resilience it brings for their children. As is often the case in such debates, the truth has been found to lie somewhere in between.
The results should bring some alleviation of working mother’s guilt to part time Mums. But what about full time, stay-at-home and working Mums?
The understandable reaction about such research result is to go on the defensive, feeling its a personal attack on their life choices. To this I would say that this is not about you. It’s about the wellbeing of your children. I would suggest to look a bit deeper and use the results for the betterment of your life and the lives of your children…
One role of parents is to teach children about consequences of choices and actions and to do so without passing any judgement on them as people. This research merely points out the risks and potential consequences that could occur as a result of full time working or full time mothering.
To the full time mother, it could suggest that there is some benefits to children’s health from spending some time away from their mother under someone else’s influence. It may suggest a benefit of the role of grandparents, extended family memebers and other carers. It could also reflect that the prospect of part time work could actually serve as motivation for mother’s to take greater care of themselves. These habits are then modelled by the children.
To the full time working mother, it shows that you are a healthy influence on your children. If you are going to pursue a full time career that you need to ensure that you exert this influence through educating yourself and your children on healthy lifestyle choices.
It is tempting for all parents to use the television, computer games and the internet as defacto babysitters and to use food as a reward or for comfort. We all know that these tools can be extremely beneficial when used in moderation. The results of this study also suggests that parenting in moderation may also be the healthiest approach for children.