Working mothers take note: According to a study in the journal Child Development, the longer a mother is employed is associated with an increase in her child’s body mass index (BMI).
The study’s co-authors analyzed 900 children and found the increase in children’s BMI which continued to grow as children got older. The study found that at a third grade level there was approximately a 1-pound gain for every six months the child’s mother worked. The weight gain was cumulative and the link became more obvious as the children matured into fifth- and sixth-grade.
Possible reasons for this connection are a busy mother’s reliance on fast, convenient foods which have a reputation for being highly processed and unhealthy. Employment also means less time for family dinners, and statistics show families that don’t eat together are heavier. After school activities are also harder to monitor, and when left to their own devices, kids may turn to more sedentary activities like playing video games or surfing the ‘net.
Seventy-one percent of mothers work in the U.S., according to the 2008 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The father’s employment and the effect on their child’s BMI was not measured in the study, because there were not enough stay-at-home dads to gather reliable data.
Mothers can’t quit their jobs, but they can take certain precautions to ensure their children stay at a healthy weight. If you can’t be home with your children after school, stock the kitchen with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables for healthy snacking, and consider signing your child up for an after school sports team or activity to keep them exercising consistently. Most importantly: set a good example for your kids with regular, healthy family meals and active family outings.