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Oh look, More Evidence that Mothers are BAD July 23, 2007

Posted by Winter in class matters, fat panic, sexism, work.
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From the BBC: ‘Working mums’ ‘child weight risk’.

I’m always a bit dubious about these kinds of reports because you can’t respond to the findings properly without access to the whole thing and just having a lot of statistics thrown at you is confusing. I think this one is concluding that if you’re a working mother and your household brings in over £33, 000 a year, your children have 13% – 19% more chance of being overweight than children from households with an income below £11, 000. But if you’re from a household with more than £11,000 income your kids still have more of a chance of being fat than kids from even poorer families. And it should be noted that by starting from £11, 000 this report manages to take a swipe at most working families in the UK because that’s not anywhere close to a “high” income.

Whatever the original aims in producing a report with the not particularly stunning finding that some middle class people have fat kids too, the media just love any opportunity to beat mothers, especially mothers who work.

The researchers said: “Long hours of maternal employment, rather than lack of money, may impede young children’s access to healthy foods and physical activity.

“For example, parental time constraints could increase a child’s consumption of snack foods and / or increase television use.”

They said working mothers were also less likely to breastfeed for the recommended amount of time.

And those with higher incomes were more likely to have demanding jobs.

Bad, bad, neglectful mothers working long hours in demanding jobs, not breastfeeding enough, and then leaving their sedentary kids with a box of Walkers crisps, sorry, sea salt and back pepper kettle chips (since we’re talking about the middle-classes) for dinner while they go out selfishly earning money.

As usual, one person is notably absent from this narrative – the father. Fathers, apparently located somewhere pre 19960 for the purposes of this report, are still not expected to have any responsibility whatsoever for their children’s nourishment. I mean, gosh, how can a father be expected to notice if his irresponsible working female partner is putting liquefied fast food in the baby’s bottle?

Dr Susan Jebb, head of nutrition and health at the Medical Research Council, said: “This is a wake-up call for middle-class families.

Oh, and here I was thinking it was really another kick in the teeth for mothers courtesy of the age old tradition of trying to prove that mothers are bad and fail their children because it’s important to keep mothers in a state of constant anxiety, guilt and feeling that that they can’t win no matter that they do. The full anxiety inducing power of this report needs to be appreciated in the context of a recent drive to make child obesity into a form of neglect.

It comes as the proportion of working mothers has increased in recent decades. In the last 25 years the number of stay-at-home mothers has fallen from nearly 55% to just over 21%.

Yeah, but lots of other things have changed over the last 25 years too.

Let’s look at an economic system which makes it necessary for both parents to work long hours just in order to earn enough money for a family sized house in the first place. As a result, very few parents these days have any option to stop working or cut down their hours. Somewhere along the line we got conned into allowing mortgages to be based on two incomes, even though that was bound to lead to all kinds of problems for an awful lot of people — not just parents.

Let’s look at the way our eating habits have changed and the food being offered by the supermarkets which have largely taken over providing our groceries. 25 years ago, you wouldn’t go into a supermarket and be confronted with 3 aisle of crisps, 2 aisles of soft drinks and 2 aisles of biscuits and sweets, as I was the other day.

And what about the increase in children leading sedentary lifestyles as the result of parents being too terrified by all the media hyped “dangers” out there to even let their kids out to play unsupervised.

Also, how about stopping and asking whether creating a moral panic about “obesity” is actually a sensible, honest, or ethical thing to do?

But why look at the whole situation when we can have some fun blaming mothers and making them feel bad?