Working Mommy=Unhealthier Kids? Work, Parenting, Calling & Roles

I’m always telling my children that they have the “meanest mommy in the whole wide world” but apparently I now have proof that they are pretty lucky kids.

According to a new study out of Britain, researchers have found that children of mothers who work full-time were the unhealthiest of the bunch. The second group of unhealthy kids belonged to part-time working moms.

Why? Because those kids ate more sweets, chips and sweetened drinks in between meals and spent more time than did their stay-at-home-mom-kids counterparts.

Hey, Bethany, Corban & Elias! Stop whining! You may have spending limits on clothing, and restrictions on the types of movies you are allowed to watch, but YOU get more sweets, chips, high fructose corn syrup enhanced drinks & tv/computer time than your friends whose moms do not work outside of the home. I have research to back this up!

I told you you were lucky to have the meanest mommy in the whole wide world!

Studies like this frustrate me to no end. Apparently fathers and their presence or lack thereof is irrelevant. Because their working trends have not changed significantly since the stone ages or so, it is obviously up to women to stay at home and raise healthy children. Razzle, frazzle.

I have worked outside of the home since Bethany was born (minus the first six months of her life when I was recovering from nearly bleeding to death, but that’s another story for another day). I may have been a career-driven 20-something, but when I was holding Bethany, and then Corban and Elias, in my arms I did not care whether or not I would see another byline again.

I have often wondered what it would be like to be a SAHM (stay at home mom) and to never feel that work gets the very best of me on some days while my children get the tired, worn out version of me. I have listened to SAHMs who refer rather wistfully to my “trips” away to exotic destinations like Madison, WI; Champaign-Urbana, IL; and Cedarville, MI. (OK, Seattle and SoCal are better!) What we’ve learned in living the journey together: the grass is always greener on the other side if all you’re doing is looking at the other side.

I’m in my 14th year of parenting with a lifetime to go and thousands of years of Korean American cultural baggage of guilt and shame with a splash of Christian fundamentalism to weigh me down. I do not have the energy nor the desire anymore to take on more false guilt or spend energy frustrated over things I cannot change. That is how I do it.

For those of you moms out there, what have you done to make it “work” for you and your family – whether you are a SAHM or a mom who works outside of the home? What about your situation has frustrated you or made you feel guilty or even envious of the other side and how have you dealt with it?

And out of curiosity, what do you think? Are kids with SAHMs better off? ย Are kids with moms who work outside of the home better off? Does it have to be an either or?


  1. Lisa October 2, 2009

    Ugh. I hate this topic as I am currently living it out in new ways now that I am a female seminary student.

    First, I agree. I share your hatred with the fact that the only question about kids is related to mothers. Parenthood involves both parents, but we are still stuck in another era.

    Part of me thinks that as much as Christian fundamentalism wants to make this about the good old fashioned way of doing things, that there really is no correlation to SAHMotherhood in our world and SAHM in Biblical times or agricultural societies or even back in Asia where you paretns and my in-laws received some culturally traditional views of men and women.

    Today SAHMotherhood means enrolling in Gymboree, playdates, spending time doing activities wiith them. These things are WONDERFUL. I think all working moms value activities with their children, which is why will still squeeze them in to hectic schedules. But, this is a very modern interpretation of motherhood which revolves around entertaining ourselves and our children. In the real olden days, taking care of a house really was like a full time job without a babysitter.

    I highly doubt that women in Bible times or even in Asia 50 years ago were engaged in these activities with their kids. Harvesting your own food and cooking it while your baby is attached to in a sling sounds a lot different than meeting up at Northbrook Mall so your kids can play in the castle and then eating at Corner Bakery. Doing what my mother-in-law did, which was clean the house, prepare her husband’s lunch box and work clothes, start cooking dinner from scratch during breakfast, and stay at home with the kids who educated themselves via Sesame Street because she was so busy isn’t like going for stroll to the park together either. In fact, my husband never left the house as a child.

    I just think we have to be clear about how different all of these things really are rather than making it sound like SAHMs today are linked all the way back to the beginning of time.

    And if I want to know if someone is making a healthy decision I think the best questions would be pastoral questions. Do you feel called to what you are doing? Who do you think God has made you to be? What gives you life and energy? What are your priorities in raising your children and how does your role as a mother and your husband’s role as a father meet those goals? Someone who displays that they’ve thought about these things and is confident and content will, in my opinion, have the kids that turn out the best.

    To me, it’s far less about the form your life takes than asking the question of who God has made you to be and what he is calling you to. Everyone who is a parent is called to be a parent, but I think there is a lot of room for difference in how we carry these things out.

    • Lisa October 2, 2009

      One more note regarding confidence and calling. The reason I think this is crucial is because I think it is fear in parenthood that destroys us and our kids more than anything.

      Why do parents who work more give their kids pop and candy? Part of it is because junk foods are fast and convenient. Part of it has to do with the fact that we feel guilty and we let ourselves believe that we should treat our kids to candy because we fear that they are missing something from us being gone. Note to self: even when tired think first before saying yes to junk food.

  2. katwalk October 2, 2009

    1) frazzle razzle or any variation of exclamations from Bill Cosby’s mouth are GENIUS and always appropriate. I’m glad you made good use of them.
    2) As a child whose mother always worked, even with a spouse (and is still always working, as a single mother), I can say that I love my mom for the sacrifices she made. She was there when the going got tough, and she always made time to be there when it really counted. I understand that motherhood is about wearing many hats, and that it’s not going to be a smooth sailing ride.

    And the essay above (j/k) was also a helpful reminder that “motherhood” hasn’t always meant the same thing over time.

    As always, the people who protest the most to “go back” usually have a vested interest in whatever they’re trying to get back to…. oh well.

    Bad moms don’t take the time to even ask if they’re bad moms – so you must be well ahead of the curve ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Shirley Hou October 2, 2009

    I’ve worked full time and part time since my first child was born, and now I have two kids ages 3 and 1. I firmly believe that I am a better mom for working part-time than not at all. I don’t think I could handle full-time and fulfill all my other household responsibilities. That said, I don’t fault full-time moms at all because every family has a different support structure.

    The only thing that frustrates me is the lack of working moms at my church. It seems that there is an undercurrent in the church that says if you are really a good mom, you would stay at home. I’m not envious of either side, though; I feel that I have the best of both worlds.

  4. Grace October 2, 2009

    I want my kids to see that I did what God was calling me to do, sacrificing both for God and for them. It’s sort of weird saying that now that I feel God is calling me to work less… I start 20/hrs. a week with IV in Jan. (And am consequently scared outta my mind).

    I see the joy & pain in both options & sometimes feel jealous of my SAHM friends. Sometimes I think about how cool my life is & think they should be jealous of me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Moving forward I’d like more support from SAHM’s. I feel a lot of judgement from them. Even the other day, a “friend” told me, that being a SAHM is “God’s way,” & it is stated “clearly in the Bible.” ay ay ay. I decided to just leave & not argue it out.

    I’d also like to be more supportive of SAHM’s. Perhaps my attitude towards them isn’t very Jesus like either.

  5. Jzhang October 4, 2009

    What I’m curious is whether those statistics took into consideration the economic and social background of these people. My mother and father both had a vision that my mother would be a stay at home mom. That was before they both moved from China in the 80’s to the U.S. (and left without much of their money for that matter) and had two kids in succession.

    My mother would’ve LIKED to be a stay at home mom, but reality didn’t support this. Luckily for me, my grandparents took care of my brother and I, and yes, there were some issues with nutrition (us not eating enough actually), but other than that, not much. I was partially raised by my grandparents in that sense.

    I love how there’s all this emphasis on stay at home mom’s, but from the way I see it, dads are usually the ones absent in a child’s life, either because he’s so busy working, or he’s just not sticking around. It also leaves me wondering whether this situation with poor nutrition is really just a result of the modern family in general relying on fast foods to pass the day and keep kids fed for the sake of “speed.” It’s also cheaper and more attractive as an option if your family is not well off.

  6. Kathy Khang October 4, 2009

    Great comments, everyone!!

    For me the struggle is often finding ways to be supportive to other moms, especially those who have chosen differently than I have, and even more so those who have voiced genuine concern over my choice to “work”.

    I think many of us on this thread feel that what we do for the paycheck makes us better moms and being a mom helps us be better employees. And, I know that Peter and I have intentionally chosen this in response to how God has gifted us, called us, etc.

    Maybe this calls for more posts on motherhood and vocation, and the many choices that some of are able to make and those choices that we might enable others to make…


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