A recent study conducted by Cornell University and printed in the Elsevier Economics and Human Biology Journal points the finger at working mothers when it comes to the lack of a healthy diet and exercise in their children’s daily lives. With a pool of over 20,000 they found that working mothers spend on average 4 fewer minutes grocery shopping, 17 fewer minutes cooking, 10 fewer minutes eating with children, 12 fewer minutes playing with children, 4 fewer minutes supervising children, and 37 fewer minutes caring for children.
Unfortunately, the study also shows that working fathers aren’t making up for the lost time. The statistics point out that on average a working dad’s devoted time to cooking and playing with the children only amounted to 13 minutes compared to their non-working dad counterparts who contributed 41 minutes doing the same thing.
How does all of this play a role in the health of the children? The study seemingly, although probably not intentional, points the finger at working mothers and their cooking habits, as if the mothers are the only ones that are supposed to cook. It showed that working mothers only have time to prepare packaged food, which is known to have higher caloric counts, thus aiding in the poor health of their child.
M. Elizabeth Phelps, an auditor for one of the Big Four firms, as well as a working mother with one child and another on the way, states that she cooks dinner half of the week for her family of 3 and typically eats out during the rest of the week. “I would like to see my husband pick up the slack; sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.” She also went on to say that after working twelve-hour days, it’s not always easy to come home and prepare a ‘fresh’ meal, even if it was her husband cooking it. Although her family doesn’t always make time to sit down at the table, she also stated that no one in the household is obese.
With more dual income households on the rise and many families not able to survive on just one income, the time allowed to cook healthy meals just doesn’t seem to be feasible. But healthy doesn’t always mean time-consuming. Dr. Angela Vidal, a family practitioner based out of New York City, suggests making dinner time a group activity to allow for more time to prepare meals and entice children to eat healthier. “If the kids help, even if it’s just tossing ingredients into the pan, they are more likely to try to like the food. Families can also make meals and freeze them for the week. Cut back on the starches. Use couscous instead of rice and it only takes 5 minutes to make steamed vegetables.” Although it shouldn’t have to be said, whether or not both parents are working, a household should operate as a team, especially if it’ll benefit a child’s health in the long run.