Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Family Unit: Working vs. Stay-at-home Parents

Is there a difference between a journalism and opinion pieces? Of course!

This blog is an opinion piece of media. As much as I'd like to think I have some loyal readers, I do not have a large audience, not an employer or an editor.

An article piece in a newspaper or on television, however, has a larger audience (consumers/citizens) plus there are colleagues who have much more influence in the angle you take.

I thought about this after reading this article. While at first it seems like an innocent opening to the piece:

For mothers who work, here's something new on the long list of things to feel guilty about:


The article has undertones of angry feminist:

You're making your kids fat. So says a study from the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. The investigating scientists state that as the numbers of women who entered the work force rose, so did the rates of childhood obesity. And they don't seem to think it's a coincidence.

This article is written by a freelancer so I am curious to know what direction (if any) was given to write the story. Normally when a newspaper reports on the findings of a news story there are a few options with how to report it.

Option A: Report the findings (should appear neutral, just the facts)
Option B: Report the findings but balance it with its positives but also consider what's missing (inserting informed/critical thinking)
Option C: Mention the findings but completely squash and dismiss it hinting at the flawed funding from the one-sided think tank. (opinions/rants)

While I try to take an option B approach, I acknowledge that sometimes I can sway to Option C. But does a newspaper or new report have the right to be so biased?

In considering this study I completely agree that other variables should be considered about childhood obesity:

There are a whole host of issues that affect the likelihood of being an unhealthy weight. And many of these can go hand in hand with the skyrocketing rise in overweight kids.

Here are a just a few examples of factors that have also changed over the study's time period and may be linked to the rise in rates of overweight and obese children:
- the number of fast-food restaurants, especially located near schools
- the amount of sugar-laden soft drinks kids guzzle
- the dramatic growth in serving sizes
- the use of trans fats
- the presence in schools of vending machines dispensing options with less-than-stellar nutritional profiles
- the number of hours youngsters sit in front of a television set
- the number of television commercials for less nutritious foods aimed at young children
- the number of hours they sit in front of computer screen
- the popularity and sales of video games
- the number of youngsters who don't walk, but are driven to school
- the number of communities built where cars are needed to get to everyday activities
- At the same time, there are some negative associations that can also be tracked. For example, as the number of phys. ed. classes and after-school programs have declined, kids' weights have also increased.


Ms. Schwarz believes: "It appears that the researchers think that bringing up kids is the mother's job alone." A surprising number of Canadians may agree according to this (completely non-scientific poll):



Ms. Schwartz finishes the article with a dose of reality:

That's not to say that moms don't play a major role as gatekeepers for what their kids eat. In some families, the role may fall to one parent, while in others, both parents take on the responsibility for providing and teaching their youngsters about healthy eats.

But in today's time-challenged society, it can indeed be a difficult task. Sometimes after a busy day, figuring out what to make for dinner can take longer than the actual cooking process itself -- especially if the wholesome ingredients are nowhere to be found
.

True enough, but while the trend in the past few decades is more women in the workforce, the attack is not necessary on women themselves because there has been a steep rise in more dual-full-time-income/two-working parent families. It just so happens that it is women.

I am certain that there are a variety of factors that affect childhood obesity/overweight, but we cannot completely dismiss the fact that it is women who have been entering the workforce.

I know I have seen working moms (still dressed in work clothes) with kids (just picked up from daycare) at the grocery store trying to pick up a few items for dinner and little Johnny Jett-Slade and Janie Tulika-Rain. And when little Tulika-Rain wants a chocolate bar or candy Ms. Working-Mom may feel guilty for being away from them all the time and just give in.

Have you seen the parents on Nanny 9-11??? I'm not saying it's all of a women's fault as there are plenty of piss-poor fathers as well.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world in which I have no experience.

I plan on being a stay-at-home mom for the first five years of my children's life. Some of my left-leaning friends are shocked. "Why are you spending thousands of dollars on your education if you're not going to work?" or "You know, just because you have the uterus doesn't mean the dad can't stay home too".

But I believe children are best brought up by parents/family not daycare. Even though there are experts with education on childhood development, and there is no parent manual, the government should not be responsible for raising children. I recognize that not everyone has the opportunity to have one parent stay home. It should be the government's role not to provide daycare but they should make it easier for parents to stay home if they choose.

On the other hand, being devil's advocate what's so wrong with daycare? Economically, more Canadians will be working/contributing to the economy and it will create jobs.

But can a Daycare love?

Additionally, with our future demographic problem, the solution shouldn't just be taking in more immigrants but the government needs to offer financial incentives (cuz kids are darn expensive) for parents to have more children.

Unfortunately, what this study doesn't take into consideration is the last few decades of hallowing out of the family unit. Families are having fewer children (if any at all) and consequently, today's kids are more likely to have fewer cousins and more step-siblings.

Politicians often make generalizations about "ordinary" "working" families. We should remember that it's social programs not families that have an application form. Doing more to strengthen the family unit will serve our society a lot more than throwing more money into a bunch of social programs.

8 Comments:

Anonymous 'been around the block said...

'Glad to see that you're willing to even BREATHE the possibility that fewer stay-at-home parents may have SOMETHING to do with the epidemic of obese children. You, fairly, suggest a lot of other reasons, as well.

I encourage you in your decision to stay home with your children until they're in school full-time. And don't let anyone tell you that being a stay-at-home parent isn't "work."

I always hated it--when I stayed home with my kids in the 'eighties ('boy, did the feminists give women like me a rough time)--that people would say I didn't "work." It's true: I didn't work for a salary, but I've never been so busy in my life as being a full-time mom, which also meant being a full-time community volunteer.

Staying home with your children makes a big difference, as much as many feminist activists would like to pretend it doesn't--and shut those of us up who have done it, are doing it, or will do it. I had a daycare in my home before my children were born, and I can tell you, that as much as I loved the little guys I took care of, it, quite obviously, didn't and couldn't compare to my feelings for my own children.

One of my kids couldn't read by the time she got to grade three. If I had worked outside the home, I wouldn't have been able to advocate for her in her school or home school her, both of which I did. She's now going into third year at university.

Anyway, I digress. Thanks for being open to the benefits of stay-at-home parenting. You're on the right track.

PS--I'm not saying that parents who work outside the home can't be excellent parents. Many are. I'm just saying that there are definite pluses to staying home with your kids--a viewpoint that, until recently, has pretty much been deep-sixed in the Canadian public square--especially in academia, political circles, and the MSM.

Thu Jul 26, 05:13:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Cool Blue said...

My wife just had a baby and I'm deciding whether or not to stay at home with the baby once her maternity leave is over.

Its awfully scary though to loose that second income since we're barely getting by now.

If we have a second child though the daycare fees would almost equal my take-home pay so I would definitely stay home then.

On the topic you posted; I'm not sure that working mothers are to blame 100% for weight gain in children but I think think that if you have a stay at home parent, a family is less likely to eat out as often or to eat pre-prepared meals. I know personally that is the case in my house.

Thu Jul 26, 09:39:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous 'been around the block said...

Hey, Cool Blue. I know it's scary to think about doing without the second income, but it is amazing how little you actually need to get by with a baby. All s/he needs is a diaper, a few sleepers, a snowsuit, very simple food, and LOTS of love and attention from you.

When I stayed home, because my husband is in a helping profession, our one income was very modest. We ate prepared meals, by me, we wore second-hand clothes (very nice ones from relatives and friends), and we found our needs were actually quite simple.

Occasionally, I'd have a "relapse," wishing that we had a second income, especially when two-income neighbours were loading their kids into their van (we had a small, second-hand car) to go away to a big hotel for the weekend, but then I'd start reminding myself: "Self, what are the trade-offs here?"

They were being with my kids, enjoying them all day, watching them take their first steps and encouraging them, helping them through the pain of teething and many other daily traumas through the years, reading to them constantly (my first-born had a HUGE vocabulary by the time she was two!), and, in the end (my kids are now in their twenties), having a wonderful relationship with each one of them--not perfect but wonderful, real, and deep.

I prayed a lot, and that helps too.

Whatever you decide to do, enjoy your baby and be good to yourself and your wife...Listen to your heart and don't get discouraged by the advertising industry and the consumer Zeitgeist that says you need X and Y and Z for your child. The most important thing in your child's life is you and your wife, and your love and attention.

Thu Jul 26, 10:13:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Spitfire said...

BATB, Cool Blue

I will always be most thankful to my mother who stayed home with me and my brother. I truly believe the reason I was in gifted programs and was asked to skip two grades was because my mother spent the time with us. Reading every single day is the single most important part of this equation as well.

Having more money, just like in adults, doesnt make your kids happier and feel more loved. Sure it makes things easier, but the trade-off isnt comparable.

Sometimes I see the higher income families whose kids get new Nike shoes every year but I'm sure if you ask a kid would they rather new Nike's every year or more time with mom and dad, they would pick family hands down.

Thank you for your contributions.

Fri Jul 27, 08:21:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have lived both sides of this issue. I spent 4 years being a working mom and the last two as a full time mom to four kids.

I enjoyed my career and it was scary to throw away 13 years of work to stay home. Money, pension, friendships..

I can tell you that I have never regretted the decision to quit work. Life slowed from absolute chaos to an enjoyable pace. Since all of the household work is done, we have far more family time. Time to cook nutritious meals, play, relax, learn and exercise.

When the kids are older I will probably return to outside work but not full time. I suspect this pattern will become the norm for many women. Instead of trying to do it all at the same time, women will just move from one stage to another.

There is no reason for the media or experts to pit moms against each other. All parents work hard and deserve respect for their choices. As feminism matures it will have to shed this image of being dismissive or outright hostile to stay at home mothers.

LynnH

Fri Jul 27, 10:44:00 AM EDT  
Blogger John M Reynolds said...

You may be interested in today's http://www.winnipegsun.com/News/Columnists/Brodbeck_Tom/2007/07/27/4371809.html article titled "Look to the Parents"

Fri Jul 27, 11:51:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Spitfire said...

Anon,

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I am glad it's a decision you've never regretted. I am certain that when your children are older they will understand the sacrifices you made (the money, pension, friendships) and will personally thank you.

I admire your optimism about future feminism, but I am much more cynical about it.

John,

Thanks for the link. Reinforces exactly what I'm saying.

Fri Jul 27, 12:47:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous 'been around the block said...

John, also thanks for the link. I wrote an e-mail to Tom Brodbeck to thank him for bringing this particular taboo out of the closet.

I appreciated your views, LynnH. (When you post, just click on Other, rather than Anonymous, and in the Name window, give your name!)

More of us need to talk about parenting and Canada's epidemic of neglected children. "Official," aka, politically correct, Canada has been more concerned about the sensibilities of adults than the safety, health, and well-being of children for far too long.

I'm where you are, ASITRD, concerning the feminists: cynical. I'm not sure they'll ever mature. I was one once, and it took a powerful conversion experience to turn me around, otherwise, I'd probably still be braless and participating in Take Back the Night Marches.

Fri Jul 27, 03:51:00 PM EDT  

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