By SARAH WELCH and ALICIA ROCKMORE
Last month, working mothers took a hit on the chin when the results of a new study on childhood obesity were released by the U.K.-based Institute of Child Health. The study of more than 12,500 5-year-olds found that those with working mothers were less physically active and more likely to eat unhealthy food. Or, as the BBC so provocatively summed it up: "Working mothers' children unfit."
Sarah on "Lose the Mom Guilt":
As a working mother, my immediate and visceral reaction to the study was: guilt, guilt, guilt! I wasn't alone. Nearly every working mom I've discussed the findings with has had a similar reaction. But once the guilt subsided a little, I thought: Wait a cotton-pickin' minute; where are the dads in this story? Placing the blame on only moms was kind of maddening. At the very least, the headline should have read: "Children of dual-income families unfit." But that defensive line of thinking was as unproductive as the guilt. Fathers weren't a part of the study. So I made a conscious effort to take the findings at face value. I mean, at the end of the day, the research done was truly impressive. Could it be useful to me as a working mom? The answer for me was "yes." Simply knowing that eating poorly and not getting enough exercise are potential risks for children with working moms made me want to figure out how to avoid those traps.
Alicia on "Get Your Meals Imperfectly Organized":
Since time is the one thing that working moms don't have, admit that you need to build in shortcuts when it comes to planning and preparing meals -- just not at the expense of health and wellness. The fact is, you're going to be beat when you come home from a long day of work, so whipping up a "perfect" meal isn't necessarily reasonable. But the great thing is, there are literally hundreds of ways to get healthy meals on the table in little or no time, often right at your fingertips online. For example, try prepping veggies on Sunday evenings rather than during the week. That alone can cut meal prep time during the week by 10 to 15 minutes each night.
Here are a few more tips for working parents hoping to avoid the childhood-obesity trap:
1. Make Health a Family Affair
Rather than expecting Mom to figure out what to make for dinner every night, make the dinner and then decide the family's activity agenda, everyone needs to work together as a team to get those things done in a more balanced way. Working moms have to learn to delegate those tasks more effectively. If you're struggling with how to delegate effectively, go to www.getbuttonedup.com and search for articles with tips on delegating.
2. Plan for Imperfection
Sometimes life throws you curveballs. Recognizing that fact and planning for the inevitable "bad" day when nothing seems to go right will make it much easier to give your child a healthier meal or snack option even under duress. Whether it's a Bertolli skillet dinner or a frozen pizza, it always helps to have something moderately healthy on hand when it's just impossible to cook.
3. Get Caregivers in the Loop
Since they're often feeding your children during the day, work with them to identify and serve healthy snack options. Kids will eat what you consistently serve. They may turn their noses up at veggies at first, but if that's all you serve, they'll eat them if they are hungry enough.
(The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. Send ideas and questions to yourlife(at)getbuttonedup.com. For more columns, go to scrippsnews.com.)
Copyright (c) 2009 Scripps Howard News Service
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