« Making your dream a business | Main | Surviving Manic Monday »

Working moms have sicker kids

Sick kid  
Is my job compromising my kids health? New research says yes.

A new study from North Carolina State University concludes that children of mothers who work outside the home have a significantly higher risk of health problems, accidents and injuries.

Here I am buying organic foods, preparing health meals and getting my kids flu shots. And still, it turns out I'm an inferior mother because I work.

Dr. Melinda Morrill, the N.C. State economics professor who authored the study, warned against making sweeping moral judgments against moms who work outside the home. But she notes that parenting choices involve trade-offs that must be acknowledged. "Maternal employment imposes a burden on a mother's time and may result in the poorer supervision or care of her children," Morrill's study says. "A child's health is at least partially a function of time-intensive activities such as healthy meal preparation and house cleaning."

To me, that explanation is ridiculous. I know stay-at-home mothers whose houses are just as cluttered and dusty or who give their kids just as much fast food as working mothers.

But still, the research findings are ugly and pretty darn comprehensive. The study found  that kids of working moms have a 200 percent increase in the risk of experiencing overnight hospitalizations, asthma episodes and injuries or poisonings. Her research looked at 89,000 kids age 7 to 17, examining 20 years of data from the federal National Health Interview Survey.

This new research runs counter to previous studies that have shown that children of working moms have improved health. Those researchers believed that kids of working moms benefit from increased income, from better health insurance options and from a boost in the mother's self-esteem.

What I think is that working mothers put our kids in child care at an early age. Our kids tend to get sick more because of it.

What I also think is that working mothers are desperate to keep our jobs. Many of us don't have paid sick days or reasonable bosses. So when our child has a cold or cough, we're more likely to send little Johnny to school and tell him to suck it up. The result is our kids doesn't get better as fast as the kid who stays home with mom and rests.

And, it may be true that working moms give our kids more freedom, more independence and maybe in doing so, our kids get injured more. But does that make us inferior?

In the big picture, all kids grow up regardless of how healthy they are as children. Whether our kid has the sniffles more often than the neighbor's kid whose mother didn't work isn't really that important. I believe what is important is whether we parents take the time to teach our children values such as work ethic, responsibility and honesty. Raising productive members of society is what sets good parents apart from the rest, regardless of whether we work outside the home.

What do you think of the study's findings? If money wasn't a concern, would the research change your mind about staying at home with your child or working outside the home?



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


You read my mind! I am up debating how exactly how long the wiggle room is concerning the 24 hour rule is for nursery school. Tomorrow, I have to get to work although my four year old is suffering from a stomach virus. Of course, she usually wins out every time. In fact, I was home with her last week with the flu. But because I had to send her earlier this week, due to work, her poor lowered immune system is buggered again. Poor darling. I spent the day at home with her today... washing, wiping, dusting and disinfecting. All the while, I lamented that if I were a SAHM, that we'd never be in these horrible predicaments. As it is, I'm a single mama of two. I cant let these degrees go to waste. So, I've gotta stay out in the working world.


My personal experience disproves the research. Yes, my children suffered colds and infections when in day care (husband, parents & I took turns staying home from work), but I think it made them stronger and more immune to future illnesses. My older daughter was honored with "perfect attendance" at the end of elementary school. Her sister missed it by only a few days (over 5 years!). I made sure both were in reliable before- and after-school care, so accidents were kept to a minimum. I made it a mission to feed them well(including home-made lunches) and to this day they thank me for instilling a healthy lifestyle.


Here's a short note my friend Ana sent me on Facebook:
"I am cutting this out and putting on my refrigerator. Three months back to work full-time, I had to worry about my 2 kids who got terribly sick. They had a fever for an entire week and the coughing is still persistent two weeks later."


Why am I still a SAHM? Because my kids are always getting sick from the kids that are sent to school sick because their parent(s) are working. Parents need more sick days so they can care for kids, and schools need to enforce the no sick kid in class policies. Its ridiculous that kids that can barely hold their heads up or can't stop coughing are sent to infect everyone else. And the poor kids never get a chance to get well. That's why asthma is up, not because of dust in the house of working parents but because the poor kids' airways are under siege from the chronic infections. Parents--moms or dads--please keep your sick kid home. Use your vacation, professionals try to arrange work from home--get a babysitter even if it costs that days' pay if you can't miss work. But give your kid a chance to get well.

The comments to this entry are closed.