« 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?