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The Mamafesto: Why do we always blame Mom?

Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine, Cosmopolitan.com,...

Sorry, but working moms are not the cause of childhood obesity

For some reason, when it comes to the blame game, moms are usually the losers. Kid acting too wild? Blame Mom. Kid doing poorly at school? Blame Mom. House in shambles and no dinner on the table? Blame Mom. But the latest accusation I recently stumbled across takes the cake. Some folks are suggesting that working mothers have caused an increase in childhood obesity. Really.

Last week, Lindy West wrote an incredibly insightful piece for The Guardian about best practices for when it comes to kids, weight and health. In her essay My hot tips for parents with a fat kid: feed them fun, kindness and dignity, West delves into her own childhood and how she was conditioned to think of herself as less than because of her weight. She offers up some great suggestions for parents on how to tackle the issue of weight with their kids. Her tips, which range from not talking about a child's appearance in front of them to focusing on health instead of weight, are great for families with kids of all sizes, in fact.

West's article was shared prominently in my own social media community, with many folks — both those with kids and some without — noting that her message really resonated with them. But like most things on the internet, not everyone was a fan. I wandered into the comments section of the piece, curious to see what the general public outside my sphere of friends thought. As (sadly) expected, there was a hefty dose of fat-shaming, something that unfortunately thrives in the troll communities. But I also saw numerous comments that purported to connect the rise in mothers working outside the home with childhood obesity. Ones like:

"If children get home from school, and no one is there, they probably graze on less healthy snacks and are more likely to gain weight. When I was growing up in the 50s, my father worked full time and my mother only worked during school hours, so was always there when I came home from school, so I always ate sensibly."

Ah, so since Mother isn't home, the kids eat unhealthy food, get fat and Mommy is to blame. Sorry, but I call BS. First, this line of thinking is entrenched in the stereotypical and traditional model of woman-at-home/man-at-work mentality. That simply is no longer the case, for a variety of reasons. Some women work outside the home because they need to, many others because they want to. It also ignores the role fathers play in all of this. It is not solely the mother's responsibility to be on top of the food intake of the family. Sure, traditionally it has always fallen on the shoulders of the lady of the house, but why? Especially when more families than ever before have two working parents. Why can't Dad step into that role? Why can't it be split evenly between the parents? Why can't we teach our children from a young age about healthy eating and instill in them a sense of responsibility? Is it just easier to blame moms?

Moms have borne the brunt of blame for almost all things family related for far too long. We are no longer living in the '50s, and we need to give up the pretense that we are. It's absolutely absurd to blame working mothers for an increase in childhood obesity, and the fact that anyone would even suggest that makes me sad for how they view women. So instead of blaming moms, how about looking elsewhere? Mothers have shouldered the misplaced blame for a variety of things for far too long.

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