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New proof of what we know: Moms don’t take care of themselves

Submitted by on Tuesday, 10 February 2009 No Comment

We confide our fatigue to friends over the office water cooler and vent it to the world at large via social media: I’m exhausted, burned out and need a nap.

We blog about ignoring our own chest pains for hours so we don’t ruin our kid’s birthday.

Now there’s quantifiable proof for what most of the maternal world knows, except for those lucky enough to have helpful families or the finances to hire help.

According to a study published this month in Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, when life gets chaotic, mothers let themselves go.

Specifically in this case, researchers found that household stress - putting food on the table, struggling with unemployment and checking off the endless Mommy-Do list every child comes equipped with – increases the possibility that a mother will be obese.

The study used data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a national survey Princeton University conducted of children born in 20 large U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000. The authors focused on 1,449 mothers in the study whose weight and height were included.

Forty-one percent of those women were obese. Thirty-eight percent of mothers in low-instability households were obese, while nearly 48 percent in high-instability households were obese. That’s compared to 32 percent of all Americans the Centers for Disease Control says is obese.

Environment no doubt is partly to blame. Study after study – including a new one released today – has shown that living in a low-income neighborhood in and of itself is a risk factor for obesity. Part of that’s due to lack of nearby grocers that sell fresh, healthful food and part of it’s due to lack of safe places to play and exercise.

Curiously, though, the children in this month’s journal article were not at risk for obesity. So obviously something other than environment is coming into play.

How’s that happen?

“A mother prioritizes her needs well below the needs of her child,” lead author Earle Chambers told Health Behavior News Service. “Some of that is playing a part here.”

And there are a million ways a mom can pay for making her needs low-priority.

It can come through being so busy that she forgets to eat, only to wind up binging on the bad stuff later. It can come through dropping the gym membership due to finances or by skipping the workout because time’s tight and the kids need something.

In the case of the low-income moms, it can come through eating as a reaction to relentless stress of trying to stretch scant resources to cover everyone’s needs.

Ten times out of ten in such situations, Mom is going to be the person whose needs are missed.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg.  All rights reserved.

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