Morrissey stressed that the results of the study are not intended to point of finger of blame at working mothers. Instead, they are supposed to help unravel the mysteries of why our children are getting fatter and fatter, offer health lifestyle suggestions to families, and to light a fire under policymakers to provide affordable, high quality childcare options. These are noble goals which I support.
Still, studies like this make my head hurt. Many working moms feel the same way. When I sent out a Twitter query on this topic, I received over 200 replies in under four hours The majority of women told me that they liked work, had to work, would work even if they didn't have to work, often felt some level of working mother's guilt and dislike studies such as this because they are annoying, counterproductive and don't provide them with any practical solutions.
Interestingly some working mothers told me they aren't guilted by experts, studies or even their kids. Their kryptonite is non-working mothers. "Some traditional stay-at-home moms can't relate to me at all. I am sure that I'm sometimes perceived as a lesser mother because I choose to work," said small business owner and mother of three, Corinne Gregory of Washington State. And Stamford, Conn., working mother of three, Kate Haueisen told me, "I work in a town where there are a lot of stay-at-home moms and I often feel distanced because of the constant comparisons. I'm not always obsessed with the same things, like getting my kid into a certain pre-school."
Personally, I've experienced the opposite. When my daughter was in preschool, our class parent sensed my distress over not being able to participate in planning school events as much as some of the other mothers. "I believe it's the job of the stay-at-home moms to support the working moms and their children," she said to me one day. "It's my pleasure to do a little more so you don't have to kill yourself."
Working mothers have taught me invaluable lessons too, like being the first one to sign up for any volunteer opportunities at school so you can pick the quickest, easiest thing on the list and that having a good hair cut allows you to go three days without showering. Without the support of other mothers of all varieties -- and an amazing husband -- there are some days I couldn't pull off the delicate dance of work and family.
No, it definitely seems that lately it's the science that isn't my friend. Another recent study found that if a mother waits at least nine months before returning to work it has no effect on her child's physical or mental development. I was back on the job three days after giving birth. At the time I was doing a high-paying ghost writing gig for a "celebrity personal trainer" and she had a meltdown when she found out I wasn't available. To this day, my daughter has never thrown a tantrum as snitty as this woman's.
And if it is about science, you could say that being a working mother is akin to the duality of light. You feel like both a wave and a particle, constantly shape shifting between the two existences without ever fully inhabiting either one. When you're at work, half your brain is at home; when you're home half your brain is at work. You sometimes feel like you can never quite remain in one state of matter long enough to finish everything -- or anything.
Despite all my guilt, somehow my daughter is thriving. She is smart, pretty, funny and as healthy as a string bean. She's learning how to read and write, she's a terrific artist – and how many 5-year-olds do you know who can do both a front and back handspring? Besides, I'm a second-generation overworking mother and my siblings and I seemed to be doing OK.
The other night as I was putting her to bed, my daughter told me that she wished I never had to work and that we could play together all day long. "I wish money would just come through the window Mommy," she said.
That's my dream too.
As for the rest of you moms out there, who or what pushes your guilt button? How do you feel about evidence that suggestions your employment affects the health of your children? Post your comments below.