It’s no secret that work is bad for your health. Apart from the industrial accidents which maim and kill thousands of people in the UK every year (it’s still far more dangerous to be a brickie than a squadie, it’s just that it doesn’t make the news when one of our brave construction workers die) for which no boss is ever prosecuted, most workers will have to put up with high levels of stress and anxiety which are known to cause heart disease, cancer, depression and neurosis. And still your P60 doesnt carry a government health warning! But recently published research shows that families where both parents work are unwittingly abusing their children.
Research on more than 12,000 British schoolchildren, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, shows that children whose mothers and fathers work are less healthy than those with at least one stay-at-home parent. Children in families where one parent worked full-time and one worked part-time were still less healthy than those who had at least one full-time parent.
The researchers, from the Institute of Child Health in London, said: “Children whose mothers worked part-time or full-time were more likely to primarily drink sweetened beverages between meals (compared to other beverages), use the television/computer at least two hours daily or be driven to school (rather than walk or cycle) than children whose mothers had never been employed. [sic] Children whose mothers worked full-time were less likely to primarily eat fruit and vegetables between meals (compared to other snacks) or eat three or more portions of fruit daily (compared to two or fewer).”
The researchers called for more support for working families and concluded: “Currently, approximately 60% of women with a child aged five or younger in the UK or USA are employed. For many families the only parent or both parents are working. [sic]This may limit parents’ capacity to provide their children with healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. Policies and programmes are needed to help support parents and create a health-promoting environment.”
But calling for more ’support for working families’ actually runs contrary to the findings of the report. What we really need is a system where both parents don’t feel that they need to work in order to support a family. What we really need is a social wage which offers more freedom to spend time together as a family. We need equal wages for men and women so that either parent can opt to spend more time with their children. And we need to recognise the fact that child-rearing is the most important job that anyone can do!
In the meantime we choose to put our kids and our health before our bosses every day of the week