Lisa Belkin’s Motherlode blog over at the New York Times covered an interesting topic this week: whether having young children corresponds with an increase in unhealthy behaviors. She highlights a study from Pediatrics finding that moms (the majority of whose children were less than 1 year old) move less and drink more sugary drinks than non-parents. It is a finding that seems to fit into our larger cultural story of mothers putting everyone else’s needs first, perhaps in order to avoid the guilt the Today Show (citing BabyCenter) claimed 94% of us feel. As Lisa writes, “let’s face it — I really never got back to my pre-pregnancy shape after my kids were born. … Do you exercise like you did before your kids were born? When do you find the time?”
I was happy to see that many of the commenters did, in fact, exercise regularly. Personally, I’ve always found that exercise is a great way to get some alone time, think things through and, of course, lose the baby weight. Indeed, I’ve probably been more dedicated about it with a newborn than at other times. I ran the Big Sur marathon last year, when Sam was 7 months old, something I am not remotely in shape to do now.
But a close look at the Pediatrics study shows more, I think, a demographic split between New York Times blog readers and people enrolled in this study. The Minneapolis study tracked junior and senior high school students for 10 years. But that also means that the average mother in this study is 25 years old. The low exercise findings hold when you keep socio-economic status constant. But still, having a child in your early 20s is generally going to be more stressful and involve fewer resources than would happen a few years later. I would imagine that some of the negative health behaviors are simply picking up on that.