You probably don’t want to share Atlantic article with your wife. It argues that although mothers may feel too busy to sit down, on average they are far more sedentary than moms were 50 years ago.
Since 1965, women with children have logged increasingly more time watching television and driving, and increasingly less time playing with children, doing chores, and exercising, according to a new report published this week in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
The Mayo Clinic! So it must be right. Right?
The statistic that forms the basis for their conclusions is:
In 1965, mothers of children aged 5 to 18 spent 14.2 more hours a week being physically active than being sedentary. In 2010, they spent 3.8 more hours a week being sedentary than they did on physical activity.
“Physical activity” was defined as time spent cooking and cleaning, along with playing with children and exercising. “Sedentary activity” was everything else non-work-related, so time spent in front of tablets, televisions, and computers, as well as time spent driving.
The report concludes with a warning: “If mothers set examples for children, they’re increasingly modeling a screen- and car-based existence, which probably doesn’t bode well for either their own or their kids’ health.”
So, men, is it time to get the whip out, yell a bit louder, junk the washing machine, and buy our (allegedly) lazy wives Insanity for Christmas?
I don’t think so.
I believe the main reason for the change in the statistics is the amount of time moms spend taxiing their children to all the various school, church, and leisure activities. It’s possible that moms may not play as much with their children, but they certainly facilitate a lot of play.
Some of this non-stop chauffeuring is unquestionably excessive and unhealthy both for the moms and the kids. Increased mobility has increased opportunities, which can quickly get out of hand and take over our lives. However, on the positive side, that time in the minivan is often valuable relationship building time (as long as you don’t have a DVD player in the car!). Moms and kids are “forced” to stop and chat to one another, which can only be healthy.
And anyway, do any of us in our 30′s 40′s and 50′s really remember our moms being our play buddies? I doubt it. Did any of us want or expect our moms to play goalkeeper or first base? I don’t think so. Yet we never doubted their love for us as they sacrificed and spent themselves for us throughout our childhood.
But if Mom’s Taxi Service explains some of this change, what about the increased screen time? Again, let me run to the defense of our moms.
Although, there’s obviously way too much daytime TV and time-wasting Facebooking in there in some cases, much of our moms’ screen time is also home and family related. If I take my own wife for an example, she hardly ever sits down and uses her iPad and iPhone for personal entertainment. Instead she is tracking finances, budgeting, gathering recipes, building meal plans, ferreting out bargains on Craigslist, looking for homeschool resources, organizing the kids, keeping in touch with family and friends, etc.
That sounds like work to me. It’s different work to my mom’s work in the 70′s but it’s still work and still selfless.
The report “complains” that moms are spending less time cooking and cleaning. I say, celebrate and enjoy the blessed liberty that washing machines, vacuums, microwaves, and dishwashers have provided. The question is not “How much less time are moms spending on cooking and cleaning?” The question should be, “What are moms doing with the freed-up time that these modern conveniences have provided?”
Again, just going from personal observation of many moms in my own circles, I believe many of them are using that “free” time in the service of others. They visit the sick, they volunteer, they serve on committees, they help at school, they lead Bible studies, they help neighbors. No, it’s not cooking and cleaning, but it’s valuable work and service that blesses many people.
The problem with stats is that an extremely serious problem in a minority of people can be generalized to a fairly serious problem for everyone. For example, if 20% of people are three times the weight they should be, the statistical average weight of the whole population looks grim. But 80% of us could be really quite healthy.
That’s what I think is happening here. I do think there are serious problems in a minority of moms, especially some poor moms (as the report does highlight at one point), and that problem is being generalized to all moms, creating false and unnecessary guilt.
To the vast majority of moms I say, Thank you for all you do for your children and husbands.
And if you are feeling guilty, whether it’s false guilt or true guilt, take that painful burden to Jesus Christ to forgive you, comfort your conscience, and assure you of His empowering love.