‘Kids of working mums more likely to be sick or injured’

Through the bleary morning haze, before my caffeine IV had kicked in, I saw a segment on Sunrise last week that jolted me out of my morning slump.

“Kids of working mums more likely to be sick or injured” read the headline.  WHAT?

As I tried to quiet the kids so I could hear what Dr Ginni Mansberg had to say on the matter, my defenses automatically kicked in.

“Crap” I thought (so eloquent first thing in the morning).

“Another bogus study.”  Trying to make myself feel better…

The study focused on 89,000 children aged 7-17 as well as drawing on 20 years of data (“fair sample size” I thought begrudgingly).  It found that children of working mothers were 200% more likely to be hospitalised, have asthma attacks, suffer serious injuries or be poisoned!

As a working mother, I think that my kids are well cared for, they are suitably supervised and just as likely as any other child to fall ill…apparently not.

After the steam stopped coming out my ears, and I actually listened to Dr Ginni Mansberg and her take on the study, it was apparent that there are some increased risk factors to the children of working mums.

The working mother is more likely to brush off a mildly sick child and send them to school which can result in a more severe illness or reaction.  For example in the case of asthma.  A working mother is also more likely to have a latch-key kid who can burn themselves or injure themselves in the period between when school ends and the parents get home.  A working mother is more likely to put off a Dr’s appointment until after an important meeting if we don’t think our child is particularly ill.

That’s a hard pill to swallow, but it also rings true.

I’ll never forget driving home from an insane day at the office once, my daughter was aged around 18months and my husband had picked her up from childcare.  He called me in a panic because he realised she’d taken one of his tablets that had been sitting on the bench.  Normally medication was stored up high, but we’d both been busy that week, our daughter hadn’t been sleeping and subsequently neither had we.  I was stuck in Hoddle Street traffic in a panic and my husband was trying to work out if it had only been one tablet or two that she’d swallowed.  I phoned the poisons hotline and was assured she’d be ok.  It was a tense 10 minutes and never again have any medication been left at child-height.

That’s how easily it can happen.

We’re busy, we’re tired, we have important meetings and we’re human.

I could find you a dozen studies telling us the children of working mums are more healthy in order to make us all feel more at ease, but instead of brushing this one-off, let’s use it as an opportunity to be more aware of the possibilities.

We’re all just doing the absolute best we can as women, mothers, wives, partners, colleagues, friends and employees.  Let’s take a deep breath and not be alarmist about this study, instead make sure we take an extra moment to lock away the poisons, teach our children home safety and check their temp before bundling them off to school.

What do you think?  Are your children any more or less sickly than those of non-working parents in your circle?




  1. Margaret Mila says:

    I think this kind of ‘reporting’ by Sunrise does nobody any favours. Mothers – all of them – are hard enough on themselves without being told over their muesli that they are neglecting their children by taking paid employment. For many the option of staying home to care for their kids simply isn’t available to them.

    • Agreed. I think it was a great angle by Ginni to try and get some positive spin on it though. The truth is, that kids can get hurt, they do get sick – I for one am guilty of telling Miss8 she’s well enough to go to school when perhaps I would have kept her at home in different circumstances.

      The other thing is that this is one study. I could find 20 to say the kids of working parents are happy…

  2. I totally agree with the above posts. Women have enough to worry about. No matter what we do we can not win. Kids will get sick and hurt themselves regardless of whether Mum works.

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