Researchers Say Women Should Be More Active to Set a Good Example for Kids. Men Can Just Keep Sitting. 

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Dec. 4 2013 1:29 PM

Researchers Say Women Should Be More Active to Set a Good Example for Kids. Men Can Just Keep Sitting. 

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Lazy sitting woman sits lazily on the couch with a cool guy

Photo by maxriesgo/Shutterstock

"Modern Moms Aren't as Busy as 1960s Moms Were" reads the headline for Olga Khazan's piece for the  Atlantic. But the piece itself is less about busy vs. not busy and more about time spent moving your body vs. time spent sitting on your butt, and a concern that, by spending more time sitting around than doing activities, mothers are setting a bad example for their kids.

The piece is based on a report published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, in which researchers looked at all the time mothers with children at home spent not at a paid job. Unsurprisingly, now that women work outside of the home more, they spend a lot less time at home doing stuff on their feet. Mothers in the 1960s spent 14.2 more hours moving their bodies at home per week than mothers now, but that doesn't mean mothers now spend 14.2 hours more a week sitting on the couch. One reason women's physical activity time at home has declined so much is simply that women, on average, aren't home as much. Indeed, as Khazan notes, women who don't work spend more time on physical activity than women who work, though they also spend more time sitting down than women did in the '60s.

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It's true that when women are home they spend more time sitting down, but that's true of men, too. One big reason is that we, both men and women, sit around staring at computers and TV screens way more than people used to. Doesn't that suggest that men, too, are setting a bad example by playing "Call of Duty" instead of scrubbing the floor? Sadly, the researchers dismiss that concern, writing, "While fathers report allocating more time to child care over the past few decades, it is trivial when compared with mothers’ allocation," and so "the influence of maternal behavior is paramount." In other words, because women are already picking up the slack, the logic goes, the focus should be on telling them to do it even more. The hope for saving kids from a life of sloth is for women to commit to bustling around the house while their husbands work a groove into the couch. Surely, kids aren't going to learn any bad lessons from that.

The problem here isn't that women don't move around as much as a 1960s housewife. The problem is that no one these days does. As for the solution: Screens that move around the house.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today

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