Mark Woods: Family Matters

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Like millions of families in the UK, we are a two-job household and probably always will be. Short of a lottery win or either of us coming up with the next super successful bird-related app game, our kids will always have full-time working parents.

Much guilt for this is often heaped on the mother, both self-propelled and via a society that, despite containing immense numbers of working mums, still seems to view them as something of oddity. The ‘adverse’ effects children with working parents are exposed to are oft cited – passed from pillar to childcare post, bundled to breakfast and then after-school club and back home again. As ever, there’s much more to these confections than meets the headline writer’s eye and little ever seems to be explored about the positivity for both girls and boys to be gleaned from having a mother who they see every bit as much as a provider because they go to work each day.

But, as working parents, you become hardened to the times when you just can’t be there – the plays, the sports days, the pick-ups. If you didn’t you’d crumble in heap of salty, guilt-laced tears.

This half term, though, a new vulnerable soft spot reared its head as my partner and I enjoyed a rare weekday when all four of us were at home. As we all sat down to lunch together, both our young sons simultaneously commented on how much they liked us all eating together. Thud, goes the guilt arrow. After the meal I researched if there was any substance behind the sentimentality of feeling like eating together is somehow better for us as a family. Sure enough, up popped a study published in the American Journal of Paediatrics which indicated that in families who eat together, the children are 24 per cent more likely to eat healthier foods and 12 per cent less likely to be overweight. Great.

So now we are embarking on the complex logistical operation required to pull off at least two family mealtimes during the week. Although to bring emphasis to the fact that eating with his Mum and Dad wasn’t always brilliant, I must confess to stealing one of my eldest’s sausages. It’s a jungle out there, after all.

Twitter: @mark_r_woods