Read an article today; there's a clear statistical correlation between the number of hours a mother works outside of the home and the fatness of a kid.
This is a relationship, not a cause and effect, you understand, but just the fact that the study was done this way says a lot about cultural assumptions.
I went out on my afternoon walk. On the way to my neighborhood park, in which few children play alone because parents don't think it's safe, I pass a sight that makes me grit my teeth; a man on a bike is shepherding his two very little children who are driving a battery operated car down the street. "Look ahead!" I hear him say, "Don't look at me!" he says, in a bit of a panic, as these two preschoolers steam into an intersection. "Stop!" he cries. The car slows. It doesn't have a brake, just an "on" petal. If I had a cell phone, I'd have called the cops. The father catches up and, thank God, they're in the relative safety of the park. Now its the other park users who have to be careful.
I tramp on, remembering that the big thrill of my first trip to Disneyland was the pretend freeway, complete with kid sized cars you could...more or less...drive yourself. A little bigger and a lot noisier than these battery-operated things, but not much faster. I was 10 at the time. What are these preschoolers going to do for thrills, I wonder, at age 10, 16, 32. (perhaps, should they survive so long, they'll get their thrills inviting their preschoolers to try to drive like a grownup in a toy car they can't control on a street full of real cars.)
Past the park is a school with a track, and I pound out my frustrations, work up that sweat that's supposed to be so healthy, and head back home, at peace with the world again. Just my luck, the preschoolers have headed out of the park and are back on the public thoroughfare in their toy car. Their father is sticking closer to them this time.
And I'm thinking that it would have been a lot healthier for everyone if that father had been chasing his kids around they'd all gotten some exercise. Maybe he just couldn't have done that. Probably his mother worked.