Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 9/4/2012
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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If parenting is making Americans unhappy, if it's impossible to "have it all," if people don't have the economic, social, or political structures needed to support parenting, then why do it?In Why Have Kids?,Jessica Valenti asks this the controversialbut necessaryquestion. Through on-the-ground reporting, new scientific studies, and her own burgeoning motherhood, Valenti offers an in-depth expose into the world of having (and not having) children. She cites shocking statistics about parental happiness and child care, new science that's shaking up the parent-advice industry, and stories from a generation of parents who are finding out that having kids isn't all they thought it would be. Why Have Kids?presents startling, new material that will change the way you think about the age-old questions of children, parenting, and happiness.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
Children Make You Happyp. 3
Women Are the Natural Parentp. 17
Breast Is Bestp. 31
Children Need Their Parentsp. 45
"The Hardest Job in the World"p. 63
Mother Knows Bestp. 77
Giving Up on Parenthoodp. 95
"Bad" Mothers Go to Jailp. 109
Smart Women Don't Have Kidsp. 121
Death of the Nuclear Familyp. 133
Women Should Workp. 145
Why Have Kids?p. 161
Acknowledgmentsp. 169
Notesp. 171
Bibliographyp. 177
About the Authorp. 179
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Parenting needs a paradigm shift, plain and simple. The American dream of parenthood — the ideal that we’re taught to seek and live out — doesn’t come close to matching the reality, and that disconnect is making us miserable.
  Fewer than 5 percent of American families employ a nanny. Most parents don’t spend over five hundred dollars on a stroller, or use cloth diapers. Hell, most mothers don’t even breastfeed for longer than a few months, despite all of the hoopla over breast being best. What is being presented to us as the standard of parenting — through books, magazines, and online media — is really the exception. The truth is much more thorny, and not nearly as glamorous.
    Americans are desperate to figure out why, exactly, they are so dissatisfied and anxious over parenthood. They seek advice from every Tiger Mother or bebe-raiser to help with their parenting woes. But looking to other cultures — or, more accurately, generalizations about other cultures — is a fruitless search for a quick fix.
    American parenting is too complex to lead one to believe that a brutal schedule of piano lessons or a croissant will magically erase the nuances and troubles that go along with raising children. Parental leave policies are woefully inadequate — if not nonexistent — at most American workplaces, and many mothers worry about losing their jobs or being forced onto the “mommy track” once their child is born. Parents are paying exorbitant amounts of money for child care, and feeling guilty to boot about dropping their kids off. Social expectations about what constitutes a good or a bad mother haunt every decision, and the rise of the parental advice industry ensures that moms and dads feel inadequate at every turn. Our children bring us joy (most of the time) but the parenting hurdles — whether systemic or personal — are still there, unchanging.
    Parents can no longer smile pretty, pretending that the guilt, expectations, pressure, and everyday difficulties of raising children don’t exist or that the issues that plague so many American families can be explained away in a how-to guide.
    Fifty years ago, Betty Friedan wrote the groundbreaking bookThe Feminine Mystiqueabout “the problem that has no name” — the everyday domestic drudgery that made a generation of women miserable. Today that problem has a name (and quite often, poopy diapers). The problem isn’t our children themselves; it’s the expectation of perfection, or, at the very least, overwhelming happiness. The seductive lie that parenting will fulfill our lives blinds Americans to the reality of having kids.

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