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Parenting, Inc.: How the Billion-Dollar Baby Business Has Changed the Way We Raise Our Children Hardcover – April 1, 2008

18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Paul (Pornified: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families), mother of two, probes the business of parenting, exposing the high price of raising kids in our consumer-driven nation. Paul points out that it costs upwards of a million dollars to raise a child in the U.S. these days, especially if one buys into the theory that baby must have everything on the market. Following the money, Paul dissects the booming baby business, including smart toys that don't really make kids smarter, themed baby showers and parenting coaches and consultants. The text is a tireless rundown of parents' seemingly bottomless pocketbooks when it comes to bringing up baby, and according to Paul this is not just an upscale, cosmopolitan phenomenon—throughout the country parents are reaching deep into their pockets to fuel this spiraling craze. Though Paul incorporates the pithy quotes of a number of experts, such as psychologist David Elkind's observation, Computers are part of our environment, but so are microwaves and we don't put them in cribs, readers may find themselves wishing for more commentary and less litany. But Paul isn't preachy, although she does reveal that what babies really need is holding, singing, dancing, conversation and outdoor play. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"An entire industry preys on parental anxiety… Paul nicely dismantles the claim [and] tries to lead us out of the catastrophization of childhood."—The New York Times Book Review

"Fascinating…  Paul shows how companies selling everything from infant movement monitors to education DVDs have built a booming business convincing parents they cannot trust their children’s safety or well-being to themselves."—Reuters

"[Parenting, Inc.] offers the reader a distilled version of the parenting products and services that are truly useful, as opposed to those that prey on our fears."—Cookie magazine  

"Paul has cleverly identified this subset of our consumer culture run wild... Perform[s] a useful service, debunking the most absurd of the baby-marketers’ claims."—New York Observer 

"Sing it, sister Pamela! At last, a baby-book trend even a father can dig."—The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

"An absorbing examination of the commercialization of parenting."—The Guardian (London)

"Through interviews... Paul helps consumers figure out for themselves just what items they need and which ones are a complete waste of money. Her book is part investigative journey, part resource manual." —The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)

"Paul… looks closely at the nonstop spending spree associated with parenting (designer shoes for newborns, anyone?) and offers a sobering critique of the combined industries she dubs "Big Baby.""—Time Out New York Kids

"Paul’s journey through the maze [of marketing] is frightening and, frankly, a bit embarrassing. Her conclusions champion restraint."—Courier-Journal (Louisville)

"A meticulously researched piece of cultural criticism… Parenting, Inc. just might reassure [parents]."—St. Petersburg Times

"Before you plunk down forty bucks for a Christian Dior pacifier, think about Paul’s warning about a consumer-driven culture that’s raising over-protected, over-stimulated, and over-provided-for children."—CNBC Business Radio

"Paul… took a hard look at the ‘parenting industry’ and found that not only are the companies creating and marketing these products actively play on parental fears, but we parents have readily bought into the hype."—The Greenville News

"Like Judith Warner’s Perfect Madness, this sine qua non for new parents is highly recommended." —Library Journal

"Paul explains just how ludicrous today’s infant product marketplace has become."—The Ottawa Citizen

"It’s only natural to want the best for our kids; all parents do. But what does ‘the best’ mean? Pamela Paul takes us on a hair-raising journey of the products, services, and ‘expert’ guidance from which parents today feel compelled to choose and the time pressure, financial pressure, and self-doubt that turns them into nervous wrecks. Parents need the courage to be sensible again—they and their kids can use it. Buy this book and carry it with you whenever you walk into a baby store."—Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice

"You don’t have a Crumb Chum chin-to-toe cover to put on your toddler at meal times? You haven’t hired your ‘momcierge’ to organize your child’s home library? Or a specialist in thumb sucking, under-sleeping, nail biting, or giving up overnight diapers? Relax. In this riveting book, Paul very much empathizes with the anxieties of eager parents. At the same time, she gently helps us wonder whether we aren’t, as a culture, going overboard—and deftly, brilliantly, helps us see the beauty in an alternative. She rings a bell we need to hear."—Arlie Hochschild, author of The Time Bind and The Managed Heart

"There has been a great deal written about the commercialization of childhood, but Parenting, Inc. makes it clear that the commercialization of parenting is equally extensive and even more troubling. This important book will help parents become aware of how much of their parenting is being forced upon them by an unrelenting sales pitch."—David Elkind, professor of child development, Tufts University, and author of The Hurried Child

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; First Edition edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805082492
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805082494
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,331,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Pamela Paul is the editor of The New York Times Book Review. She is an award-winning author and journalist who has written for The Economist, The Atlantic, Time, The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Vogue, The National Post, Salon, and many other national publications.
Her first book, The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony, was named one of the best books of 2002 by The Washington Post; her second book, Pornified, was named one of the best books of 2005 by The San Francisco Chronicle. Her third book, Parenting, Inc., an investigation of the childrearing business and the commercialization of early childhood, was published in April 2008.
A graduate of Brown University, Paul began her writing career as a London- and New York-based correspondent for The Economist, where for four years she wrote a monthly column on world arts trends, and contributed film, theatre, and book reviews between 1997 and 2003. She was previously a senior editor for American Demographics magazine, where she wrote about political opinion, and social, media and demographic trends.
Paul has been a guest on Oprah, Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Early Show, and Politically Incorrect, and has made regular appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. She also speaks frequently on National Public Radio. She has testified about her work before Congress and presented her research to Parliament, and is a frequent public speaker at universities, conferences and other venues. Paul has lived in London, Paris, and Chiang Mai, and currently lives with her family in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Jan Hernandez on April 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Do they have bugaboo strollers where you live? They've hit New York like an invasion of cockroaches -- $800 cockroaches in artfully named colors like "mocha" and "timbre". Ten years ago you couldn't have spent $800 on a stroller if you had tried, but by 2005 or 2006 they had become the norm in many communities.

This book tackles the question of how this happened. Why do parents think that they need an $800 stroller? Why do they think their kids should watch "Baby Einstein" videos? Does the baby really need $80 face cream? Bugaboo strollers are treated in particular detail, with their initial marketing plan and the response by consumers dissected in fascinating detail.

My favorite chapters talked about the companies that supply this stuff -- from entrepreneurs (especially moms) who had a good idea and are looking to turn it into a profit, to the most cynical and crass corporate marketing machines. Many of the products discussed in the book may harm children, but the companies that sell them spend millions of dollars convincing parents that their children will be somehow at risk without them.

Modern society has weakened the extended families and tight-knit communities that once played an important role in the raising of children. Many parents have no good source for advice about the baby that is about to arrive, or has just arrived. Corporations have gleefully filled the void, and neither the kids nor the parents benefit from this.

To be clear -- this book is even-handed, and where Paul sees value in a good or service, she gives detailed credit to the people responsible. Her discussions of the bad stuff are, for me anyway, more fun to read.

I loved the book. About the only thing I wanted more of was the discussion of "kids as fashion items," where toddlers are dressed in expensive clothes and paraded about by egocentric parents. I still do not understand why people do such things.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S. D. Haltzman on April 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pamela Paul, who has written lucidly and piercingly about other issues in American culture, here examines the money and mentality of raising children. She begins by discussing baby sign language, and, right away I thought about the choices I made for my children. I never did get around to teaching my kids sign language, I didn't buy the most expensive cribs or cradles. Did I screw up?? Did I damage my children? Paul reassures me that, no, my kids will do just fine, thank you.
This book is interesting from a sociologic perspective. But it's also practical. I think that any new parent (or parent of a pregnant child) should read it to get a clearer vision on what children "must" have, and what children truly need.
The bottom line: children need more of what money can't buy. And if you spend less time going out to earn the money, maybe you'll be home more to give your kids what they need: you!
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Carl on February 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who has been a parent for more than a few years has probably noticed a change in style among many of today's new parents: a more anxious, urgent, competitive, and consumptive style. For example, in my neighborhood a large number of after-school tutoring centers have sprung up. They seem to do a brisk business. Parenting, Inc., by Pamela Paul, explores the big business that parenting has become and how that business both results from and contributes to the heightened anxieties of today's parents.

In countless ways parents seek the health, safety, comfort, happiness, and positive development of their children. According to Ms. Paul, this understandable impulse has lost all sense of proportion in America. She describes an explosion of baby stores and internet merchants that sell tens of thousands of products to new parents. Not just normal necessities. But extravagances like stroller speedometers, child-size toilet paper, infant perfumes, and baby monitoring systems that employ multiple infrared cameras and wireless technology. She also describes a growing designer aesthetic for baby gear: $55 pacifiers, $195 children's jeans, $900 high chairs, $700 crib mattresses, and a $1500 diaper bag.

For parents who want to give their children an academic head start, there are in-utero educational programs, infant flash cards, infant and toddler reading and foreign language instruction, music appreciation programs, and countless educational DVDs. Instead of the traditional play date or visit to the playground, parents can now enroll their children in junior country clubs, various infant and toddler classes, and countless other structured activities. And the average American child is drowning in toys. According to Ms. Paul, the U.S.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Holly Gordon on April 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book finally puts into words what I (and so many others) have been thinking. When did having a baby necessitate a seemingly endless shopping list of 'must buy' consumer goods? And it doesn't stop after infancy. Rather the pressure to over-educate, over-stimulate, and over-indulge in some communities seems to ramp up apace with a child's growth chart. Paul puts all this spending in perspective and offers some context to what has become a multi-million dollar industry: pampering the under 5's. When there are children starving around the world, such excess seems all the more out of whack. Pamela Paul gives you the facts in an anecdote-filled, interesting and comprehensive way. It's up to you to come to your own conclusions. The best kind of zeitgeist journalism.
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