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Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness Hardcover – September 4, 2012

3.7 out of 5 stars 180 customer reviews

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Parenting in a complicated world
Strategies to help you be the best parent you can be. See more
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This timely volume, which should generate much controversy, is a call for much-needed change and may unite a new generation of moms.” –Publishers Weekly

“Timely…[Valenti] states early on that her book is meant to anger people and incite discussions…She wades deeply into the moral and logistical problems facing mothers, with interviews, research and her own anecdotal experiences.” –Kirkus Reviews

“For mothers like Valenti, who felt guilty admitting impatience at the drudgery and boredom that constitutes much of parenting, this book may be a revelation. And a comfort.” – People Magazine

“A brave and bracing critique of our unrealistic parenting ideals.” – Elle

“There’s a lot of really profound, great questions in this book. As a new father myself, they cut pretty deep.”- Chris Hayes, host of Up with Chris Hayes on MSNBC and the author of Twilight of the Elites.

“In a culture that glamorizes motherhood, Jessica Valenti daringly articulates the hard work and the personal decisions that are an essential part of parenting. This book is a must-read for new parents.” –Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, New York Times best-selling author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

“Jessica Valenti is a breath of fresh air. She offers the kind of raw honesty that can feel like a punch in the gut, but leaves you with the warmth of a deep embrace.” – Ms. Magazine

“Jessica has been hailed as one of the most influential female voices of the last decade, so it’s not surprising that after she had her first child, she had plenty to say about the culture of modern motherhood.” –Meagan Francis, Babble.com

“When it comes to unpacking what it means to be female in America right now, Jessica’s one of the smartest minds out there.” –Jesse Ellison, The Daily Beast

“In Why Have Kids?, feminist author Jessica Valenti poses a question that few people actually wrestle with before taking the plunge into parenthood.” – Lori Leibovich,Huffington Post

One of “20 New Releases Check Out” in The Atlantic’s Fall Books Preview

A “Fall 2012 Must Read” –Huffington Post

“Why Have Kids? should be required reading in sex education classes.” – Kathy Megyeri, USA Today Letter to the Editor

From the Inside Flap

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 child rearing, then why do it? And why are anxious new parents flocking to every Tiger Mother and Bébé-raiser for advice on how to raise kids?

In Why Have Kids?, Valenti explores these controversial questions through on-the-ground reporting, startling new research, and her own unique experiences as a mom. She moves beyond the black and white “mommy wars” over natural parenting, discipline, and work-life balance to explore a more nuanced reality: one filled with ambivalence, joy, guilt, and exhaustion.

Would-be parents must navigate the decision to have children amidst a daunting combination of cultural expectations and hard facts. And new parents find themselves struggling to reconcile their elation with the often exhausting, confusing, and expensive business of child care. When researchers for a 2010 Pew study asked parents why they decided to have their first child, nearly 90 percent answered, for “the joy of having children.” Yet nearly every study in the last ten years shows a marked decline in the life satisfaction of those with kids. Valenti explores this disconnect between parents’ hopes and the day-to-day reality of raising children—revealing all the ways mothers and fathers are quietly struggling. A must-read for parents as well as those considering starting a family, Why Have Kids? is an explosive addition to the conversation about modern parenthood.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: New Harvest; 8.5.2012 edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547892616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547892610
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (180 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bookphile VINE VOICE on July 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Though the title of Valenti's book is provocative and sure to inflame, this is not a book that's making an argument against parenting. What this book actually does is take a critical look at the social and cultural constructs surrounding pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, and break them down piece by piece. Valenti is attempting to open a dialog that is long past due, one that forms a cornerstone of American culture and that has a lot of influenced not only on how successful we are as individuals, but as a culture.

Divided into two parts, Valenti's book takes a look at some things she terms "lies" and others she terms "truth", but her ultimate conclusion is this: we need to have a much more honest dialog about parenting, its challenges and rewards, and what society needs to do to support parents before we can really make any progress, and she is absolutely right about that. The only way we're ever going to progress beyond the wage inequalities, the ridiculous "mommy wars", and the continuing discrimination against parents who are members of a minority is by having an honest and open dialog about how parenting looks in America and how we really want it to look.

I'll start with the "lies" portion of the book. In it, Valenti considers such cultural constructs as "mother knows best", "breast is best", and that having children will "complete" a person. I found this portion of the book so refreshing, because so much of the rhetoric surrounding these kinds of issues reeks of condescension and outright misinformation. It is designed to make women feel badly, to convince women that they ought to chain themselves to home and hearth, ignore their own well-being, and subsume themselves completely, all in the interest of maintaining some impossible standard of perfection.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was very eager to read this book. As a woman in my early 30s, I am proudly child-free. I have never wanted kids, I don't plan on having kids, and I am sick and tired of always having to justify my decision to ignorant people who claim that a life without children is empty and meaningless, blah blah blah. I think that every woman should read this book, regardless of if they have kids or not. "Why Have Kids?" is especially interesting because it was written by a woman who is a mother, and yet she does not shy away from proclaiming that being a parent royally sucks for the most part and that it's certainly not for everyone.

This is not an anti-child book by any means. Author Jessica Valenti loves her daughter very much. But she is one of the few mothers on this planet who is willing to point out that parenting is generally not enjoyable, and is also heavily overrated. She blasts the micro-manager mommies out there who flounder to dote upon their children 24/7 without giving the kids a breather or taking any time for themselves. She is all for women working, and she's even more in favor of women and couples who choose not to procreate, because she realizes that it's a very personal decision and also that child-free adults are generally much happier and satisfied with their lives than parents are.

The book also takes on society's view of parenthood and points out that women are basically doomed to fail miserably at motherhood if they attempt to adhere to everything our culture tells us that parents should and should not do. The United States basically does everything it can to make things harder for parents, which is ridiculous. But, in addition to clamoring for reform when it comes to things like maternity leave, etc.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Between the title and the blurb, I was hopeful that this book would break some new ground in the ongoing debates around motherhood and child-rearing in America. That perhaps it would break up the tedium of the endless "mommy wars" by discussing some of the less-explored facets of the topic, or taking a unique perspective that had not been already heard in hundreds of variations, from the New York Times to parenting forums to the playground, in the last 15 years or so. In the past few years, especially, the flow of controversial books on the role of mothers and "parenting" has seemed relentless. Yet for all the creative ways publishers have found to market these books (You're Doing Parenting Wrong: Feminist Edition; You're Doing Parenting Wrong: How the French are Better than you; You're Doing Parenting Wrong: Fear the Chinese Mothers!) they all boil down to the same several arguments rehashed again and again. Did Valenti, best known as founder of the "third wave" feminist blog Feministing, find a new facet to explore, or best of all, a bold and better alternative path?

Sadly, the answer is no. Rather, this book reads as a kind of summary of all the ground that has been covered exhaustively by others. It is a brief, shallow book, with a timid thesis and many half-hearted supporting anecdotes. There is, of course, the usual belching up of statistics that one expects from any nonfiction book of this type anymore. But they do not fold into the body of the book in a meaningful way, but rather wash over the reader in a bland way like the reading of a stock report on NPR. The whole book seems rushed and tentative, and reads like an overly long blog post rather than a finished opus. The anecdotes are not written up in a way to hook the reader in.
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