Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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

by Jessica Valenti

From the most high-profile young feminist in America, a provocative and brutally honest exploration of modern parenthood.

ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780547892610
ISBN-10: 0547892616
Pages: 208
Publication Date: 09/04/2012
Carton Quantity: 12


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.

Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti is the author of three previous books, including The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women. She is also the founder of Feministing.com, which the Columbia Journalism Review called “head and shoulders above almost any writing on women’s issues in mainstream media.” Jessica—called one of the top 100 inspiring women in the world by the Guardian—speaks at universities and organizations in the U.S. and abroad about feminism, activism, and media. She’s been selected as a 2012–2013 fellow by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, where she’ll research and develop a plan for a national think tank grounded in digital feminism and its communities. She lives with her family in Boston, but remains a New Yorker at heart. Read More


Other Books By The Author


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 book The Feminine Mystique about “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.

“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

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