Book Review - Parenting, Inc.

The first time I walked into Babys-R-Us after I became pregnant I had an anxiety attack. My husband & I were with my parents and it was just days before Christmas. I thought I had learned from our disastrous wedding registry experience, that I should bring my mom along as she had raised three girls and was an OB/GYN nurse. All I remember is standing in front of the wall of pacifiers and bottles shaking. I froze. Thankfully my husband and mom agreed, let's just look around and do the registry later. I agreed despite my desperate need to run screaming from the store and hoping the stork brought baby items as well as the baby.

Pamela Paul's latest book, Parenting, Inc., [WCF, Powells] is a goddess send. It takes all the insanity that is the baby/child accoutrement business and whittles it down into common sense. On Good, one reviewer didn't agree:

I bought this book in hopes it would provide some perspective on my current buying spree. Unfortunately, all I really found it offered was a whiney polemic againt parents buying so much. Although the author included some top line research, it was clearly not a balanced perspective.[sic]
And this is where I think the brilliance of the book comes into play. Paul takes the agonizing time to look into just about every aspect of the baby/child business. From the moment that second pink line appears to pre-school, Paul walks us through why we have so many gadgets to buy and even why we are afraid not to buy them. It is not whiny as much as a plea for parents to trust our instincts. Do we really need a walking and talking doll to teach our kids the ABCs? Do we really need to buy educational DVDs for infants?

Paul talks to experts and the bottom line is that we don't need most of what we are buying or being told to buy. I've resisted buying any educational DVD for my daughter and shamelessly will gloat about it too. Why? Because the idea of sitting her down in front of the TV to learn anything never jived with me. Yes, I blissfully recall learning some Spanish on Sesame Street, but I recall mostly that they said 'aqua' as AHG-WHA not AH-WHA. Paul states that "[s]ticking a baby in the bouncy seat or exersaucer in front of the TV set while Elmo or Dora do their thing is the modern equivalent of the once-ubiquitous, now verboten playpen."

From outsourcing parenting trials such as potty training and sleeping schedules to uber-fancy kiddie 'country clubs,' Paul does an excellent job at painting the picture, dismantling it with facts & data, and then giving us a choice. That choice is usually "Don't Do It," but somewhere in the "Outsourcing Parenthood" chapter she gives into some of the parenting experts. I do have to say that she does an excellent job at justifying her choice as well as giving us parenting experts who DON'T do the parenting as some others do.

The only thing missing is a better look at mommy blogs who peddle many of these unnecessary items to fellow moms. Paul rips apart marketing and advertising folks, but barely mentions the enormous power that is mommy blogging and mommy blog review sites. Yes, my dear readers I'm getting jaded...Mostly because I do believe many things are unnecessary and the reason I love the momosphere is that we're supportive of each other. I don't care that some make money off their blog, but when they do it by selling me an overpriced piece of plastic, I care. That said, I will still review products, but in a carefully vetted process and I'll be totally up front with you.

This book is a must read...AND I highly suggest that you get this book for yourself or your girlfriend/sister/daughter BEFORE she's pregnant (hormones are a bitch!). Get it now and hand it to her once she even mentions she might be trying to get pregnant. The bottom line is that there is a huge market out there and us parents are chumps when it comes to our kids. We want the best for them and we have been led to believe that we can only get the best by opening our wallets. Believe me now or regret those purchases later...You don't need 15 receiving blankets. For reals.

Other reviews:

Disclaimer: The only payment I received for this review was the review copy of the book.

Technorati tags: parenting, marketing, Pamela Paul, Parenting, Inc.


annacyclopedia said...

I came over from NaComLeavMo, and am happy to find your blog. I completely agree - the push to consume ridiculous amounts of baby stuff is so blatantly about telling parents to feel inadequate and not to trust their instincts. Not really that different from the cosmetics or fashion industries in terms of undermining our own confidence and using that to make us spend our money, but the guilt factor is an added weapon in the baby arena. As far as I'm concerned, a few gender-neutral clothes and a sling are all you really need in the short term.

I really enjoyed your review, and will certainly check out this book. Thanks.

Queenie. . . said...

This is the kind of book that I've been thinking that I could use (when I manage to get PG, that is). I think it's gotten a little ridiculous, and I simply don't want a ton of junk in my house. On the other hand, I have no idea what might make my life better/easier. This will definitely come in handy.

Rachel said...

Visiting from NCLM, I think I need to check out this book.

I actually have avoiding reading most pregnancy and parenting books. I have seen too many of my friends buy silly things purely on recommedation from a book instead of using their instincts.

Dani L said...

Totally agree with you. I haven't read the book in full, but excerpts and I have always been a bit suspect of the baby stuff industry.

For me, the best book I received when I was pregnant (actually not a new copy - a loaned one) was the Baby Bargains book.

Totally talks about this issue - and what is really necessary - and what isn't. At the same time, it is not judgemental about what you choose to buy (or not) for your kids. (I personally like the Baby Einstein DVDs - not because I think that they are necessarily teaching stuff - but because they have great music and are short. My son always was able to calm down with one...and he was VERY active)

Good luck to all!

momofonefornow said...

hi from NaComLeavMo. I had the exact same registry experience at babies'r'usens. What a trip that was!