Tuesday, May 28, 2013

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been looking forward to reading Valenti's book for several weeks. This is a great little book (and a pretty fast read, I got through it in about three hours) for anyone that is just beginning to explore the concept of finding happiness in mothering (though Valenti prefers the term parenting, which I completely get, this book is primarily about mothering). Valenti is an engaging and interesting writer and is sure to make you think about why we have children, the idea of what it is to be a good mother, and how we're all struggling to make sense of ourselves as parents.

However, after reading many, many, many books and articles on feminist mothering, empowered mothering, and the state of mothering today, this book was much the same. See how I still gave it four stars though? If you haven't done the extensive (and ridiculous) amount of reading on mothering that I have (for my graduate work), give this book a go! Really, really!

My two actual complaints about the book: Valenti could be more thorough in her reporting/research. The example off hand is her breastfeeding chapter. While I've certainly mellowed in my fanaticism for breast-feeding, I still think she might've give more research going both ways. This is one example of where she is very one-sided with her research and doesn't give a true, full picture. I generally agreed with all of her overall analysis, I felt I was only getting one side of an argument in a few places in the book.

My second complaint is never really addressing two of the three themes on the cover - why people choose to have kids and finding happiness in parenting. She covers both of these topics (most women feel obligated to have kids as society pushes women to have children; and people without children are happier than those with children, and working moms are happier than stay-at-home moms), but she doesn't really fully engage with either topic. I would've liked to see more discussion on WHY people choose to have children (or is the only reason because we believe we must, or 'oops!'), and more about what it is to be happy and be a parent (or, in particular, a mother).

It was fun reading this after working on the 50th edition The Feminine Mystique for my book club; there are so many parallels and women are still facing such crisis, even a half a decade later.

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