I had been eyeing Why Have Kids? after reading a 2012 Daily Beast review, and am happy to finally sink my teeth into the book.
Nearly finished, I’ve been enjoying the book immensely. Though many of Valenti’s points are rehashed over and over, she lends a thought-provoking read. Whether or not you agree with her observations (she’s had a lot of controversial ones over the years), you can’t help but respect that she’s one of the few who has publicly asked, “Whoa, whoa, WHOA! Now, wait a minute! Is having kids all that it’s cracked up to be?”
As a person who is terrified of having children due to: 1.) anxiety issues 2.) fears of giving up my freedom and 3.) being an only child of divorced parents, Valenti is able to articulate my thoughts and then some about my concerns of becoming a parent. She cites numerous studies showing that individual’s overall happiness goes down after having kids, though she’s quick to point out that it’s not the kids themselves that make people unhappy- it’s due to what modern parenting has become. Gone are the days where people birthed children for extra hands on the farm and instead, as Valenti points out, people are having kids to complete them, to have someone unconditionally love them, and in the fear of making sure this precious product of ours is the most perfect it can be, we stress over every single detail to the point where we neglect ourselves.
I’ve seen this type of parenting firsthand. Mothers who buy their children state of the art strollers, enlist the help of personal chefs to cook organic baby food and who breastfeed or sleep with their babies well past their toddler years (Valenti goes into great lengths about Attachment Parenting). These are the same mothers I’ve seen have public nervous breakdowns over small details because they are insanely stressed out. Stressed because every single aspect of their child-rearing has to be perfect and when it’s not, everything falls apart. One mom in particular fell to the ground, screaming and crying, when her two year-old daughter tripped on the sidewalk. The two year-old was absolutely fine, but the mother wasn’t. This is the same mother who would grab her child and shield it away from you if you coughed. On the reverse side, I’ve seen parents, much like my high school friend Steve, whose parenting I highly respect, who have a hands-on, but relaxed approach to parenting. His 2 1/2 year-old daughter has grown up running around their urban farm, picking up chickens, helping Dad with the garden, running around naked, falling down and getting back up with no fear whatsoever. I will say this: my friend’s 2 1/2 year-old is way more social and thoughtful than the previously mentioned child.
As a childless person it is not my place to judge which style of parenting is better, but all I know is that the children and parents in setups where the children don’t consume every single second of the day AND every ounce of mental space and energy seem much more relaxed, and therefore happy.
Valenti has received criticism for her book, as have the individuals she cites who have also questioned modern day parenting. She speculates that mothers who may have an adverse reaction to what she and others are saying is due to insecurity. Though I did not have an adverse reaction to her words, it did make me think about my own insecurities, my fears of being an anxious mother. Who wouldn’t want their children to be the most absolutely perfect creation on this planet? Who wouldn’t want to feed their kids homemade organic baby food? Who wouldn’t fall apart if they saw your precious cargo fall on the sidewalk? Who doesn’t want to strictly breastfeed? Baby wear? Buy expensive strollers and toys that we know won’t kill their babies?
I highly recommend this read for mothers and non-mothers alike. What I took away from the book is that Valenti is not trying to scare non-mothers out of having children or shun attached mothers, but rather to have us rethink modern day parenting. If we don’t, we’re going to gravely stress out ourselves, our marriages and most importantly, our children.
So, people with kids, tell me: Is having kids worth it?