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

3.51  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,338 Ratings  ·  385 Reviews
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 parenting, then why do it? In Why Have Kids?, Jessica Valenti asks this the controversial—but necessary—question. Through on-the-ground reporting, new scientific studies, and her own burgeoning motherhood, Valen ...more
Kindle Edition, 208 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by Amazon Publishing (first published July 18th 2012)
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Angela Risner
Aug 05, 2012 Angela Risner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I chose not to have children, and I've read the studies that show those of us without kids are happier in general. However, parenthood as a whole still fascinates me. It is a difficult job with lots of responsibility and I've seen it create both joy and depression.

Valenti explores the issue of parenting as a new mother. Her birth story did not go as planned - her daughter was delivered via C-section at 28 weeks due to several complications. Due to the worry over her daughter's survival, she did
i was almost tempted to file this under "books by celebrities" because the only reason jessica valenti was paid to write this book is because she is jessica valenti &, as such, has a built-in audience, to a certain degree. valenti was involved in writing this book when she was still pregnant with her daughter, & i kind of wish i could see what she would have written had she had the pregnancy & birth she had expected. instead, she developed HELLP syndrome (a severe form of pre-eclamps ...more
Nov 19, 2014 Melissa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ladies-writin
Prepare to tear your hair out over this one. In America, women are told that raising children is the most rewarding thing we could ever possibly do, as well as the hardest. “Moms have the toughest jobs in the world if you’re doing it right,” says Oprah. I guess this makes it easier to feel better about yourself when you’re exhausted & changing diapers & trying to dress someone who hates pants today & getting screamed at by your toddler & getting woken up in the middle of the nigh ...more
Aug 03, 2012 Katie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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, espe ...more
Jaclyn Day
Jan 02, 2013 Jaclyn Day rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are so many things swirling in my head after finishing this book that I’m not sure where to start! First, the obvious: I liked it. After writing this post last week (, I read the book over the weekend and found myself highlighting almost every other paragraph on my Kindle. There are so many important things in this book—things that shouldn’t just be important to moms. It’s a book that every woman should read and every man too, for that matter. Why?

Mar 20, 2013 Gail rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In what is essentially the American version of Elizabeth Badinter’s polemical “The Conflict,” feminist Jessica Valenti has a lot of controversial things to say about women and motherhood; unfortunately, like Badinter, she doesn’t take the time to focus her discussion, hone her points, and effectively advocate for reform - and isn’t amusing enough to make up the difference.

Though it touches on wide-ranging topics, “Why Have Kids” reads like one long blog post (complete with annoying typos and cit
Reading books like this restores my sanity. I found myself nodding along with so many of Valenti's points. I suspect that this is the kind of book that people will slam without reading, and that's an injustice. Valenti is bringing up a lot of points that could seriously impact families for the better, regardless of their parenting styles, socioeconomic status, etc. There is work to be done here. More complete review to follow.

Full review:

Though the title of Valenti's book is provocative and sure
Dec 14, 2012 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I got more out of some parts of this than others. Why Have Kids? was one part "Have you heard of the Mommy Wars?"; one part "My nipples were bleeding!", i.e., Valenti voicing personal surprise at how harrowing parenting can be, in part because of the pressure (some) parents now put on themselves; and one part genuinely interesting discussion of laws, policies, and attitudes that dehumanize parents--mothers in particular. Maybe I found the last piece most interesting because I am a lawyer, and "c ...more
Natalie Minor
I'm glad Jessica Valenti wrote this book, and I'm glad I read it. I don't think she necessarily says anything untrue or offensive (though she's not afraid to be provocative) - but the reason I didn't quite love the book is that I thought it was a bit sloppy.

It seemed repetitive, and it was so focused on making the point that being a parent is hard that it almost forgot to answer the question posed by the title, which is really what made me want to read it. Her recommendation for how we can be ha
Mar 24, 2016 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Something I strongly dislike about society is the fact that it’s the default to assume someone will have kids. Whenever I tell someone who doesn’t know me very well that I don’t plan to ever have children, I am met with a shocked face and something along the lines of, “but why NOT?” I feel a better question should be, to someone who chooses to have children, “but WHY?” Valenti comes at the to-have-kids-or-not-to-have-kids question the second way, which is why I read the book in the first place. ...more
Sep 17, 2012 Emmy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: parenting, self-help
This review has what could be considered spoilers- but this type of book doesn't really have spoilers.

Valenti wants to get past the mommy wars about breast vs bottle and SAHM vs Working mom's- in fact she often seems to want to get past the idea that mother's are the best ones to raise the kids. Valenti states "if we can manage to beat back the guilt and sense of personal failure that so many women buy into--and feel no shame when we admit child rearing can be tedious and thankless undertaking.
Jul 27, 2012 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the late 1970s, "Dear Abby" conducted a nonscientific poll. She asked parents who read her column to write in answering yes or no to one question: "If you had it to do over again, would you have kids?" An astonishing 70 percent of respondents (and there were thousands) said NO.

Author Jessica Valenti, a new mother, decided to look at the myths and harsh realities of parenting. Starting with her own experience having trouble bonding with her critically ill, premature infant (Valenti herself had
Sep 20, 2012 Jen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While I agree having more discussions about things like the high cost of child care, non existent maternity leave and quality of education are important, this book hit a sour note with me. Disclaimer, I have 3 kids, and I am very satisfied with my choices.

I was curious,however, to find out what the author thought would suffice as an answer to her question. I admit I often find myself bristling at the current trend that debates to death whether or not parents are happy with their charges and in
Katy Brandes
May 13, 2013 Katy Brandes rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism
The title is exactly what it claims it to be. It is Valenti's scathing but research-based look at gender-based stereotypes about modern motherhood that are based on outdated expectations. She extols a lot of information about parents' and children's satisfaction levels, which I totally believe, as well as statistics about "non-traditional" families in relation to children's welfare. Why are women expected to be the so-called natural caregivers for children? Why do some people still think women s ...more
Jun 09, 2013 Isabel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminist, parenting
I got this book as an audiobook and realized that I'd picked up something controversial when my daughter looked at me inquiringly and asked with hurt in her voice, "Why'd you get that book, Mom?" Hmm.

Valenti's title is intriguing. I was interested to hear the answer to her question. Why do American women have kids? I thought that would be the topic. It's not. However, her title suited the author's purpose, which, she states herself, is to make the reader angry. If not angry, just the title had
Dec 13, 2012 jess rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook-d, ladyish, 2012
I felt about this book a way that I can only feel about feminist books from women of a certain age, which is to say a sort of unsettled frustration conflicting with fist-pumping enthusiasm. They are the only ones who really bring this out in me.

The beginning of this book annoyed me, in particular the early pages of Jessica Valenti's thoughts on attachment parenting, breast feeding and natural birth. The thing is, even though there may be some science or reasonable logic to back her up, her criti
Mar 12, 2015 Dawn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The best thing I got from this book is that all the "mommy wars" nonsense is tantamount to adult security blankets. If becoming a disciple of babywearing gives you enough of an illusion of control to get you through the day, hooray for you.

Otherwise, everything that this book did good, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood did better. Even though Why Have Kids? is shorter, it struck me as more a bitch fest about modern American views on women than an examination of the question po
Although I did not agree with everything, it's good to challenge your thinking with different viewpoints. This book gave me much to think about... The basis is that we need a societal change on parenting in America. A century or so ago parents were worried if their children would survive... and there was a society of grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors who helped raise them. Today the worry about health has lessened, but anxiety about so much more sucks the joy out of parenting- s ...more
Jan 12, 2013 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd consider this essential reading for anyone who is thinking about having kids, or has kids, and has secretly wondered if having children would really be so great (or why it would not). This book is smart, logical, and a great introduction to the challenges that women face surrounding decisions on whether or not to have kids, and everything that comes after. It's actually not about kids, but about the culture of parenting in America - one of absolute, total sacrifice for your kids at the expen ...more
Oct 01, 2013 Lindsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a brief (therefore minimally redundant), merciless look at how society treats parents/views parenting, which really means: how society still treats women and mothering. It has little to do with whether or not kids are a right choice for anyone, but rather the issues around parenthood-- the many strange double standards or hypocrisies women are faced with, such as the rage they get from other women when they set aside a career to focus on young children, while at the same time ...more
Stephanie Swint
Jan 28, 2014 Stephanie Swint rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title of this book could lead one to believe that the author was implying having children is a bad thing, but that is not the aim of the book or the author. Jessica Valenti, a new mom and writer, looks at the societal views of why we have kids, what society says a parent should look like, the rights and roles of parents and non parents. It is a captivating book. I am a reader who tends to not stray from fiction frequently but this book was on the list that should be better known and I decide ...more
Filipe Lemos
I find that in life there are few things one should be absolutist about.
The thing I most like about this book is the non-absolutist view that the confessedly-feminist author has on the parental issues she takes on.

This book is mostly about the prejudice that women/mothers face. And mostly, this prejudice on how to be a perfect mother, is self-afflicted.

More that a call to arms, so women can help their "Sisters", this is food for thought: a call to reflect on what really mothers in mothering (and
Nov 06, 2012 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When my Facebook feed blew up with parenting gurus grunting with indignation about this book, I *knew* that I needed to read it. I am not the kind of person who likes to only hear echos when talking about raising kids. My husband and I employ an eclectic style in raising our girls after being attachment devotees with our first baby and nearly being broken by it. The advance arguments against her opinions made me anxious to get my hands on a copy and I was ecstatic to find it was only $1.99 for K ...more
Oct 25, 2012 Teague rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love, love this book. It asks really important questions about parenting and why nuclear families think they have to go it alone. Rugged individualism is as gross in parenting as is it is the rest of society yet we are led to believe that we should be happy giving up everything to raise children. I really like the questions she asks and the conclusions she draws about having a relationship with your child rather than treating it like "the hardest job in the world." It's not. Digging ditches is h ...more
Feb 24, 2013 Hilary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible, audio
What a great book. A concise and engaging summary of feminist issues surrounding parenting. Parenting is a very important feminist issue because so often women are portrayed and defined by the mother role. I recommend this even if you do not plan on having kids -- just a great summary of how society views and treats women, and a look at one of the places where inequality still reigns supreme.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"We focus on the absurd, rather than the everyday, because the mundan
Oct 15, 2012 Gwendolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love being a mother to my 2-year-old daughter, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for life as a parent. As Valenti notes, parenting (and motherhood in particular) is held up as some kind of spiritual, cathartic and necessary experience, filled with nothing but joy and reward. The reality is much more earth-bound and tied up in sleepless nights, endless loads of laundry, and stunted social lives. If parenting is supposed to be the most amazing experience of life, why are so many parents miserable? ...more
Interesting, but not earthshattering. I knew most of what Valenti talks about in this book, but it's nice to have it all in one slim volume. I will say, though, that some of the statistics and stories she gathered are still shocking. For example:

1. the cost of center-based day care in 40 states is actually more expensive than (public) college tuition (p. 61)
2. right now it's more dangerous to give birth in California than in Kuwait or Bosnia (p. 62), mostly because doctors in the US push C-secti
Oct 10, 2012 Michelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So I started off excited about the book, which waned a couple of chapters in, and then I just sort of put off finishing it. Towards the end I had like fifteen pages left and I couldn't bring myself to pick it up, I just didn't want to deal with it, you know? But I finally finished it a couple of nights ago, and then I delayed writing a review... My apologies if this isn't up to par.

I'll start off with what I like. I liked that Ms. Valenti looks at motherhood and parenting from a distant perspect
Coral Rose
Mar 13, 2013 Coral Rose rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Oh. I have SO many things to say.

There were some things about this book I really loved. Particularly, a comment of hers about people who don't vaccinate. While she was obviously pro-vaccination, she pointed out that it makes sense for moms especially to be skeptical of the medical community - after all, they just had children. She talks about the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. (it's horrible - it's safer in Kuwait than in the United States to give birth. Let that sink in.) When the medical
lee lee
Jan 09, 2013 lee lee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: moms who need a quick read/short chapters
I was looking forward to reading this book and even had it on my Christmas list (why no one bought it for me, I can't fathom...). But I have to say that I'm a little disappointed. Perhaps these topics are still considered "controversial" and, for that reason, the book needed to be written. But it all seemed like pretty old news to me. (I'm just uber progressive, I guess.) I was expecting a little more spunk, based on the title. [Speaking of which, the title irks me because it's not what the book ...more
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Jessica Valenti is a columnist for the Guardian US and the author of four books on feminism, politics and culture. Her third book, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women, won the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Award and was made into a documentary by the Media Education Foundation. She is also editor of the anthology Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual ...more
More about Jessica Valenti...

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“And really, how insulting is it that to suggest that the best thing women can do is raise other people to do incredible things? I'm betting some of those women would like to do great things of their own.” 41 likes
“The cultural insistence that parenting is the 'most important' job in the world is a smart way to satiate unappreciated women without doing a damn thing for them.” 23 likes
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