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Parenting, Inc.: How the Billion-Dollar Baby Business Has Changed the Way We Raise Our Children

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3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  337 ratings  ·  118 reviews
A leading social critic goes inside the billion-dollar baby business to expose the marketing and the myths, helping parents determine what’s worth their money—and what’s a waste


Parenting coaches, ergonomic strollers, music classes, sleep consultants, luxury diaper creams, a never-ending rotation of DVDs that will make a baby smarter, socially adept, and bilingual before ag...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Times Books
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 597)
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Megan
This book drove me crazy, if only because it cemented the fact that we are a bunch of morons. I guess that's not very specific. Let me begin again:
This book seems to be written for people who haven't yet grasped the fact that there is more to being a human being than buying things. The other assumption made by this book is that all parents want their children to be members of some strange wealthy elite by turning them into driven early intellectuals and pitting them against other children to ge...more
Liz B
Oh, woe, woe, woooooooooooe is the urban, upper middle-class mother! The pressure! The expectations!

The subtitle of this books is "How We Are Sold on $800 Strollers, Fetal Education, Baby Sign Language, Sleeping Coaches, Toddler Couture, and Diaper Wipe Warmers and What It Means for Our Children." And my response, after reading the book, is "we? We who?" Full disclosure: I did talk my mother into buying me a diaper wipe warmer. In my defense, I was less than a week post-partum and my premature s...more
Julie
I skimmed and skipped through this because a lot of the context was completely nuts and relevant only to wealthy middle-aged Manhattanites. However, it was reassuring to hear someone preach against the rampant consumerism promoted by the parenting industry. I learned a few things. And I feel less guilty now about Peter not having many toys.
Sarah
Do you have a baby? Do you ever want a baby? Do you know anyone who has or will ever have a baby? Yeah, you need to run, not walk, to get this book. The author and her writing style can be grating at times, but the information in this book is invaluable. Just like people are sold wedding crap because "OMG Special day!!", people are sold baby crap (and it truly is crap) because "OMG your baby is special" combined with an extra dollop of "if you don't buy this product for your baby, your kid will...more
Heather
Full disclosure: I am not pregnant and we don't have kids.

This was a really interesting twist on the topic of consumerism (or ueber-consumerism?). People think it is justified to spend money, lots of it, on their kids, because it is "not for them". And the more they spend, the more they are "proving their love" for them. Whether it's classes for babies, superfluous safety equipment, designer strollers, or over-the-top birthday parties, this book shows that thinking this way influences the child...more
Kiandra Haaf
Fascinating. I feel like a better parent now. I'm in the wrong profession- I could be a professional baby namer for $400 a kid. Or an infant psychiatrist, at $100-$300 a session. Reading this gave me more confidence in my decisions to have low-key (or no) birthday parties for my kids, not buying them bath toys (they use plastic bowls and soda cups), and buying the cheapest stroller that functions perfectly well. Now if only I hadn't bought in to the Baby Einstein phenom, I could win mother of th...more
Sarah
I feel like this book focuses so much on the urban, upper-middle class parent that it loses sight of those of us who are in-between. The parent who would never spend $25,000 on a birthday party, but takes their kid to the local kid gym for classes. The book raises some interesting points, and does present some basic facts on child development that seem to be standard among other books I've read. With that being said the overall tone is so negative and judgmental it's hard to get past that. Sure,...more
Char
Okay, so I barely read it--skimmed about 4 chapters, just to see if it was what I thought it was about...and it was. I didn't really need someone to write a book to tell me how much parenting has become a market, and this book actually had a slim audience to me, since it was really focused on the richest people who have children: nannies, high end preschools, baby signing classes, etc. nice to know you're not the only one w/ eyeballs attached to a brain, but nothing new revealed
Susan
This is an in-depth look at the billion dollar "parenting" market. The author talks about how parents are convinced to spend thousands of dollars on everything from designer baby clothes to baby classes to experts on thumb-sucking. The point of the book is not that you can't spend money on your children or get help if you need it. It's that parental confidence is systematically being undermined by marketing experts whose job it is to convince us that our parenting instincts aren't enough, that w...more
Diana
The author does a great job of cutting through the hype and showing parents the machine behind the baby product industry. What she doesn't do is present much of an alternative. I felt that the book was out of balance - 90% is "isn't this horrible, bad, unnecessary" and 10% is "here's what's good." I would've liked to see more of the good.
Melissa
I really liked this book, and thought it presented a well-researched overview of how the "billion-dollar baby business" advertises unnecessary child-related products to parents. It was interesting to learn how much babies *don't* need, and this will be really helpful to me as a first-time parent this summer.

Interesting quotes:

1) "The truth is, most babies don't even need baby cream, powder, or lotion; unless they have a dermatological condition, their skin is naturally soft and supple." (p. 33)

2...more
Christina
Aug 02, 2008 Christina rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Current & future parents
This was a well written and researched book about modern parenting. It presented information on baby gear, baby classes, toys, videos, clothes, furniture, "parenting professionals", etc. - and basically how todays parents are falling prey to marketers and made to think they need all this stuff, all these classes, and all this professional help to be good parents and raise successful children. This is nothing many parents probably haven't already read about somewhere else, but I still really enjo...more
Ciara
god, i love books like this. sociology about all the useless crap parents get bamboozled into buying for their babies. one of my friends came over when i was reading this book & she was looking at it & was like, "wait. FETAL EDUCATION? what the fuck is that?" i was like, "yeah. i know, right?"

of course, all of these books cover the same ground, more or less. there's always a chapter about luxury strollers, there's always a chapter about baby einstein. & while the author went on &...more
Cheri
Oct 07, 2008 Cheri rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mothers and fathers, or those getting ready
At times helpful and illuminating, this book fell apart for me because of the lack of structure.

The author, Pamela Paul, catalogs the various ways parents get sucked into a buying frenzy for their kids - from lavish $800 strollers to a flurry of Mommy and Me "developmental" classes. She does a great job of exploring the various toys and gadgets and things sold to parents - in fact, sometimes too good. It honestly feels overwhelming - an avalanche of goods.

What wrecked it for me was a more clea...more
Julie
I loved this book. It got a bunch of lower reviews from other readers and I'm not sure why. It's a straightforward look about the business behind being a parent...The pressures to throw big birthday parties, enroll your infant in classes, buy fancy strollers, and many parent's quest to raise a baby genius. Since I just recently became a parent, I wrestled with a lot of these decisions. If someone else put their baby in a class, shouldn't I? If I don't, will she be 'behind'? The book discusses a...more
Chalida
A must read for all parents and to be parents. I just finished this book in three days. Paul discusses how parenting has become a business from kids wearing $100+ designer jeans to parents outsourcing potty training and sleep. Her chapter on video games and tv targeted as educational tools was eye-opening. She reminds us how necessary it is to follow our intuition as parents and gives us confidence to use common sense instead of allowing the media and businesses to prey on our insecurities. She...more
Amy
The subtitle on the front cover is: How We Are Sold on $800 Strollers,
Fetal Education, Baby Sign Language, Sleeping Coaches, Toddler
Couture, and Diaper Wipe Warmers---And What It Means for Our Children.
As the subtitle suggests, this book delves into the current state of
the baby business…how our culture has gone from getting a couple of
diapers and setting up a dresser drawer for a newborn to spending
thousands of dollars on nurseries, birthday parties and baby
paraphernalia.

There are a lot of angle...more
Elyssa
I am grateful that the author of Parenting, Inc took the time to research consumer parenting culture. It seems that parenting has shifted from a role and responsibility to a lifestyle, with required extravagant purchases and outsourcing.

This book debunked many myths that contemporary parents believe. The best chapter outlined why educational and developmental toys are a waste of money. The claims on these toys are not proven and, in some cases, the advent of sophisticated toys that do everythin...more
Melissa
Sep 17, 2008 Melissa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents, expectant parents, anyone
This was a thorough overview of the baby/toddler industry that has developed. Paul provides background research on a lot of the products that are marketed to parents as educational and deemed "essential"-- not usually so. I would recommend this book to any new or expectant parent. The volume of products marketed to parents is huge and overwhelming and this book provides some insight. This book is not perfect. There are moments when Paul is snarky and rude. She ridicules parents for enrolling the...more
AJ Conroy
Not crazy about her other books (bit of wacko), but this one was informative and reasonable. I've already found it helpful in navigating the baby crap traps. It's like the wedding racket, only the wedding industry appeals to a brides hopes and fantasies. The baby industry preys on one's fears. The ads in baby magazines are awful-- buy our product or your baby could die, you cheapstake! There are no DIY baby books like there are for weddings. There is no virtue in rational purchasing. It's hard n...more
Emily
I thought this book was going to tell me more about the disgusting amounts of money that some people spend on their kids (I'm lookin' at you Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and New Jersey (and all the other ones, but those two stick out the most)). It was more about the industry itself and how products get up and going. So, still interesting, but just now what I thought it was going to be.

I really liked the chapter about educational toys. Seriously! Why must every toy educate? Why can't out ki...more
Sara
Oct 22, 2008 Sara rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: expectant parents, new parents
This book tells us that marketers prey upon parents' desires to prove the best opportunities for our children in order to sell us more stuff. The toys, DVDs and products that increasingly fill our over-crowded homes are often purchases made from the mistaken belief that these things will make our babies smarter and thus better able to "get into a good college." In contrast to the ads, Pamela Paul shows us that scientists contend that toys that "do things" interfere with our child's imagination,...more
Carmie
bottom line: Your kids don't need all those expensive educational toys and baby gadgets. We live in an extremely consumer-driven world and an age of parental anxiety. We want the best for our kids, but sometimes it translates into material and sensory overload for our children. Parents need to start trusting their instincts again and parents need to become savvy in a culture that bombards us with marketing. So much marketing sends the message that parents not good enough and your child will suff...more
Debbie
I read this book as I'm currently in the process of researching & buying items for the baby I'm expecting in late summer. As I've been in this itense buying mode, I can feel myself getting swept up in the rampant consumer culture around parenting/babies. 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, i...more
Karetchko
I found this book to be rather obnoxious. I enjoyed the introductory chapters, but after a while I realized that it doesn't take a genius or a journalist to point out that the extent of marketing towards parents is pretty out of hand. After a while I got sick of reading about how idiotic we all are for falling for unnecessary products and lessons.

The places where the author really lost me were where she'd criticizing something like a special class for babies and then devote page after page to d...more
Laura Mallard
Good book but it shows that most of the things that we are told we need to be good parents are just meaningless expenses. I'll definately change what things and why I buy them when it comes to shopping for my children. I also like the point the author makes re:experts and what we buy- they are teaching us to ignore our instincts and buy into the fear that if we don't buy tons of items or enroll our children in classes for each day of the week we are depriving them of opportunities and future suc...more
Caroline
Goes along nuture shock (and cinderella ate my daughter)... interesting psycology and economic factors that fuels the madness of child rearing. the fear and the anxiety and etc. Helped me with my second child, i'm not buying the $600 icandy stroller i wanted to get for 2 kids. not worth it. $20 book saved me over $600. better in my pocket! thanks!

nice thing about portland is they have lots of the things people in Ca and NY pay $1000's for, but for cheaper (lactation consultants $150, instead of...more
Amy
Aug 06, 2011 Amy added it
The writing style leaves a little something to be desired in this book, but the information is interesting. Mostly presented simply as a list of ridiculous and luxurious things people can and do buy for their children, there wasn't a lot of discussion about what this culture of consumption can do to children. It did make me realize how much baby gear we have, even though I thought we weren't buying very much. It ends with a section on the positive aspects of modern parenting which was nice. Even...more
Andrea
This book was just OK. I read a bit of it and the library and was intrigued. But by page 30 or 40 I was waiting for the author to make a better point. It talks about how parents are marketed to, and the effects of those products on our children. Sounds interesting, but there wasn't enough effects for me. If you buy everything out there and go to every class for your 9 month old baby, you may need to read this book. I am well aware of how I am being marketed to, and so (well, at least I think) ca...more
Lbeste1
Ever wonder how people end up with $800 strollers? This book explores the rather exploitative "baby industry" that somehow convinces people that expensive stuff somehow makes them better parents.

Fie! Fie on you, baby industry. I refuse to accept your brainwashing. My kid will wear only burlap sacks and play with recycled popsicle sticks. (OK. Maybe not.)

So the book has a bit of an agenda, but the point is well take: you can't buy your way into being a good parent. You have to be there for your k...more
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Pamela Paul is the editor of The New York Times Book Review and the author of Parenting, Inc., Pornified, and The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony. Prior to joining the Times, Paul was a contributor to Time magazine and The Economist, and her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Vogue. She and her family live in New York.
More about Pamela Paul...
Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review

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