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

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  3,199 ratings  ·  469 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 child rearing, then why do it? And why are anxious new parents flocking to every Tiger Mother and Bébé-raiser for advice on how to raise kids?
In Why Have Kids?, Valenti explores these controversial questions
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by New Harvest (first published July 18th 2012)
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Popular Answered Questions
Jayne Lamb That's far too broad a question to answer. Do you love being alive? Sometimes it's painful and depressing and sometimes it's joyous and radiant. Prett…moreThat's far too broad a question to answer. Do you love being alive? Sometimes it's painful and depressing and sometimes it's joyous and radiant. Pretty much how I feel about being a parent.

Kristy People should always put as much thought as possible into planning to bring another life into the world. I can't think of something you should think a…morePeople should always put as much thought as possible into planning to bring another life into the world. I can't think of something you should think and talk about more thoroughly, with or without a partner.(less)

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Angela Risner
Aug 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 19, 2017 rated it liked it
To be honest, this book is mostly useful as an overview of the major points of the "to have kids or not to have kids" debate circa the early 21st century. I imagine it will make a great reference point to a PhD student in 100 years or so, and some enterprising librarian ought to mark it out as a future source right now. If you're a woman who has ever struggled with this question and therefore clicked on far more of the clickbait-y articles about this topic than you should have, then you won't fi ...more
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-eclampsia) & delive ...more
Oct 11, 2012 rated it liked it
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 night because someon ...more
Aug 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Julie Ehlers
My feelings about Why Have Kids? are similar to my feelings about Jessica Valenti's earlier books, Full Frontal Feminism and The Purity Myth: namely, that this is a good introduction to a complex topic. Like other feminist writers before her, Valenti observes that motherhood in the U.S. is rife with contradictions—a lot of lip service is paid to revering mothers, yet our culture fails to support them in meaningful ways, such as with affordable child care, universal health care, and family-friend ...more
Mar 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Jaclyn Day
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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?

Sep 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Natalie Minor
May 21, 2013 rated it liked it
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 02, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
When I was in 10th grade we learned how to write formulaic research papers. It was a useful assignment that set a good foundation for future academic writing, but as I got older, my writing developed and I learned about the importance of having a distinctive voice and making strong arguments.

This book is basically a 10th grade paper about parenting dilemmas of the early 21st century, with a vaguely third wave feminist approach, an annoying Internet snarky voice, and no really strong or distincti
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: parenting, feminist
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
Sep 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
Dec 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012, audiobook-d, ladyish
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
Jul 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really don't understand the negative reviews of this book, and to be honest, I'm a bit suspicious that perhaps there was some information people simply didn't want to hear.

Valenti's answer to the title question, "why have kids?", is certainly not "well, don't." I wonder if the people who interpreted it this way read the same book as I did...

Valenti encourages modern day feminists to have one another's backs, to be inclusive, to think outside of their own individual experiences, and to fight
Katy Brandes
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This really resonated with me as I enter my thirties and start to think about having a family at soooome as-yet-to-be-determined point in the next decade. It helped me understand the fear and anxiety I feel about that life change, even though I know it's something I want to do. The part about having kids to build your community and to raise another person rather than having kids to act as a vessel into which you place all of your hopes for happiness was especially on point. It seems like a "no d ...more
Valenti takes her readers through the ways that current American culture and policy have intertwined to make parenting difficult. She mourns the increasingly individualistic approach to childrearing, the solemn assurances that it's a job (not a relationship), and increasing demands for perfection from mothers. Instead, Valenti argues that women should be offered more support personally and politically (husbands should be partners, relying on childcare and grandparents might be better for your ch ...more
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is such a great book! Its honest and covers so many topics (some of which like anti diaper parents were completely new to me). I know a bunch of people who need to read this book lol.
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Sep 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jack Shoegazer
Jan 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book should really be titled, "THIS IS THE REALITY OF HAVING CHILDREN. BE ABSOLUTELY FUCKING CERTAIN YOU'RE UP FOR THIS." Because it's not that raising children is this horrendously difficult thing or that it's a piece of cake. The major problem re: parenting is the huge cognitive distance between how difficult it can be and the idea that it's a divine calling that will totally fulfill you as a human being. ...more
Stuart Woolf
Jul 12, 2020 rated it liked it
My girlfriend and I decided to read two books together - a challenge because we have opposite tastes. I chose Robert Wright's The Moral Animal, a popular evolutionary psychology book written in the 90's; ever coy, she chose the suggestively-titled Why Have Kids? by Jessica Valenti.

As it happens, these books are complementary. To use terms from Chinese cosmology, Wright's book is all yang, employing the rhetoric of science to justify a masculinized worldview. (In fairness to Bob, many would descr
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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

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