Hey folks! So for any and all who read Why Have Kids thanks! If anyone still wants to get in on the action, this is a quick, quick read and available online, and our discussion continues all week.
So each day I’m going to pose a discussion question. I will write some of my thoughts, and then I would absolutely love for others to respond with comments.
So let’s start with general impressions…
What did you like best and worst about Why Have Kids?
What I liked:
-I loved feeling validated that being a mom is not only hard but can be boring and tedious, and it’s okay not to feel complete and total ecstasy about it at all times – and even to dislike it!
-Instead of feeling guilty about enjoying leaving my kids to go to work, now I can feel like a good feminist for being able to support myself and my kids if need be!
-Confirmed my belief that some of what’s making me miserable as a parent is feeling isolated around others who buy into a cultural standard of motherhood that I find unattainable and un-egalitarian, and the self-doubt that comes with that.
-This book put the nail in the coffin of that little internalized voice that nags at me saying “If you’re not happy sacrificing yourself for your kids, you’re not a good mom.”
-Gave me some really interesting ideas about “natural mothering” and “maternal instinct” – that some of these ideas might be defense mechanisms and not all that natural. As someone who’s “natural” instinct is to preserve myself, my interests, and my career while parenting, I appreciate that discussion.
-I like when folks are able to acknowledge that at times parenting is “soul-crushing drudgery.”
-Very much enjoyed the focus on the role society should play in raising children and the lack of reasonable support structures for parents as well as the discussion of how our individualist mentality in the U.S. plays into that.
-I also enjoyed the historical context around “total mothering” and the fact that these cultural norms may be more rooted in historical ideas and events in this country rather than what’s “natural.”
-I went into this book expecting to have to grieve the fact that Valenti wrote the book I should have written before I got the chance to. I didn’t end up feeling that way. I still feel like there’s a lot more to say!
-I love that Valenti is willing to admit many thing as feminists and women we aren’t supposed to say, that motherhood can be “soul-crushing,” that there are good arguments why maybe we shouldn’t be giving up our careers, that society has abandoned our children, etc.
What I disliked:
-The book really didn’t say much about the title – Why Have Kids? I’m guessing that was not Valenti’s title. To me this book was more about cultural expectations that make mothering even harder than it has to be, and make expressing and even acknowledging to ourselves that mothering is less than blissful difficult.
-I think the book is working toward a thesis that viewing women as “mothers-in-waiting” and then expecting complete self-sacrifice when they become mothers is a way to oppress women and distract them from demanding more societal (and male) support as parents. I love those ideas, but I just don’t feel the book fully got there.
-In general, I felt like this book was mostly an appetizer. It was a delicious appetizer, but left me wanting more. Almost all the topics deserved a lot more depth, for example all the dynamics around father involvement in parenting.
-I thought the book could have been better organized so as to feel more like a series of arguments leading to a clear conclusion.
- I would have loved to see so much more on how much parenting does and does not impact kids and WHAT ASPECTS impact them, for example, research that shows that their genetics will have way more impact on how they do in school and career, but their relationships with parents might impact their social relationships more.
- I wish she had focused more on the profit aspects of what she calls “the parental advice industry” and related products and services.
-She brought up a really interesting point about mothers focusing on more trivial aspects of child-rearing due to the difficulty in facing fears about truly problematic things happening, but I feel like she dropped that idea and didn’t quite follow through. As a psychologist I’d be very interested in hearing more about this “coping mechanism” aspect of over-parenting.
-I thought the vaccination argument was a poor example of maternal instinct and intuition gone too far. But I’m someone who is skeptical of the medical establishment and not because I feel I know better as a mother. I feel I have valid reasons for that, and my doctor agrees.
-Wish there had been a lot more focus on the benefits to children and families of equal parenting and multiple, involved caregivers, including family, friends, and paid childcare.
-Overall, I personally would have liked this book to take more risks. I think this book is saying some very bold things, but they are said in ways that neutralize some of the impact.