Parenting, Inc.

How the Billion-Dollar Baby Business Has Changed the Way We Raise Our Children

Pamela Paul

Times Books

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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 age three. Time-strapped, anxious parents hoping to provide the best for their baby are the perfect mark for the “parenting” industry.
 
In Parenting, Inc., Pamela Paul investigates the whirligig of marketing hype, peer pressure, and easy consumerism that spins parents into purchasing overpriced products and raising overprotected, overstimulated, and over-provided-for children. Paul shows how the parenting industry has persuaded parents that they cannot trust their children’s health, happiness, and success to themselves. She offers a behind-the-scenes look at the baby business so that any parent can decode the claims—and discover shockingly unuseful products and surprisingly effective services. And she interviews educators, psychologists, and parents to reveal why the best thing for a baby is to break the cycle of self-recrimination and indulgence that feeds into overspending.
 
Paul’s book leads the way for every parent who wants to escape the spiral of fear, guilt, competition, and consumption that characterizes modern American parenthood.

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Book Excerpts

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Prologue

 

When she was seven months old, my husband and I seriously considered enrolling our daughter, Beatrice, who has no hearing impairment, in baby sign language class. Oh, we did have some initial doubts: If Beatrice was busy learning how to fold and pleat her fingers into signing gestures, wouldn’t that take time and attention away from learning to speak? Wouldn’t being able to communicate through signs remove any incentive to talk? But our misgivings were brushed aside by the baby signing professionals and their acolytes.

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Reviews

Praise for Parenting, Inc.

"An entire industry preys on parental anxiety… Paul nicely dismantles the claim [and] tries to lead us out of the catastrophization of childhood."—The New York Times Book Review

"Fascinating…  Paul shows how companies selling everything from infant movement monitors to education DVDs have built a booming business convincing parents they cannot trust their children’s safety or well-being to themselves."—Reuters

"[Parenting, Inc.] offers the reader a distilled version of the parenting products and services that are truly useful, as opposed to those that prey on our fears."—Cookie magazine  

"Paul has cleverly identified this subset of our consumer culture run wild... Perform[s] a useful service, debunking the most absurd of the baby-marketers’ claims."—New York Observer 

"Sing it, sister Pamela! At last, a baby-book trend even a father can dig."—The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

"An absorbing examination of the commercialization of parenting."—The Guardian (London)

"Through interviews... Paul helps consumers figure out for themselves just what items they need and which ones are a complete waste of money. Her book is part investigative journey, part resource manual." —The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)

"Paul… looks closely at the nonstop spending spree associated with parenting (designer shoes for newborns, anyone?) and offers a sobering critique of the combined industries she dubs "Big Baby.""—Time Out New York Kids

"Paul’s journey through the maze [of marketing] is frightening and, frankly, a bit embarrassing. Her conclusions champion restraint."—Courier-Journal (Louisville)

"A meticulously researched piece of cultural criticism… Parenting, Inc. just might reassure [parents]."—St. Petersburg Times

"Before you plunk down forty bucks for a Christian Dior pacifier, think about Paul’s warning about a consumer-driven culture that’s raising over-protected, over-stimulated, and over-provided-for children."—CNBC Business Radio

"Paul… took a hard look at the ‘parenting industry’ and found that not only are the companies creating and marketing these products actively play on parental fears, but we parents have readily bought into the hype."—The Greenville News

"Like Judith Warner’s Perfect Madness, this sine qua non for new parents is highly recommended." —Library Journal

"Paul explains just how ludicrous today’s infant product marketplace has become."—The Ottawa Citizen

"It’s only natural to want the best for our kids; all parents do. But what does ‘the best’ mean? Pamela Paul takes us on a hair-raising journey of the products, services, and ‘expert’ guidance from which parents today feel compelled to choose and the time pressure, financial pressure, and self-doubt that turns them into nervous wrecks. Parents need the courage to be sensible again—they and their kids can use it. Buy this book and carry it with you whenever you walk into a baby store."—Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice

"You don’t have a Crumb Chum chin-to-toe cover to put on your toddler at meal times? You haven’t hired your ‘momcierge’ to organize your child’s home library? Or a specialist in thumb sucking, under-sleeping, nail biting, or giving up overnight diapers? Relax. In this riveting book, Paul very much empathizes with the anxieties of eager parents. At the same time, she gently helps us wonder whether we aren’t, as a culture, going overboard—and deftly, brilliantly, helps us see the beauty in an alternative. She rings a bell we need to hear."—Arlie Hochschild, author of The Time Bind and The Managed Heart

"There has been a great deal written about the commercialization of childhood, but Parenting, Inc. makes it clear that the commercialization of parenting is equally extensive and even more troubling. This important book will help parents become aware of how much of their parenting is being forced upon them by an unrelenting sales pitch."—David Elkind, professor of child development, Tufts University, and author of The Hurried Child


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About the Author

Pamela Paul

Pamela Paul is a contributor to Time magazine and the author of Pornified: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families and The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony. She writes for such publications as The New York Times Book Review, Psychology Today, Self, Ladies’ Home Journal, and The Economist. She and her family live in New York.

Pamela Paul

Earl Wilson / The New York Times
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Available Formats and Book Details

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

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Henry Holt and Co.
Times Books
April 2008
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429994828
ISBN10: 1429994827
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches, 320 pages
$7.99

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Henry Holt and Co.
Holt Paperbacks
March 2009
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780805089240
ISBN10: 0805089241
5 5/8 x 8 7/8 inches, 320 pages
$19.99
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Times Books

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