Jessica Valenti, the author of the new book Why Have Kids? is pissed off. There’s no other way to say it, really. In her book, she takes a brutally honest look at the shadow side of parenting. That side that we tend to gloss over by quickly covering our complaints with, “but being a mom is awesome!” or “but I wouldn’t trade this for the world!”
Raising kids is REALLY hard, you guys. Period. No need to qualify it with a profession of deep and abiding love. It’s HARD.
In Why Have Kids? Jessica delves into chapter after chapter of myths about parenting, as well as some truths. She takes a controversial stand with these myths and truths. For example, a myth in her book is that being a mom is the hardest job in the world and a truth is that smart women don’t have kids…I’m guessing at least a few of you got your feathers ruffled over these (I know I did!).
Every “myth” she takes issue with and every “truth” she presents are meant to alarm you. They go against what society tends to claim.
But while I can’t say I agree with her every thought, she most definitely brings a critical eye to some sweeping assumptions that are made in our culture, and challenges some of these ideas as being part of the cause for the ennui Gloria Steinem named back in The Feminist Mystiqe and that women still struggle with, despite decades of “movement” for women’s rights.
I can identify with Jessica’s deep disappointment in some aspects of raising children. These have precious little to do with the children, themselves, and so much to do with the sacrifice of personal identity that seems to be expected of women. I have struggled with this matter ever since I became a mom.
I was shocked and surprised when working full time no longer seemed to fit my identity. My old self simply no longer fit. And I was shocked and surprised when I found myself unhappy staying at home full-time, as well. I was also shocked at the extent to which I had to completely rearrange my priorities and let go of interests and even friendships in order to give parenting the time it seems to demand. From the book, “it’s not so much that children don’t make you happy – they do bring joy into people’s lives – it’s that kids also ‘crowd out’ other sources of happiness.” This has also been my experience, and it honestly has been a very tough pill to swallow. It has become increasingly difficult to remember who I was or what I enjoyed before I became a parent. It’s not that I wish to go back to that, but that I long for an identity outside of “Darah and Layah’s mom” and knowing who that person is has become surprisingly difficult.
Tim and I both also struggle a lot with not having a support system in place here in Chattanooga. We do not have family near by and we wish so much that we did. Valenti talks in her book about the fact that multi-generational families used to be more common, and that there was a great benefit to that for moms. They could utilize the village, so to speak, to help with raising the child. Valenti quotes Petra Buskens, a motherhood researcher based in the Netherlands, who says, “‘Mothers are attempting to carry out rigorous schedules of attached mothering in an increasingly fragmented and unsupportive social context.’ Essentially, we’re Attachment Parenting without a net.” This really resonated with me, as I find so much of the Attachment Parenting philosophy to be compelling, but absolutely exhausting to me as the parent. It nearly breaks me on a weekly basis. Perhaps this is why…
You guys, there are SO many things in this book that I would love to cover and would love to discuss. But alas, it is time to feed the baby this morning (I wake up BEFORE her 5 am feeding so that I can get some non-parenting work done…it’s the only way I can have this identity as a blogger. Sleep loses). Would anyone be interested in doing an online book club session (or maybe a few sessions) together? Maybe over Skype?
The book is available on Amazon now for $14.00. If you are an Amazon Prime member and have a Kindle, it’s FREE!!! That makes me jealous of those of you in that category, by the way.
Let me know if you want to talk about this book after reading it. It’s likely going to make you mad. And it’s also going to really make you think.
I received a complimentary copy for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are strictly my own.