About Parenting, Inc.

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.

Praise for Parenting, Inc.

“In Parenting, Inc., journalist Pamela Paul delves into the phenomenon of modern American parents spending a bundle on their bundles of joy…Overpriced gadgetry is all the rage, Paul says, and, as a mom, I know it’s true…In a world where birthday parties at FAO Schwartz start at $25,000 for up to 15 people, Paul appreciates the benefits of keeping it simple. A birthday party where butcher paper is rolled out and kids can paint on the floor, Paul concludes would be fun – and they might get into Harvard anyway.”
— Susan Konig, The New York Post

“As Pamela Paul chronicles in her occasionally frightening account, Parenting, Inc., my generation of parents has fallen into the grips of Big Baby…Paul has tapped a real concern. An entire industry preys on parental anxiety, and succumbing to it, we risk raising children who don’t know what to do with ‘free’ time and who will measure their value by what they can buy. Most parents will recognize a bit of themselves in Paul’s introductory complaint: ‘No matter what I do, someone else seems to be doing enviably more or improbably less, and either way, their child and family seem all the better for it.’ ”
— Kate Zernike, The New York Times Book Review

Via Reuters:


NPR’s Morning Edition:

“With Parenting, Inc., Pamela Paul has cleverly identified this subset of our consumer culture run wild and given it a catchy name…Parents (a.k.a. “suckers”) are bombarded from the prenatal stage with ads for products and services that didn’t exist in simpler times, at least not in such pricey form. Ms. Paul has endless examples to choose from, each one promising to improve your baby…Paul performs a useful service, debunking the most absurd of the baby-marketers’ claims.”
— Sheelah Kolhatkar, The New York Observer

“Pamela Paul’s Parenting, Inc. [argues] that today’s marketing forces blur the boundary between want and need. In doing so, it 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.”
—Nell Casey, Cookie magazine

“Author, journalist, and social critic Paul delivers a scathing commentary on parental consumerism.The subtitle says it all, but for readers needing evidence to entertain their assessment of parental consumer behavior, Paul supplies numerous examples of products parents purchase in an effort to assuage their guilt and/or maximize their children’s intellectual performance. Some of the more obvious examples are designer strollers, baby sign-language DVDs, and instructional materials claiming to teach infants and toddlers to read. Paul states the rather obvious and commonsense viewpoint: that these products are in fact unnecessary to raise happy and intelligent children. She further argues that most of these products can actually hinder development because they overstimulate infants, who may then not achieve even such customary milestones as speech development. Like Judith Warner’s Perfect Madness, this sine qua non for new parents is highly recommended for all public and large university library collections.”
—Library Journal

“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 first-time 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 Commercialization of Human Feeling

“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

“Pamela Paul’s message is important: let’s get back to good old common sense about raising kids and just say no to the parenting industry that seeks to rob mothers of ridiculous amounts of money—and their self esteem.”
—Susan J. Douglas, author of The Mommy Myth

“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