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‘Why Have Kids’ offers answers

October 25, 2012
Terri Schlichenmeyer , Mirror Moms

Your former classmate leads such an interesting life.

She told you this summer about the trips she took recently: Aruba, Paris, Johannesburg, Tokyo. She waves perfectly manicured hands as she describes partying all night, leisurely meals, Sundays with an unspoiled newspaper, and a fun job, unencumbered.

You hate her.

Yes, you love your kids. But would you choose parenthood again if you had a second chance? That's one of the intriguing questions in "Why Have Kids? A New Mom Explores the Truth About?Parenting and " by Jessica Valenti New Harvest, $23; Brilliance?Audio, $29.99, 5 CDs.

Two days after she toured a New York hospital's maternity center, Jessica Valenti gave birth, two months early. It was not what she had in mind when she made her birth plan and once her daughter came home, parenting wasn't what she imagined.

There were no blissful bonding times for Valenti and her daughter. No Madonna-like baby-at-the-breast scenarios and no Fierce Mama moments.

Valenti says she loved her child, but not like she figured she should.

Things got better eventually, but not before Valenti realized that parenting needs a paradigm shift. The ideal that's been long-touted is nowhere near reality and that disconnect is making us miserable.

Children, she says, won't make you happy; in fact, having children can upset your self-image and your relationships.

Breast-feeding isn't something everybody can do and, yes, children need their parents but they also need a break from them, and vice versa. Mother doesn't always know best and furthermore, says Valenti, raising kids isn't the hardest job in the world. It's certainly easier than, say, being a firefighter or a factory worker.

The surprising truths, she found, are that most Moms and Dads love their children but some wish they'd never chosen parenthood. Parents have gone to jail for acting upon what they thought was best for their child. And the 1950s family isn't ideal anymore, either; in fact, Valenti discovered that the best way to have a happy, healthy child is to give him lesbian parents.

Ultimately, she says, the thing to do is forget about everything you've heard. Let go of those unattainable ideals. Relax and do the real work of loving [your] kids and have fun doing it."

In "Why Have Kids," author Valenti is sometimes deliciously in-your-face, sometimes ranting, but always eye-opening and quite a bit shocking.

She presents reasons to have children and reasons not to have them, which is something prospective parents and the vehemently child-free should both know.

Then she explains how all of the above have created a kerfuffle that will affect us for generations to come.

Overall, this is a thought-provoking, controversial, but fascinating book.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book.?She lives in Wisconsin.



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