Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Check It Out

This is really long but it's a great read on parenting

It is an excerpt from a new book, Parenting, Inc. How we are sold on $800 strollers, Fetal Education, Baby Sign Language, Sleeping Coaches...You get the idea.

If you want to read it, please do but I just wanted to share the part that really speaks to me:

This parental money warp has distorted our entire approach to raising children. That million-dollar estimate doesn't account for the uneasy combination of guilt and desire that has become the artisan-bread-and-butter of the parenting industry. It doesn't factor in the thousands of potential saviors that loom before worried parents in baby gear catalogs or the enticing amusements heralded in parenting magazines, piled on shelves at baby emporiums, and charmingly displayed in specialty gift shops. It doesn't calculate the pressure to buy something because everyone else's child seems to have one.

Today, the "mom market" is said to be $1.7 trillion, with the toy industry for babies between birth and age two alone generating more than $700 million a year. "Parents will do anything to provide for their children. Marketers now know that this category has tremendous opportunity for growth," said Jan Studin, publisher of Parents magazine.

The marketing pitch is usually predicated on fear—and it starts right away and relentlessly. Advertisements scare women senseless about all that can go wrong in pregnancy in order to sell supplements, classes, massage therapy, shopping therapy, and pillows, when a bath and a bar of chocolate would probably suffice. Parents are bludgeoned over the head with statistically warped safety warnings in order to sell childproofing gear, strollers, changing tables, helmets, restraining devices, and high chairs. We are inundated with information about early childhood development that trumpet the need for children's cognitive stimulation in order to sell toys, DVDs, video games, computer programs, extracurricular activities, programmed family outings and vacations, and a host of products bleating "sensory overload!" in moving, shaking, music-making primary colors. Books, tutors, teachers, test prep companies, and admissions officers startle parents into action with scare stories about the merciless competition of school entry requirements and academic performance and the need for every child to find his ideal "learning environment," in which he can meet and exceed his abilities—all to sell parents on sky-high tuition, tutoring fees, test-taking courses, test prep books, and consultant fees.

We are terrified of what might happen if we don't do "something" (that is, everything) for our kids, and too often this translates into buying something or hiring someone.

Read the whole thing for more food for thought!

And here is my soap box...
If you've read my blog or know me, then you know that I am a firm believer in less is more, especially when it comes to kids and all the demands of modern parenting.
I do have to confess that I am relatively new to this parenting gig. I've only been doing it for four years but I came into it with a lot of opinions about parenting because of my experience as a teacher. I have fallen on my self righteous ass over and over again. Most of those "I will never" statements disappeared the second Olivia fell asleep in my bed attached to my right breast. All of the sudden 4 hours of sleep was 400 times more important than all that bullshit I spouted about never allowing kids to sleep with you.
So, with all that in mind...I have stuck pretty firmly to my belief that kids are over-scheduled, over-"provided for", over, over everything. I was feeling pretty proud of myself in our age of crazy consumerism. My kids aren't running all over to their after school activities. They have so few toys that they actually play with all of them. We own one TV, one internet-less computer, and my kids spend 90% of their day using their plain 'ol imagination.
But I have been seriously tested on this lately. My kids are getting older and they are more aware of what other kids have. They also go to a school that is populated by people that are...lets say...in a higher income bracket than we are. I have found myself feeling like I am not doing enough or I'm not buying enough. I was starting to give in to the fear-driven logic that says your kids won't succeed in life unless you provide them with every possible advantage.
I have found myself checking out the summer camp programs and thinking about all the ways I can make this the BEST SUMMER EVER! for them. I think I came across this in just the nick of time. It has reaffirmed for me that the way I choose to live is what's best for my family. I am doing the best for my kids by NOT doing all that stuff, by not buying all that stuff.
So this summer you will find us playing outside without a structured activity in sight! We will swim, we will dig in the sand, we will lay in the grass. All for the pure pleasure of being a child. And it will be the BEST SUMMER EVER!


Kathleen said...

Bravo! Sarah, Bravo!

I think we should all go back to the farm and play on the haystacks.

Pamela Paul said...


Pamela Paul here, author of Parenting, Inc. Just wanted to thank you so much for the lovely post! I'm so glad you're enjoying the book.

All best,

Robyn said...

I'm so glad that I'm not the only one out there who feels the same way! Kids are way "over" everything and it robs them of just being a kid. I have a book that you are more than welcome to borrow called "Consuming Kids - The Hostile Takeover of Childhood" by Susan Linn. I haven't read the whole thing, but what I did read was so appalling. It would make most parents' stomachs turn if they only knew what goes on in boardrooms all over the world. Marketing people have learned to hit parents' fear and guilt buttons with such precision that it's scary. I think parents should give themselves more credit for what they can do without relying on outside things like expensive toys and elaborate vacations.

I made home-made bubbles for the kids yesterday and they were so thrilled. I felt like super mom all day. It's the simple things that make everyone feel good.