Book Review: Parenting, Inc. by Pamela Paul
If you are interested in the marketing perspective of baby products, then Pamela Paul’s “Parenting, Inc.” is a great read for you. The tagline on the front of the book reads, “How we are sold on $800 strollers, fetal education, baby sign language, sleeping coaches, toddler couture, and diaper warmers – and what it means for our children.” The author shares her own anecdotes while breaking down the history of various baby phenomenons such as baby mega stores, edutainment, and the InStyle-ization of parenthood.
The book begins by tackling the question of – Should the decision of having a child be based a family’s financial status? Then Paul breaks down the cost of having children in today’s world versus the world of our parents. Apparently costs started rising in the 1980s when baby boomers entered parenthood.
The first chapter titled “The Mother Load” is an interesting look into how baby mega stores like Buybuy Baby and Babies R Us came into existence in the 1990s. According to the book the “ ‘mom market’ is said to be 1.7 trillion, with the toy industry for babies birth to age two alone generating $700 million a year.” It is not surprising to hear these numbers if you have ever walked into the toy section of Target or a Babies R Us.
I found the history recount of baby formula fascinating in the second chapter titled, “Target: Parents.” German chemist, Justus von Liebig, was the first to create a baby formula in 1867. The product grew from that year forward and really took off in the 1950s. In 1974 deceptive marketing practices such as sales people dressing up as nurses in Africa to promote the product were uncovered and many people boycotted Nestle. In response to the boycott Nestle came out with the DHA/ARA supplement in formula as a new way to market its formula. The chapter recognizes the benefits of formula while spilling its history and how it is marketed to parents.
The third chapter breaks down the Baby Einstein phenomenon and how toys and television shows are created to educate children. Basically, parents shouldn’t really expect shows and toys to educate our kids and parents are the best teachers. Even though some parents feel inadequate and don’t feel like they are doing a good job, they truly are the most effective teachers that a child has.
The ‘Pampered’ chapter explains how the price point of strollers and designer cribs were raised and the media’s growing interest in celebrity babies. Particularly intriguing is how celebrities are given tons of free products in hope that they will be photographed by the paparazzi. So when they are seen with a certain stroller it may not be the safest or best product available, it may have been the closest one to the door before they left. This chapter also gives us insight into the new trend of junior country clubs.
Other chapters cover the marketing behind baby classes, outsourcing parenthood, birthday party trends, the benefits of a hyper-marketing culture, and so much more.
The author concludes by stating that we need to teach our children that their worth is not derived from material things. Children will benefit more from what we deny them and teaching delayed gratification rather than buying all the newest and greatest products. Overall, ‘Parenting, Inc.’ is current, well written, very well researched and easy to read if you are interested in the subject matter.