The Parenting Industrial Complex

When I was pregnant with The Boy, we received a lot of parenting books. We got one on raising little scientists, and one on raising an emotionally intelligent child, and…I don’t even know, because I didn’t read a damn one of them. I just don’t put a lot of stock in what books say about how to raise a kid, because, every kid is different. My two kids are nothing like each other, so if I followed what a book said about how to raise them, I’d be doing it right for one and not the other, because they just  need really different parenting techniques.

The only parenting book I’ve actually read is one about getting your kid to sleep, because The Girl is 2 and she still will not fucking sleep through the night. I mean, some nights she does, and then other nights she’s up crying every couple of hours for no fucking reason. I am so fucking tired that I got desperate and read this book, and you know what? She’s still not fucking sleeping through the night. I’m so fucking tired…where was I? Oh yes, parenting books. Reading that book about sleep taught me one thing: even a good parenting book (and this one wasn’t bad) can’t always solve your parenting problems. At best it can give you some ideas to try, one of which might help you.

And at worst, it will make you feel like shit. It will make you feel guilty for doing things differently than the author suggested. And it will make you feel like you must be a bad parent, because its “scientifically proven” parenting methods didn’t work on your child. It’s especially shitty for parents of kids with disabilities–way to make parents who already feel “not normal” feel even more so, you jerk!

I call the parenting book industry the Parenting Industrial Complex. Because, it’s actually not just books, it’s also products. They make you think that if you buy this book, or that baby carrier, or that high chair, or those diapers, or that crib bedding, or this stroller, or those toys, that your child’s life will be better, and that your job as a parent will be easier, and that everyone in your family will magically be happy. And if you don’t, your child’s life will be ruined, you’ll struggle at parenting, and everyone in your family will be miserable.

And it’s not just books and products either–the internet is filled with parenting advice articles. And they have awesome titles like “7 Ways You’re Making Your Child’s Tantrums Worse” or “The Top 10 Ways Moms Sabotage Their Child’s Potty Training” or “What This Mom Wished She Knew Before Her Teen Attempted Suicide.” What the fuck, internet? Like I don’t already have enough mom guilt to navigate, you gotta go with the “click here or your child could die” headlines? Seriously? And you know what? Those articles are so full of shit. I read a tantrum one the other day that said “Hug your child when they’re having a tantrum.” ORLY??? When The Girl is having a tantrum, she screams “DON’T TALK TO ME.” I’m pretty sure a hug is gonna make things worse. That’s some pretty fucking awful advice for my kid.

But crazy headlines like that are how the internet makes its money. Like, if I were trying to get this blog to get page hits, so I can sell advertising revenue, I have to turn the headline into something that’s going to draw people in. And as local TV news learned decades ago, scary headlines reel people in. Emotional manipulation sells, man. It sells better than an article that says “Who the hell knows what’s the best way to calm your toddler down? Every kid is different. Here’s 10 ideas, none of which may work for you, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent.”

What we, you and I, have to do is to NOT click on those headlines, and instead click on the blogs and read the books and buy the products that aren’t sold to us based on our fears. We need to seek out the writers who say “I know you can do it if you just trust yourself. It won’t always be perfect, there will be pee on the floor, but you will get there.” There are plenty of them out there–we just have to cut through the click-bait and the guilt-books that the Parenting Industrial Complex are trying to sell us, and find the good stuff instead.

5 thoughts on “The Parenting Industrial Complex

  1. Thank you so much for this. I am due with my first child at the end of June, and I’m already feeling the pressure. Thanks for supporting those of us who wish to accept outside advice very, very cautiously.

  2. Funny. Not long ago, after being inundated with so many of those annoying, 10 Steps to Being a Perfect Parent articles, I started a blog post with just a title: “7 Ways Parenting Posts Piss Me Off–Because They’re a Bunch of Crap.” Maybe I’ll finish writing that sometime soon. And I’ll be sure to link back to this post, because it’s perfect. 🙂
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  3. Wouldn’t it be great if someone wrote a book with just a list of NON-judgy ideas of things to try for parenting issues? Our 7-year-old has suddenly been having these crazy temper fits where she gets so worked up she just starts screaming that she can’t calm down. Know what the article that I pulled up on the Internet first said? That it wouldn’t be happening if she’d been emotionally supported earlier in life. “maybe she was left to cry alone”. WTF

  4. After playing musical beds for 6 years, Kindergarten was nice as my boy only woke once/night until the 3rd grade when he discovered this sleeping thing!. I would rather have had a sleeper than a million dollars. I mean waking 4-6 times every night and then having to go teach school was torture. DD has a darling girl who at 4, wakes at 4:30-5:00 every morning. She posted a query requesting suggestions and you know what? She had tried every single one of the responses.
    My dear friend let her kids sleep in the room with her–one time there were 4 mattresses/cribs spread around her bed. They all slept and if I could have a do over, I’d try that.

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