I got to talk to Pamela Paul a little while back, and had a fantastic conversation. Here're the top ten reasons I love this woman:
#10. She wrote Parenting, Inc. (which has the killer subtitle - How We are Sold $800 Strollers, Fetal Education, Baby Sign Language, Sleeping Coaches, Toddler Couture, and Diaper Warmers - and What it Means for Our Children.
#9. She calls Baby Einstein "one of the most successful bamboozles in American parenting":
"There is no evidence that Baby Einstein makes babies smarter. It shouldn't be surprising that babies are mesmerized by them. Twenty years ago, babies would give "Days of Our Lives" the same attention, and they probably got more out of "Days of Our Lives" because they were looking at actual human faces, and not the random blaring chaos of Baby Einstein.
"Truth in advertising would have been for Baby Einstein to be called "Couch Potato Kiddie," with the marketing message, 'Get your child started watching TV as early as possible.'"
#8. She tells the story of the Bugaboo stroller - how a smart marketing executive realized that if women were spending $300 on a pair of shoes, certainly they'd spend a lot more than that to transport their most precious cargo (up till then the average price for a stroller was $170 with a top price of $300), and then promptly got a placement for the $800 Bugaboo on Sex in the City, which kicked off the Bug frenzy.
#7. She tells us that American kids get 70 toys a year (that's all?), and by giving them so much, everything becomes less special. She remembers how much she loved stickers as a kid and was thrilled each time she got a new one, but now that her daughter has a colossal book of hundreds of stickers, they've lost their magic.
#6. She wrote this beautiful, lump-in-the-throat, inspiring article for Time Magazine called "Last Wishes" that convinced me I HAD to talk to her about her new book.
#5. She's a mom of two kids, doing her best to keep things grounded and real for them as they grow up, just like the rest of us.
#4. She calls the baby-proofing section of any baby supply store the "Wall of Death" because manufacturers want us to believe there are 76 new ways for our kid to die in our kitchens so we'll buy their stuff.
#3. She still likes to shop, and she's smarter than the average mom about it. As Pamela says, "Question before you purchase things whether what you're doing is to assuage your angst, guilt and fear, and if it's actually going to make a material difference for your child."
#2. Her book is funny, fast and smart, and she uses great anecdotes to tell hilarious, wacko stories about how marketers are doing their darndest to have us believe - pick one - a.) the world is way more dangerous than it seems; b.) for our kids to excel in life they really MUST have every single advantage (i.e. expensive, overstimulating gizmo on the shelves or that your neighbor has); or c.) there's nothing too expensive, too over-the-top, too indulgent -- too much -- for our precious kids.
And the number #1 reason I love Pamela Paul is she is an incredible, amazing mom who, while she's crazy-accomplished, is easy to talk to, has lots to say about a topic she's researched the heck out of, and is funny, engaging, totally relaxed. If she lived down the street, I'd be wanting to have regular coffees or cocktails with her.
Thanks, Pamela, for a great conversation!!! There's much more to include that's doesn't fit into the nifty 'top ten' countdown, so if you want to hear more from Pamela, here's the link to her interview on NPR Morning Edition and a fantastic interview with her on Salon called The Parent Trap.
Here's the link if you want to buy Parenting, Inc. Please do!!!!!