All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior isolates and analyzes the many ways in which children reshape their parents’ lives, whether it’s their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self. She argues that changes in the last half century have radically altered the roles of today’s mothers and fathers, making their mandates at once more complex and far less clear. Recruiting from a wide variety of sources-in history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology-she dissects both the timeless strains of parenting and the ones that are brand new, and then brings her research to life in the homes of ordinary parents around the country. The result is an unforgettable series of family portraits, starting with parents of young children and progressing to parents of teens. Through lively and accessible storytelling, Senior follows these mothers and fathers as they wrestle with some of parenthood’s deepest vexations-and luxuriate in some of its finest rewards.
Meticulously researched yet imbued with emotional intelligence, All Joy and No Fun makes us reconsider some of our culture’s most basic beliefs about parenthood, all while illuminating the profound ways children deepen and add purpose to our lives. By focusing on parenthood, rather than parenting, the book is original and essential reading for mothers and fathers of today-and tomorrow.
This book was so interesting. I loved sociology in college. In this book Senior discussing modern parenting. She doesn’t give advice or solutions; she just reports on a whole slue of studies and observations about the shifting focus of parenting from satisfying children’s basic needs to fulfilling our children’s emotional needs.
The early chapters of his book validated a lot of feelings I have been having regarding the inequity of domestic chore/children care division between husbands and wives. It was nice to know that I am not alone in my frustrations. She also shares some insight from modern dads that were helpful to hear. Good dads don’t compare themselves to any gold standard of parenting, so they don’t have guilt. They hold themselves up as the standard, and they aren’t afraid to claim time for themselves.
She also discussed how children live in the present – something else we moms could stand to emulate. Too often we give into the distractions of the clock, TV, and our phones. She points out that childhood is a modern construct. Up until the 18th century (I think?) children were expected to work. Only in the 1910s did the toy industry explode. Before then children played outdoors and with household objects. Parents today spend more time playing with their kids than any other generation. And we middle class parents spend a ton of time shuttling our children from activity to activity, robbing us of time alone or time to do chores, etc.
The audiobook was read by the author, and while she wasn’t the best voice to listen to, I found that I enjoyed the book immensely anyway, especially the earlier chapters. Although the last chapter on adolescence did give me a glimpse into my future. And my one take away there was to make sure I have other interests outside of my son because one day he’ll begin to withdraw (and eventually leave the house), and I need to have other things to fall back on.
Overall, this book was very insightful, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. I recommend it to parents with children of all ages, or even those who are expecting or planning on having children. Senior highlights how much our lives are changed by having children.
My Rating: 4 stars
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