All Joy and No Fun

The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

Senior, Jennifer

Book - 2014
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
All Joy and No Fun
Drawing on a vast array of sources in history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology, a journalist challenges basic beliefs about parenthood, while revealing the profound ways children deepen and add purpose to life. Thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. In asking, what are the effects of children on their parents, the author 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, 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. She follows these mothers and fathers as they wrestle with some of parenthood's deepest vexations and luxuriate in some of its finest rewards. Here she 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. -- From publisher description.

Publisher: New York, N.Y. :, Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers,, [2014]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 0062072226
Characteristics: 308 pages ; 24 cm
Alternate Title: All joy & no fun


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Dec 05, 2014
  • booboo2014 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I love it when a book approaches a popular subject from another perspective. Senior has addressed the topic of parenting from the view point of how children affect their parents. As a mother of two, much of this book held significance for me and put some science and research behind how and why my life has changed after becoming a parent.

Nov 28, 2014
  • Lucky_Luke rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Many parents would rather clean the house and go to Costco than have to play with their kids. Like Louis C.K. says raising kids is boring. So when exactly does it become the greatest thing you've ever done? It is humbling and not for the faint of heart. It will make you a better person or at least not so self-centered. Yet, above all it is pure joy even if sometimes is not fun at all.

Jun 15, 2014
  • writermala rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I have always tended to use the words "Fun", "Joy," "Happiness[" rather loosely. Thus when I saw this title I was intrigued enough to check the dictionary meanings of Joy and Fun. It was enough to make me want to read the book; and I'm glad I did.
The book covers all aspects of parenting and the effects of children on parents as they progress through childhood and adolescence.
I learned of several important concepts such as "the experiencing self," vs. the "remembering self," and so on. But for me one comment says it all. One mother who was experiencing all kinds of problems with her son said she'd save a voice mail of his for like "forever."
This book's a must read for all parents and everyone contemplating parenthood..

Jun 13, 2014

NYPL Staff Pick
Examines undefinable aspects of parenthood by using quanitative and qualitative reserach to measure happiness, the state of "flow" and what role housework really plays in today's family structures.
- Jenny Baum

Apr 24, 2014
  • Jane60201 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A good book for a mystified grandmother of 70+ with very young grandchildren (4&6). Explains why a 4 year old is taking ballet, karate, gymnastics and soccer and why the grandchildren never "go out to play."

Apr 14, 2014
  • ksoles rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Helicopter Parents...Tiger Moms...Panda Dads...bookstore shelves groan under the weight of resources explaining the effects of parenting styles on children. But how does having children affect parents? In the fascinating "All Joy and No Fun," Jennifer Senior connects a barrage of scholarship to her own case studies of numerous middle class families in an attempt to answer this complex question.

Senior organizes her chapters loosely by stage of childhood, explaining how each stage impacts parents both physically and emotionally. Infancy leads to sleeplessness, toddlerhood to constant negotiation, middle childhood to overscheduled lives, and the teenage years to inevitable self-reflection. Senior does not offer a how-to manual for parents here; she writes about parent-HOOD not parent-ING and gracefully shows how each generation of children inevitably and irrevocably changes the generation of parents who bore them.

Senior proves her talent as a writer throughout the book, transporting the reader into a family's Brooklyn kitchen on one page then beautifully glossing a complicated academic text on the next. Additionally, Senior does not shy from offering a dissenting opinion on oft-cited studies, making her a wise and cautious guide on the subject. As the mother of a 3.5 year old, my head nodded the whole time I read as I found numerous passages that begged to be shared with friends.

Yes, Senior concludes, life as a parent might not be much "fun." But something else lies in the experience of sharing life with children: meaning, connectedness, legacy and, above all, joy.

Mar 24, 2014
  • susankent rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

TED alumnus Jennifer Senior asks some interesting questions and sites some new research, and since most parents love reading about other people's parenting experiences, this book is worth reading.

Mar 20, 2014

"And our kids have way more stuff than you and I had when we were kids. There's plenty for them to do ... and yet all of us feel like we have to be deeply, aggressively interactive and I'm not clear on whether or not kids benefit from that."

Mar 14, 2014
  • sarahblossom rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

My favorite part of this book about parenting (not the same thing as a book that gives parenting advice) is that it put the concept of modern day parenting in historical context. Did you know that there were very few dedicated toys for children until about 100 years ago? Playgrounds weren't a thing until automobiles went mainstream and it became too dangerous to play in the street. Compulsory school went universal afer WWII, and childhood and youth culture as we now know it began. Women, many of whom were not in the workforce, spent LESS time with kids in the 1950s than they do now (by a factor of like 10 hours a week!). The term "parenting" iteself wasn't coined until the 1970s...All this is to say, we live in a confusing and ever changing time for what it means to be a good parent. There is much discussion here too about happiness, what it means to parent when our society puts so much priority on the happiness of the parents and children, even though it is a fleeting, evasive thing. Some interesting thoughts of parenting viewed through the lense of memory also. Much of the book discusses the challenges of parenting, but it covers the joys and satisfaction of parenting too. I really liked this book but I'm not sure it's for everyone. It feels like coursework for a sociology class. It isn't a particularly "fun" read and there's not any actual parenting advice in it. I found it validating though - parenting in general is hard. Parenting in a time when there is still much anxiety about mothers holding jobs outside the home, little extended family for support, or absolute uncertainty about what kind of upbringing best prepares kids for the "real world" - that's even harder.

Feb 17, 2014
  • stephaniedchase rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Not a lot of surprises, if you've read some of the recent articles and books on modern parenting. Parents today are too hard on themselves; society has unrealistic expectations of children and parents; parents fight about who does the chores; not getting enough sleep is bad for your health; etc. I did appreciate the look at how, as a parent, it is not possible to be in "flow," because you are constantly interrupted, and that one parent usually ends up managing the time-dependent household tasks (getting the kids dressed, brushing their teeth, making appointments, etc), and that parent usually feels like the other one is not pulling their weight. Written with a friendly, engaging tone.


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