Monday, 26 May 2014

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

Author: Jennifer Senior
Genre: Non-Fiction, Parenting
Type: audio e-book
Source: Public Library
Publisher: HarperAudio
First Published: February 19, 2014
First Line: "There's the parenting life of our fantasies, and there's the parenting life of our banal, on the ground realities."

Book Description from GoodReadsThousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. Award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior now asks: what are the effects of children on their parents?

"All Joy and No Fun is an indispensable map for a journey that most of us take without one. Brilliant, funny, and brimming with insight, this is an important book that every parent should read, and then read again. Jennifer Senior is surely one of the best writers on the planet."-Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness

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.

My Review:  I first noticed this book because it was featured on my library's website.  I've read my share of parenting books in the past but this one grabbed my attention.  Maybe it was the psychology major in me or the mom in me but Senior's premise of looking at parenting, not as it affects the children, but how it affects the parents was quite intriguing. 

All Joy and No Fun shows the evolution of parenting and how what we currently deem 'essential' for raising a child may not be quite so essential in the grand scheme of things.  It puts parenthood and childhood in the spotlight and shows the toll that the pressure of modern day parenting can take on parents, their marriages and even their individual feelings of satisfaction with their lives. 

Going back to the basics may be the way to go in modern parenting and therefore learning where we've come from is essential so Senior takes a look into the history of childhood, the teenage years and parenting in general.  I found it fascinating seeing how the roles of children and parents have changed over different generations and that the idea of 'parenting' children is a fairly recent phenomenon - really only beginning in the last 70 years or so.  Before that, children had a very different role within the family.
 A word of caution; this book may not be as relatable to all readers.  No one parenting book can encompass every parent in every situation and Senior stipulates that this book focuses only on the middle class parenting situation.  The differences in the parenting experience for people in the lower class as well as the upper class will be different due to various factors, namely economic issues.

What jumped out at me most about this e-audiobook (which I listened to on my daily drive to and from work) was how laidback it felt.  While it does have a lot of great facts, sociological/psychological studies and deals with several parenting situations it never felt like Senior was trying to jam any parenting tips down my proverbial throat.  And I loved that. 

It felt like more of a discussion around the coffee table with some really great facts thrown in for good measure. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that many parenting situations brought forth were very relatable and I found myself nodding my head and thinking 'That's exactly how I feel!'.  This wonderful sense of validation was the icing on the cake for me.  There is a great comfort in knowing that you're not alone in your feelings - especially your occasional feelings of frustration.  This book helped me to feel that I may be on the right track after all and that this parenting thing, while being wonderful, doesn't necessarily have to be all fun, all the time either.

One thing that did set this book apart for me, the mother of two tweens and a teen, is that it doesn't only focus on how infants and young children affect the parents.  It also incorporates the effects of older children and the enigmas that are teens on parents.  And I will admit that it did help me view the battle ground of 'screen time' in our house more from the point of view of my boys which will help a lot in our household.

All Joy and No Fun was a refreshing look at parenting in the modern world while giving a nod to the evolution of parenting.  It also shows the difference between being a parent and actually 'parenting'.  So if you're looking for a 'how-to' parenting book to extol advice on how to raise your small humans then this book isn't for you.  You're not going to learn how to sleep train your baby, handle a toddler meltdown in public or win the next argument with your 15 year old (is that even possible?).  But you may come away with a better understanding of how our children can influence our lives and marriages and gain insight to help us navigate the wonderful, stressful, rewarding and joyful adventure of parenting our own unique child(ren).
 Highly recommended.

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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