Thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. But almost none have thought to ask: What are the effects of children on their parents?
In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior tries to tackle this question, isolating and analyzing 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 fi nest 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, this audiobook is original and essential listening for mothers and fathers of today - and tomorrow.
©2014 Jennifer Senior (P)2014 HarperCollinsPublishers
Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
I spent the first decade of my life in a small city in the Midwest that is so average it's held as the arbiter of all things middle class. I lived in a not-so-expensive neighborhood walking distance to a small university, and the neighbors included large working class families and professors just starting out who already had a kid or two before the age of 26. Everyone was married, and everyone's mother was a stay-at-home mom, and moms maybe sold Tupperware or Avon for a little extra cash. Kids delivered papers, mowed lawns, and shoveled snow for spending money.
Sounds like a neat little slice of mid-20th century America, but I'm not that old and things weren't that great. Title IX and organized sports for girls was just a dream, which was good because most families only had one car and Dad took it to work. Every mother ironed, and having the ironing board out in the kitchen during the day was a source of pride. Mothers that actually boiled clothes in starch, hung them up to dry, and then ironed - well, that was the gold standard of housekeeping. Expensive vacations were out of the question - wherever you went, it had to be drivable. Who could afford to fly 2 or 6 or 8 kids to Disneyland?
Things have changed drastically for middle class parents since then, as Jennifer Senior explains in "All Joy and No Fun" (2014). Over 64% of mothers with children under the age of 18 work now. Conversely, Moms and Dads actually spend a lot more time parenting - 30% at least - than parents did more than a quarter century ago. There are less white shirt boiling and ironing, and more soccer practice, piano lessons, and Chinese classes.
Senior discusses a lot of statistical, peer reviewed studies on parents and parenting, including the idea that as parents, we are happier than our own parents were as a whole. That is the "Joy" part of the title. Personally, I don't find being a housekeeper fun, which seems to be a lot of being a parent. (Don't believe me? Try sending your 4th grader to school wearing dirty jeans more than once . . .)
I do enjoy - and find joy - in my kids. I'll remember them them in my arms as babies long after I forget my own name. My parents enjoyed me, but their joy was tempered with an early 20's nervousness. I was 10 years older as a first time parent, and I was more sure about what I was doing. I had Velcro diaper fasteners and car seats, not large pins and a swaddled kid in my lap. That's another important point Senior makes: we are older and more educated than our parents were, and overall, life is a lot safer for everyone - kids included.
Senior takes the Malcolm Gladwell ("David and Goliath" 2013; "Outliers" 2008) approach to sociology: she collects groups of related research; gives it a name; and presents it in a coherent, cohesive way that resonates with 'the public'. Senior, like Gladwell, starts an important conversation - but, like Gladwell, she doesn't condescend by pretending to know all the answers.
Senior does the narration herself, and she's got a bit of a Demi Moore/"St. Elmo's Fire" (1985) huskiness going on.
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Yes. It would actually be a good "reference" book. Lots of things to reflect on. Jennifer does a great jod on the narration of the book. I particularly like the fact that she does not pretend to be an expert on several fields but rather quotes the studies, people and scientists that she consulted.
Her voice is engaging. That was actually one of the factors that made me decide to listen to the audiobook, after listening to Jennifer's TED talk.
If you are a parent, you will thank this book for appreciating your efforts in a way your children never will.
The book is well researched, interesting and timely. I don't have any criticisms.
This is non-fiction, so this question does not apply.
This is non-fiction, so this question does not apply.
The fundamental premise of the book, which is the effect that children have on their parents, is very well explored and documented. Mid-way she makes an observation regarding teenage children. A mother says that "My children are driving me crazy." This summarizes the sentiment well because the children are fine; it's the parent that needs to chill.
As someone who is looking forward to being a parent, I wanted to find a book that would speak to the implications of parenthood beyond managing the child. This book has provided a healthy insight into the complex nature of raising children in America's modern society. While I expect my own family challenges that no book can necessarily prepare me for, this book gives valuable wisdom to help reflect on when faced with the unique challenge that is raising a person.
This is one of the best books about parenthood I've ever read. Senior does not claim to have the answers or offer advice, and yet I feel more equipped after having read it. It is a look at parenthood as a whole: the history, stages, effects. It puts so many day-to-day trials into perspective and helps the reader to be more forgiving of themselves. It was like a balm for my soul.
Possibly. I don't generally listen to/read books more than once.
Jennifer Senior - she was brilliant as herself
Great practical tips on big-picture parenting theory.
All parents should read this.
Her inflection and emphasis is perfect because she knows this material so well.
No, there's way too much information to be absorbed at once. This a book that can be better appreciated by listening intermittently.
Jennifer Senior has a husky voice which made me initially think she suffered from a cold. In the beginning I found her somewhat hard to understand, but I got used to her cadence and felt ultimately her knowledge of the material made her the best reader possible.
The near constant recitation of studies and statistics occasionally interspersed with anecdotal stories which - unfortunately - I found uncompelling. As a bonus - it ends on a horribly sad note. Thanks for that.
Also, I do wish the author had chosen not to read the book herself. She wasn't horrible but she didn't have a sense of pacing that a professional reader would have had and pacing is so very important with an audio book.
interested in medicine, fitness, and economics.
As a parent, I was drawn to this book to learn about the experiences of other parents. Unfortunately, the author nearly lost me at the beginning when she allowed her politics to intrude in the book. The author believes that the key to happiness when raising a toddler is to have the government do it. If only the government would do a parent's job, she reasons, parents would be free to enjoy themselves and follow their own pursuits.
I did enjoy the ending of the book, as she concludes with a touching and poignant story which I don't want to spoil with this review.
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