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My favorite thing about Jennifer Senior’s book All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
is that it doesn’t offer one sliver of parenting advice. Instead, it serves as satisfying validation for the challenges parents face at every stage of the game.
Way back when, the goal of parenthood was simply to provide children with the basic necessities needed to survive to adulthood and help support the family. In the modern world, where food, other resources, and opportunities are more plentiful, parents have more time on our hands to worry about whether we’re raising happy kids who turn into successful adults.
“Happy” and “successful” are murky terms with a myriad of definitions leaving parents to wonder if we’re doing any of this right. The roles of mothers and fathers have become less clear, and while our children bring us immense joy, the day-to-day experience of modern parenting is often no fun at all.
The book is full of well-researched facts and tidbits explaining how, when, and why parenting shifted to be what it is now, but the best parts of the book are the family portraits Senior uses to illustrate the common struggles mothers and fathers face at each stage of parenthood – from newborns to teenagers.
I read this book when my first child was about four months old, and it was so assuring to know the challenges my husband and I faced – like finding a new balance for household responsibilities and independent time away from the baby – were quite common. Reading about future stages of parenthood continues to give me a good perspective of what to expect and allows me to grant myself grace when I find myself in the situations described.
She covers so many family dynamics that I also have a better perspective for the typical tension points of families in different circumstances. She touches on a variety of situations: dual income homes, single income homes, families with a primary breadwinner and a part-time worker, single parents, grandparents raising a grandchild, and couples who work opposite shifts.
You will see yourself in this book, you will know you are not alone, and you reconsider the assumptions you’ve held about parenthood, all in the hopes that you find a way to keep the joy of parenthood and add back in the fun.
Join us for next month’s book club selection, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, that we’ll review on October 26.
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