Tuesday, May 06, 2014

All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior

After hearing an interview of Jennifer Senior on NPR’s Fresh Air, I immediately put a hold on her sociological treatise on modern parenting, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood. In the interview, Senior explained that she felt the studies she read about parenting causing unhappiness gave an incomplete picture of parenthood.

I always begin research intensive books with the best intentions and start to glaze over at the level of detail. Senior's research was interspersed with stories of parents she interviewed for the book. These compelling stories coupled with a readable writing style gave a sense of voice to research that could have easily devolved into faceless statistics.

Most interesting is the idea that this modern version of parenting, which is an ultimately selfless pursuit, did not come about until the early 20th century. Before that, children helped on the farm, in the family business or worked outside the home to help support the family. Having children and not expecting anything in return is new and results in different expectations for parenting. The age at which people have children has also gone up on average. As we have more time to enjoy adulthood without child-rearing responsibilities, the shock of the limits on our freedom is felt more acutely.

Before you immediately decide that there is no good reason to have children, the last chapter overviews multiple research studies that show that, while the day-to-day job of raising children is not always fun, the overall effect on your life can be positive and long-lasting.

This quick read will appeal to anyone who enjoys reading about the sociological repercussions of modern life. I would love to hand it to those who are about to have children. It may ease the shocking transition from adulthood to parenthood that comes so suddenly after the birth of a first child. Search the VBPL catalog for All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior. Also check out some of the other books that focus on parenthood.

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