Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book Review: All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior

Title: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
Author: Jennifer Senior
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Kindle

It's been a few weeks since I finished All Joy and No Fun, and some of the details seem to be slipping through my mind. But Senior's premise remains clear-- parenting is a more complicated proposition than it used to be. A hundred years ago, children worked for us. Fifty years ago, we ignored them as much as possible. Now parents are the servants to their children, and it makes parenting a much more fraught experience.

The format of Senior's book is interesting and effective-- in each of about six chapters, she follows individual families to highlight a different facet of parenthood (parents with babies and toddlers, parents with school-age kids, parents of adolescents, grandparents functioning as parents). One thing that was interesting to me, personally, is that the book was inspired by the ECFE classes I took with Bryce and Annie when we lived in Minnesota, where kids and parents gather for a two-hour class, they play collaboratively for a while, then the parents separate with a parent educator to talk about parenting issues. In fact, nearly all of the families she follows live either in Minnesota (where I got my parenting footing with Bryce, Annie and Isaac) or in Houston, Texas (where we lived when my kids started school).

While the case studies were enjoyable to read and Senior did a good job analyzing those studies and bringing in support from other sources, I think that most parents will gain the most from looking at their own lives through the lens of the book. I often wonder why I, as a stay-at-home mom, constantly feel run ragged, why I find it so hard to motivate people to help me around the house, why I'm always in the car. And I've come to decide that it's because I have six kids like my grandmother did two generations ago, but I'm trying to raise them in the intensive parenting style that most people do today with far fewer children. Will that change things for me? Probably not, but it's nice to have a little bit of insight into my own mania.

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