Wednesday, May 7, 2014

All Joy and No Fun, Jennifer Senior

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood


Jennifer Senior

Category: Nonfiction; Parenting & Families

Synopsis: Examines modern middleclass parents’ experiences with parenthood.

Date finished: 12 April 2014

Rating: ****

I cut my teeth on nonfiction books about parenting. Not Dr. Spock or What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but personal parenting stories. I loved them, couldn’t get enough of them. And having read so many of them, this book is nothing earth-shattering. It expounds on trends I’ve been seeing for years. Fathers who want to be more involved but feel pushed out of parenting because mothers want it done right (i.e., their way)? Nothing new. Mothers who’d rather do housework (housework!) than interact with their small children? Yup, saw it coming, too.

This book has a lot to say. Senior presents statistics and findings, but she also tags along with middleclass parents as they do the daily juggle of parenting, working, and being a spouse. She never gets intrusive enough to muddy the waters with her own opinions. The book walks a fine line between the science of parenting, or parenting as an anthropological study, and personal stories. Normally I sort of detest the journalism-y half-interview/half-exposé thing when it appears in books, but Senior did it so expertly it actually became one of my favorite parts of the book.

Although the information presented in the book is nothing new—nothing you wouldn’t find in your own home, for example—the book is quite engaging. The writing is crisp but not technical or sentimental. She doesn’t judge, though she occasionally offers observations from her own experiences as a mother.

Senior splits the book into sections that mimic parenting seasons: infancy, toddlerhood, school age, and adolescence. (And she doesn’t ignore marriage and how it’s affected by parenthood.) The section on adolescence was disturbing to me, as it shows just how much control has been yielded to the next generation and how many parents are turning a blind eye because they’d “rather not know.” Ooph! We’ll reap the thorns of that harvest.

In general, nothing here to greatly offend or greatly impress, just a nice portrait of modern parenthood with all its joy and some of its fun.

Would you recommend this to a friend?

You might also enjoy:
7 Stages of Motherhood, Ann Pleshette Murphy
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua
Bringing Up Bébé, Pamela Druckerman
Coop, Michael Perry
Dinner with Dad, Cameron Stracher
French Kids Eat Everything, Karen Le Billon
Honest Toddler, Bunmi Laditan
Let the Baby Drive, Lu Hanessian
The Spark, Kristine Barnett

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