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186 of 195 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read on parenting.
Yes, it's one of the best books I've ever read about parenting--and, ironically, it isn't even about parenting. At least not specifically. Senior makes it very clear in her introduction that this is more a book about the history and changing definition of what it means to be a parent, rather than a book of parenting advice. She warns the reader that she will have to sift...
Published 12 months ago by Ladybug

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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read yet...
This book is worth reading if only to validate what many parents are already feeling and may or may not now. It does feel good reading this knowing one is not alone. However, it still felt at the end that I was waiting for that final enlightenment or something to help me through as a parent. All the case studies and surveys were interesting but it left me feeling like, ok...
Published 11 months ago by Jen G.


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186 of 195 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read on parenting., January 26, 2014
This review is from: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Hardcover)
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Yes, it's one of the best books I've ever read about parenting--and, ironically, it isn't even about parenting. At least not specifically. Senior makes it very clear in her introduction that this is more a book about the history and changing definition of what it means to be a parent, rather than a book of parenting advice. She warns the reader that she will have to sift and sort through the information given in order to find that "advice," but, honestly, I found so much here that will influence my future parenting style and decisions.

For example, it was interesting to learn that parenting as we know it is a relatively new concept. It wasn't until after World War II, when the US began enacting child labor laws, that "childhood" came into existence. Before then, our kids were expected to work, contribute, or be invisible. Once we started protecting them more, though, and requiring less and less of them, our kids became, as Senior somewhat playfully puts it, useless. This uselessness (or maybe purposelessness is a gentler word?) has kind of snowballed over time and led to a whole host of other issues, including bored and unchallenged teenagers and parents who have made it their jobs to fill in their toddlers' spare time with hosts of educational, time-consuming, character-building activities. As kids have become more useless, their restlessness has grown--and parents have taken on the burden of relieving this restlessness.

In short, one of the lessons I am taking away from this book is that my kids (ages 4 and 2) need to be challenged!--and not necessarily through intense or chaotic play dates and heavily-managed planned activities. Instead, I'm focusing on increasing their responsibilities when it comes to taking care of themselves and our house. They can clean, put on their own clothes, maybe even start cooking. I'm going to let them feel boredom and frustration...and I'm going to let them wait out the negative feelings until they experience those wonderful sensations of accomplishment, personal responsibility, and that feeling of belonging that comes when you contribute to something that benefits you AND the people around you.

At any rate, this book is packed with interesting information and insight. I loved it from start to finish, and I know I will be reading it again at some point in the future. Just a great book all around. Highly recommended!
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79 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HATED IT and then LOVED IT, November 13, 2013
This review is from: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Hardcover)
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I started reading this book and HATED it. It made my heart rate rocket and it was so frustrating because I kept looking for solutions to the problems of being overwhelmed, under-equipped, exhausted and wondering "is this all there is?" But by the end of the book my opinion totally changed. We are all in this parenthood thing and it is no fun and it is exhausting and overwhelming. And in the end we are left remembering mostly the joy and connections. Children give structure and meaning to our lives. And that does not come cheaply (emotionally and physically and mentally and monetarily)! Particularly poignant was the story of the grandma with Cam - she adopts her daughter's baby boy when her daughter passes. I am not going to give away this story, but in relating it to one of my other mom friends at work (who is exhausted, overwhelmed, rinse and repeat) I started crying - right there at work. The book is well written. Crazy well written. Just don't look for solutions to the overwhelm.
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57 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Being a parent: a most harrowing and rewarding experince, February 2, 2014
This review is from: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Hardcover)
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All Joy and No Fun, by Jennifer Senior, is a different kind of book about parenting. There are many how-to books about parenting: how to discipline our children, how to speak to our children, how to raise our children to be successes... the list goes on. But there are almost no books about parents.

By talking directly to parents and carefully reviewing the existing scientific literature, Senior has crafted an incredibly insightful and easily accessible book about what happens to parents as a result of parenting.

Senior takes us through the various stages of parenting: planning, early childhood, the middle school years, and adolescence, making pointed and careful observations about how having children changes us, burdens us, and truly enriches our lives.

Senior makes no bones about who she is surveying: her book is strictly directed towards middle class parents. She doesn't discuss the upper crust, who can spend the big bucks outsourcing whatever painful parts of parenting they wish to eschew. She also doesn't discuss poorer parents, where financial burdens of existence may supersede many parenting issues in day-to-day life.

Modern, middle class parenting was born sometime in the 1940s. Between 1890 and 1920, child labor was banned, and the seeds of the era of the 'useless child' were planted. Since that time, children have been been transformed from unsentimental cogs in the family machine to cherished commodities that contribute little to a family's bottom line. Feeding, clothing, educating, and caring for our children places incredible emotional and monetary strain on parents and we have to do this with little overall contribution to the family effort from the children themselves. Moreover, as a society we are having children later in life and having fewer children. This means that we not only miss the freedom we had before deciding to have children later in life, but we have fewer children, making them even more of a precious commodity.

Senior reviews the repercussions of these changes in parenting in a decidedly unsentimental, journalistic way. She never sugarcoats or pulls any punches but she doesn't gripe or exaggerate either. When she interviews parents, she has a unique way of getting to the heart of an issue. She makes a cogent analysis and then looks to scientific studies that validate her experience in the field.

Parenting--as it turns out--ends up being the one of the most harrowing and rewarding experiences of modern existence. As parents we derive incredible meaning from our lives by caring for our children, but we also have a burden of responsibility that strains our life. This, as the subtitle purports, is 'the paradox of modern parenthood.'

The book was gripping from the get-go. Senior's interviews with sample parents might as well have been interviews with me or with my peers. Even when Senior's interviewee's circumstances were clearly different from mine, their thought process was nearly identical.

Senior fully admits in her introduction that there are few 'answers' to the problems that she poses in the book. However, there is a great deal of wisdom and quite a number of lessons that can be learned from understanding the whys and wherefores that Senior describes in the book.

Sometimes the lessons in this book are painful and other times they are full of a great deal of humor. But after reading this book I realized that this is exactly the kind of book that I have been waiting to read for a very long time--I just didn't know it!

Highly recommended.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest, December 11, 2013
This review is from: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Hardcover)
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Before I read this I felt like probably a million other parents in the U.S. feel but would never admit to feeling, that I wasn't good enough, that I wasn't patient enough, that this whole "kid thing" was just not what I had bargained for when I longed for a baby. Don't get me wrong, I love having a child, and I love my son like nothing else in this world, but he's HARD. And I sometimes don't want to be around him. And that makes me feel like a jerk, to say it nicely.

This book explores the modern paradox of parenting; that it's always fun, that it always feels rewarding, and that you really should feel so much happier after having had one (or more) of these little monsters despite how much chaos they add to your life. A great point is that up until the 1950's, roughly 65 years ago, people had children out of necessity, not because they spent years dreaming about what it would be like to have them and plan out how many and the space between each one. Because of absence of birth control methods and because of necessity of having kids around for manual labor, people just had kids. Sometimes lots of them. Without much thought. They did not spend all day worrying about which schools their kids should go to, or which color shoes to buy for their children, or whether or not the child would go to college. They worried about whether their kids were clothed and fed. Basic needs. This overwhelming amount of choice that middle-class parents have today is sometimes what gets in the way of just being with your children. The fact that we try to do too much when we are only trying to meet the expectations we think we should meet, makes us crazy. Multitasking is running us ragged.

The book touches on other topics of interest such as what happens in a marriage after child(ren) come along, how people are often puzzled at the division of labor when before there were clear boundaries, how children can ground us and pull us back from all the stupid things we worry about, how parenting a small child is so much different than parenting an adolescent, how we spend more time with our children now than any generation ever has and we still feel guilty for not spending enough time with them, how technological advances have changed parenthood so drastically and permanently, and how difficult it is to be happy during a time period where most of us feel expected to always be happy, even if that's impossible to obtain.

I enjoyed this book immensely. As a first-time parent of a toddler, I can appreciate most of the stuff about the young children and how unreasonable they can be, and how they have been likened to crazy people that need to be reminded just about every second how to act in the civilized world, and how exhausting that can be for the parent.

If you enjoy this book, there are many references to other books similar to it throughout.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They're so wonderful when they're asleep., February 1, 2014
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This review is from: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Hardcover)
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This humorous book lets you remember (or find out) all those lovely stages your children go through in response to their age and your parenting style. It also looks at the marital/parenting relationship, and let me know that my husband really did almost at much house work and child care as I did, he just did it differently.

It wasn't able to solve the "Mom gets to do diapers, potty training, [bad] school parent meetings, and Dad gets to take the kids to the Zoo, hand out candy and watch the Three Stooges with the kid, and both counts as equal child care time." dilemma. I think it will take more than a book, it will take a miracle. (only kidding)

Really Moms, part of the exhaustion you get from raising kids isn't just the time spent with them, trying vainly to turn them from adorable blobs to productive, well-mannered and successful adults; it's all the stuff in your head: Doctor's appointments, homework help, worry about everything. I don't know if it's completely gender-tied, but Men just don't freak over these things until they actually come up. I wish I could do the same thing.

Back to the book: I inhaled it, even though my child-rearing days are long behind me. It kept me laughing, remembering and seething about some of the perceived (and real) unfairness that parents go through as they raise the little monsters and turn them into nice employed people. It's a great book for any parent of young children who isn't too exhausted to read it.
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33 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Let's me know I'm not alone, November 13, 2013
This review is from: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Hardcover)
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As billed on the cover, this is the first book about the impact that children have on their parents. As Jennifer Senior points out, throughout history kids happened immediately after marriage, but in current society the ability to plan pregnancies has let married couples create an entire life for themselves prior to children. It's the loss of this life that creates and immediate impact once kids arrive.

The book is really engagingly written and covers the various age ranges of childhood - newborns/toddlers, elementary school, preteen, teenage. There's also a discussion on the instituion of marriage that is woven into the different sections. Three types of intermingled narratives are used to great effect, frequently on the same page - case studies, where the author has observed families as they raise, educate, feed, play with and bring up their children; technical/research studies, where the author summarizes the results of various psychological papers and research on the various topics; and her own editorializing.

While not funny, the narrative is occasionally wry - particularly when the author is editorializing. But it is well put together and is an easy read. Did I learn anything? Well, it's not like a "how to" book (although there are some instances where discussions of how parents interact with each other or their children made me think "Oh, I should (or should not) do that"). What makes this book special is that I read it and, nearly on every page, could empathize with what was being said. Every tantrum, every disagreement, every tired evening, I'd been through it before. And it made me realize that as parents we are not the only ones going through all of this. It's the nature of being a parent, and we are not alone.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read yet..., February 20, 2014
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This review is from: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Hardcover)
This book is worth reading if only to validate what many parents are already feeling and may or may not now. It does feel good reading this knowing one is not alone. However, it still felt at the end that I was waiting for that final enlightenment or something to help me through as a parent. All the case studies and surveys were interesting but it left me feeling like, ok now what???
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I can see how this would be helpful to some, February 20, 2014
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Aoife (Portland, Oregon) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Hardcover)
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If you're in the thick of new parenthood and feeling disillusioned and isolated, this book will probably help you a lot. It does talk about some things that some people are reluctant to admit, like the toll modern styles of parenting can take on marriages and personal satisfaction with life. But if you're feeling less frantic, or have read a lot of other books or articles on the dilemmas of modern parenthood, you can skip this one. It's kind of light weight--a fleshed out magazine article--and covers a lot of research and ideas I had already heard or read about, sometimes several times before.

I do think it would have been nice if she had backed up her historical comparisons better. I think there's a lot of stereotype and fantasy involved there, that could be broken down and made more accurate.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this book puts it all together, February 17, 2014
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This book was recommended to me by someone to whom I've spoken a lot about my personal struggles with being a working (and commuting) mom to a now 3 year old--the fatigue, the fear of missing out, the anxiety, the loneliness and lack of time for myself or for my friends. It was the best recommendation I could have gotten. Jennifer Senior brings all the elements together: personal stories of parents, sociological and psychological research, and historical perspective. The result is a realistic sense of why parents struggle the way many of us do, but also of why being parents brings us such joy and meaning even though it can be hard.

I found this book very comforting. I will caution though that the early chapters focus a little more on the "no fun" part, and it is in the later chapters that you get to the "all joy" so you might want to stick it out if you find it harder going at first. I thought ALL of it was valuable, even though it brought up plenty of feelings, not all of which were totally comfortable for me. I highlighted a LOT of passages that I know I will want to revisit and think about more later on. I suspect I'll want to reread it every year or two as my daughter grows up and my circumstances, struggles, and yes, joys, develop and change.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Parenting is tough / This book explains why that's so / But gives no answers, February 2, 2014
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This review is from: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Hardcover)
As a pediatrician and a parent, I found this book to be a worthy addition to the parenting genre. While Senior doesn't give much advice on how to improve parenting, she also says that this is not what she set out to do. Studies are succinctly explained, and the families she follows are interesting while still being easily identifiable to middle class families.
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All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior (Hardcover - January 28, 2014)
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