When it comes to parenting books (and blogs and magazines), there certainly is no shortage, and standing out in the sea of advice and analysis seems to be a tall order. Author Jennifer Senior ’91 has done it with All Joy and No Fun, her new book on “the paradox of modern parenthood,” which was featured on the cover of The New York Times Sunday Book Review this week (and reviewed by several other publications). It has since climbed into the top 40 of Amazon.com’s best sellers.
In large part, the book is about how children affect their parents’ lives. Andrew Solomon, in the Times review, quoted Senior’s observation that for the modern parent, “being a mother or being a father is who we are” and added that “her most striking observations reveal this existential complexity.”
The book grew out of a 2010 New York magazine story in which Senior examined social-science finding that having children does not improve a parent’s happiness, but rather has no effect or a slightly negative one. The idea, she writes, “violates some of our deepest intuitions,” but at the same time makes sense to parents who feel the strain of raising kids. A friend provided the concise summary of this feeling — “all joy and no fun” — that became the title of her book.
Senior, who majored in anthropology at Princeton, is a contributing editor at New York magazine and the mother of a 6-year-old son. She told Time magazine that researching and writing the book provided a few useful lessons: “That reasoning with a small child is futile; that hashing out the division of labor with your spouse ahead of time works out better; and that it’s important to tend to yourself, your hobbies, your friends and your marriage because you are going to need them in place when your child leaves.”
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