All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior
I’m working on a book right now about how those of us without children can relate to our friends with kids. I don’t have kids and I won’t be having kids, so most of what I know about kids comes from watching my friends raising their own.
But I live in the world, and I see so much out there about the best ways to parent. It seems overwhelming, but it also seems to almost always be focused on what the parents do and how that impacts the children. Other than the occasional “are parents happier than non-parents?” studies, nothing (until now) has focused on what parenting does to the parents.
This book is a fascinating treasure trove for those of us without kids. Ms. Senior (a parent herself) spent time with parents, read loads of studies, and consulted with the experts before putting together this long but extremely quick read. She covers autonomy, marriage, the joys and challenges of raising small children, the (new?) trend of scheduling and planning all of a child’s free time, and the special hell that is adolescence.
One thing I appreciated from this book is that (with one tiny, and likely unintentional exception) Ms. Senior doesn’t spend time comparing parents to non-parents in any way that suggests one life choice is better than the other. I also liked that Ms. Senior was also very straightforward about the limitations of this book – it does not address very poor or very rich families; it is focused on studying middle class families.
Another great component of this book is Ms. Senior’s way of weaving the history of parenthood into the narrative. So many things that seem ‘common sense’ or ‘parental intuition’ are pretty new to parenthood! But the best parts are the families she interviews and how she includes their stories. She does this seamlessly without interrupting the flow of the book.
Obviously as someone without kids I can’t speak to whether parents themselves will enjoy this book. They might find it hits way too close to home, they might angrily disagree, or they might find relief in knowing their experiences are not unique. But I’d love to hear a parent’s perspective on this one!