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All Joy and No Fun
Cover of All Joy and No Fun
All Joy and No Fun
The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
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Thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior now asks: what are the effects of children on their parents?

In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior tries to tackle this question, isolating and analyzing the many ways in which children reshape their parents' lives, whether it's their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self. She argues that changes in the last half century have radically altered the roles of today's mothers and fathers, making their mandates at once more complex and far less clear.

Recruiting from a wide variety of sources—in history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology—she dissects both the timeless strains of parenting and the ones that are brand new, and then brings her research to life in the homes of ordinary parents around the country. The result is an unforgettable series of family portraits, starting with parents of young children and progressing to parents of teens. Through lively and accessible storytelling, Senior follows these mothers and fathers as they wrestle with some of parenthood's deepest vexations—and luxuriate in some of its finest rewards.

Meticulously researched yet imbued with emotional intelligence, All Joy and No Fun makes us reconsider some of our culture's most basic beliefs about parenthood, all while illuminating the profound ways children deepen and add purpose to our lives. By focusing on parenthood, rather than parenting, the book is original and essential reading for mothers and fathers of today—and tomorrow.

Thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior now asks: what are the effects of children on their parents?

In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior tries to tackle this question, isolating and analyzing the many ways in which children reshape their parents' lives, whether it's their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self. She argues that changes in the last half century have radically altered the roles of today's mothers and fathers, making their mandates at once more complex and far less clear.

Recruiting from a wide variety of sources—in history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology—she dissects both the timeless strains of parenting and the ones that are brand new, and then brings her research to life in the homes of ordinary parents around the country. The result is an unforgettable series of family portraits, starting with parents of young children and progressing to parents of teens. Through lively and accessible storytelling, Senior follows these mothers and fathers as they wrestle with some of parenthood's deepest vexations—and luxuriate in some of its finest rewards.

Meticulously researched yet imbued with emotional intelligence, All Joy and No Fun makes us reconsider some of our culture's most basic beliefs about parenthood, all while illuminating the profound ways children deepen and add purpose to our lives. By focusing on parenthood, rather than parenting, the book is original and essential reading for mothers and fathers of today—and tomorrow.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Jennifer Senior is a contributing editor at New York magazine. She lives in New York with her family.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 4, 2013
    In 2010, New York magazine published contributing editor Senior’s feature of the same title with the telling subhead: “Why Parents Hate Parenting.” Here, Senior analyzes how children affect their parents from birth through adolescence, attempting to understand why middle-class millennial parents find this to be a “high-cost/low reward activity.” Three modern developments have complicated parenting: choice in family size and timing; flexible workplaces, with long(er) hours and inadequate sponsored childcare; and the transformation of the child’s role from “useful” to “protected” status. Senior utilizes academic studies and survey data about sex, marriage, pregnancy, childhood, sleep loss, earning power; she also cites data about why women and men approach parenting differently, and she also quotes many noted parent-child experts along the way. Her interviews with parents participating in Early Childhood Family Education classes offer different parenting styles and scenarios, and Senior adds a personal dimension, taking a good look at herself and her peers. In the end, readers will hopefully see the parenting journey as more about the children and less about adult emotions, that children’s behavior is culturally mediated, and that negotiating with a toddler is futile. While Jennifer Valenti’s Why Have Kids? addressed unmet expectations versus daily reality, this book airs the “I love my kids; I hate my life” litany of parents who, statistically, spend more time with their kids than the previous two generations. Agent: Tina Bennett, WME.

  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2014

    Journalist Senior's (contributing editor, New York magazine) new title will likely be shelved next to parenting books filled with do's and don'ts, but this isn't another "how to" book. Rather, it aims a social science lens at parents themselves and addresses questions such as: How does having kids affect our lives? Does it make us happier? Does it make us less happy? Senior profiles clans in Minnesota and Texas as she looks at the realities of family life. She doesn't shy away from the "no fun" aspect of her findings. Parts of the book feel bleak as we hear of strained marriages, parental guilt, and general exhaustion; the joy comes in the simple moments. Senior says, "By spending time with young children--building forts and baking cakes, whacking baseballs and making sand castles--we're afforded in some respects, the opportunity to be our most human." VERDICT Full of fascinating ideas and information about the family structure and its history, this work is sure to be of strong interest to parents, in particular, as they look for meaning beyond the day to day. [See Prepub Alert, 8/12/13.]--Mindy Rhiger, Minneapolis

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • —Andrew Solomon, The New York Times Book Review "Salted with insights and epigrams, the book is argued with bracing honesty and flashes of authentic wisdom...[an] excellent book."
  • —The New Yorker "Always generous in tone, Senior is a keen observer of the impact children have on their parents' marriages, mental health, work, and social lives, and she makes deft use of social-science research...the book's most useful contribution may be the connection it makes between joy...and, surprisingly, grief."
  • —Janet Maslin, The New York Times "[An] astute book... clear and helpful... refreshing...an eye opening debut, and it will help a lot of parents feel less alone, if not less frazzled."
  • —Christian Science Monitor "An important book, much the way The Feminine Mystique was, because it offers parents a common language, an understanding that they're not alone in their struggles, and an explanation of the cultural, political, and economic reasons for them."
  • —Hanna Rosin, Slate "Jennifer Senior's excellent new book... is not prescriptive. She doesn't tell parents to be more mindful or drink more wine or neglect their kids; she just wants them to understand why they are always so stressed out."
  • —San Francisco Chronicle "A quick, lively read...[Senior's] carefully observed case studies of modern families read like scenes from novels."
  • —Boston Globe "Senior's wise compassion provides guidance that's both necessary and inspiring."
  • —Huffington Post "Attention childless persons: If you're thinking of having kids, and are looking for an accurate assessment of the experience, disregard the holiday cards you may have received that portray merry families in various stages of triumph. Instead, read Jennifer Senior's book. This eloquent read is a tonic"
  • —Washington Post "[ALL JOY AND NO FUN is a] richly woven, entertaining, enlightening, wrenching and funny book."
  • —Newsday "[The] glimpses into the conundrums of other parents are thought-provoking and fun to read"
  • —New York Post "Chatty, generous and yet statistically grounded reverse-angle of the usual studies of what parents do to children."
  • —Elle "If you are tempted to read just one more book on the arguably over examined subject of parenthood, let it be Jennifer Senior's wise and surprising ALL JOY AND NO FUN."
  • —The Week "All Joy's signal contribution is that its journalist author chose to focus on how child-rearing affects parents-many of whom feel thoroughly stressed."
  • —BookPage "Jennifer Senior successfully connects a barrage of scholarship with the real experiences of moms and dads, and the resulting book, ALL JOY AND NO FUN, is completely fascinating...."
  • Daniel Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author of Stumbling on Happiness "An indispensable map for a journey that most of us take without one. Brilliant, funny and brimming with insight... an important book that every parent should read, and then read again. Jennifer Senior is surely one of the best writers on the planet."
  • Curtis Sittenfeld, bestselling author of Prep and American Wife. "If you're a parent in 2014, you have to get your hands on this book. Wise, engrossing, and so real that I fear Senior has been spying inside my house, All Joy is a must-read for those of us whose lives have been enriched and derailed by having kids."
  • Susan Cain, bestselling author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking "A lovely, thoughtful book, written in a generous spirit and with a piercing intelligence. Jennifer Senior manages to mix unflinching social commentary with a warm and compassionate voice."
  • Alison Gopnik, bestselling author of The Philosophical Baby "All Joy and No Fun captures the complex texture of parents lives, the joys and the sorrows, highs and lows, with remarkable insight, intelligence, sensitivity, and subtlety."
  • David Grann, bestselling author of The Lost City of Z "Jennifer Senior has written a wonderful, smart, and deeply reported book that challenges many of the most sacred assumptions about modern parenthood. Written with authority and wisdom, it is destined to be the one book that all parents take with them on their mad, hair-raising, and, yes, joyous odyssey."
  • Madeline Levine, bestselling author of Teach Your Children Well "Travelling far beyond the infant and toddler years into the acute challenges of adolescence, Senior ingeniously deconstructs the kinds of experiences that all parents have but few parents talk about, revealing in countless ways that none of us are in this alone. I loved this book."
  • Tom Reiss, author of The Black Count, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize "The perfect intellectual Rx for today's overstressed parents. While scrupulously considering 'big data,' the triumph is Senior's own observations,...
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Jennifer Senior
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