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All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
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All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  10,581 ratings  ·  1,539 reviews
Thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. Award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior now asks: what are the effects of children on their parents?

"All Joy and No Fun is an indispensable map for a journey that most of us take without one. Brilliant, funny, and brimming with insight, this is an important book that every parent should read, and t
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 28th 2014 by Ecco
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Linda Doyle I liked it very much. It was very honest-children do bring joy but parenting them? Or even one in my case? Tremendously hard. But she answers the many…moreI liked it very much. It was very honest-children do bring joy but parenting them? Or even one in my case? Tremendously hard. But she answers the many questions (backed by studies) I had when I was unable to have children, 10 rounds of IVF were fruitless and it came time to make the decision if we pursue. My feeling at the time was that I worried that if we didn't adopt, I would maybe wake up at age 60 and regret not adopting. And somehow at the time, I thought that this was not a reasonable...reason? But she cited one study that talked about regret in general and studies that support that more people regret NOT doing something that doing something that they ended up regretting. The notion that all young girls yearn to be mothers (one that I somehow was led to believe was true) is absurd. There are a myriad of reasons why people choose to have children (or choose not to)-every one is unique but this book takes no stance on which is the better choice. Yes, I know that should be obvious but scan the parenting bookshelf at a large bookstore (if you can find one) and you'll see that the focus is on raising the "perfect" child. It was just a relief to have someone acknowledge that we (and society) have placed an unusually high emphasis on the pure joy that having children brings us when in reality, many women (myself included) were lonely, bored and stressed during the early years of our children's lives.(less)

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Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read a snippet of this book in the Wall Street Journal and found myself floored by a simple observation that the reporter drew from psychological studies: mothers tend to feel more stressed out because they are constantly multi-tasking, even when they supposedly have free time. [DISCLAIMER: I realize I will be using many untenable generalizations in this review that don't fully take into account class, profession, region, cultural background, etc. Think of them as provisional descriptions that ...more
Claire Jefferies
I heard Jennifer Senior on Fresh Air last week on my way home from work, and even though I was exhausted and needed to cook dinner, I couldn't pull myself away from the conversation. As a married 34 year old who still waffles about whether or not there are children in my future, I'm probably the ideal audience for this book and its messages about modern parenting.

I've never been the kind of person who just instinctively knew that she wanted to have kids one day. I mean sure, growing up in the s
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
You have to wonder why, when you get married, everyone encourages you to have kids. While you might have an occasional enjoyable moment, you'll also be in for a world of hurt. Kids are hard. Raising them is a challenge where most of the rewards are delayed.

Senior does a good job at presenting data and explaining how it relates to your family situation. For instance, sleep deprivation. Not the I-didn't-sleep-well-last-night thing we've all experienced. The this-baby-has-kept-me-up-for-three-days-
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
This read very much like a review of literature with case studies to support the research. It almost felt like a thesis to me, but without proving any new point of view. It basically took 265 pages to say that parents are more unhappy with kids but the joy the kids provide them makes it worthwhile. I did find a few points interesting. This would have been better presented as a magazine article and not a book. It was "No Joy and No Fun" reading this book, and frankly a little depressing. But agai ...more
Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has only convinced me further that dogs are perfect. Dogs are all joy -- and fun.*

*And occasional vomiting.**

**But they try to eat the vomit so at least you know they want to clean up after themselves if you'd let them.
Laila (BigReadingLife)
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: parents of kids 18 and under
A beautifully written, well-researched examination of modern parenthood. I can not recommend this book warmly enough to parents with kids still in the house. Would that all nonfiction were as fast-paced and meaningful as this!

There are so many things here that I want to remember in my life as a mother. My child is a toddler, and it's so hard to keep in mind that this intense, hands-on-all-the-time phase of parenting will be over before I know it. Senior writes of the 'experiencing self' vs the
Po Po
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing

First off, I literally couldn't put this book down. There were about forty-two other things I should've or could've been doing, but I chose to read this book instead.

SO much of this resonated with me. Thank you Jennifer Senior! She voiced so accurately and vividly all of the things that are still not socially acceptable to discuss, such as how kids actually add CONFLICT to a marriage, instead of adding strength, as is the commonly accepted belief. People are "allowed" to moan an
Apr 08, 2014 rated it liked it
I was all set to hate this book after hearing a couple of interviews with Jennifer Senior on Public radio. She sounded too sure that her way of looking at life was my way... And why not? A contributing editor at the New York Magazine and frequent guest on Chris Matthews and Charlie Rose....well educated... Well respected, why shouldn't she speak with authority. However, everything that she said seemed to put up some degree of separation between us... I mean, I might not be well respected or well ...more
You needn’t be a parent to find this book fascinating (the same goes for French Children Don’t Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman). This is an absorbing sociological study of how modernity has changed parenting. Senior (a contributing editor at New York Magazine) pinpoints three main shifts:

• The element of choice means children are now not just expected but wanted, sometimes even desperately fought for (with IVF, etc.).
• Work life is more complicated and intrusive than ever.
• The role of chi
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I am writing this review to the cries from the baby who moved into the apartment next door (I'm assuming it lives there with its parents, though I have yet to see or hear proof of their existence on the other side of my living room wall). So you'll excuse me if I'm a little biased in my review. I now automatically equate reading about parental happiness with the gut-wrenching sounds of a very sad baby (why must it always be so sad?!).

I wanted to read this book to reaffirm to myself
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: parenting, 2014
There's been a lot of hype lately about studies that show how parents are unhappier than non-parents. I've been really surprised by those findings because my life as a parent is so fulfilling, and while there is tedium and drudgery in some of the day to day, there's a lot of joy and meaning that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. And I don't know any parents who want their old lives back. This book tackles modern parenthood and comes to the same conclusion. It explores why modern parent ...more
Sep 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm expecting my first child in January, a daughter, and like any expectant first-time parent I've been becoming increasingly concerned with how I will manage this sea change in my life. My wife has been busy reading every parenting philosophy book under the sun, getting lots of starkly conflicting advice about how to produce the best possible human being. Meanwhile I have always had a pretty laisse faire attitude to parenting: I think the kid's future is mostly written in her DNA and her peer g ...more
Apr 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Since my husband and I heard of this book a few months ago the phrase "all joy and no fun" has pretty much become the motto of our parenthood experience. We've got four kids and we're grateful for them, but fun isn't the first word that comes to mind most of the time.

This book is very interesting and quite a few things struck me while thinking about it.

- I am a religious person and personally view raising children as a fundamental purpose and duty of my life on earth. Reading this book I felt g
(3.5) Parenting is tough on parents, insanely tough on mothers in particular, feels painful at the time but is most meaningful part of most parents’ lives (especially in hindsight)

Sounds about right. Not a huge bunch to take from this, but a lot rang true and might be worth remembering some of the studies’ results. Would be cool if teenagers were required to read in school. :)

Long section devoted to effects on marriages and how inequity in responsibility-sharing between mothers and fathers takes
Jennifer Dines
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
I just finished reading this book, and I am honestly surprised that the book has made such a splash. It is difficult to find a profound thesis or argument. Was the author trying to say that parents are not always as satisfied as non-parents? That parents are over-scheduled? That generation gaps exist? These are not new ideas in the American public.

The book is more of a survey of some parents' reactions to child development, peppered with statistics and secondary source references. The writing la
Sep 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
I started this book with my defenses up. I was expecting to have to defend parenthood as being much more meaningful and important than my personal "happiness", that life is not some continuous existential experience whose only goal is to be "happy" every moment. I was pleasantly surprised with the direction the author took and found it to be supportive of my view of modern parenthood. The book certainly does focus quite a bit on how hard parenting can be and how it most definitely can affect our ...more
hmmm. i am of two minds about this book. on the one hand, i zipped through it in about two days, it really captured my attention, i related to a lot of it (mostly about having little kids, obviously, since i have but one child right now & she's a toddler), & i really liked the book at the time. my partner read it too & on valentine's day, we convened a two-person book club after our daughter went to sleep so we could discuss it. which brings me to the other hand.

we both liked the book, but we ha
Sep 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I got three main things out of this book. A friend put my thoughts about this book into her own review, so I'll start with that.

1. Parenting has always sucked major donkey balls, but our generation is more miserable than previous generations because we have some goofy idea that parenting isn't supposed to suck.

2. You know how, at the end of a family vacation, one parent says, "I'm never going anywhere with you people ever again!" and then three months later, they're planning the next family geta
I've said it elsewhere in reviews: I have a rule that if i am in tears at the end of a book, it gets five stars. I certainly didn't expect a book like this to make me cry. I'm a new mom so maybe I can blame it on hormones, but I think it's more a testament to how the author drew me in and got me invested in these families, especially the one composed of a grandmother and her grandson--I just kept thinking of my own mom raising some of her grandchildren. I also got choked up at the end of the ack ...more
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down. As a working mom with two boys, I related to the sentiments expressed by all of the parents chronicled within the book and could feel the kids' greasy hands and the moms' well worn sweats, the writing was that good. And of course I fell in love with Sharon. But as a researcher, what I loved most about All Joy and No Fun was how steeped it was in truth and supporting, sometimes conflicting, research. I felt as if I was on an intellectual pursuit yet enjoying an utte ...more
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: motherhood
The takeaways from this book are not new or profound: although parenting is extremely challenging, it’s worth it. The day-to-day is often mundane or chaotic, but the bigger picture is meaningful. Our “remembering mind” later has a good impression of raising children, even if our “experiencing mind” struggles with it in the moment. Overall, parenting is a high cost, high reward endeavor. It’s the synthesis of research and the case studies that make this a worthwhile read.

Some of the challenges o
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I decided to start this book while on deadline, thinking it was the kind of book where I would have no problem reading a chapter at a time in between work. Ha! I finished it in less than 24 hours and was completely engrossed.

This is a study of modern parenting, and I'm guessing the main audience for the book is parents -- there's nothing there that is particularly proven or airtight, so what made the book so compelling for me was how well it corresponded to my own experiences and those of most o
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
First off, what I liked most about this book is that the author has such a pleasing, balanced voice. She clearly has no ax to grind and she comes across as a curious observer. The book is a nice mix of social science study stats and interviews with real parents. Lots of great points that had me nodding my head and thinking, Yes, exactly! Esp. the tedium of spending days and nights with little children and how we look back on those days with warm memories but when you are living them, they are re ...more
Feb 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Great title!

Stated a lot of the obvious for those of us in the thick of the parenting experience, but sometimes it's good to hear someone else say it along with a quality synthesis of the research. It is comforting to know you're not alone. Even found myself getting choked up a few times; fatherhood has made me a bit of a basket case emotionally.

But the book also left me frustrated. America seems like the last developed nation to catch on to the fact that basic social safety nets produce a highe
Feb 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A very interesting book about parenthood- the first I have come across that is not an anecdotal or advice book but uses research from the social sciences to examine the experience of parenthood through three stages of the child's development (infants and toddlers, mid aged, and adolescents). I really enjoyed the parts focusing on the psychological side of parenting and the history of childhood and parenthood in the last century. Fascinating!
I liked that Senior included anecdotes from a variety
May 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and found some insight or at least language about modern parenting philosophy. This's by no means a parenting book-- more of a book about modern parenting.

I usually dislike anecdotal stuff in my non fiction books but in this case, I really enjoyed some of the families written about.
Christie W
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating must-read for every parent raising children in the 21st Century. Here is a lengthier review I wrote for my blog

I realized early on in my life as a mother that parenting books were making me a bit crazy. That did not stop me from reading them compulsively, with predictable results. I tried one approach after another until in my growing frustration my mother came to my rescue. She suggested I follow the principles of what she called common sense parenting---the way
Feb 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, parenting
Dear Twentieth Century Parent,

I bet that, once upon a time, you were a fun person. I bet you liked to relax and have a good time with your friends. I bet you never got straight As (if you were like most of us) -- and I bet you even spent time by yourself drooling over the TV or the Atari/Nintendo/Whatever. I bet your favorite memories of childhood are the little ones...eating bowls of ice cream out on the porch during the summer time while you watched the fireflies; walking down the concourse of
Joanna Jennings
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
So, this is a secular book from a research-driven point of view. Yet, I found points of it fascinating and thought-provoking, especially in regards to my own goals of parenting (raising kids to serve Christ). It helped me to understand how modern parents think, and to view the progression of parenting (the history of how Americans have viewed/treated children). Definitely don’t agree with her conclusions or lack thereof... 😉, especially in the chapter about adolescents. I would recommend this to ...more
Amber Spencer
May 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Lots to unpack here and everyone will read this in a different stage of parenting, but I loved the ending where the meaning of it all is discussed. Why did I have children and what have they brought to my life? So much meaning and purpose.
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Jennifer Senior is a contributing editor at New York magazine, where she writes profiles and cover stories about politics, social science, and mental health. Her work has been anthologized four times in THE BEST AMERICAN POLITICAL WRITING, and she's been a frequent guest on NPR and numerous television programs, including Charlie Rose, The Chris Matthews Show, Morning Joe, Washington Journal, Ander ...more

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“Parents can project into the future; their young children, anchored in the present, have a much harder time of it. This difference can be a formula for heartbreak for a small child. Toddlers cannot appreciate, as an adult can, that when they’re told to put their blocks away, they’ll be able to resume playing with them at some later date. They do not care, when told they can’t have another bag of potato chips, that life is long and teeming with potato chips. They want them now, because now is where they live. Yet somehow mothers and fathers believe that if only they could convey the logic of their decisions, their young children would understand it. That’s what their adult brains thrived on for all those years before their children came along: rational chitchat, in which motives were elucidated and careful analyses dutifully dispatched. But young children lead intensely emotional lives. Reasoned discussion does not have the same effect on them, and their brains are not yet optimized for it.” 13 likes
“No matter how perfect our circumstances, most of us, as Adam Phillips observed, “learn to live somewhere between the lives we have and the lives we would like.” The hard part is to make peace with that misty zone and to recognize that no life—no life worth living anyway—is free of constraints.” 12 likes
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