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All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood Hardcover – 28 Jan 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco Press (28 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062072226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062072221
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.7 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 166,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Salted with insights and epigrams, the book is argued with bracing honesty and flashes of authentic wisdom . . . [an] excellent book (New York Times Book Review)

[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 (New York Times)

A quick, lively read . . . [Senior's] carefully observed case studies of modern families read like scenes from novels (San Francisco Chronicle)

A richly woven, entertaining, enlightening, wrenching and funny book (Washington Post)

Senior's wise compassion provides guidance that's both necessary and inspiring (Boston Globe)

The hit of the season . . . Every few pages, there's another terrifyingly believable research finding (Sydney Morning Herald)

If you're a parent in the year 2014, you have to get your hands on a copy of this book. Wise, engrossing, and so real that I fear perhaps Jennifer Senior has been spying inside my house, All Joy and No Fun is a must-read for those of us whose lives have been immeasurably enriched and logistically derailed by having kids (Curtis Sittenfeld, author of PREP)

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 (Susan Cain, author of QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT WON'T STOP TALKING)

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 (Daniel Gilbert, author of STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS)

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 to tease out cultural shifts (New Yorker) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

Thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. In All Joy and No Fun, Jennifer Senior now asks: what are the effects of children on their parents? --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mandy Payne TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback
There are so many books about how we should do what we do when it comes to our children. This book was a refreshing change. I've always felt that the best way to show a child how to live right is to treat yourself the way you want them to treat themselves. Would i want my child to endure a miserable marriage "for the sake of the children"? Would I want my child to sacrifice everything for another? Nope. This book takes some pressure off of the mother by exploring their meaning beyond just life support for the new arrivals.

I am nearing the end of raising a child. The toddler frustrations and crying and mayhem are all forgotten and I am left now with fond memories of the angel that this scowling, teenage stranger used to be. Although teenage years are covered in the book, this is more suited for someone right in the throes of wondering why they destroyed their figure for this beast who won't stop screaming no matter how much money we spend on them.

There is very little advice in this text, but a lot of insight and knowledge. This book is very well written; the relationships with children and the spouse interwoven in a flowing pattern that made it a real pleasure to read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Really good read. Interesting, thoughtful and lots to get you thinking. And it's balanced, well written and clever. Defo recommend.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By beckybee on 9 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm going to buy this book for every one of my friends who is dithering over having a baby. It is an incredibly balanced perspective on what motherhood is like: so wonderful and yet so monotonous. I would write more, but I have my youngest feeding in my arms!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 177 reviews
197 of 207 people found the following review helpful
One of the best books I've ever read on parenting. 26 Jan. 2014
By Ladybug - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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!
84 of 97 people found the following review helpful
HATED IT and then LOVED IT 14 Nov. 2013
By InfoFish - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
63 of 79 people found the following review helpful
Being a parent: a most harrowing and rewarding experince 3 Feb. 2014
By Jojoleb - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Interesting read yet... 20 Feb. 2014
By Jen G. - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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???
34 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Let's me know I'm not alone 13 Nov. 2013
By K. Bortz - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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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