All Joy and No Fun

  • by Jennifer Senior
  • Narrated by Jennifer Senior
  • 8 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. But almost none have thought to ask: 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 fi nest 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, this audiobook is original and essential listening for mothers and fathers of today - and tomorrow.

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The Joy of Parenting

I spent the first decade of my life in a small city in the Midwest that is so average it's held as the arbiter of all things middle class. I lived in a not-so-expensive neighborhood walking distance to a small university, and the neighbors included large working class families and professors just starting out who already had a kid or two before the age of 26. Everyone was married, and everyone's mother was a stay-at-home mom, and moms maybe sold Tupperware or Avon for a little extra cash. Kids delivered papers, mowed lawns, and shoveled snow for spending money.

Sounds like a neat little slice of mid-20th century America, but I'm not that old and things weren't that great. Title IX and organized sports for girls was just a dream, which was good because most families only had one car and Dad took it to work. Every mother ironed, and having the ironing board out in the kitchen during the day was a source of pride. Mothers that actually boiled clothes in starch, hung them up to dry, and then ironed - well, that was the gold standard of housekeeping. Expensive vacations were out of the question - wherever you went, it had to be drivable. Who could afford to fly 2 or 6 or 8 kids to Disneyland?

Things have changed drastically for middle class parents since then, as Jennifer Senior explains in "All Joy and No Fun" (2014). Over 64% of mothers with children under the age of 18 work now. Conversely, Moms and Dads actually spend a lot more time parenting - 30% at least - than parents did more than a quarter century ago. There are less white shirt boiling and ironing, and more soccer practice, piano lessons, and Chinese classes.

Senior discusses a lot of statistical, peer reviewed studies on parents and parenting, including the idea that as parents, we are happier than our own parents were as a whole. That is the "Joy" part of the title. Personally, I don't find being a housekeeper fun, which seems to be a lot of being a parent. (Don't believe me? Try sending your 4th grader to school wearing dirty jeans more than once . . .)

I do enjoy - and find joy - in my kids. I'll remember them them in my arms as babies long after I forget my own name. My parents enjoyed me, but their joy was tempered with an early 20's nervousness. I was 10 years older as a first time parent, and I was more sure about what I was doing. I had Velcro diaper fasteners and car seats, not large pins and a swaddled kid in my lap. That's another important point Senior makes: we are older and more educated than our parents were, and overall, life is a lot safer for everyone - kids included.

Senior takes the Malcolm Gladwell ("David and Goliath" 2013; "Outliers" 2008) approach to sociology: she collects groups of related research; gives it a name; and presents it in a coherent, cohesive way that resonates with 'the public'. Senior, like Gladwell, starts an important conversation - but, like Gladwell, she doesn't condescend by pretending to know all the answers.

Senior does the narration herself, and she's got a bit of a Demi Moore/"St. Elmo's Fire" (1985) huskiness going on.

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- Cynthia "Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always.""

All Stats and No Insights

The near constant recitation of studies and statistics occasionally interspersed with anecdotal stories which - unfortunately - I found uncompelling. As a bonus - it ends on a horribly sad note. Thanks for that.

Also, I do wish the author had chosen not to read the book herself. She wasn't horrible but she didn't have a sense of pacing that a professional reader would have had and pacing is so very important with an audio book.
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- Rob Prindle "RobPrindle"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-28-2014
  • Publisher: HarperAudio