All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting

By Kristin Sanderson

The title was too hard to resist on our FIFTH snow day of the year, so yesterday I tuned into the podcast of Terry Gross interviewing the author, Jennifer Senior.  The review in the Sunday NY Times Book Review by Andrew Solomon grabbed me when he wrote that Senior directly addresses the ambivalence most parents feel about their children.

Around 1940, with new child labor laws on the books, the attitudes of U.S. parents began to change.  No longer was their job just to shelter, feed, clothe, and, possibly, educate their children.  Instead, Senior posits, parents began to see themselves responsible for making their children happy.  No longer housewives, in this recent era we have become stay-at-home moms — turning the parenting role into the full-time job — professionalized and scrutinized.

Many of Senior’s comments in the interview have lingered with me and provoked reflection and a recasting of some of my own experiences from a time when I was mostly alone all day with three little people at home.

She says–

It would be healthier for children if parents behaved more like “drone parents” and less like helicopter parents.

The brain of a toddler is perfectly maddening for adults used to the rational feedback from the workplace.

The sleep deprivation that follows the arrival of an infant can have devastating psychological consequences for one third of the population.

And, on the joy side, Senior ruminates that children provide perfectly transcendent experiences as well.  Parents have higher highs and more meaning than can be adequately measured in the multitude of longitudinal studies that indicate parents are both happier — and more miserable — than non-parents.

I am going to buy the book.  I am curious if any of you have similar or different thoughts on this intimate yet universal experience.  I invite your feedback and discussion on this blog as a way to begin our conversation.

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