Tag Archives: parenting

ALL JOY AND NO FUN by Jennifer Senior

Vacation read #3 was All Joy And No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, by Jennifer Senior. I rarely read non-fiction, but I saw this book at the library the day before we left on vacation and I grabbed it.

It is fitting that I am trying to write this blog post after a long day of being with the kids. It is now 12:07AM and our daughters are still awake (we’re on vacation). I feel physically and emotionally depleted, and if I weren’t getting in a car in the morning for 12 hours to head home and then dealing with re-entry and back-to-school prep on Sunday, I’d probably just wait to write this post. But I want to get it done before we get home, while the book is still fresh in my mind.

Basically, Senior has endeavored to explain why the hell we parents are so tired and stressed. There are good reasons for our anxiety, whether we have toddlers, elementary school kids, or teens. The challenges of raising each of these age groups are different, of course. For example, when our kids are little, we crave time when we are physically apart from them, and when they are older, we feel hurt when they reject us and don’t want to be with us. Younger kids are over-scheduled, while older kids constantly vacillate between wanting their independence and being totally helpless.

To research All Joy And No Fun, Senior interviewed couples, single moms, grandparents raising grandchildren, working moms, SAHMs, and SAHDs to get at the heart of why parenting can be both such a slog and the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done in our lives. She also explores the effect children have on marriage, on friendship, on work, and on self-esteem. I read this book with interest and felt reinforced by many of Senior’s conclusions. One of my friends on FB posted about this book a few months ago, calling it required reading for parents and suggesting that we have our parents read it too, so that they can understand why we’re all going crazy. I agree.

There’s also a lot in here about how “flexible” schedules and technology have made it hard to contain work to work hours and parenting to parenting hours.

Here are a few quotes that I thought were particularly insightful:

  • “The portability and accessibility of our work has created the impression that we should always be available. It’s as if we’re all leading lives of anti-flow, of chronic interruptions and ceaseless multitasking.” (YES!)
  • “A wired home lulls us into the belief that maintaining our old work habits while caring for our children is still possible.” (True!)
  • “The result, almost no matter where you cut this deck, is guilt. Guilt over neglecting the children. Guilt over neglecting work. Working parents feel plenty of guilt as it is. But in the wired age, parents are able to feel that guilt all the time. There’s always something they are neglecting.” (Amen!)
  • “Today’s parents are starting families at a time when their social networks in the real world appear to be shrinking and their communities ties, stretching thin.” (Yep!)
  • “All it takes for a couple to start fighting, really, is for them to go out to dinner with another couple whose domestic division of labor is slightly different from their own.” (Eek!)
  • “Our expectations of parents seem to have increased as our attitudes toward women in the workplace have liberalized.” (Makes sense!)
  • “Homework has replaced the family dinner.” (Oh my god, yes!)
  • “One wonders if actual family dinners might happen a bit more frequently if they hadn’t been supplanted by study halls at the dining room table, and if that time wouldn’t be more restorative and better spent – the stuff of customs and stories and affectionate memories, the stuff that binds.” (Um, what’s that?)
  • “Parents of adolescents have to learn, by stages, to give up the physical control and comfort that was once theirs. In the end, they are left only with words.” (UGH!)
  • “When parents spend forever trying to get their kids to stop playing video games and come down to dinner, they’re trying to impose artificial boundaries in time where no natural ones exist.” (Pretty much true!)

I can’t say that I walked away from All Joy And No Fun with The Answer to the challenge of how to parent successfully in this intense, connected, 24/7 world, but I did find it quite interesting and got a lot of perspective from it. If you liked the quotes I listed above, you’ll probably like this book too. If you can find the time to squeeze it in.


I usually read fiction – hence this blog – but every now and again I sneak in some non-fiction on a topic I either need to learn more about or am particularly interested in. When a review copy of Emotionally Healthy Twins: A New Philosophy for Parenting Two Unique Individuals, by Joan Friedman, came my way, I jumped at the chance to read it.  I really haven’t delved much into the parenting book genre. I read What to Expect… for the infant and toddler stages, but I just haven’t brought myself to expand beyond them. Since raising twins has its own set of challenges, though, I figured it was worth learning what the experts say.

(I know this isn’t the type of book I usually review on EDIWTB, but there are some parents of twins who read this blog, and I figured some of you might know people with twins who might be interested in the review.)

Friedman is a twin herself and raised a set of twin boys (kids #4 and #5). She’s also a therapist specializing in the treatment of twin-related issues. So she has some experience in this area.

Friedman’s theme is: treat twins uniquely. Spend one-on-one time with each one. Don’t assume that twins always want to be together and share everything. Don’t expect twins to parent each other – they each need you as a parent. Don’t compare them.

While I think some of her recommendations are a bit extreme, such as separate birthday parties for pre-schoolers, there is a lot of good advice in here. I know that one area I haven’t been good on as a mom is spending time alone with each of my daughters. This book has reinforced for me the importance of taking the time needed to do that. Friedman says:

When parents assume that their twins are happy simply being with each other and don’t need one-on-one time with mom or dad, the result can be a reneging on the parental role and subsequent feelings of abandonment in each child. The twins may then gradually shut their parents out and attempt to meet each other’s needs. Rather than the parent’s having the all-important individual connection with each child, the twinship becomes the core relationship. Creating a close threesome – parent and two children – likewise cannot substitute for the one-on-one relationship between one parent and one child. Parents must be more influential in the lives of each twin than the other twin.

This book will serve as a reminder to me not to let the convenience of doing things as a family unit override the importance of developing strong independent relationships with each girl and cultivating and  supporting their separate activities and friendships.

I also found the chapter on parenting twin infants to be almost therapeutic. Friedman is quite sympathetic to the feelings many new twin moms have: inadequacy, being overwhelmed, and feeling blessed and resentful at the same time. I wish I had read it when my girls were infants – it would have been even more helpful back then.

Emotionally Healthy Twins covers infancy to young adulthood. I recommend it as a resource for any parent of twins, regardless of their age.

SWEET RUIN by Cathi Hanauer

First, a final reminder about the first EDIWTB online book club. Hyperion has generously agreed to send review copies of A Middle Place, which I wrote about here, to anyone who’d like to read it.  A few weeks after we’ve all received the book, I’ll post a review of it here, and those who have read it will hopefully keep the conversation going in the comments.  I have already submitted a bunch of names to Hyperion, and will send along any more that I receive at gweiswasser@gmail.com in the next day or two. If the book club goes well, I’d like to make it a regular feature – though in the future I will hopefully have more control over picking the book. I appreciate Hyperion’s generous offer, and I hope that other publishers will agree to provide review copies, but I’d also like to choose the books rather than have them determined by which books are sent to me. (Anyone who has been in a book club with me knows that I am a control freak when it comes to picking books!)

Second, I finished a book today that I really liked. If yu’re a guy, you can probably stop reading right here (I know there are some of you out there who are sick of my female protagonists).  Sweet Ruin, by Cathi Hanauer, is a novel about Elayna, a suburban mom in her mid 30s living in a New Jersey suburb outside New York City. She has a 6-year old daughter and also lost a son a few days after he was born. The book opens 2 years after her son’s death, as she is slowly emerging from her fog of grief.  It explores her flawed marriage, her grief and depression, her relationship with her difficult father, her experience as a mother to her daughter Hazel, suburban parenting, and her affair with Kevin, a young man across the street who falls in love with her.

This book was difficult to put down. I love Hanauer’s writing. Her little observations about motherhood and marriage – wow. Familiar territory. It’s not a perfect book – I think that Elayna’s relationship with Kevin isn’t that convincing in the end. But I like that her characters aren’t painted in black and white. No one’s a villain. Hanauer successfully makes most of her characters sympathetic, even when they are fighting with or hurting each other. This is real life in all its messy, unpredictable, ever-changing beauty.

I just read a review of Sweet Ruin at the Mommy Writer Blog. Check it out – I heartily agree with her. This is a highly enjoyable book that’s several steps above chick lit.

I’d love to hear from others who have read this book.