The GEM Debate:
Is Parenting All Joy And No Fun? (VIDEO) (POLL)
Would you describe your role as a parent as all joy and no fun? That is, in fact, the premise and title of author Jennifer Senior’s book, “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood.” Parents will hear the title and either nod their heads in agreement or shudder in disbelief that someone would say this out loud.
Senior examines the effects of children on their parents. She looks at the ways in which children, for better or for worse, alter their parents’ marriages, jobs, habits, hobbies, friendships, or internal senses of self.
Senior appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” yesterday and discussed her book and elements of parenthood. The video is long, but worth a look:
In her book, Senior explains: “Every debate we have had about the role of parents—whether they should be laissez-faire or interventionist ‘Tiger Moms,’ attachment-oriented or partial to the rigors of tough love—can be traced back to the paring down of mothers’ and fathers’ traditional roles.”
We are quite adept at figuring out what parenting doesn’t require: “Teaching kids mathematics and geography and literature (schools do that); providing them with medical treatment (pediatricians); sewing them dresses and trousers (factories abroad, whose wares are then distributed by Old Navy); growing them food (factory farms, whose goods are then distributed by supermarkets); giving them vocational training (two-year colleges, classes, videos).” With all the outsourcing that we do, we still seem to be baffled about what raising children does require.
We parents do what we do “for the child’s sake, and the child’s alone. Parents no longer raise children for the family’s sake or that of the broader world.” How did we get here? How did we get children who—as sociologist Viviana A. Zelizer, describes it—are “economically worthless but emotionally priceless”?
In the “Morning Joe” clip, it’s suggested that parents, especially mothers, are driven by guilt and ambivalence that comes from working, which keeps us from monitoring every little thing. She notes that right around the time that women really starting working outside the home in full force, worries arose about children being kidnapped and the dangers of receiving Halloween candy from strangers.
While that’s probably true, I think many parents feel the weight of raising children because as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis famously put it, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”
I haven’t read “All Joy and No Fun.” Quite frankly, I was prepared to be up in arms about it from the title alone. I concede that there’s lots of tedium and drudgery in parenting, yet there are so many joyful, meaningful, and yes, fun moments. Of course, that parenting can make one happy and miserable at the same time is the paradox that Senior writes about.
What do you think? Is parenting all joy and no fun? Take the poll and feel free to write in your own response. This is a complex question. Be sure to share your thoughts below.
Alexis Trass Walker lives in Gary, Indiana, with her husband and four children. She is managing editor of Good Enough Mother. Read more about Alexis on her blog www.lilliebelle.org or follow her on Twitter @LillieBelle5. You can email her at alexis [at] goodenoughmother [dot] com.