‘It’s for life … but it also is our lives’

By Kelly Roesler

Hot new parenting book illuminates the profound ways children deepen and add purpose to their parents’ lives

AllJoyIt’s the small, daily struggles that often feel so overwhelming, yet further cement the intense bond between child and parent.

In my own life, weekday mornings are the most stressful. As a mom of three, including one toddler, and juggling multiple demanding jobs, I’m also a night owl when I really shouldn’t be. So, mornings are rough.

I scramble out of bed, usually having slept long after my alarm goes off, rush to throw on clothes and a bit of makeup, then frantically rush into my three-year-old daughter Chloe’s room, knowing I will have to force her out of bed, get her dressed and quickly fed, then out the door to daycare.

By the time I approach Chloe’s door, I’m already exasperated. I walk over to her bed and begin prodding her to wake up. She, in turn, rolls away from me, burrowing deeper into her blankets.

We’re going to be late, and while one part of me is growing increasingly frustrated and panicked, another, greater part of me is so filled with joy just to see her small face in the morning, to see her comfy and cosy in her bed, and so I walk away, to let her sleep for a few precious minutes more while I race around the house, throwing things together.

When I return, she is slowly awakening, and grinning, asking for her toys. At this point, unless I run like a madwoman to daycare and work, I will miss my small window of opportunity to grab my usual, much needed Starbucks Grande Pike before work.

Despite this panic, I can’t help myself – I take a few extra minutes to cuddle and play before we rush out the door. These mornings are unquestionably chaotic, and equally joyful.

Chaos and joy – these are among the key parenting elements explored in award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior’s new book, All Joy and No Fun – The Paradox of Modern Parenthood. 

In her book, Senior examines parenting from a different angle, tackling an important, yet less-often asked question: What are the effects of children on their parents?

Senior explores and analyses 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.

Recruiting from a wide variety of sources—in history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology — Senior argues that changes in the last half-century have radically altered the roles of today’s mothers and fathers, making their mandates more complex and far less clear.

Parenting books can often veer into being preachy, overly informational, dull or condescending in tone. This is a different parenting book.

This is a parenting book that will evoke many a knowing laugh, and even a tear or two from parents everywhere, with its sharp insights into the profound meaning and the endless joys, hardships, sacrifices and duties that come with parenthood.

The book is painstakingly researched and sprinkled with plenty of fascinating historical studies and factoids, broken into easily digestible bits, and illustrated with real-life, completely relatable stories of today’s modern parents.

An overwhelmed, exhausted mom trying to balance working from home while caring for her three small children. A grandmother unexpectedly finding herself raising her young grandson full-time. The unending struggles between parents over the division of childrearing and household duties.

Senior’s vivid writing brings the writer directly into these families’ homes and lives. We see ourselves in these parents and can empathize and draw inspiration in our own parenting journey.

Senior examines each parenting milestone – from pregnancy and infancy through to adulthood – documenting the particular challenges of each, as well as the brilliant moments.

The core message is found in an early chapter of the book, where Senior writes, “Children strain our everyday lives … but also deepen them.”

The book methodically and succinctly summarizes why I have always longed to be a parent and why the experience has ultimately been so deeply fulfilling.

“Kids may complicate our lives. But they also make them simpler,” writes Senior. “Children’s needs are so overwhelming, and their dependence on us so absolute, that it’s impossible to misread our moral obligation to them.

“It’s for life … But it also is our lives.”

Through the good times and the bad, from the tough physical grind of pregnancy, infancy and early-morning feedings, to the emotionally taxing years of teenage angst and the higher responsibility of moral guidance in adulthood, being a parent is the ultimate meaningful endeavour.

And this book reminds me once again of why it is life’s greatest challenge – and ultimate joy.


Photo: HarperCollins Canada