In the 21st Century, project management for parents

I’ve just read an excellent book on the surprising anomaly of modern parenting called All Joy and No Fun.

It’s by the writer Jennifer Senior who we’ve featured a few times on Mind Hacks for her insightful pieces on the social mind.

In All Joy and No Fun she looks at how the modern model of childhood born after the Second World War – “long and sheltered, devoted almost entirely to education and emotional growth” – has begun to mutate in some quarters into an all consuming occupation of over-parenting that has meant childcare has been consistently rated as one of the least enjoyable family activities in a wide range of studies.

The book combines field trips with parenting in middle American (YMMV) and a look at the surprising data about how parenting has become almost a competitive sport which requires forever more money, time, restrictions and plans, lest you be accused be being a ‘bad parent’.

New parents in the United States, Mead observes, are willing to try almost any new fad or craze for their baby’s sake. “We find new schools of education, new schools of diet, new schools of human relations… And we find serious, educated people following their dictates.” Which is why attachment parenting is consdiered de rigeur one year and overbearing three years later. And why cry-it-out is all the rage one moment and then, after a couple of seasons, considered cruel. And why organic home-milled purees suddenly supplant jars of Gerber’s, though an entire generation has done just fine on Gerber’s and even gone on to write books, run companies and do Nobel-winning science. Uncertainty is why parents buy Baby Einstein products, though there’s no evidence that they do anything to alter the cognitive trajectory of a child’s life, and explains why a friend – an extremely bright and reasonable man – asked me, with the straightest of faces and finest of intentions, why I wasn’t teaching my son sign language when he was small.

Because he was writing in the 1950s, psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott talked about the ‘good enough mother’, but taking its more modern version, we could say that ‘good enough parenting’ is all that parents need to aspire to.

All Joy and No Fun is a thought-provoking exploration of how childrearing become so unenjoyable in the 21st Century, and how fads, fashions and commerce, seek to undermine ‘good enough parenting’.

Link to more details on All Joy and No Fun.

2 thoughts on “In the 21st Century, project management for parents”

  1. Fad-everything is big business these days. For charlatans who become rich on things like bulletproof coffee blend and Luminosity games. It makes sense it would extend to childcare.

    Meanwhile it seems like Americans could make an effort to teach their kids a second language. IF it’s true that children learn best before age 12, Mom and Dad could start them young. Adults can learn too – Sesame Street is broadcast in both Spanish and Arabic.

    Then the Republicans can stop whining that English is not the “official” language. Make it the official language, then raise kids to know 4 languages like they do in Denmark.

    Mandarin and Spanish should be required, allow them to choose one more they like.

  2. When I was asked for a book on this subject by a new mother friend, I was shocked to find that it was nearly impossible to find anything which didn’t imply getting your child in front of others by some kind of competitive training regime: that was here in Spain, but most of the books were translations from English. It must be like training an Olympic athlete, bringing up a child now….and look how in some places parents give up work to supervise thir child’s piano-playing or ballet dancing career! That’s got to breed resentment down the line, surely?

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