Mommy and Daddy are tired

Modern middle-class parenting is All Joy and No Fun writes Jennifer Senior. Deeply invested in their children’s happiness and success, parents invest less energy in their marriages.

The book is No Ode to Joy, notes Abby W. Schachter in Commentary Magazine.

I am not a great believer in our style of parenting,” Jerry Seinfeld said recently. “What I mean is our generation…I just think we’re too into it…The bedtime routine for my kids is like this royal coronation, jubilee centennial of rinsing and plaque and dental appliances and a stuffed animal semi-circle of emotional support.”

Senior offers portraits of mothers and fathers trying to figure out what skills, sports, classes, and aptitudes would be best for future success, even as they acknowledge the economy is so complex and confusing that it is nearly impossible to have a guaranteed path. They are exhausted by all the effort, the driving and the scheduling, but not one seems willing to push their kids out the front door and let them figure it out for themselves.

“Almost all middle-class parents” believe  that “whatever they are doing is for the child’s sake, and the child’s alone,” Senior writes. “Parents no longer raise children for the family’s sake or that of the broader world.”

These “exhausted parents” are raising ” children who are less independent, less resilient, and more disrespectful,” Schachter writes. And they’re putting their own marriages at risk — if they’re married at all.

About Joanne


  1. Mark Roulo says:

    Am I such an outlier because I’ve actually *enjoyed* raising my now 13-year-old??? I can’t be the only one here who has had a lot of fun raising a child, right?

    • Bostonian says:

      No, you are not, Mark. Regarding the “marriages put at risk”, note that the divorce rate for college graduates has been falling.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        There is a significant overlap between people who can do well in school, people who can do well in a job, and people who can do well in a marriage.

        A major reason for the increasing inequality in American society is the fact that successful people marry each other and have successful children. Unsuccessful people often don’t have lasting marriages but do have children.

    • Deirdre Mundy says:

      I’m having fun raising my kids but… I don’t see them as avatars of my unfulfilled dreams, either. And I’m actually pretty relaxed about their academics (we homeschool), because… well, they have genetics on their side. So I give them lots of free time and they fill it up by building things or learning things or writing historical fiction or identifying the bugs in our yard. (We have a classical curriculum, but they finish it in 2-3 hours when they’re not whining.)

      I think the stress comes when you fool yourself into thinking that you can shape their personalities and desires beyond basic etiquette like ‘do not scream at other people’ and ‘use a fork when you eat pasta.’

      The problem with people who believe that every child should be ‘planned’ is that they frequently think their ability to plan the child extends beyond the circumstances of conception, so they waste a lot of effort and tears trying to turn their budding brooding poet into a prom queen. Kids come out as unique individuals. Your job, as parent., is to keep them from killing themselves as they explore the world, and to smooth some of the rough edges so that they make pleasant company. Everything after that? They’re going to be who they’re going to be, so you might as well encourage them in their journey.

      • Deirdre Mundy says:

        I mean, given half-decent parents. Abuse and neglect can really change a child, but my sunny robot-loving extrovert is not suddenly going to change into her serious horse-loving sister. They’re totally different people. And neither is my clone. Which is great, because who wants to live in a house of clones? (Other than Boba Fett, of course)

  2. Cranberry says:

    I think reasonable, sane parents significantly outnumber the nuts. They aren’t as fun to read about, though. As many parenting tomes are written by Experts, i.e. often psychologists & their friends, the field is tilted toward people who are experiencing parenting difficulties.

    There are entire industries devoted to making parents worry. The parents most likely to worry are those whose children will do the *best* in life. Their children are most likely to finish high school, go to college, get a job, etc.

    Parents who worry buy books.