Is parenting really all joy & no fun?
I asked myself this question while listening to an Fresh Air interview with Jennifer Senior, the author of the book, All Joy & No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting.
I won’t rehash the interview–you can read it or listen to it here–but it got me thinking. About modern parenting & how I think we’ve got it all wrong.
Who said parenting was about having fun anyway??
If people are having kids because they want to “have fun” they’ve got themselves into the wrong business.
I’ve been in the full-time parenting sector for a decade now. I’d like to think I know what I’m talking about.
Don’t get me wrong.
I love being a parent (which is part of the reason why we’ve signed up for it five times).
There are fun moments, frustrating moments, poopy & messy moments.
Pretty much any type of moment falls under the gamut of parenting emotions/experiences at one time or another.
But more often than not, parenting is just a lot of work.
And that is not a bad thing.
Though, if I may, I have a confession.
Sometimes I’m a whiner.
Most people who know me would not say this is true. I’m your average over-top, optimistic, friendly spit-fire “can-do” kinda girl.
But at home, first thing in the morning when I see the day stretch before me like an endless string of parenting duties & responsibilities, I can be a whiner. And I’ve realized this is not a good thing. Nobody likes a whiner.
Joseph is a patient husband, it’s true. He wins the gold medal in the most patient husband competition. But to be fair to him, I know it’s something I need to keep in check. It’s something I’m working on.
But you know, being a mom IS hard.
It IS a lot of work.
Some days you feel like you got nothing worthwhile done, though you swear that you were “busy” the whole time. Some days give you a swift kick in the rear–all the kids are sick, house is a mess, fridge is empty. You feel the weight of the world on your shoulders as you attempt to juggle raising your children, maintaining a semblance of order, all while trying not to lose your mind. And by golly, you just want someone to validate those feelings.
A few weeks ago, someone did. In a round about way.
I was at Costco, our regular stomping grounds.
As I was approaching the customer service desk with all five kids in tow, a lady saw me & smiled. Not the kind of smile I often get in such situations, which is more like a smirk often accompanied with, “You’ve got your hands full…hehe,” or in other words–I’m SO glad I’m not you, right now, you poor, poor woman. Instead, she looked truly delighted to see me.
“Oh, you have a beautiful family!”
“Are they all yours?” she asked as her eyes went from kid to kid.
(She asked this not in a tone of disbelief, as per usual, but more in tone of awe.)
I nodded in the affirmative.
What she said next took me by surprise.
“Oh I really hope you have more children!”
Being a mom is about 99.9% work.
There’s a lot of joy mixed in there, but the work is the foundation of it all & it can often feel like no one knows or cares about the minutia of what Mothers do every day (ie. sustain life & sanity while simultaneously trying to raise intelligent, thoughtful, loving human beings, which often seem at odds with each other).
To have someone acknowledge my work, which I believe to be my life’s greatest work, is always very much appreciated.
But back to the original question.
Is parenting really all joy & no fun?
Fun is just not the right word for parenting.
When I think of fun, I think of fleeting moments. Like the time you rode that roller coaster at Disneyland. Or playing a game of ping pong with your best friend. Those are fun activities.
But present, hands-on parenting, which requires your full attention & devotion–something that is not just a “fun” thing to do but rather a lifelong commitment to unconditional love–goes way, way beyond fun.
Essentially, it blows fun out of the water.
Parenting is the ultimate life experience–keeping life fresh, keeping you on your toes, keeping you humble if you let it.
Take this morning for example. I’m watching Tyndale hobble around the kitchen, banana in hand, smiling from ear to ear, babbling as he goes. I could watch that kid chew, sit, eat, sleep & derive much more pleasure/joy/fun/amusement than pretty much anything else I can think of. But you know what, I didn’t have kids “to have fun.”
(Why I had kids, here.)
There are stressors, there are hard things to deal with as a parent. YES, I GET THAT.
But why focus on all that, when the good stuff is so much better?
**Did you here the big news? We’re moving to Japan. We’re going to learn Japanese. Eat like the locals (or try to, minus all the seafood). It’s going to be awesome. Read about it here.
Other bring joy posts you might want to check out: