Whether you have planned to be parent or just stumbled upon this parenthood, I believe there comes a moment for every parent to ask the question to himself or herself. “Did I really want to do this? Then Why?”
This question led me to a book, “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood,” by Jennifer Senior. Unlike other parenting books, the book was written for parents to learn about themselves instead of the kids.
Five chapters out of six in “All Joy and No Fun” explain why contemporary parents have such a hard time being a parent. Honestly, I was not in the mood to read more about the negative matters of life of a mother as I find myself complaining about them all the time. I wanted to hear something refreshing. Some kind of reassurance for me to keep doing what I have been doing in the past five years: Some hopeful message. Thankfully the book did not let me down. The gem of this book is hidden in its last chapter called “Joy.”
I highlighted basically the entire chapter and inserted a note to every paragraph: “uh-huh,” “true true,” and “love this.” I will try not to quote the whole chapter here and try very hard to pick only a few that could apply to even non parents.
On Difference between fun and joy
“The first [fun] turns the individual inward, while the second [joy] turns the individual outward, toward others.” (Senior)
“Joy is connection.” (George Vaillant)
“Joy is about being warm, not hot.” (Vaillant)
“Excitement, sexual ecstasy, and happiness all speed up the heart; joy and cuddling slow the heart.” (Vaillant)
On Joy and Loss
“Joy and woe are woven fine.” (William Blake)
mono no aware: Japanese phrase “bittersweetness in ephemeral beauty”
“Thus a heavy task is laid upon Gift-love. It must work towards its own abdication.” (C.S. Lewis)
“Joy is grief inside and out.” (Vaillant)
“So much venerability can be agonizing. But how else can parents experience ecstasy? How else can they know awe? These feelings are the price mothers and fathers pay for elation, and for fathomless connection.” (Senior)
Conclusively, the book convinces me that the reward of parenting is greater than what it costs: my autonomy, career, time, friendship, relationship to my husband, even mental health. By placing the Joy chapter after five previous chapters expounding on demanding characteristics of modern parenting, the book leaves me with definite hope and encouragement.
In the past five years, I have learned that there is something that goes to the soul level about being connected to another being in such an intimate way. Interesting thing is this kind of intimacy comes from such condition: One person is utterly dependent on me, and to take care of this one being, it takes all of my life. This is a mysterious on one hand, but at the same time embarrassingly plain thing about love.