All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood – Jennifer Senior
I decided to read this book after a friend got me to listen to an NPR interview of the author. The book was written with the intention of examining how having children affects parents. When I first heard about the book I thought the title, though intended to illustrate the paradox of parenting, sounds very harsh to me – I know it says “All Joy” but the “No Fun” part just screams at me. Even then, I thought this was a very interesting question to explore – How are we impacted when we decide to bring in children into the world? The author is clear at the outset that this book is not about giving you child-rearing advice. This is very important to know before you read this book because you’ll find yourself throwing your hands up in the air and saying “So what?” at the first few chapters. Think of this book as a reality show on parenthood from birth to almost-adulthood – A very real, reality show not the Kardashian or Real Housewives kind! I feel like every prospective and new parent will do well to read this book because it makes you appreciate how there is no right and wrong way to parent. It will help harried parents who worry if they’re doing right by their kids relax and be kind to themselves. Where the book did not really deliver was in explaining the “all joy” part of parenthood and maybe my disadvantage here is that I’m not a parent and cannot really “get” what it means to hold your child in your arms or to see your expressions on their faces or hear them say those silly things that you relay to friends and family with pride. Even then, there’s a very cursory effort made to talk about the joy and meaning in choosing a life of raising children. There’s also a strange rhetorical question in the last chapter that had me squirming – “Should you value moment-to-moment happiness more than retrospective evaluations of your life?” The author seems to suggest here that by becoming a parent you’re making the choice to let go of momentary happiness because you have a deeper purpose and meaning in your life. I find this to be an absurd point – I truly believe moment-to-moment happiness is just as important as having a purpose in one’s life. (A topic for another day I guess!) Despite this, I think this is a great book. I am amazed at how much parents around me juggle and still manage to underplay their efforts. After reading this book, I have renewed respect for all the parents in my life.
“Vocabulary for aggravation is large. Vocabulary for transcendence is elusive.”
“Having worked so hard to have children, parents may feel it’s only natural to expect happiness from the experience. And they’ll find happiness of course, but not necessarily continuously, and not always in the forms they might expect.”
“Homework is the new family dinner.”
The South Asian Health Solution – Ronesh Sinha
I checked out this book after reading a review by one of my favorite bloggers, Nupur of One Hot Stove. Much like Nupur, I’ve been consciously cutting my carbohydrate (especially from sugar) intake ever since I watched Robert Lustig’s excellent talk on how sugar is metabolized in the body. You can read about my “sugar shock” in this post. The book is written specifically for the South Asian community since Dr. Ronesh Sinha, the author has worked with many patients in the community and is Indian. The book explains very well how the diet and lifestyle choices made by South Asians affect their bodies in ways that have now become very typical symptoms for our community – skinny fat bodies, hypertension, insulin resistance, high triglyceride counts and sugar levels. After reading this book I also discovered the harmful impact of low Vitamin D levels and as a result I’ve started to take supplements. (Spending time in the sun is not an option for me in the Chicago winters!). Where I felt the book was lacking was in the dietary recommendations. I understand that salads and soups are better than my traditional Indian diet of rice and rotis but as someone who grew up eating these foods I can never completely give them up. The idea of a coconut flour roti (a recipe provided in the book) makes me want to crawl into bed and weep. Reading this book, I felt like the author was pushing readers to completely eliminate rice and wheat and while that may work in theory, it will only make people (especially Indians like me who grew up on rice and wheat) run towards their naan and biryani in exasperation after a few weeks of trying to quit cold turkey. Moderation, ultimately can work wonders and I would have appreciated reading about some strategies to gradually wean myself off the carbohydrates that have been the star attraction of my plate for years and years now. That small greviance aside, I think this book should be read by all South Asians. I know I’ve been recommending this book to anyone who will listen.
“The impulse to overfeed family members and guests and shower them with excess carbohydrates, especially sweets, is an ingrained gesture of warmth and hospitality that goes beyond rationality.”
I know How She Does It: How Succesful Women Make the Most of Their Time – Laura Vanderkam
I remember being very intrigued by the title of this book when I first read about it because it is the dream after all of many women all over the world trying to achieve that balance between the pursuit of a career and real life duties. I liked that the book emphasizes on how these succesful women “make the most” of their time. No one has it all, simply put. You do what you can with the time you’re given and you learn to be proud of it and happy about it. In fact, I cringe when I hear that term, “having it all”. It is a very perfectionist way of looking at life – Life is messy and imperfect and we don’t gain much by ignoring that fact. The data for this book comes from the hour-by-hour time logs over a time span of 1001 days of women who earn atleast $100,000 a year. The author has studied the data and come up with observations about how women use their time and suggested specific strategies for how more women can make more space in their life for the priorities they value. I love the analogy of a mosaic that the author comes back to, very often in the book, comparing the hours in the day to the tiles of a mosaic – You can rearrange these tiles to conform to how you want to want your life to look eventually. When I read this book, I got the message that the author is trying to get people to realize that you have a choice with what to do with your time – you can spend all your energy to keep the sink shiny and free of dishes or you can save your energy for something you’re actually passionate about. There will always be women whose work schedules don’t allow them the flexibility and financial resources that the subjects in this book enjoy but even within the context of our own lives it is worth examining how we use our time. I enjoyed this book and recommend it wholeheartedly to women who are feeling the pinch of their schedules and determined to shake off the negative messages that our culture sends women who balance work and family.
“But in this book, I want to tell a different story. The key to this is realizing that life isn’t lived in epiphanies, and that looking for lessons and the necessity of big life changes in dark moments profoundly limits our lives.”
“You don’t become a better parent or employee by not enjoying your life.”
“It is a metaphor for life, perhaps, in that everything is a metaphor for life. The berry season is short. So how full, exactly, do I intend to fill the box? Or, if we slice away the metaphor, we could just ask this: what does the good life look like for me?”