Raising children has become a major stressor for many parents. Senior speaks to some reasons for this. Many of us live in a kind of twilight world, where we are not children, yet not fully adult until the end of graduate school. But as early as the preschool years the parents are stressed about their children’s future. Senior says that we don’t have to be perfect to be good parents.

Why you should listen:

Senior is a contributing editor at New York Magazine, where she writes profiles and cover stories about politics, social science and mental health. In a groundbreaking 2010 story for the magazine, called “All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting,” she examined the social science around modern parenting, looking at happiness research from Dan Gilbert, Danny Kahneman and others, as well as anthropological research (she was an anthropology major) around how families behave. Her conclusion: Hey, parents, it’s okay not to feel blissfully happy all the time.

Who is she:

Jennifer Senior wrote a book that dives deep into the research and paradoxes of modern American parenting styles — including parents’ sometimes inflated expectations of constant awesomeness, meaningfulness and bliss. As she says, “I think of this book as a series of mini-ethnographies — portraits of how American families live now.”


  1. The first book about raising children to be really successful was __________?
  1. Now there are so many books on this subject, that Senior calls them “a candy colored monument to our collective panic.” What does she mean?
  1. Senior cites Killingworth’s study that shows that interacting with your children produces no more happiness than interacting with strangers. Does this seem intuitively true or false to you?
  1. Kids were considered economic assets until fairly recently. Outline this change in social roles.
  1. We try to prepare our children for every possible kind of future, since we cannot know what the real future will be. Why would this be harder on a parent’s health than raising a child in 1900 be?
  1. Here ultimate conclusion is that we should aim at producing productive and moral children which is both mire realistic and more achievable than producing happy ones. Agree or disagree and explain why.

For parents, happiness is a very high bar with Jennifer Senior


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