Under Pressure: Parenthood as we know it

Andrew Solomon in The New York Times:

BookParenthood as we know it — predicated on the unconditional exaltation of our children — is no more than 70 years old, and it has gone through radical readjustments over the past two generations. As children went from helping on the farm to being the focus of relentless cosseting, they shifted “from being our employees to our bosses,” Jennifer Senior observes in her trenchant and engrossing first book, “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood.” Senior, a contributing editor at New York magazine, examines what it means to be a parent, through interviews with a handful of families who are neither typical nor extraordinary. These are snapshots, not longitudinal documentaries, but in the way of good snapshots, they tell more than one might notice at first glance, and they allow for cautious universalizing. She supplements these vignettes with extremely impressive research, weaving in insights from philosophy, psychology and an occasionally overwhelming mélange of social science reports. Senior quotes the sociologist Viviana A. Zelizer, who describes today’s children as “economically worthless but emotionally priceless.” Senior explains: “Every debate we have had about the role of parents — whether they should be laissez-faire or interventionist ‘Tiger Moms,’ attachment-oriented or partial to the rigors of tough love — can be traced back to the paring down of mothers’ and fathers’ traditional roles.”

More here.