Parenting Goals

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The parenting section of the bookstore is overwhelming—it’s “a giant, candy-colored monument to our collective panic,” as writer Jennifer Senior puts it. Why is parenthood filled with so much anxiety? Because the goal of modern, middle-class parents—to raise happy children—is so elusive. In this honest talk, she offers some kinder and more achievable aims.

Jennifer Senior

Jennifer 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 anthro major) around how families behave. Her conclusion: Hey, parents, it's okay not to feel blissfully happy all the time. She expanded the piece into a book that dives deeper 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."

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