All Joy and No Fun Book Review

alljoyandnofuncover In All Joy and No Fun, The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, author Jennifer Senior takes readers through a history and analysis of how modern parenting has become the paradox that it is today. Rather than asking, as most parenting books do, about what effect parents have on their children, she spins the question to ask what affect children have on their parents.

This book is gracefully researched, argued and beautifully written with an entertaining style and powerful prose. I found myself deeply moved while humorously recognizing my own modern parenting journey throughout its vignettes.

“Concerted cultivation” is the term the author borrows to describe, analyze and name the origins of the current trend most parents are dealing with— overscheduled children. This modern tendency “places intense labor demands on busy parents, exhausts children and emphasizes the development of individualism, at times at the expense of the development of the notion of the family group.”

So why, Senior wants to know, do modern parents allow their children and parenting to create this level of stress and exhaustion for themselves and their entire families? Overcompensating behaviors are based in fear of something.  The parents showcased in this chapter, and all modern parents to a degree, have fears about the future that they are raising their kids to live in. Our generation of parents has seen so much change that it’s hard to imagine what kind of reality our children will face in 10 or 20 years. Most modern parents feel they are raising their kids to enter a reality they will barely understand: to compete with their peers across the globe for highly-skilled, high-tech jobs that will require them to attend top universities in order to be competitive.  So there is an external standard of how our kids should be raised in order to compete.

One of the most compelling lines in the entire book comes during the “Marriage” chapter when one father, who arrives home from his night shift so his wife can leave for her day shift job, says “I am my own standard” when he is raising his kids. The author asks what would happen if we eased the external standard of concerted cultivation and allowed ourselves to spend time with our children according to what we deem is enough, healthy and worthwhile for them?

In the chapter “Adolescence,” Senior relays an important study by Steinberg who found that “…adolescence is especially tough on parents who don’t have an outside interest, whether it be work or a hobby, to absorb their interests as their child is pulling away [into the autonomy of adolescence].” In his sample of parents, this was true whether the parent was an involved parent or a disengaged one, a helicopter or a remote-controlled drone. “The critical protective variable was not, as some might expect, whether or not an individual invested a great deal in parenting,” he wrote. “It was the absence of non-parental investment.” Mothers who’d made the choice to stay home were especially vulnerable to a decline in mental health. But so were parents without hobbies, and so were parents who didn’t find fulfillment in their jobs and viewed them more as a source of pay than a source of pride. “It was as if the child, by leaving center stage, redirected the spotlight onto the parents’ own life, exposing what was fulfilling about it and what was not.”

Reading this summarized most of the questions that I myself have felt in the early years of parenting in deciding whether to continue working, to stay at home, to take classes, to remain involved in my creative passions, cultivate friendships, pursue my passions through business.

I leave you with these two points to consider:

1. Are you parenting your children to your own standard? If you find yourself exhausted and depleted running from activity to activity, perhaps it’s time to stop and decide for yourself how to best parent your own child. Giving them time during their day and week to just be, with unstructured time to connect with you, will help them no matter where their life leads. It may seem tough and, sure, there are many things to be afraid of in our fast-paced, changing world. But ultimately, burning you and your child out will not bring that glorious future any more quickly or more efficiently. If overscheduling is an issue for you, your kids and your family, you could start by letting go of at least one thing on the frenetic schedule.

2. What are you doing today to invest in your own life? It can be a job, a hobby, a passionate interest or an activity. The point is it that it is YOURS. It’s something that you do FOR YOU. The kids are going to leave their daily lives and homes in several years to go away for school or work. When they do, it may be unbearably difficult to parents that haven’t taken time to invest in themselves. Besides, kids benefit greatly by seeing their parents engage passionately and with fulfillment in their own lives. In fact, as this book suggests, it is the biggest factor in our kids’ learning to create a life they love, and one that means something to them and the greater world around them.

What’s Your Type?

nine personality types on blackboardThe Enneagram is a robust system of personality, self-awareness and personal growth. As parents, we are challenged daily to grow ourselves into our best selves so as to meet the developing needs of our children in a peaceful and loving manner. The Enneagram can offer a path out of ineffective parenting patterns such as reacting to children with shortness, yelling and using punishments.  Once you identify your core personality type, it can be studied, practiced and incorporated into one’s behaviors to show up for our children and the rest of our lives with more grace and effectiveness.

The Enneagram is different from more commonly known personality typing tools, like the Meyer’s Briggs, because it provides more than a static snapshot or box that people fit into in terms of their tendencies and behaviors.

The Enneagram is an ancient personality system which aims to capture the 9 personality types present in the human family. The types include The Reformer (1), The Giver (2), The Achiever (3), The Individualist (4), The Investigator (5), The Loyalist (6), The Enthusiast (7), The Challenger (8) and The Peacemaker (9). The names of the personality types come from the ways in which each type attempts to make its mark on the world, and respond to its need for love and recognition. Each type behaves in specific ways to gain approval and earn the love that we all seek as human beings, starting from a young age.

In addition to providing a current view of how a person is behaving, the Enneagram system is built upon the idea that personalities, and people, evolve over time. The more a person knows about him/herself and his/her behaviors, takes conscious action to untangle misconceived ideas about love and belonging, and becomes fully self-accepting, self-realized and effective in the world, the more each type evolves to become their highest self.

I came across the Enneagram many years ago when I was having challenges in a relationship and at work, with people who often seemed to speak a different language than I did in their behaviors and assumptions.

At that time, my father had just passed away and I had just begun the arduous journey of becoming an inner city public high school teacher. I was under stress and was typed as an Enneagram 4 — the Individualist. I was withdrawn, focused on how different I was from others, and often assumed that no one else saw the same issues and problems that I saw in the same ways.

I came to realize when I began my coaching program two years ago, that I had been mis-typed. Each Enneagram personality not only has a type that we evolve to, but also a type that we go to under stress. I am actually an Enneagram Type 1, the Reformer. The Reformer is concerned with doing the right thing, serving people, and is very values and ethics-based with decision-making.

All personality types have wonderful qualities, but they also have patterns which can create problems, especially around self-criticism and perfectionism.

It is my self-development work to evolve to a Type 7, The Enthusiast, to overcome my patterns and assumptions about people and how to go about gaining love. In fact, when one evolves to their highest self/type using the Enneagram system as a tool, life no longer is about approval and seeking love from the outside, but rather about being true to oneself, living from a place of deep authenticity, integration, peace and flow.


5 Self Care Suggestions for Busy Parents

Ever since having my child I have needed to be extra conscious about taking care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. The weeks I fall off the self care wagon are harder – I have less patience, less compassion, working from a cup half empty than full. How do I take care of myself? There are a few MUSTS for me every week and month. I wanted to share these with you and ask all the hard working parents out there – what are you doing to take care of yourself on a regular and consistent basis? What would your energy levels and ability to parent be like if you were doing more? If your self care plan needs a little pick me up, use this list for ideas and get started today! The better you care for yourself, the better you’ll care for your loved ones, and the more your kids will learn how to take care of themselves when it’s their turn :).

1.) See a network chiropractor every week.
I see Aidan Kinsella of Verve Chiropractic ( in the Mission district of SF. She has helped me to change my relationship to my body and life, has helped to alleviate all the pain I experienced after I gave birth to my daughter, and has supported me in fulfilling many of my goals and dreams as a new Mom. If you’ve tried traditional chiropractic, this type of practice is very different. It’s much more gentle and it is appropriate for EVERYONE. If you are interested in releasing those kinks and pains in your neck, back, hips and shoulders, if you know there is a profound relationship between your body’s optimal functioning and your optimal functioning, check this care out. I can’t say enough great things about Aidan and the care she provides. IT will become a regular part of your care routine, so be warned, hard to resist. And it’s affordable!

2.) Exercise every day, in the way your body is asking.
Some days I go to the pool and “workout” with the older folks in Aqua Fit class. Others, I pop in a Turbo Jam DVD and get my kick boxing groove on in our building’s carpeted gym. And others I go to Zumba. I try to change it up and listen to what my body and heart are asking for that day. The main point is to MOVE, sweat and fill my lungs with air at least 5 times per week. Are you taking care of your body’s need for cardio, even if it’s going out for a walk? If you keep it varied, keep it simple based on what’s available to you each day, right inside or outside your own home, the chances of your getting to exercise will increase.

3.) Cook Your Own Food During the Week, Ahead of Time When Possible
Ever since I lost the baby weight by following a high lean protein, low to no carb diet this past Spring, I have learned to love cooking at home and eating really healthy foods. That way I know what’s in it and I can cook ahead of time, or stick with quick, easy to prepare foods during the week. Cooking and eating this way all week allow me to feel more free to have freedom on the weekends when we tend to be out and about, at parties and restaurants, more frequently.

4.) Go see an Acupuncturist
I currently see my old friend Juan Carlos Collins in San Francisco every 3 weeks for regular acupuncture and fertility-related acupuncture. I have also visited Daniela Freda in the Castro District for fertility-related treatments. Both of them are amazing. I try to make this part of my monthly self care, whether I am trying to conceive or not. The rest I get on the table is deeper than any other, and I can feel my digestion, energy and overall functioning improve after a treatment. The herbs are also an integral part of my self care routine.

5.) Meditate, Visualize and Journal
I attempt to meditate, visualize and journal once per day for a total of 20-30 minutes, in the morning when I’m lucky, or at any other time of day that my schedule allows, but morning is preferable for me. If everyday just isn’t happening, I shoot for five times per week, like cardio. I do various types of meditations, mostly centering, grounding, body scans and breath awareness. I do a standard journal exercise everyday and some weeks or months may expand these practices to include vision boards, communication practices with key people in my life, and other practices to help me reach my goals. I often supply these exercises to my coaching clients, which we discuss in our ongoing sessions.

These are my big 5 ways I take care of myself on a regular basis. I could not be the person I want to be, feel full up enough to care for my family and clients, or achieve my goals without these regular practices.

What about you? What allows you to follow through on self care? What stands in your way? How can you find the support to bring these into your life more regularly?

Please share!

Getting My Body Back After Baby

Becoming pregnant and having a baby were by far the biggest blessings of my life. However, the process of being pregnant, having a child and then bouncing back physically has been one of the most difficult processes I can remember.

When I became pregnant in October 2008, it took only a few months until I would walk by a mirror and literally not recognize (or like very much!) what I saw looking back. I had been in great shape prior to getting pregnant as we were readying for our wedding and got pregnant the weekend after. I went from feeling strong and confident about the shape I was in to, as a pregnant mama, feeling bloated, exhausted, and by the end, huge. I put on a total of 40 pounds during my pregnancy. I lost control over what I ate and didn’t exercise except walking and yoga because whenever I tried to, it didn’t feel right because my body got too hot making me feel it was unsafe for the baby, so I gave up on it. Yoga helped relieve tension in my body so I stuck with that. Continue Reading