Category Archives: Newborns

BOOK REVIEW: All Joy and No Fun

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

by Jennifer Senior, 2014

This is my newKathy favorite book about parenting, with my least favorite title (more on that later). It’s a great read for anyone who’s ever wondered “Am I doing this right?” or “People have been doing this forever – why is it so hard?” So, basically, it’s for everyone.

Jennifer Senior, a contributing editor at New York Magazine, is interested in how parenthood affects parents. She has pulled together data, research, and interviews with parents in the trenches to identify some of our biggest challenges. Senior is quick to say that this isn’t a parenting book, but I found a lot in here that could point people toward solutions.

As an introvert, the part that had me nodding the most was the section on autonomy, specifically how you wave goodbye to it when you have a child. I had known this would happen, of course, but I wasn’t prepared for how complete the shift would be.

It wasn’t just that I slept less, but that I couldn’t control when or how often I woke up. It wasn’t just that I had less time to write, but that I couldn’t be sure how much time I would have before I would get interrupted. It was a huge change. If you’ve been reading along with the blog, you know from posts like these about summertime that lack of autonomy is still something I struggle with.

All Joy and No Fun helped me figure out why, though – Senior talks a lot about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow, the state of being so absorbed in what you’re doing that you completely lose track of time. I think flow must be incredibly important for introverts, whether we achieve it through our work or our hobbies. But flow can’t happen if you’re constantly being interrupted, so finding a way to secure chunks of time for yourself is crucial. Looking back, I can see that I didn’t put enough of a priority on that as a new parent.

This book is definitely not all about the baby stage, though – no matter how old your kids are, there’s something here for you. Senior covers the changing nature of childhood itself, challenges of maintaining a marriage while parenting, work-life balance, the extracurricular merry-go-round, and the teen years, among other topics.

And then, the last chapter. One of the things I liked best about the book was how Senior attempted to capture and acknowledge the good parts about parenting as well as the stress. She rightly notes that these highs are much harder to pin down in studies than the lows, but that they’re also the things that keep us going, often the reasons we wanted to have kids in the first place.

This is where I think the title is unfortunate – I know what she’s getting at, that sometimes the genuine drudgery and just plain difficulty of being a parent can eclipse the good parts. But I definitely wouldn’t say being a parent is NO fun, and I’d hate for Doodlebug to ever think that.

I already worry that one day she’ll read this blog and conclude that I must not like being a parent because there are so many parts I’ve struggled with. Yes, being a parent is challenging, but being Doodlebug’s mom is something I would never, ever trade. I am blown away by the creativity that pours out of her. I love it when we crack each other up. I get to read books with her, and ride roller coasters, and eat ice cream, and what could be more fun than that?

— Kathy


Bonus materials: Senior’s web site has a link to several interviews she’s done about the book, including a TED talk and a segment from The Colbert Report.

Kathy’s Summer Reading List

KathyYou know that thing where you’re running around like crazy and when you finally stop you can’t even think straight? This summer has had a lot of that. Nothing bad – we’ve taken several trips and gotten to see people we haven’t seen in ages – but it’s been a lot of switching gears. We are almost in the home stretch, and hopefully in the next week or two I’ll get back to posting more regularly. In the meantime, here are a few things that I read recently but didn’t get a chance to post about.


Travel Tips by Introverts, for Introverts from Introvertology

Tiffany and I did a post last summer about travel, but there are lots of great points here I’d never thought of. I love the tips about how to stay anonymous. One thing I’ll add from this summer’s adventures: make sure you bring enough reading material! Doodlebug only brought one book on our most recent trip – hopefully she’s learned her lesson on that one.


People Prefer Electric Shocks to Being Alone with Their Thoughts from The Atlantic

The people in this study were obviously not introverts in the middle of a hectic summer! The craziest part of this to me was that the people had already had a chance to feel the shock before they were left alone – I figured some of it was just curiosity, but nope.


Sleep Study Shows New Moms Are Dangerously Exhausted for Months from PBS Newshour

I can certainly believe this, and I would love it studies like this led to longer maternity leaves. I also think it’s a good argument for better paternity leave policies – iDad was up just as often as I was when Doodlebug was tiny, bringing her to me so I could feed her, then changing her and putting her back in her bassinet. He also fed me yogurt at 4 a.m. and listened to my half-asleep dream ramblings about placemats. Tip: Don’t reproduce with someone who wouldn’t do that for you.


I’ve just fallen in love with Gemma Correll’s artwork – she is the person who made the Map of the Introvert’s Heart illustration I posted on Facebook, and she seems to have lots of other introverty themes in her work.


How to Maintain Your Energy During Busy Times from The Business of Introverts

Speaking of busy times! One thing that has been helping my family stay grounded this summer is our nightly reading time – we sit together and read to ourselves for about half an hour as part of Doodlebug’s bedtime routine. If things get too crazy and we have to skip it, I’m always sorry. [And if you were hoping this was about my real summer reading list… My top picks are Landline by Rainbow Rowell, the two Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith, and Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue by Tom Angleberger. And I can’t wait for Louise Penny’s next mystery, The Long Way Home.]

— Kathy

Summer Shake-Up

KathyEvery year I think I’m prepared for summer, and every year I’m… not. As I was reading Jennifer Senior’s book All Joy and No Fun last week, I think I hit on part of the reason why. The book (which is great, by the way – I hope to do a review soon) starts with a section on autonomy. Senior argues that one of the toughest adjustments for new parents is giving up the control they’ve come to enjoy over their lives and their time.

And I realized that summer is, each year, a little like becoming a parent all over again. After a stretch of mostly organizing my own time, I have to readjust my schedule to make room for another person, meeting Doodlebug’s needs without losing myself in the process. And as I’ve already discussed, that was tough for me. Really tough. It’s not just the lack of routine that makes it hard, it’s also the loss of control.

I find myself falling back on some of the same strategies that got me through the baby days, especially Do the Most Important Thing First. When I have my precious two hours of writing time, I can’t let myself fall down an Internet rabbit hole or get distracted by laundry. I’m retraining myself to save those chores/rewards for times when I’m “on duty” with Doodlebug but she’s absorbed in her own play. Independent play = the new nap time!

Other strategies I relied on for staying sane, like Wear Her in the Sling While We Watch Lost, don’t work as well these days. And, while I love the fact that iDad and I both work at home now, it adds an extra layer of complexity to our schedule. Not only am I stressing that I’m not getting work done and that I’m not spending enough time with Doodlebug, now I’m also stressing that iDad isn’t getting enough work time.

Things will get both easier and more complicated as the summer goes on – so far we’ve been hanging out at home, letting Doodlebug decompress from the school year and squeezing in work time when we can. Coming up, though, we have camps and trips, some of which are of the grandparent variety (translation: sleepovers!). All that’s good, for Doodlebug and for our work schedules, but it’s a lot of changes in a short space of time. And we all know how well I do with that.

notebook_of_powerI do have one new strategy I plan to keep in place: my Notebook of Power. I am huge on lists – there is something so satisfying about finishing a task and then checking it off. I have even been known to write down jobs I’ve already finished just so I can mark them as done. (What? It’s something I accomplished! I should definitely get credit.)

So during the school year, every month I make a list of writing goals in my To Do notebook. Every week I make a list of tasks. And every day I write out 5-10 things I plan to do, including work and non-work items. In past summers I’ve let these lists slide, which means I lose that concrete proof that I’m getting things done. But this summer I’ve committed to sticking with my lists. Even if I don’t accomplish as much as I do during the school year (and I know I won’t), the summer won’t look like a giant black hole of wasted time when I flip through my notebook in September.

I know some of you guys have been in the summer trenches waaaay longer than we have – school got out crazy late here this year. How are things going at your house?

— Kathy


KathyThe transition from no baby to new baby can be a bumpy one for lots of reasons, but some of them are unique to introverts. In no particular order:

People will come over to your house. This is good, truly it is. Other people! People who don’t wear diapers or spit up on you. People who can communicate with words instead of shrieks. Sometimes they even bring you food, which is excellent.

But if you’re like me, your house is sort of your private sanctuary. It’s not the place where all the neighbors come and hang out. Certainly not while you’re trying to figure out how to feed a tiny person with food you’ve made with your own body. That was weird. But just know that the visiting phase doesn’t last forever. And that it’s perfectly fine not to answer if someone calls or rings the doorbell. Um, not that I ever did this.

Your baby will probably want to be held a lot. Babies just do. Doodlebug definitely did, and it was a big change to go from normal human contact to nearly-nonstop, 24/7 human contact.

So trade off with your spouse whenever you can. This is also where the visitors can come in handy – let your friend hold the baby while you take a shower. Let your mother-in-law try out the baby wrap you haven’t even gotten a chance to open yet. (Side note: if babywearing is not your thing, that is OKAY.) And if your baby refuses to be held by anyone but you, read on. Tiffany feels your pain.

Introverts are not good at switching gears or leaving a project before they’ve finished with it. Guess what – you will have to do that all the time with a baby (and with older kids, too).

Since I was at home with Doodlebug, it was vital for me to have “off-the-clock” time where someone else was in charge and I could set my own pace. At first it was just a twenty-minute trip to the grocery store, alone, while my mom babysat. Later it was going to the library to write while Doodlebug and iDad hung out for the afternoon. Family is great. Babysitters are great. Preschool is great. School is really, really great.

Moms’ groups. They’re everywhere – at the hospital, in your neighborhood, for nursing moms, for working moms, etc etc. I tried to embrace the concept, really I did, but it was just not me. I didn’t want to go and be with people I barely knew when I was already busy with my baby, who I barely knew! So I will go ahead and say that you do not have to join a moms’ group.

Having mom friends is key, though – I spent a ton of time with one friend whose son is a few months younger than Doodlebug, and that was just right for me. Plus, now there’s Facebook and Twitter, which can function as your own virtual moms’ group from the comfort of your own home. And, of course, you know you are always welcome here.

On the blog. Not at my house. If you ring the doorbell, I reserve the right to pretend I’m not home.

— Kathy

tiffany_head_128I definitely believe introverts have a more difficult time adjusting to motherhood. In my case I am fairly certain one of the after effects of giving birth was a bad case of agoraphobia, particularly after Señor Lunchbox arrived.

Señor Lunchbox had acid reflux and slept in roughly 20 minute blocks the first months of his life (no, really.  I timed them).  Everybody was tired but as the parent on maternity leave my primary job was to take care of him.    It took ages for us to figure out the reflux situation, get the proper medication, and for it to start working.  He finally began sleeping better.

When he was awake, however, it was Mommy or nothing. Not Dreamy, not a bouncy seat or special pillow or sling or swing or any of those “soothe your newborn” gadgets. If I put him down to eat, he screamed, and if I dared to pee or just wanted to have my arms back for a few minutes, he screamed. The lack of physical space was smothering and became increasingly difficult to manage. I didn’t love Señor Lunchbox any less but there were days when I wondered how I was going to make it through. Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I did.

There were other reasons I stuck close to home. Both Princess Slim and Señor Lunchbox are summer babies and it was boiling hot in the weeks after they were born. On cool mornings I would take them out but only for a quick stroller-spin around the block or to lounge on the patio.

Also, after Señor Lunchbox was born, Dreamy took the Good Car to work and I had the Beater Car. I love the Beater but it has half an airbag and dodgy air conditioning. I didn’t feel exactly secure about placing a newborn in the back seat, hopping on the highway, and hoping for the best. And where would I have gone, exactly? The mall to look at clothes I couldn’t fit in to? A library or museum with a howling, projectile-vomiting baby? No, thanks.

Now I realize my inability to leave the house wasn’t really about the heat, or the car; had I wanted to go out I could have made something work. The real issue was my non-existent energy level. Monitoring one’s energy level is critical to introvert self-care, and mine was so low that I simply could not deal with the stress of being around other people. One tiny person consumed every bit of emotional, mental, and physical energy I had. “We’re on vapor, Cougar,” from the movie “Top Gun” pretty much sums it up. I was the next smallest state of matter after vapor.

The lesson learned is this:  contrary to all the instincts that activate upon becoming a mom or dad introverts must take care of themselves first to be good parents.  99% of the time you’ll be able to put everyone’s needs before yours; it’s that 1%, however, to which you must pay attention to avoid depleting your energy reserves.  Ignore your need to recharge and you might end up like Cougar, out of fuel and panicking as you try to land your jet on the aircraft carrier.   Without anything in your tank things can get scary fast and you may not have it in you to pull up before crashing onto the deck.

How did I pull out of the tailspin?  That’s a subject for another post.