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Jennifer  Senior

Jennifer Senior

Journalist & Best-Selling Author of All Joy and No Fun


Much has been written about how parents affect their children. But how do children affect their parents? Jennifer Senior, one of the three daily book critics for the New York Times and former writer for New York Magazine, ponders this dynamic in her book All Joy and No Fun. When Senior was still at New York Magazine, she specialized in long, elaborate stories about social science, using a trademark combination of academic research, empathy and wit to investigate some of most challenging aspects of our social and interior lives. Read More >

Debuting at #6 on the New York Times Best Seller list in early 2014 and remaining there for seven weeks, All Joy and No Fun also appeared on the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle and Denver Post Best Seller lists. In addition, it was named one of Slate's Top 10 Books of the Year. So far, Senior’s first book has been translated into ten languages and in March of 2014, Senior spoke at both TED’s annual conference and the Sydney Opera House. 

Senior’s gift for clarity, generosity and insight earned her the Erikson Prize in Mental Health Media in 2011 and a spot on the advisory board of the Austen Riggs Center, a psychiatric facility specializing in treatment-resistant patients. In addition to her work on social science and mental health, Senior is known for her top-notch political reporting. She has been a frequent guest on NPR and numerous television programs, including Charlie Rose, The Chris Matthews Show, Hardball, Morning Joe, Washington Journal with Brian Lamb, CNN American Morning, Anderson Cooper 360, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning and Today. Senior is also regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review.

Senior has written about subjects as varied as positive psychology, burnout, IQ testing in kids, loneliness in adults, the outsize influence of the high school years and the horrors of combat. As a former anthropology major, she has a flair for ethnography, understanding her subjects in the context of larger systems and forces, and she tries to see them as they see themselves, bringing their experiences to the page with compassion and descriptive power. As a public speaker, particularly when discussing All Joy and No Fun, she has been described as “warm, engaging, informative and inspiring,” with audience members telling her after presentations that she’s drained away their parenting shame and filled them with relief. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

TEDTalk: Technology and Its Impact on Parenting

Speech Topics

The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

Back in 1942, anthropologist Margaret Mead noticed something intriguing about America's parents: The subject of childrearing — so uncomplicated in other countries and settings — left them feeling anxious, unstrung and vulnerable to fads. More than 70 years later, parents are still grappling with these same feelings of uncertainty. In this talk, Jennifer Senior explores some of the unseen forces that are making parents so anxious, including the historic transformation of the child’s role; the liberating-yet-confusing introduction of personal choice; and dramatic changes to how we live and work. In so doing, she hopes to make parents see that their challenges, which they so often assume are of their own making, are in fact part of a much larger picture, and that they are by no means struggling alone. She also talks about what can be done to help think differently about raising children, examining the distinction between happiness and joy, and ultimately sheds light on why most parents still say that raising children is the meaningful thing that they’ll ever do.

The Unshaming of Motherhood

Ask the average mother how she’s doing, and the odds are pretty good that eventually, she’ll start cataloguing all the mistakes she’s convinced she’s making. A number of forces have conspired to make us feel this way: Deceptively curated social media; a widespread misconception that there's a right way to parent; an impossible mandate that we need to create happy kids (a recipe for heartache, which Senior talked about briefly at TED); and most important, a widespread cultural ambivalence about women working, even though mothers are now the sole or primary breadwinners in 4 out of 10 households. Senior unpacks each of these ideas, shows how they're spurious and dangerous, and talks about ways to beat back maternal guilt.

Why Mom’s Time is Different From Dad’s Time & What Can Be Done About It to Achieve Better Work-Life Balance

Today, mothers and fathers both work roughly the same number of hours per week, if one takes into consideration both paid and unpaid labor. Yet mothers still feel more rushed and anxious. The question is: Why? Among the many explanations: When women are at home, they task-switch far more frequently than men; they assume far more deadline-centered burdens; they consider child care a much harder form of labor than any other. Yet they are not the only ones who are struggling: Today, fathers are reporting as much work-life conflict as mothers, suggesting they, too, feel anxious and strapped for time. Any attempts to address work-life balance, therefore, must in some ways begin at home, says Senior, and must involve a combination of behaving differently and recalibrating our expectations. She’ll talk about ways for mothers and fathers alike to address work-life balance, both psychologically and practically, using a blend of data, philosophy and life hacks she’s learned from marriage researchers. She will also talk about ways to address work-life conflict through changes in corporate culture and government policy.