50 in 2012: Book Thirty Seven

Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French ParentingBringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I failed to appreciate much of what this book had to offer based on many poorly backed assumptions and one substantial thought flaw. The author mentions that she believes the French public services don’t explain the differences in parenting that she sees. One could easily argue that if many American parents didn’t have to worry about child care costs, preschool, college tuition or health insurance their parenting styles would be vastly different.

There are far too many references to one extreme example of American parenting gone wrong and far too many examples of a few observations of French parenting gone right.

I do think there is a generational phenomenon of helicopter parenting and Mommy martyrdom; however, I don’t think that defines America’s parenting practice as a whole. While I appreciate the mentioned French notion of fostering autonomy, I don’t believe it was an earth shattering new parenting philosophy or approach. I laughed through the explanation of fostering autonomy by allowing children one swear word, one that has been used and said by many generations: “caca boudin” (translated to caca sausage). Apparently, if I let my boys run around the house saying “shit”, as it is only to be done in private, they are gaining important lessons in self-worth and autonomy. Ummmmm, ok.

There does seem to be a cultural difference in the construction of parenting guilt. Likely fueled by a judgmental and competitive American society where moms are judged on every decision or choice: natural birth or epidural, breastfeed or bottle. The author argues that the judgement comes from having multiple different parenting philosophies and attempting to validate your choices. French parenting is made easier by one cultural approach. Americans believe faster development is a sign of better parenting, while the French all believe in exposure and joy. No rush. Again, yes, there are parents who over-schedule, over indulge, over parent, but I fail to see that as an entire American phenomenon.

The discussion about body image maddened me. American women feel the need to sacrifice their body for their children, unable to resist the temptation to overindulge. While French women, adhere to their strict diets, pop out the kid, and bounce back immediately. Blah blah blah.

Many of the women work, as it made much easier by state preschools and child care. The teachers are well-trained and schooled, parents often resume their pre-baby lives but do so with a new member. Again, I fail to see how the author can say this doesn’t affect the difference in parenting.

I think the book as a whole sparks interesting conversation, I just wish it hadn’t been written in unfounded blanket statements.


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