Friday, February 17, 2012

French Women Don't Get...Whatever

So, if you watch the Today Show or read things...any may have already heard about the book Bringing Up Bebe.

Written by a former Wall Street Journal reporter who makes her life in France and is raising three children there, it is billed as a "parenting guide"to Americans to tell us how French parents are raising better behaved and more independent children.  You can read an excerpt from the book in WSJ as well as a little summary of some of the points in the book on Cup of Jo.

Personally?  I downloaded the book the day it came out and read it over the next couple of days.  I mean, it's not exactly Kant or anything.  I'm a little bit of a Francophile, having studied the language most of my life and lived there twice (once in Paris, once in the South).  While I don't agree with the way they do everything, I found a lot in the book that is really fascinating.

Most of the criticism that I've read of the book is that the maxims in it are not revolutionary.  Far from it.  Tell kids "no."  Let them play by themselves.  Take time for yourself and for your parter.  These are all absolutely things parents should do.  But here's the thing...they don't.

It's easier to just assume that your child is just rambunctious and is incapable of sitting still.  It's easier to give in and give them a snack on the playground.  It's easier to stay in on a Friday night or skip the gym.  And our culture encourages that.  It gives the moms who sacrifice themselves, their careers, and their bodies a gold star and the veil of doing it for the baby.

What I think is so interesting about France and the culture there is that everyone is on the same page.  It's a far more homogeneous culture, when I lived there, I was always struck by how everyone in France has the exact same handwriting.  Everyone is on board with a common philosophy of how children should be raised's the kicker...the government takes care of it (state funded seventeen star day care and preschool are available  basically for free.)  When everyone is working to the common goal and standards, it becomes a lot easier to have the child meet those expectations.

What I took away from reading this book was that it is possible have a baby who behaves and plays by herself.  It is possible to have a child who is polite and eats non-beige food.  But it takes work.  It takes time (a whole lot of precious time! sorry.) and reinforcing.  Not that that isn't anything I've read in my favorite baby book, but it was a colorful example.

So, what do you all think?  Does it sound nice to be a French parent and be able to send your baby to a day care where they get three course lunches and gentle discipline?  Are you just sick of hearing about the French?


  1. I am reading the book right now, and though I do not "agree" with all French child rearing principles (i.e. breastfeeding...), I think the book describes sound, common sense guidelines, albeit not revolutionary. I happily employ a lot of these in my child's daily life, and it was a good affirmation for how I already felt.

    1. Also wanted to mention that I am a new reader and really enjoy this blog. thank you! I also am thrilled to find bluum service via this blog :)

  2. I'm 18 weeks with my first and actually curious to know what your favorite baby book is? I downloaded this right away because of all the hype, but thought this sounded utterly common sense, v. a lot of the attachment parenting type of stuff I've read so far, which leaves me convinced I am never going to have a private moment again with my husband. (I'm 35, have thus far in my life been pretty career oriented, and not honestly a huge "kid person," so I'm hoping that I can read something now that will give me some semblance of a game plan for when we come home from the hospital.)

  3. I'd love to hear what your favorite baby book is as well.

  4. Irina - Glad to hear that you love Bluum too! I absolutely agree with you that many of the things that are commonplace in France also do not jive me with me. That includes the lack of interest or support for breastfeeding, pacifier use until late ages, and the fact that they don't play with their kids on the playground. I personally like getting on the jungle gym with my daughter and enjoy playing with her. But I do see how it can swing too far in the other direction too. Definitely thought the book was interesting though, and it's certainly getting a lot of hype.

    Anon and Shannon - I agree that it is really hard to find books or models out there that you fit with and I'll put up a post this week about my favorite baby/parenting books.


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