Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
First off, I am not a parent, but I am a francophile and I am interested in culture and psychology as well. I quite enjoyed this book as it outlines a few key and interesting things about about French parenting such as (but not limited to):
- setting boundaries
- babies sleeping through the night in a few weeks
- treating children with respect and trust
- baking weekly with children
- the idea that being a mother is not an absolute and one is encouraged to have a life separate from one’s children; the woman and the mom are fused rather than the mom is the only thing.
- achieving balance and not feelingly guilt
- encouraging children to be children and letting them be themselves.
- marriage after kids
- encouraging children to eat vegetables and not be picky eaters
The book also reminded me to read Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Emile at some point. Nothing ever surprises me about the French anymore though. A few things addressed in this book such as the creche and the importance of “Bonjour” was addressed in another insightful book on France that I own Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong.
The book did make me laugh though and make me really think about the role of women in their child’s lives because it addresses authority, guilt, and being a person aside from being a mother. I think it is really important to cultivate a life and identity as a woman that is not just about being a mother. The author is correct in that it is not easy and the French state does make it easier.
Overall, I agree with a lot of the things the author observed and while I am not French, certain tenets of their parenting style were familiar in my own Chinese upbringing: the lack of effusive praise, the emphasis on the woman at work, encouraging kids not to be picky eaters, and having the child be their own person. I was not able to take music lessons or sports growing up, but I had books and an active imagination so this relied heavily one me as a child on self-discovery.
It would be excessive to use this book as a guide or bible to parent children. I did not agree with everything namely the lack violence between children bit and the French view of breast feeding. Though, I was mostly raised on formula so it’s not like it ill equips humans for life.
I do think the book is interesting from a psychological perspective and addresses a lot of issues that many Westerners and anglophone parents have with their children: entitlement, childhood obesity, attachment issues, and guilt. The book also emphasizes the relationships they have with their spouses and partners separate than that of the children. It was an engaging read, but not an ostentatious parenting book. I recommend it to francophiles and people interested in parenting from different cultures.
Read February 23rd to 24th 2013.