There is a bit of buzz going around us expats here in France. Seems an American expat married to a French man decided to write a book. A book about raising kids in France. A book about how the French do it so much better than Americans. She claim that the French are superior parents. Yes, she used those words.
Now, the French media is all over this book, Bringing Up Bebe. They are IN. LOVE. with Pamela Druckerman. Why wouldn't they be as her book tells them how great of parents they are and how terrible American's are.
Before I go on, I have to say that I haven't read the entire book. Just excerpts and then all of her interviews I can find on the web. But I don't want to read her book. I don't have time to be angry.
Why do I say it like that? Because as an expat raising (and birthing) my kids outside of my home country for the last five years I get tired of hearing people compare and contrast countries and cultures back and forth. I have had people compare my parenting with their own culture's way and I myself have wasted hours in my head comparing and contrasting and claiming to be better. The fact is: everyone is doing what they can and the rest of us should just keep our mouths shut.
Here are some things she says that are just downright dumb and unfounded:
"There are no terrible twos in France." Maybe they don't have a word for it but kids are kids and just because she hasn't seen a kid throw a temper tantrum at the park doesn't mean they never do. I have seen it. I have also watched French parents beg and plead and say, "just one more time" more times than I can count. And hey, whatever. I am sure there are many parents all over the world who do that. I, on the other hand, have no problem dragging my kids out of the park screaming. My parenting style is this: I said this, so we are doing this. Period. But again, whatever. Who is to say who is better than the other? The French in general don't like making a scene while us Americans could really care less. But there isn't a way to find out who is better.
"All French babies sleep through the night from 2-3 month on." Ummmmmmm, what? How can you generalize that? My kids didn't, but they either suffered from a very difficult birth or had digestive problems. BUT all of my Spanish and American nieces and nephews (including my friends's kids) all slept through the night from practically the beginning. And I have a hard a time believing that there is no French baby that doesn't have some sleeping problems.
"The Pause." This is a parenting way that is popular (I guess) in France in that they don't go right away to their baby when they cry. They don't like to say "crying it out" but they allow the baby to cry for a few minutes to see if they will go back to sleep. Again....ummm.....this is nothing new. Lots of Americans do this. And some don't. But this is a decision to be made between the parents.
"French kids eat 5 times a day, sitting at the table and never interrupt their parents." Granted, French kids are famous for sitting for long hours at the table. But who cares if they eat Brie cheese? My very picky 4 year old eats it. It is soft and doesn't have much taste. She also eats pate. This is a cultural thing. While I agree that the French tend to eat better than us Americans and do NOT have the obesity problem that we do, I have to add that I live in the center and see at least 2-3 woman (not the same women) everyday that would be classified as anorexic. Still a problem in my book. As for not interrupting and sitting at the table for hours on end all I have to say is, why? I don't want my kids sitting there while we adults talk. I want them to play. That is their job. And when we do have dinner I want them to talk, not sit like it's 1901 when kids were seen and not heard. I want them engaged in the conversation, to tell us about their day and listen about ours.
"The French don't change their lives because they have kids." Well, why not? I think this is a terrible idea. While I am not one who allows her kids to control what we do and don't do, in a way kids will anyway. They need to sleep and while it is okay that they take a nap from time to time in the stroller, I would prefer that they sleep in their bed. Obviously. And I when we decided to have kids we knew that at some point things would change. Like many times we would end up eating pizza rather than sushi and that most Fridays and Saturdays we would stay home. But that is because we want to. We are a family and we want to spend the weekends together.
"French parents don't play with their kids all the time." While I understand and agree that kids need to learn to play by themselves, I also don't understand the idea of never playing with your children. When they are little especially. You only have a few years with them when they actually want to play with you, so why not do it? Why not spend those precious moments at the park playing tag or kicking the ball around? Why not build a huge block castle for them to enjoy knocking down? That is the only way you will ever see that twinkle in their eye that comes when they play.
But then, how in the world can she generalize that no French parent plays with their kid (although I am usually the only one running and laughing with my kids at the park, I must admit) or that all of them eat like adults? How can you generalize that no French woman feels guilty about going to work and leaving her kid at daycare? How can you generalize that all Americans are too fussy and too frantic about their kids? In the end all of our assumptions and ideas come from our own experiences in life and there is no way to know what everyone in the world is doing. For me the two best mom examples that I have in my life are two Americans. They both have four kids and to me are "supermoms". They are patient, kind, gentle, yet firm and their kids behave great. They are not stressed out or fussy about anything. It all comes down to our little world and our own little experiences and in the end I just want to say, "Can we all just stop judging and thinking someone is better than the other?"
If you want to read some interviews and opinions here are some links: