If you’re like me, you may be a little skeptical about one more parenting book claiming the superiority of one nationality over another. But, if you’re like me, you will be pleasantly surprised by Pamela Druckerman’s book Bringing Up Bebe.
Druckerman, a New Yorker, moved to Paris to marry her husband, an Englishman who grew up in Holland. In the course of time she has a baby and begins to notice the striking differences between how French mothers think, act, and parent and how American mothers do things. Rather than setting out to see which was superior, Druckerman observes the cultures and points out ways that the French ideas she picked up might be helpful to other parents.
I was interested to note how traditional French parenting is. My guess is that most of our grandparents were raised more like these French kids than like the overprotected, helicopter-parented kids of today. Emphasis on parental authority, having manners, eating a wide variety of foods, and not being the center of the universe are things I think any American parent could stand to learn more about. Things American parents boast about like how little sleep they get, how much they have given up their personal lives for their children, and the like are viewed as horrifying by the French. Then again there are some things that Americans take for granted, such as the health benefits of breastfeeding, that French culture hasn’t adopted in spite of scientific evidence.
Likewise some parenting methods I employ, partially because I had three kids under age three at one point and you have to survive somehow, and partially because I have a strong sense of needing my own intellectual outlets, are common in France but have garnered me strong negative reactions in the US. At times while reading the book I thought “perhaps we should move to Paris.”
Throughout the book Druckerman is interesting and informative, maintains an engaging and intelligent writing style, and gives a great sense of what being a young mother in Paris is like. I highly enjoyed it, and took notes on a few things I plan to try on my children (poor guinea pigs that they are). I had been thinking of starting the kids in French next fall, and now I really think I will, if only so that I can incorporate terms like sois sage and c’est moi qui decide into my parlance!
If you’re a parent or considering becoming one, or if you enjoy cross-cultural narratives and sociology topics, you’d probably really like Bringing Up Bebe. Let me know what you think if you read it!
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