Bringing up Bébé
One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French ParentingBook - 2012
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Last year’s go-to parenting book was Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, about parenting the Chinese way; this year we travel to France to see how les chic mamans do it. While living in Paris author Pamela Druckerman, former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, never paid much attention to how French children behaved, until she had one of her own. She quickly became aware that while eating out was an exercise in outracing tantrums for she and her husband, other toddlers at French restaurants were calm. Serene even. And eating whatever was placed in front of them, not screaming for McNuggets des poulet. She investigates further. She encounters a mother embarrassed that her infant was not yet sleeping through the night – at four months old – because the majority of French infants do so by two months. Some of the techniques Drukerman describes may sound harsh or neglectful – pausing five or ten minutes before attending a crying baby, for instance – but she becomes convinced that it is not about selfishly willing your baby to go back to sleep so you can get more shut eye, it is (and this is simplifying her message) about observing children simply being children and letting them work certain things out on their own. This gives French parents time for themselves too, without becoming maman-taxis, human taxis for their over-activitied children. In fact, since the government subsidises daycare, French parents often hire babysitters to do the activity-taxiing, while they take time for themselves. It sounds very civilized but the key phrase, in case you missed it, was “government subsidizes daycare”. North American parents do not often have that particular luxury, but Druckerman argues that they do have the luxury of limiting the number of activities their children do, so both parents and kids are not run ragged by the end of a day or week. As for the guilt that wracks every imperfect parent, the French cope with that simply by acknowledging that the “perfect” parent does not exist. And lest this sound like Druckerman is, in fact, the thing that does not exist, she relates in some detail how hard it became to be a chic maman Francaise when her twin sons were born. As it turns out like most things in life, it is all about moderation and finding a balance that works pour vous.
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