book review: Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman

bringing up bebeMost of us mom bloggers or bloggers who are moms have heard of Pamela Druckerman’s books about French parenting. I have always been intrigued by these miracle women in France who seem to have all the answers – they don’t get fat, their kids eat anything and sleep through the night at 3 months old and never throw temper tantrums. Whether all of these things are true about all French parents and mothers is up for debate but I think the parenting cultures around the world all probably have some great lessons that we can learn from one another.

Here’s the basic premise of Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman which I just finished reading last night:

“Motherhood itself is a whole different experience in France. There’s no role model, as there is in America, for the harried new mom with no life of her own. French mothers assume that even good parents aren’t at the constant service of their children and that there’s no need to feel guilty about this. They have an easy, calm authority with their kids that Druckerman can only envy.

Of course, French parenting wouldn’t be worth talking about if it produced robotic, joyless children. In fact, French kids are just as boisterous, curious, and creative as Americans. They’re just far better behaved and more in command of themselves. While some American toddlers are getting Mandarin tutors and preliteracy training, French kids are- by design-toddling around and discovering the world at their own pace.

With a notebook stashed in her diaper bag, Druckerman-a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal-sets out to learn the secrets to raising a society of good little sleepers, gourmet eaters, and reasonably relaxed parents. She discovers that French parents are extremely strict about some things and strikingly permissive about others. And she realizes that to be a different kind of parent, you don’t just need a different parenting philosophy. You need a very different view of what a child actually is.

While finding her own firm non, Druckerman discovers that children-including her own-are capable of feats she’d never imagined.”

This book really resonated with me. There were aspects of French parenting that I thought made a lot of sense, some were surprising but great ideas and of course there were some that are just not for me. I found myself reading the book and nodding to myself at certain passages. “I do that, too,” I thought and other times, “I’ve thought about that – I should really try it.” And sometimes “Wow, that’s really surprising” quickly followed by either “no way am I doing that” or “this is revolutionary, I’ve gotta give this a shot!”

I loved reading about how differently other cultures raise their kids and the potential pros and cons to different methods. I think that French parents have a lot going for them from the start with their universal free preschool and access to affordable childcare via creches. Their childcare really sounds amazing to me and though I stand by my decisions to stay home with my kids, I think the French moms are lucky to be able to go back to work without worrying about their kiddos so much.

It seems to me that one of the biggest advantages that French parents have is a strong underlying faith that their parenting methods will work. They use time tested methods and truly believe they are doing what is best for their kids and themselves. In America there are so many varying parenting methods for every aspect of parenting so that it feels as though we are reinventing the wheel with every decision we make from feeding our kids to sleep training and discipline. We’re all doing something a little different and I bet a lot of us question if we chose the right method or not. The French don’t seem to have this issue – they are all doing pretty much the same thing, working off the same frame for discipline and the education of their children. They’ve got cadre and I’m pretty envious.

Druckerman smartly points out both the things she likes about French parenting as well as the things she doesn’t care for. She isn’t singing their praises, in fact she was a slow convert for a lot of French parenting methods that she uses. The result is that her book does not read as preachy or fanatical so much as a scientific observation of what she’s found in her life as a mother in France compared to her own upbringing in America. She offers up her findings and basically says “This is what I found. Do with it what you will.”

Her book is funny and insightful with a lot of great information, fun recipes and a little peek into a culture I’ve long admired. If you can’t raise your kids in France, you can at least live vicariously through Druckerman and maybe pick up a few tips and recipes along the way. Have you read Bringing Up Bébé or any of Druckerman’s other books? What did you think?

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