When I heard about the book Bringing Up Bébé, by Pamela Druckerman, my immediate thought was: “uh…parenting children the French way? Really? Aren’t you afraid they’re going to turn into French adults?”.
In case you haven’t heard about this book, in a nutshell, it is about an American journalist who becomes a mother in Paris. When she realizes how well behaved French kids are, she does what she does best. She investigates.
I bought the book because I was dying to know: how do real French moms raise their kids?
Overall a nice read
While I’m not sure the book answers my question, it was a very nice read. It is not your typical baby manual where someone with an impressive list of impressive credentials tells you what to do. Instead, the author tells her personal story. Occasionally fleshed out with some broader study results. I like her style. And I feel free to adopt what I want from the book.
And I have to admit. She got me turning the pages frantically when she announced that she would reveal French parents’ secret for babies who sleep through the night at only 4 months.
A few caveats though
Idealized representation of French kids
I didn’t really buy her introduction. According to her, French kids are all little angels who’ll eat anything with a smile, are patient, and consistently obey their parents.
Yeah. I’m French.
And I can tell you that I’ve seen French children whose diet consisted exclusively of French fries. And temper tantrums in restaurants.
Not typical French moms
The French moms that she’s associating with (and describing in her book) are not typical middle class moms. One of her friends, for instance, is a publisher. And she’s apparently able to live in a sanitary apartment in Paris. That would be upper-middle class French. With the associated demands and resources regarding children’s upbringing.
Comparing with my own field research
The timing of my reading Bringing Up Bébé was appropriate since I started right before we traveled back to France to show off Lil’ Kiddo for the first time. And I was still reading it in France. So I was able to question my friends and relatives on how we were raised up, and how their children are raised up.
While the author certainly idealizes French parenting and its results, some things in this book resonated with me. I do find that overall French parents have a more relaxed approach to parenting. They embrace that parenting isn’t learnt from books. They won’t try to dissect every single aspect of parenting and try to “get it right”.
In the end I’m very happy that I read this book. Since I’m a French mom who had a baby in Canada, the parallel was interesting. And I retained some things from it that I’m trying to apply with my children. I would absolutely recommend.