Although I haven’t written as many book reviews as I wanted this year (remember my post about the See Mom Read book club?), I am still reading and I have SOOOO many great books I want to share with you. In case you are wanting a new book to read check out my latest review below.

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

A friend mentioned she was reading a fascinating book called Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. After hearing my friend describe a few of the differences the book mentions between American and French parenting, I knew this was a book I’d need to read!

What’s the Book About?

American journalist Pamela Druckerman was married to her British husband and living in Paris when their first child was born. She noticed that “French parenting” in general was different from what she knew about “American parenting”. The French children she knew were sleeping through the night by two or three months old, eating healthy food, and were well-behaved at the dinner table (even in restaurants). The French parents seemed happier and more relaxed than American parents.

Wanting to understand more, she set out to understand “French parenting” by interviewing many parents and caregivers.

Read this excerpt from Bringing Up Bébé; it should give you a good idea about the book.

Thoughts on the Book

I absolutely loved the book; I was hooked from the beginning and finished it in just a few short days! It was well-written, highly entertaining, and a great look into French parenting. As the book mentioned various topics, I was fascinated with everything I was reading! It was infused with much humor and I really enjoyed the author’s writing style as she discussed her adventures and discoveries, as she questioned what she saw. As an American mother I could totally relate to her initial reactions as she learned about “French Parenting”.

I learned so much about not only French parenting, but other aspects of living in France as well. And that’s what I liked about the book; learning how another culture lives, and especially how they parent.

Surprising. Entertaining. Fascinating.

As entertainment, I rate this book 5 stars. It was a completely enjoyable page turner.

Remember, this is not a “How To” book nor a parenting manual. It’s one person’s experience of being an American mom in France.

Should We All Parent Like the French? No and Yes

While some people might say Bringing Up Bébé  declares “French parenting” as superior to “American parenting”, I didn’t find that to be the case. I was able to read the book and note the author’s observations as just that – observations. And I was able to take the book as simply an interesting and entertaining look into another culture.

Now, at first glance it may seem like French parents are “living the life”, with their babies who sleep through the night early on, moms who don’t breastfeed (more freedom for mom), kids in daycare (and moms back to work) by 3 months old, polite kids who eat healthy meals and are quite independent, plenty of “adult time” for parents, etc. It almost seems that having kids doesn’t change their lifestyle much at all.

But I think it’s best to reflect more on each topic before adopting a new parenting style. There are consequences of any parenting style so it’s to be sure the result is what you want to achieve.

NO

As someone who believes in natural parenting, there are a few aspects of French parenting  (as described by Druckerman) that I don’t agree with nor would I try to follow:

  • There is a high epidural rate/low natural birth rate in France. (Some hospitals have about an 87 percent epidural rate while at others it’s 98 or 99 percent.)
  • There is also an incredibly low breastfeeding rate. (A little over half are nursing when they leave the hospital, and most quit soon after that, usually before 3 months.)
  • There seems to be a push to detach from children in the name of creating autonomy and independence. (Parents aren’t seen going down slides with their kids at the park, for example, but rather sitting on the benches chatting to others.)

And while not directly about parenting I was surprised, and bothered, by the cultural pressure for women to watch their figures – during pregnancy and especially after the baby is born. There is huge pressure to return to their slim figure quickly (3 months seems to be the magic number) and it seems anyone is willing to comment on how you look. Regarding a woman’s figure or her sex life, the question is often “Is monsieur happy?”. Druckerman’s doctor wrote her a prescription for “perineal reeducation” sessions as well as abdominal reeducation. Getting a woman’s body back to the way it was before kids seems very important to the French and I can’t help wonder what all the pressure means to women, and how they deal with it.

YES

What I did like was the French’s commitment to healthy eating for kids. For one, there is no such thing as “kids’ food”. Even in daycare (the crèche, as the French call it) kids get four-course meals that start with a cold vegetable and ends with dessert. It is all age appropriate, too, so even babies would get similar soft foods! The kids don’t snack all day and so actually eat their meals – which are healthy and made with fresh, real foods. The meals in the crèche are prepared by chefs from scratch and the menu is meticulously planned with attention to visual and textual variety as well.

French kids also eat four times a day, at roughly the same times (which seem to be the national eating times): 8am, noon, 4pm snack, and 8pm dinner. They don’t snack all day and are able to wait for their meals and eat them well.

Other Interesting Notes

Here is a brief snapshot of some other aspects of “French parenting” mentioned in the book:

  • The term “date night” isn’t really  used. French parents make their relationship more of a priority than just a few “date nights” implies.
  • No “stay-at-home” moms. It’s the norm for women to go back to work after having a baby; Druckerman said she knew exactly one stay-at-home mom. The high-quality crèches, subsidized nannies, and other child-care options make it easy for women to go back to work. Women without jobs aren’t considered as “interesting”.
  • It appears (according to Druckerman) that most everyone in France parents the same way. They believe in the same things, expect the same behavior, and have the same strategies. Imagine having a network of people around you that thinks the same way you do about parenting. (Now, this is not to go into a discussion about what this apparent homogenized child rearing might lead to, but I can just see how nice that must be for parents’ peace of mind on a daily basis.)

Final Thoughts

Of course there are more things mentioned in the book than I can write about now, but hopefully what I have shared will intrigue you enough to pick up a copy of the book and check it out yourself!

Where to buy Bringing Up Bébé?

You can purchase Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting on Amazon.com in many versions, including hardcover and Kindle.
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Have you read the book? If so, share your thoughts in a comment below!

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Wendy – ParentingTips365.com
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