After moving to Paris with her British husband, American Pamela Druckerman has a baby in France, and soon begins to notice the sometimes subtle and not so subtle differences between French and American parenting practices and techniques. The end comparison? The French are yet again better than Americans.
What I’ve learned after finishing the book:
- French women go back to work full-time after maternity leave
- French women don’t breast feed because it ruins the figure
- Government subsidized child-care is a way of life
- French women lose all the baby weight with/in 3 months
- French women wait 5 minutes before attending to their crying child (The Pause)
- French lexicon allows for wiggle room in reactions to different outbursts/situations by kids
- French kids eat what their parents eat, no options. veggies and 3 course meals right from the start
- French parents don’t praise every action of their kids, they let them learn to distract and entertain themselves, learn patience & frustration.
- Creativity is stifled in schools, education is regimented, praise is rarely doled out.
- French parents trust their kids to help around the house and be capable of responsibilities (Setting the table, tying their shoes, cleaning their room).
- Bedtime means “stay in your room, do whatever you want, but stay in your room because its adult time now”
- Frenchmen/dads don’t and aren’t expected to help out around the house or with raising the kids. It’s up to the moms to work/raise the kids/stay sexy at the same time.
- French parents don’t feel guilty for putting their adult needs first. The child is not the center of their lives.
- French parents give kids boundaries, but the kids have complete freedom within those boundaries (sounds contradictory, but it makes sense. See #11 Bedtime)
The majority of the anecdotal comparisons are between Parisian moms and New York mothers. I think I can safely say that women in Paris are not an accurate representation of France just as women in New York are most certainly not a representation of the rest of the United States, particularly my little nook in the Bay Area in California. It also took me a long time to warm up to the book due to Druckerman’s clear bias against the US. It made me cringe reading how terribly she portrayed American parents. I can go on the record and say that I know a number of non-French parents who implement many of the “French Methods” Druckerman discusses in the book, so it’s not all that uniquely European.
Despite her nah-nah-nah-de-nah-nah tone of voice, I was really intrigued by the historical aspects of the book, particularly the development of the creche. I did agree with Druckerman on a number of points she made throughout the book about certain traits to instill in children (manners, patience, learning firsthand about frustration and failure) as well as about parents micro-managing their kids. I work in a library, so I’ve had parents come in ready to complete their child’s homework assignment for them, or dissuade them from reading certain books because they didn’t approve of the content level. As a children’s librarian, I see all forms of parents and filial relationships. I see parents that are involved, and parents that don’t care. Parents that let their kids do cartwheels in the library and parents who make sure their child says please and thank you when asking me for help finding a book.
What Druckerman also neglects to consider is the fact that America is made up of more than a dozen different culture and traditions, each family group trying to instill their own sense of values and morals to their child. Just by default, America can’t be as unified as the French with internal knowledge of one set of traditions. There are just too many with which to compete.
All in all, I think this book brought up a lot of good points, but I’m not a parent so I can’t really implement anything, except for trying a new stance at being authoritative with kids I interact with at the library. I’ve already used Druckerman’s chapter of being firm but gentle when speaking to toddlers who won’t let go of the storytime bear, and its worked with shocking success.