Quick Review Druckerman describes her experiences living in France as an American and a new mother. She navigates the challenges and the positives of raising children in a foreign culture.
I read Bringing Up Bébé several years ago while I was in college. I don’t make a habit of reading parenting books, but I do enjoy reading cultural critiques of France as a francophone. I had lived in France for a time, and I had many of the same observations Druckerman makes throughout the book.
Druckerman moved to Paris to be with her, now, British husband, Simon. After the birth of their first daughter, she quickly realized the vast difference between American and French parents as well as American and French children. She set out to investigate the roots of these differences and how French parents managed to have such well behaved children and lives not over run by their prodigy. Druckerman does focus on motherhood, both French and American mothers, more than fatherhood because she is a mother herself.
Druckerman realized French families are not at the beck and call of every child in France. Instead parents are able to exist with their children in a familial “rhythm.” The French have an emphasis on the rhythms of children and paying attention to those; however, they believe children need to fit into the rhythm of the family as well. Druckerman was shocked at first to never see a screaming child in France. Instead, she saw a country full of children eating the same foods as adults, functioning independently, sleeping through the night by four months, reacting appropriately to being told no, and more. She strove to find and emulate this sense of calm French families possessed.
Druckerman quickly learned there is a more laid back attitude as parents. In the US, there is a never ending scrutiny parents live under, a sort of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The French base their parenting off science and common sense; whereas to Druckerman, it seemed the US emphasized the latest fad book or parenting theory. Some revolutionary and new parenting ideas to Druckerman were seen as so common sense the French parents forgot to even mention them. The French system is designed to aid parents instead of tear them down or hinder them.
Druckerman gives background information on many French parenting mainstays such as the crèche, the cadre, and more. She starts the book off with a dictionary of terms necessary to every parent in France.
Druckerman presents the French way of parenting in such a positive light, I came back to the book several years later. I have never been on the I want children bandwagon, but her book makes parenting seem less horrific. She is able to capture the dichotomy that is american parenting and showcase the positives France has been able to carefully cultivate over the centuries.
Druckerman writes with a sense of humor poking fun at both herself and the cultures she inhabits. Reading through Bringing Up Bébé you get a sense of who she is as a person and as a parent. It is easy to identify with her struggles and desire to be a good mom to her children. I highly suggest this book to any already parent, soon-to-be parent, and those who just want an insight into parenting in a different country and culture.
“Of course American parents want their kids to be patient. … But patience isn’t a skill that we hone quite as assiduously as French parents do.”
“Setting limits for kids isn’t a French invention, of course.”
“I seem to have a philosophical problem, too.”
Title: Bringing Up Bébé; One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting
Author: Pamela Druckerman
Publisher: The Penguin Press