I finished reading Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman quite a few weeks ago and I’m just barely getting to writing the review. This book is about an American woman who marries a Brit and moves to France. She raises her daughter and twin boys there, trying to adapt to the French parenting culture and comparing the overwhelming success of French parenting to the struggles of American parenting.
I really liked this book. It had great ideas for parenting, showing how other children are taken care of in other countries. Now, as a teacher, I’m always interested in the opportunities and ways children are raised in other countries. Their scores are much higher than kids in the U.S. on average. Is there a correlation? I definitely think so.
I started reading Bringing Up Bebe after I gave birth, so I didn’t read the chapters on pregnancy.
It talked about how women and babies were treated in the hospital the first few days. Women in France are basically all given epidural. I had an epidural myself because I have a low pain threshold, but I’ll tell you what–the epidural was really scary and painful…but after it kicked in, the rest of the labor was smooth sailing. So, I will always get an epidural, but hate the process. Women in French maternity wards are given wonderful things to eat after birth. I was given a “special post-birth” dinner of “steak” which was more like country fried steak…blech. Most French women also give their babies immediately to the nursery. I wanted my first born with me, and, after the second night of no sleep, allowed them to take Rhys for four hours. It was nice, but I felt so guilt ridden at the time. Not now. They also definitely suggest getting help the first few weeks. I am so thankful for my mom who was with me every day while Justin worked and finished school.
Maternity Leave and Childcare
Women in France are also given a mandatory, paid maternity leave. I didn’t take maternity leave because Justin didn’t have a job yet, and it would’ve been unpaid. We had just moved and had all the hospital bills, so we needed some sort of an income. Even if Justin did have a job at the time, I would’ve been a little hesitant to take maternity leave because I hate having a substitute for even one day, and it wasn’t paid! But, if it had been paid, I wouldn’t have had any worries at all.
France’s government also gives family subsidies for putting their children in daycare. How nice would that have been! I had been searching from May-mid-September for daycare for Rhys. Every place I called was either way out of budget, or full with a long waiting list. It would’ve taken more than half of my paycheck to pay for childcare. That is why some moms either work full-time or not at all because part-time wouldn’t have made childcare worth it. Thankfully, I have a wonderful babysitter who is a close friend to one of my coworkers and is very reasonable with the price.
French mothers don’t nurse, but immediately use formula. I, however, liked nursing (even if Rhys didn’t). As the babies get to be 4-6 months, they immediately start them on pureed veggies and fruit, skipping the starchy rice cereal. They don’t believe babies are picky eaters–they say babies “don’t like” foods because they just aren’t used to them yet,s o parents need to keep trying and giving them a chance. I like this idea. I don’t believe I am a picky eater. Justin used to be a very picky eater. I don’t want my children to be picky eaters, so I like this idea of keep trying. I also remember seeing a youtube series of a Japanese mom who would give her 3 year old international and foreign foods, and she loved it! I can only hope the same for Rhys! He’s been eating rice cereal for a month now and loves it. He also just had his first taste of carrots yesterday and loved it (as evident by the huge mess it made!). French parents also don’t let their kids snack, which I don’t necessarily agree with. I’ll let my kids snack, but I’m going to try to make sure they are healthy snacks…fruits and veggies and the like. My 9 year old niece surprised me yesterday. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be served for two more hours, and she was hungry. We had donuts for breakfast, and there were more left, but she asked her mom, “Could I have an apple?” I want Rhys to be like that!
One of the ideas that I really liked in Bringing Up Bebe is the 5 minute pause. By 3 months, most French babies are “doing their nights” or sleeping through the night. Rhys has only done that once and is four and half months old. I don’t expect him to yet (even if some of my friends’ babies who are his age do and even though I really want him to).We put Rhys to bed around 7:30 and then we do the 5 minute pause. Typically Rhys can resettle himself within those 5 minutes, otherwise, we go in and we put his pacy back in. we feed him when he wakes up between 1-3:30AM. We also do the 5 minute pause during naps, and I think this waiting has actually helped him sleep better both day and night!
The book also mentions about manners for children. In American, children are spoiled rotten. They are full of entitlement. No, I’m not just talking stereotypically. I’m talking from experience of being a teacher and dealing with preteens every day. When we meet with their parents, they blame the teacher. When we meet with their parents, they give us every excuse and defend their child. When we meet with the parents, they say their child is trying a new medication because they have ADD. I don’t believe medicating your child is the answer. Sometimes it is because sometimes it actually helps if your child actually has disorders like ADD, but many parents believe their children are on the spectrum because they act out or don’t understand something as quickly. (That is actually a whole other post!) The author noticed that French children didn’t have temper tantrums like American kids did.
One of the biggest French parenting philosophies is cadre, which is basically freedom with limits. The children know their boundaries, but within those boundaries, they have a lot of freedom–they just know they can take an inch. I like this idea. It kind of fits into the LDS philosophy…God gave us commandments and those commandments make us freer (because we are free from negative consequences). Children are expected to show all adults respect. I was raised this way because my dad was in the military, so I said “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir” to every adult. The way I acted reflected on my dad in the military, so behavior was important. Typically, children in the South are brought up this way as well. I really want Rhys to know respect as well.
The one thing that shocked the author was that her kindergartner girl was expected to go on an almost-week-long field trip with her class and teacher. In today’s age, American parents would frea about that. There are a ton of helicopter parents out there and try to keep their children from feeling any hurt or disappointment at all. I don’t believe in that. I love Rhys, but I want him to explore and get skinned knees. I want him to get bumped and bruised while learning how to crawl, sit, stand, and walk. That way, he becomes brave and sure of himself and will always want to challenge himself. I want him to be a kid and curious. I also want him to struggle and fail sometimes. That way, he can know how to overcome adversity. I had some 9th graders last year who couldn’t do any work because they didn’t know how to ask for help, or they thought they had to wait for our permission to get a new pencil. So, this year, I have a sign in my classroom that says, “Be a problem solver”. Rhys will grow up trying his best first, then asking for help my advocating for himself.
I really liked this book. There are a few things I didn’t like. One of those was it seemed that the French parents believed they were more important than their kids–their wants came before their children’s. It was very pro-detachment parenting. Now, I’m all for kids going off on their own and learning to play independently and take care of themselves, but not at such a young age.
But, the bottom line seemed to be how to not let kids become picky, needy, entitled brats, and I like that. It is a(n imperfect) guide to making kids independent, happy, open-minded, respectful, and mature.
I’d definitely recommend reading it, no matter the age of your kids.