Friday, May 11, 2012

Bringing Up Bebe

When I was 15, I had the privilege of traveling to France as a member of a ballet ensemble. For three weeks, I traveled with a group of other young ballerinas around France and Germany. We stayed with host families and were very much emerged into the culture of the host country. If I were asked to pinpoint the moment when I began to fall in love with France, and yes, even the French, it was when I arrived in Lyon and met my lovely host family there. They had three girls who were all in their early 20s. To me, they could not have been sweeter or more glamorous. They took me everywhere with them, indulging my desire to shop and explore the city. Since that visit, I've read many books on French culture, fashion and lifestyle.

I just finished Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. I've read many reviews- some enjoyed the book, others did not. Here, a French father responds to the book, sharing some of his own observations and opinions. Love it, or hate it, the book wasn't really meant to be a "Parenting Guide", more, the experiences of one American woman who found herself living in France and raising her children. She observed differences. The culture is different, and so is the parenting style in many ways.

Personally, I have not yet decided if I'd like to have a baby. I don't have any plans to start a family in the near future. One of the main concerns I have stems from my own daily observations of American children and their parents (I work in the children's section of a library): our society is very child centered, to a fault. Some of the attitudes and behaviors I witness not only turn me off from the idea of motherhood, but scare me. 

This book calmed my fears. It's good to learn that not every society sees motherhood as an all encompassing martyrdom. I was not raised in an overly child centered home. However, in 2012, I worry parents who don't make their lives all about the kids stick out a little bit.

French mother's seem to have a good balance. Motherhood is a beautiful part of life, but not life in and of itself. From Druckerman's point of view, French mothers don't forget that they are more than just mothers. American mothers are more too, but nine times out of ten, I wouldn't know that to look at them. I spend time with many mothers, and even after spending time with them, I still wouldn't know that they are anything but mothers. For me, knowing that I can be both mother and still me is a calming idea. I can certainly at least try, right? 

I could really go on and on about all the concepts in this book I liked. Manners, food education, giving children freedom and autonomy (I was offered freedom and can't imagine how I would be now had my experiences growing up been like this), sleep habits, learning your child's rhythm, breast feeding, and not constantly hovering over your child, over stimulating him, are all concepts covered in the book I found very interesting. 

I am not a parent. I am not an expert. I know enough to know that I know very very little. I just felt relief after reading this book, because in a way, it kind of took some of the pressure off. Even with no plans to start a family, I already feel a sense of pressure about motherhood. Pressure and stress that would only have gotten worse. It's just nice to know that there might actually be a parenting philosophy out there which would work for me. Calming.

I'd like to add that I just read TIME's article on "attachment parenting". The complete opposite end of the spectrum to say the least! I am close with a person who follows this philosophy. I do not agree with it. Some people might not agree with the more French approach, or even me for blogging about this book and my praise of it. People might think that because I don't have kids, I shouldn't have an opinion. Bottom line: children need love, consistency, safety and support. If you think breast feeding for half a decade is the best way, I pass no judgement. I might never even have the chance to try my own philosophy out, but if I do, I'll be taking a different approach, and certainly borrow from my Parisian motherhood muses. Women need to support one another. As long as a mom is offering her child those basic and important necessities, I think we should keep the judgement to ourselves. Even if I choose to not have a baby, I wouldn't want to be judged for that choice either. However, I do draw the line at exploiting your children in a magazine. I feel really bad for those toddlers, because those photos are "out there" forever now, and I don't see how a parent could make a decision to expose their child like that. If those kids are bullied someday, I bet their mothers will be the first to express concern and probably quite loudly. Problem is, they chose to expose their kids. That choice is the only choice I'll judge. I think it's irresponsible and shameful.


Mrs. Type A said...

I totally agree and will definitely read this book before I have kids. My brother in law and sister in law's lives are 110% encompassed by their two kids--so much so that I can't even have a conversation with them in their house-- and it drives me nuts. My parents employed the "it's grown up time right now, we are talking" thing growing up, so it's just crazy to me. I share your anxiety, because I don't want to be seen as a "bad mom" if I want to talk about things other than my child, go places without my child, etc. some day.

Kate said...

I can't wait to read this book! Sometimes I can't believe what I see as a nanny. There are good parents out there but living in LA I usually only see the crazies!

Barry said...

I heard a review of this book on The Book Report radio show (, and am now looking around the web at the other reviews. I am glad that there seems to be some questioning of "The American Way" The people who built America were not brought up according to the current fads and those who were seem to spend their time living with their parents because they can't find jobs, or, at least, the kind of jobs that they think they are entitled to.

Michelle Johnson said...

I am a mother of six and I try my best to get out on my own sometimes. I love to have grown up moments and I do still have date night with my husband. I have breast fed 5 of my children and 14 months is all they get. I have given 40 weeks and an additional 14 months of my body to my child. At some point it has to return to me and my husband and the bed is ours. I wonder if the mothers are doing this for the benefit of the child or for themselves. Mine seem to be doing just fine, especially when I take time to take care of myself. Doing so gives me more to give them and others around me. It's hard to be loving when your tired and stressed. How I identify myself: Michelle, wife, mother, daughter, and business women.

CeCe said...

You made so many excellent points! I don't have children but that doesn't mean I don't like children.

And I can see how my friends with children love them to pieces, but I am with Mrs. Type A about not being able to have a conversation with some of my friends. The worst is when you are having a chat on an "adult" subject and your friends kids are hovering. Not babies, but grown-up kids. So irritating.

Mrs. Pretty said...

Well said, and I'm so glad you enjoyed the book too.