Monday, February 13, 2012

My two centimes on French parenting

Luke, just a wee baby.
There is a new book that recently came out about French parenting by Pamela Druckerman called Bringing up Bebe.  She is an American mom living in Paris, to the best of my knowledge.  I have only read excerpts of the book in various articles and do not know the author personally.

To claim that French parenting is superior to American parenting is bound to ignite defensive attitudes.   My experience with French moms interacting with their enfants and seeing what goes on in a French household is limited to playgrounds and a few French families we have spent time with.

In general, I think that American and French parents are very similar: we love our children and want the very best for them.  When I do the school run with Luke in the mornings, the other parents are usually calm and chatting pleasantly with their children.  I feel very connected with French parents at these times.  The children are dressed very nicely, no sweat pants or sneakers, hair coiffed.  Also the school has a dress code once they are in 1st grade.  That is just a Paris thing, not a reflection on parenting I guess :-)
First week in Paris!
Most French moms work, this is encouraged and there is a lot of pressure to go back within a few months after baby's arrival.  Judging from the number of nannies at the playground and at school pick up, this is verified!  One time I was standing on a metro platform with Theo in the stroller when some guy said to me, "Babies are great, but women should really go to work."  I was speechless!  And I missed my opportunity for a smart comeback!  Of course, not all moms have a choice of going back to work or staying home and I am not sure how that comes into play here in Paris.  Women are also not encouraged by their doctors (*generalization*) to breastfeed for the recommended first year.  The sooner you can return your body to pre-pregnancy shape for the benefit of you and your, ahem, husband, the better.  Can you imagine your doctor telling you to stop breastfeeding?!

French parents show less public affection to their children.  I am always huggin' and kissin' my boys whenever they'll let me.  I shout out "Love you!" every morning at school drop-off.  This will surely be major embarrassment territory one day so I appreciate every chance I have to do it.  This is just not demonstrated by French parents, this type of affection.  Perhaps they are just more subtle about it.  They speak so softly and quietly in conversation, whereas Americans ARE LOUD!  I'm still a loud American.

Snack time happens one time a day, around 4pm.  This is the one time sugar and candy is flowing like Old Faithful shooting sugar straight out of the frickin' ground.  It is not uncommon to see lollipops, gummies, and whole chocolate bars given as gouter.  I love this part of French culture (not the sugar candy part, the once a day part).  When Luke and Theo start whining about being hungry, they know the routine and understand snacking is not an all day affair.

French children are so polite!  I eat. it. up. whenever a young boy or girl says, "Bonjour madame."  That's all.  And they always say it.  Still working on this with Luke...

Are French children better behaved than American children?  Yes.  Does that mean French parenting is superior to American parenting?  Not necessarily.  We could learn a lot from their parenting style, same as they could learn from us.  Would I love it if Luke and Theo were as well mannered and polite as their French counterparts?  Yes!  But part of me thinks that this wildness they possess is good for their independence and creativity.  I don't want their toys and games taking over our apartment and them running around doing as they please, but I am grateful and proud to make them the focus of my attention, sometimes (NOT all the time) taking precedence over "adult time" and "grown-ups always come first."

Phew, I'll stop now.  Miss Druckerman has taken on a touchy subject, I feel a little nervous posting my opinions on this matter!  I hope I wasn't too harsh on the Frenchies or Americans!  What do I know!


  1. Formidable, NewMominParis! Wish I were there to compare and contrast alongside you! KZMintheOC

  2. Thanks, KZM! Sure wish you were here too! If you are interested in another opinion on the subject, Paige at just wrote a BRILLIANT blog entry not just about what we do differently but why we parent differently. Smart lady!