Friday, October 19, 2012

Am I French?: Part The First

I was going to write this as one post but it was getting very long so I'm doing it in three parts. Also, you should be warned that I have some pretty strong views but I recognize that they are mine and what I think works for me and my family. I don't think that what is right for us, is necessarily right for you and your family. Okay, that's all. (And you will find out about the pictures in tomorrow's post. Ohhh! The suspense.)

During the past few weeks I've been reading the book, "Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting" by Pamela Druckerman, an American living in Paris and married to a British man. She writes about the differences she has observed between French and American parenting. (Sidenote: I wish someone would write about Canadian parenting because I'd like to know where it falls on the scale.)
Because I have been a parent for three and a half years now, I found this book very interesting. I don't know where I learned to be a parent but it seems that I fall somewhere between French and American parents. What I've always assumed is temperament, for both Sam and Rachel, might actually be a result of my parenting, both good and bad.
I must admit that I have very strong ideas. Reading this book made me realize that yes, I do believe there is a right way and a... well, wrong... way to do things, especially about some things in particular. Reading the chapter about the French perspective on breastfeeding (let's just say the French are not a breastfeeding culture) made me squirm. Yes, I hear you France that breastfeeding may just be a way of being a martyr for no cause, and to not breastfeed is less stressful for the mother, but if I were to have another child, I would still breastfeed them.

When I read the following statement, "In France, the way you give birth doesn't situate you within a value system or define the sort of parent you'll be. It is, for the most part, a way of getting your baby safely from your uterus into your arms." (p 30), I thought "how liberating." But I still think giving birth as naturally as possible is best. And if I had to do it again I would do it the same way I did previously. (Although my birth experiences were unique, even within the uniqueness of giving birth (short, extremely fast labours -- so fast my husband ended up delivering both of our children at home) so I can't really talk much about labour.)

Also, I did not want my kids in daycare. For some reason, I felt really strongly about this. Fortunately our life situations have allowed either Dave or I to be home with our kids since Sam was born. Part of this can be chalked up to Canada's system of parents getting a one-year maternity leave which is also what happens in France. I recognize my thoughts would likely have been quite different if I'd only gotten twelve weeks paid leave. Part of it can also be chalked up to Dave being a student when Sam was a baby, and part of it was the timing of Rachel, the ending of my maternity leave and the finishing of Dave's degree. However, we do have Sam enrolled in a preschool this fall, two afternoons a week. When I read the following sentence I really needed to step back and recognize what my preconceived notions were: "The separate origins of day care and preschool explain why, more than a hundred years later, "day care" still has a working-class connotation in America, while middle-class parents battle to get their two-year-olds into preschool." (p 103). And I am left wondering if, at heart, I am classist because of my strong desire to not have my kids in daycare though I am excited about Sam being in preschool?


  1. LOVE the photo of Sam in front of the baking supplies! Very cute. Looking forward to hearing more about the differences. I read "French women don't get fat". So interesting to see how things we assume are everyday aren't actually universal

  2. I thought when I read your title and saw the pictures of Sam cooking, this would be a post about him thinking he's a french chef or something. Haha! That does sound like an interesting book. Yes, I think we do all have preconceived notions about what we think a parent should be before we ever become one. Although I want to be with my children as much as any mother ever could, I know that I must take the course that has been given to me and do my best in it. I decided before having children along with my husband that one of our primary goals was to give our children the most fun childhood imaginable. This may have been because of the "hardships" we both dealt with growing up in poor families. Ha! It is always an interesting study to see how different cultures view parenthood, and I think most of our notions are similar. I am surprised that French women view breastfeeding as a form of martyrdom. Um, what about the purpose of just being close to and bonding with your kids? That is just as rewarding for the mom as it is for the child! I hope if I have another child to be able to breastfeed longer, but I'll take what I can get. I like that they do have a more laid back idea of giving birth actually. Even here in America, I feel an increasing pressure on what kind of birth experience to have. For me, I didn't really have much of a choice. I have the opposite of an incompetent cervix and my babies just would not come out without some encouragement. I didn't have to have a c-section that goodness, but I did need medication to get things moving. I am so thankful for that medicine because I really don't know what would have happened without it. Wow, I can't believe you had two home births...that is amazing to me! Yeah, the daycare vs. preschool debate is also pretty hot here. I live in an upper middle class area where most moms stay at home. Partly, I think that is because the cost of childcare is so high that they really couldn't afford to work and pay for childcare. I don't really understand the "bias" about the terms. Evan was in daycare, and he learned the same skills that they teach in preschool, both social skills and developmental skills. Yes, it does just seem to be a bias that daycare is for "working parents." However, here most of those working parents are "professionals" (educated, career level) so the bias seems wrong in my opinion. I guess that's my "American" take on parenting. I don't think you are biased though...I think you wanted your children at home as long as possible until they were ready to attend a school setting. I was home with Evan for about a year before he started a daycare program so I can appreciate that side of things too. I was happy to hire a nanny to watch Brody in home for his first year and now when he's not in school because I do want him in the comfort of his home as much as possible. :-)

  3. I loved this book, but I think I fell somewhere in the middle on these as well. We're hoping to avoid daycare as well, but we might have different feelings if we were in that culture. The "normal" can make such a difference in our normal. Look forward to hearing your thoughts on the rest of the book!

  4. I've been wanting to read that book-- love your reflections on it!


Thank you for being interested in my life as I blog it and for leaving a comment. Comments make me happier than reading a good book and drinking a cold Coke. Almost :)