"Bringing Up Bébé" – Book Club Review

FYI – This is my Bringing up Bébé book review for the first month of PAIL’s book club

When Stumbling Gracfully first brought up the idea of a book club, I was immediately excited. Reading is something that I love to do, but unfortunately it has fallen by the wayside lately, and I needed something to kick me in the butt and get me reading again. Also, the first book up for discussion was Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting – a book about an American ex-pat who was married to a Brit and raising her children in France, which is something I have always dreamed of doing!

I have to give a quick disclaimer here that I am far from unbiased about the French. In fact, I adore them. In college, I was an international business major, and I actually lived in France for awhile and finished my degree at a French university there (where I was one of 4 Americans, as opposed to an int’l university made up of students from all over), as well as doing an internship following graduation. That being said, I was a college kid who gave zero thought to the parenting styles around me at the time, so it was incredibly intriguing to me to read about it now and compare it to what I observed in the family I lived with while I was in France.

Like any book about parenting styles, I didn’t expect to agree with every concept in the book, but I was surprised at how much I did agree with! A couple of the points I loved that come to mind are:

*Giving kids more independence and freedom to entertain themselves and play alone (this means not following them around the park giving the running monologue that the author describes so many American moms doing)
*Raising them within a firm structure but with freedom within that structure (see above) and teaching them to respect adults (the French “cadre”). I like the idea of Mom being able to enjoy her conversation with a friend without being constantly interrupted by her child. I love idea that a child could sit calmly at the table during mealtimes with the family and eat a variety of foods instead of snacking on processed puffs whenever s/he wants throughout the day. I like that children in France are taught to always acknowledge the adults in the room with a “bonjour” and leave with an “au revoir.”
*S’il vous plait. That little word “please.” It goes a LONG way in life, and I had forgotten how important it is in the French language. When I’m speaking French, if I asked a question of someone, it always began with “s’il vous plait, madame…” Why don’t I do that when I’m speaking English? I want my kids to be respectful, and I know that I need to practice what I preach. Eek!

At any rate, below is the passage I decided to focus this blog post on:
——————————————————————————————-
p147…When we Americans talk about work-life balance, we’re describing a kind of juggling, where we’re trying to keep all parts of our lives in motion without screwing up any of them too badly.  The French also talk about l’équilibre. But they mean it differently. For them, it’s about not letting any one part of life – including parenting – overwhelm the rest. It’s more like a balanced meal, where there’s a good mix of proteins, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and sweets. 

Do you think this is a valid assessment of how American parents tend to live their lives? Do YOU live your life like that…or do you live more like the French ideal? How do you find your equilibrium?
——————————————————————————————-

This is something that I really, really, really hope to achieve. Many of my friends started their families pretty young, and the biggest thing I noticed was the fact that almost all of them seemed to change their lives 100% when the kiddos came. Of course some lifestyle changes are necessary, but the few friends we have that integrated their children into their current lifestyles instead of totally changing their lives to suit the children just seemed so much happier and fulfilled with their own adult lives.

Of course happier is a subjective term, but for me, I want to still go rafting and hiking and skiing and traveling, even though we are now blessed to have Stella in our lives. Some parents are content to stay home and abandon their adult activities for a time. That would drive me insane. Some people hire babysitters and go out themselves (which I want to do as well at times with my husband!)…and some people throw the kid in a pack or set her on a pair of skis and simply take her with. THAT is how I hope to raise my child!

I think it’s great that I can work outside the home and Stella gets two days a week at daycare with other kids. I do wish I could only work 2 days instead of 4, but beggars can’t be choosers. 🙂 I think it’s great that so far we have taken Stella with us for activities, whether it’s meeting for birthday drinks with friends or the overnight river and camping trip we are planning with her later this summer. I like the adjustment in our lives that we now want to stay home more nights than go out. Most importantly, as Stella grows, I hope to instill a sense of love and respect in her for adults and everyone and everything around her.

Compromise is good. Balance is good.  Respect is good. Love is good.

Bottom line – I’d highly recommend you check out the book. I enjoyed it!

To read other reviews of the book, please click here.

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13 comments

  1. I really liked it too! I almost don't consider it a "parenting book" ( memoir maybe?) because it isn't so much instructional as explaining what the French do and why. I agree that the French have the balance thing down way better than we do, in the work and parenting realms. I had to laugh at her observations of American parents – so true! Lots of interesting observations on marriage, too. Not sure it's even possible to " go French" in the U.S., but lots of great suggestions and perspective.

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  2. I've heard a lot about this book. I read a lot about it online, my best friend is reading it and I watched a Today Show interview with the author. What I find interesting is that so many people look up to the French so much that a book explaining how to parent your children better or more French would be successful. I'm a huge France lover as well, so it seems like this would be right up my alley. It's just funny to me that there aren't books like on how to raise your children like the Brazilians or Afghans or Kenyans.

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  3. Thanks for your review! Really enjoyed reading your take as a fellow Francophile :)And to answer Sheelah's point: I bet there are authors out there writing books about how to raise your children or Brazilians or Afghans right now 😉 And attachment parenting takes a lot of its cues from traditional African methods, I think?

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  4. Thanks for your review! Really enjoyed reading your take as a fellow Francophile :)And to answer Sheelah's point: I bet there are authors out there writing books about how to raise your children or Brazilians or Afghans right now 😉 And attachment parenting takes a lot of its cues from traditional African methods, I think?

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  5. Great review!! I now really want to read this book, especially as an ex-pat myself (with a husband who is also a Brit), living in a country with different ideas about parenting. I am definitely the same as you in that I want to take Alidia with us to do the things we want to continue doing from life before baby instead of just not doing those things or getting her a babysitter every time. So many people told us how much our lives would change after baby and to be honest, we just don't feel it. Of course we feel it in the we have a little person we now love more than anything, but we still do almost everything we did before… and when we don't, it is because we just don't want to. I think that is what family should be all about! Anyway, I definitely need to get this book!! 🙂

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  6. Great review! Not that we lived super exciting lives before anyway, but we subscribe to the take-the-baby-along theory too and we love it!

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  7. I was already half way through this book when I saw your review. I like t quite a bit. We have done well incorporating Ava into our lives rather than resign ourselves to not being able to live the same lives we had pre baby. There were still some great ideas in the book that might have helped us get to this point faster -and if I can get that gouter thing down for all of us that would be awesome. I am also the mom that always eats the cupcake!

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  8. I was already half way through this book when I saw your review. I like t quite a bit. We have done well incorporating Ava into our lives rather than resign ourselves to not being able to live the same lives we had pre baby. There were still some great ideas in the book that might have helped us get to this point faster -and if I can get that gouter thing down for all of us that would be awesome. I am also the mom that always eats the cupcake!

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  9. Great review! I like your approach to integrating the kiddos into your lifestyle rather than changing everything.

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  10. I completely agree! Bring the baby with! (And sometimes, leave the baby at home!) but don't completely bring life as you know it to a halt just because you added a child. And moms wonder why they're overstressed and unfulfilled when they suddenly stop doing all the things that they once enjoyed. Mrrp!

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  11. I agree – kids are supposed to be portable, right? I'm hoping I can convince my husband of this, as he still seems to think it's going to be better to avoid taking the baby to the grocery store if he can avoid it, for instance. How will he ever know how to behave in the grocery store then? We clearly have a lot to figure out – I'm hoping he'll read this book too and understand what I mean.

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  12. I also am fighting really hard to maintain the important parts of my identity, to not give up all of myself to motherhood. I see my friends when I can, I'm writing books, I'm going to yoga twice a week, I'm writing for a local magazine, I'm just generally making myself a priority. It can sometimes be hard to do because not many moms stress that, so there aren't a lot of moms out there who can brainstorm ways to take "me-time" or want to take "me-time" with me and I can feel like an outlier in trying to accomplish that but it's what makes me happy and if I'm happy my daughter is happy (I think saying that is actually a symptom of mommy-guilt in America. If we felt okay taking time for ourselves regardless, we wouldn't have to validate it with the assurance that ultimately we're doing it for our kids). I think it's great that you have every intention of incorporating your darling daughter into the life you already had. I know what you mean, that so many people change so much of themselves when they become parents. We are city dwellers and want to badly to stay in the city, despite the mass exodus of all of friends with kids to the suburbs. For us living here is a priority and we want to honor that part of ourselves if at all possible. Sometimes staying true to yourself requires its own sacrifice, and it's one I'm willing to give.Thanks for reading, I'm glad you liked the book.

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  13. I just finished Chapter 7 of the book and I crave discussion! I am a mother of two in my late 30s, an immigrant American, married to a French. This book hits home and actually clarifies many things I have known and felt about France and the French for a very long time, though I could never really explain!As someone who has tried to live in France three times (Bretagne, Lyon and Paris) and has hated in three times, I can say that she is very accurate in the way she explains all the details. Yet, my problem is that she is doing so by glorifying the French way through out the book, even though she starts the book by saying she does not want her child to be like the stuck up French! Well, my answer to that is that if you do not like the end result, how could you possibly glorify the method?I feel like France and the French (whether its the cuisine, scenery, accent, you name it) is over glorified in world. Though France and the French have many good things, I really don't see them as the most balanced and happiest or even most successful people in the world. As a matter of fact, having traveled a bit around the world and having known many people of different cultures, the French come across as one the most obnoxious, psychologically complex and unhappy people in the modern world. If anyone is up to it, I'd like to get into more a detailed discussion….

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