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.