Ah France...home of my very own happiest place on earth, Paris, and one of my personal hero's Simone de Beauvoir. And while we are on the subject two facts you may not know about me: my college degree is in Philosophy, where my specialty was in French feminist philosophy and my thesis was focused on Beauvoir's work. Also I used to be able to read French almost fluently. Sadly this is a skill I have mostly lost.
Anyway...the French are brilliant about some things like gorgeous architecture, Chanel and Dior, all of their food, and the Paris Metro. They are not so brilliant about other things, virtually no religion, a questionable understanding of monogamy and, despite being the birth place of Beauvoir, a fairly chauvinistic society that largely sees women as sexual objects.
Interestingly they are quite smart about many aspects of parenting. I am almost done reading Bringing up Bebe and I am amazed at how much I am enjoying it. Sure it has lots of obvious common sense advice and yes she makes some pretty large generalizations but overall it's thought provoking, encouraging, smart and positive. That last adjective isn't one I can say about a lot of parenting books which seem to mostly induce stress, fear, self doubt and that horrible sensation that you are a horrible Mother. Furthermore the fact that there are supposedly no "Mommy wars" in France is reason enough to read the book.
I'm certainly not saying that everything she advices is really my cup of tea. Le Pause...not so much with my newborn... But a lot of the concepts and philosophies really resonate with me. I particularly appreciate the idea that babies are people who understand more than we think and that we should talk to them as people. In fact this speaks to an overarching theme of her book. We see it in the idea that children must say hello and goodbye to adults and in this way we are teaching them that they are individuals expected to interact with others in a mature manor.
Another theme I found helpful was the idea of teaching children to wait. Margot plays on the floor in the kitchen a lot when I cook. I used to stop whatever I was doing and pick her up the second she fussed, often to the great peril of our dinner. Now I simply explain to her that I am cooking and I will be done with my current task in two minutes and she needs to wait. She fusses for approximately 10 seconds before finding something else to do. I like this approach because she isn't being ignored, I am responding to her, yet she is learning she is part of a larger family where every one's needs have to be weighed. The world does not revolve around her.
The book also places a lot of emphasis on the health of the mother and the marriage, pointing out that mothers should take time for themselves. They should invest time in things like pedicures and hair appointments because it's important that they are people who take care of themselves. They should work if they like and have a life outside of being a Mom. The message is something like, being a Mom complements who you already are, it doesn't change who you are.
Sure being a working Mom in France is 100 times easier with free childcare and preschool, 6 weeks of paid vacation a year and national health care. But I think there are positive ideas in this book that American Mom's can consider and implement.