Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Have you heard the news that French women, apparently, are superior when it comes to the art of parenting? That's right, guys. Not only are French women better at wearing stripes and red lipstick, and eating baguettes to their heart's content without ever getting even the tiniest bit chubby, but they are also geared to raise your child much better than, well, you. Pretty fascinating load of shit, isn't it?

I have lots of issues with the above mentioned book/article, and truthfully, I don't feel the need to get into all of them here. But let's discuss one major one, shall we? THERE IS NO ONE/RIGHT WAY TO PARENT. It does not exist. For those of you who have children and are currently trying to reach the Holy Grail of perfect parenting, please save yourself any further grief and stop while you're ahead. If there are any of you who read this blog who are expecting their first child or who plan on having children one day, you are the lucky ones because you got to be in on this dirty little secret before the rest of us [who've had to learn the hard way]. And for those of you who truly believe that you are in fact doing it right, and that your techniques definitely reign supreme, I hate to have to be the one to tell you this, but you're the most fucked of us all. Parenting is about doing your best with the situation given at hand. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail. Sometimes parenting is the most rewarding thing you will ever do, but other times, it's the most heart wrenching.

Parenting is not as black and white as "not being afraid to say 'no'", or "always making sure you're teaching your child the importance of being patient". And this is coming from a girl who believes that EVERYTHING is black and white. You want to know the real reason I take a handful of cheerios to restaurants when we go out with Cheech? Partly because babies can be restless and have a difficult time communicating that they're feeling that way, but mostly because I am a respectful person. Just as much as I don't want to hear your baby screaming while I'm trying to enjoy my lunch, I don't want you to have to hear mine. Am I teaching her to be impatient? I don't know, maybe? What I do know I'm teaching her, by using the power of distraction, is that there are places where screaming and yelling are acceptable and even welcome (a playground, for example), and there are places where that behavior is not tolerated, and therefore nipped in the bud. As she gets older, obviously, this practice will have to be tweaked, and she will have to exercise more restraint. All this said, I can't help but feel that this has more to do with common sense than French parenting.

This post is not at all meant to be an attack on the French, or the way they supposedly ALL parent. I have to admit that I love, love, love France, and before Cheech was born, Joe and I even considered moving there for a while. And despite the reputation Americans have so ignorantly given the French here stateside, I have nothing but amazing things to say about French people. They are truly the loveliest, most hospitable group I've ever come across in my travels. And if they do happen to be superior parents, I'm willing to bet quite a bit it's because they don't waste their time falling into the ridiculous and competitive American dilemma of "who's the best?".


  1. i have problems going out into public areas with other parents ie: the playground, mall areas for children, and sometimes kids birthday parties.
    I hate the feeling that someone is thinking i am doing something wrong, and my parenting isnt what they think it should be.
    that being said, i dont feel the need to judge others parenting.
    i like to keep to myself, till i find another parent who i feel comfortable with, and my children can play with theirs.
    i am part french, and have never heard of such things.
    but there are many things i dont know in life, yet.
    I know i enjoy my children, and feel good about my parenting, and dont really care about perfection ( in any aspect of my life).
    i am careful, and try to be respectful of others and their surroundings. ( even trying to be discreet while breastfeeding..not because i have a problem with it, but i dont want to upset anyone else.)
    ahh, so onto being the best parents we can be!!

  2. I know. I wish this wasn't "French parents are superior," and was instead, "Hey, look at the neat things you can learn from parents in another country!" But I think that's the Wall Street Journal. If I'm remembering correctly, they did the Tiger Mother piece, too, and that was, "Why Chinese mothers are superior." I'd like to read the book to see what I can learn, because I, like you, love all things French, but it makes me feel icky that everything has to be a contest.

  3. The lesson is: do not separate a mother from her Cheerios. Obviously everyone has an arsenal they use to help their kids behave, and there's nothing wrong with that. I think Druckerman's book is a little more nuanced than the article though, and the snack thing wasn't really a reference to babies, per se. It just seemed like she was saying that since the French are so ritualized about meal times, they carry that over into snacking, and kids know that they'll get a snack at 4:30 and not before.

  4. Not having read the book, and only referring to these articles, I have to say that this is just absurd. This is all anecdata. Not to even mention that being "superior" can only apply if two people have the same goals -- is it the universal goal of parenting to have docile children who obey your every word? (Maybe.) But seriously, let's talk to some of these kids being observed and let's let THEM tell us about their parents. Because parenting is not for other people, it's for your child. Children that are abused also exhibit these characteristics of obedience and "patience" and "independence!" I mean, when a child is used to her parents not engaging her, she's not stupid, she won't ask anymore... Does that make it great?

    Also, let's just be real: The French probably eat out more often than Americans do? I mean, if we are going to agree to this hearsay about behavior, then let's work it out logically -- babies and toddlers are happier in scenarios that are familiar to them and in which they can meet their expectations.

  5. Evidently my mother who had never been to France, nor knew any people from France, had some secret knowledge of French parenting since my sister and I both regularly went to restaurants and were polite.

    She also looks great in stripes.

  6. The WSJ article is obviously trying to work up a controversy (because that sells more books!). I did read the book, and it was 50% memoir (of the author's experience parenting young children in Paris) and 50% observation of French cultural differences that lead to different parenting styles.

    Since I love French food and culture, and am a new parent, this book hit my interests head-on, and I really enjoyed it. It may be confirmation bias, though, since I'm already doing several of the things described in this book (which are mostly common sense, and it certainly doesn't have a list of parenting rules to follow). But I did pick up a good tip about acting with more conviction when I need my daughter to do something she doesn't like, which made diaper changes suddenly and miraculously easier. :)

    And it helped to remind me not to take my mommy job quite so seriously. I'm still a woman with other interests, and I need to have some grownup time.

    Also, I am quite jealous of the free French day care and preschool. :)

  7. Also, I should probably mention that I'm with you 100% on the "there is no ONE RIGHT WAY to parent" bandwagon. As the child of parents who swallowed an authoritarian teaching that doing it the "RIGHT" way will guarantee perfect kids, I can attest to the fact that 1) it doesn't work and 2) there is no better way to alienate your children.

    There's no one right way, but there are an awful lot of wrong ways. :(

  8. Haha, there was just an article here in Australia on the weekend saying that French mothers put themselves first and sort of hinted that they were selfish. So I think both articles are a load of crap - there are great mums and rubbish mums in every country, as well as all the rest of us in-between.

  9. Love how you say how it is. Love it!

  10. YES!!! Could not agree more. All the press and subsequent mommy chatter about that book has been driving me bananas. I'm so happy you just put words to my thoughts.

  11. for anyone still lingering.... i likes these articles. this one mirrors a ranty email that celia sent me on the subject ;)


    and this one mirrors her above points