Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pamela Druckerman's "Bringing Up Bébé"

This delightful book came into my life at the perfect time. No doubt you've heard about Pamela Druckerman's new book all about how French children are raised and how American parents might learn a trick or two from our Gallic counterparts? Critics accuse Druckerman of being a Francophile and romanticizing France, but that is being overly simplistic. Druckerman compares and contrasts common parenting practices in France and among Anglophone parents and asks herself why certain French practices seem to work so much better than the Anglophone ones do. She investigates, then explains, and happily, the results are often incredibly simple principles and structures. As a Montessori teacher of children aged 3-6, I can safely say that most parents need some fresh ideas and perspective. Of course there were many lovely, wonderfully brought up children in my classes. Sadly, there were also many unpleasant, spoiled children.  

Reading Druckerman's book has been affirming, entertaining and particularly comforting as I prepare to go back to work part-time this fall. One topic she comes back to often is the idea of guilt and motherhood that seems ingrained in the Anglophone mother's psyche. I realize that I too have been falling prey to "mommy guilt" when I worry that after one year is too soon to go back to work (even just part-time!) and that I'll be a "bad mother" for handing my precious daughter over to some stranger. These ideas are just cuckoo. By reading about the French attitudes toward crèches and childcare, I've been able to detach from the seemingly obligatory "mommy guilt" and ask myself what I would have said before I became a mother, when I was a teacher observing parents and the outcomes of their practices. I would have said that one year old is a good time for a child to learn to be part of a group, develop social skills and engage in a wider variety of movement and activity than can be provided in their own home. Part-time care also allows for all of the experiences of the home, so it's the best of both worlds. There. Balanced. Rational. Sensible. Thank you, Pamela Druckerman for helping me remember that I want to offer my children a variety of experiences to help them become delightful world citizens. Thank you very much.

When I saw the Time cover with the breast-feeding toddler standing on a chair, I knew I didn't want to be that kind of attachment parenting mother. For me, there has to be balance. We co-sleep, yes, but I push Coco around in her buggy 99% of the time and I've barely used our Ergo carrier or Moby wrap. I plan to breastfeed her until she's two, but only before bed and I actually want to go back to work and have my own professional activity. This balanced approach to life with a child, both in how the parents raise the child and how the parents' own lives change to accomodate having a child is what I like best about "Bringing Up Bébé". It has honestly made me so much more relaxed about parenting. 

2 comments:

  1. Let me know when you're ready to lend this book out! Sounds like it's on the 'necessary to read' list for us new mommies! The book that has helped me be more relaxed about parenting has been The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson - maybe we can exchange! :)

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  2. I ADORED this book! I loved her emphasis on no-guilt, as well as the reminder that the parent is in charge (something I had to remind many of the parents of children in my 3-6 Montessori class). It was a terrific read.

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