Attention North American mothers: you're doing it wrong. Signed, the French.
Attention North American mothers: apparently we have been doing it all wrong. We put on too much weight, our kids are rude, and they are spoiled, picky eaters who will grow up to be fat. And it’s all your fault.
Oh, but fear not—there is salvation at hand. The French are here to deliver us from our shoddy parenting and self-care. It all started with Mireille Guiliano, who penned a little book, published in 2004, called French Women Don’t Get Fat. (Is that why French Elle published a “Spécial Rondes” edition in April 2010? Just asking...)
Then along comes Pamela Druckerman, an American journalist living in Paris, who becomes a mother while living among the enlightened mamans. And, lo and behold, c’est incroyable! French babies sleep through the night from the age of three months, behave perfectly in public, and entertain themselves while Maman slips her cafe au lait in the playground with other skinny mamas.
Druckerman’s bestseller, Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, was published last February and was quickly making headlines all over Canada and the apparently-no-longer-Francophobic U.S. of A. (so much for Freedom Fries).
From what I can gather, the rule of thumb of parenting à la Francaise is basically to put yourself first, and let the kids deal with it. Maman wants to chat with her copines? Go ahead, and have les gosses amuse themselves for awhile. Oh, and breastfeeding? Mais non!
According to this article in The Guardian, “Breastfeeding – particularly after two or three months – is regarded in France as something akin to drinking your own urine.… As a gynaecologist reminded a friend of mine the day she confirmed her pregnancy: ‘Your breasts are for your husband, not your baby.’ France has the lowest breastfeeding rate in the western world.”
Aha! If they’ve got all their petits choux bulked up on formula, no wonder they’re sleeping through the night.
And now we have Karen le Billon, Rhodes scholar and UBC prof, who has an apparent hit on her hands with French Kids Eat Everything: How our family moved to France, cured picky eating, banned snacking, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising happy, healthy eaters. Published this month, the book outlines how the French are superior at teaching their offspring to happily munch on whatever is placed in front of them, with rules that include strictly no snacking, and nurturing a love of foods that definitely do not include Kraft cheese slices.
Surely, there’s some parenting insight to be gained from the French—but are the rest of us in the New World really so devoid of confidence and skill when it comes to raising our babies? If there’s one thing I wish we could get rid of as mothers in North America, it’s the guilt and self-doubt that seems to plague us, from struggles with breastfeeding and tantrums to cloth diaper dilemmas and early literacy.
Seriously, can’t we all just chill out? Because this constant self-evaluation and self-flagellation by mothers—well, as the Parisians would say, “C’est nul.”