What would happen if Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame had three children, settled in France instead of Italy, then read Amy "Tiger Mom" Chua's diatribe against American parenting with both horror and assent, and sat down to pen her own book? You'd have something akin to the new "it" book about parenting, Bringing up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, by Pamela Druckerman. It smacks of an attempted repeat run to the bank exploiting American's parental insecurity with another foreign-mothers-are-better book. (And in defense of my own cynicism, all three books share the same publisher.)
There's much in this book to critique. The style is annoyingly chatty, the evidence for both her allegations and her adulation largely anecdotal. There's more fault to find, but this book, though sans mention of God or any spiritual reality beyond the material, raises an essential question that matters to parenting women of faith.
But first, for those who haven't read it, here's what you need to know. Druckerman, a former writer for The Wall Street Journal, moves to Paris with her British boyfriend and daughter, has twins, and while immersed in early motherhood notices an ocean of difference between French and American parents and parenting styles. The French are, simply put, calm and relaxed. Their children don't act up in public. They happily eat every kind of vegetable. Babies don't throw food from high chairs. They learn to sleep through the night by three months. French mothers don't gain much weight while pregnant, regaining their skinny, sexy figures soon after. They don't breastfeed or stay home with their kids. They put their babies in all day state-run daycare with anticipation ...1
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