Jessica's Reviews > Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman
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Feb 13, 2012

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Read in February, 2012

I've always had a soft spot for the French (well, except for that kid, Pierre, who took one of my classes and affirmed every single bad stereotype of Parisians I'd ever heard, and then some). I especially love to read about how Americans perceive French life; I suppose this is an example of me living vicariously through my book choices. Anyway. Bringing Up Bebe has been popping up on my various radar screens for weeks, and I've been at my wit's end with my newly minted three year old lately, so when the opportunity to read a book for pleasure this afternoon presented itself, I decided, why not?
Druckerman actually does an excellent job of ferreting out the parenting secrets of the middle class French; she explains in clear and effective language how most French parents offer their children an éducation in delayed gratification, culinary delights, and interpersonal relationships. I loved reading about how French parents rely on Rousseau and Françoise Dolto for their parenting mantras, offer consistency in their house rules, and insist their children try a wide variety of foods on a regular basis; as a matter of fact, I finished the book feeling as though our personal parenting approach was vaguely French and was charmingly reminded of rules we had faithfully followed when our older child was tiny but have allowed to go fallow, to some degree, with our younger one (that's changing as of now - merçi beaucoup, Ms. Druckerman!).
My big complaint with this book is that Pamela Druckerman creates a vision of American parenting that is absolutely abominable. Okay, sure - you, Pam, went off the deep end when you were pregnant and took all of those insane pregnancy and parenting guides seriously. You have an ongoing aversion to asserting yourself with your own children. Fine. There are plenty of American moms just like you, who can't bear to tell precious Ella "no" and who pretend that children are incapable of rational thought. But let's call a spade a spade here and admit that your problems are your problems! Just because you know someone in America who won't go to a restaurant or use a babysitter because little Johnny "won't let them," doesn't mean that we're all insane! When I was reading the reviews of this book on Amazon, someone was complaining that most of the reviews took the book to task on the basis of an interview people seemed to have heard/watched with the author, rather than the content of the book, and suggested people read the book before passing judgement. That makes sense to me, but if this interview of which many apparently speak portrays the author as smug, elitist, and somewhat pedestrian, well, you probably won't be able to stomach the actual book, either, because after I read it, I can tell you that I aspire never to meet Ms. Druckerman for coffee, in Paris or Park Slope. She seems like a truly neurotic and stereotypical American mother, and it makes me cringe a little to know that she's out there in Europe, representing the rest of us American moms without our knowledge or consent!
All my irritation aside, however, I highly recommend this book. It comes the closest to my own ideal parenting style (except for the approach to eating - definitely need to work on that) that I've seen in print, and I'll be happy to pass it on to any new moms I meet in the months and years to come! Enjoy your children - and your marriage. Parent like the French!!
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Gail My thoughts exactly, and I wrote my review before I read yours!

ellen I agree. I really enjoyed reading about French parenting styles, but her descriptions of American mothers didn't sound like anyone I know. It seemed like she relied completely on stereotypes of park slope parents. Which made me doubt the veracity of the French parenting descriptions. And many of the 'French' strategies didn't sound that unique to France.

Jessica Ellen, I agree with you. There have been some funny articles posted on from a French dad, disagreeing with much of what she says about French parenting and pointing out some of the hypocrises of the French system. Here's one of them:

Tracyesine You sound like a great Mom! I agree that some American parents already practice large portions of what Druckerman sees as the "French" approach, but I have met many of the type that Druckerman mentions, as well. I think the key to enjoying this book is knowing that, as she admits, she is focusing on a narrow class segment in both countries. I think her read on the educated upper-middle classes, in my part of the U.S., at least, is spot on.

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