i had sworn off parenting books from the get-go* and so, at first, i didn’t even consider reading bringing up bebe, by pamela druckerman. but then people went on and on about it, more so than i had heard ppl bitch about battle hymn of the tiger mother. and so, like the hunger games, i had to read it to find out what was the big deal. that, and the french are impeccable people, obviously, and i was curious as to what makes them such perfect parents.

i’ll try to be quick and concise in this as i am certainly not the first blogger to throw in their two cents and what i have to say has probably been said before about this book. that being said:

  • i liked, overall, what she had to say. at the very least, it was an interesting and quick read.
  • i did not, however, like how she said it. gross over-generalizations sell books but don’t make for very thoughtful journalism. “american mothers do this. french mothers do this.” blah blah blah blah.
  • though she painted american women as neurotic, over-bearing slobs, she did a good job of making french women appear as stupid and heartless automatons.
  • that being said: i am encouraged to be like the french woman who takes pride in getting back her body and continues to make time for her self. “i am woman, hear me roar! and look how smashing i am in this LBD.” that is what i wanted to yell with glee after some chapters.
  • that being said: druckerman barely addressed the fact that women all over america are doing that all the time after they have babies. the mothers i am closest to are beautiful women who have continued to pursue their careers and/or interests while fitting into their pre-baby jeans and kicking lots of ass as a caring, thoughtful, and present mother (and wife!). i’d like to think i am one of them and, even if i’m not right now, these women show me every day that it is possible.
  • her research subjects were well-off, well-educated french women. she did not seem to be comparing them to their correct american counterpart. what she described, when talking about the “typical american mother,” seemed closer to what i’ve seen as the suburban house-wife; not the expected equivalent: the well-heeled, professional, american urbanite.
  • her chapter on breastfeeding was ridiculous. basically, if it stresses you out, she writes, don’t worry about nursing. the french women don’t. and they are a lot happier. i think that is silly. if a mother can nurse, she should be urged and –most importantly– encouraged to nurse. i feel very strongly about this.
  • i read this book at the right time though: ramona is (almost) old enough to be weaned and to learn to sleep through the nights and to learn the word “no” and to have boundaries. doing these things is not going to squash her personality or spirit. and i’m convinced that by expecting certain behaviors out of her (and discouraging other sorts of behaviors) she’ll be better off for it when she leaves the nest. druckerman’s book made me feel comfortable with being comfortable with these things.
  • i would like ramona to learn to wait until i finish the conversation i am having with another person before she expects attention. and i’d love for her to sit at any dinner or restaurant table without making a scene or expecting to get doted on or fawned after. i agree with druckerman that doing so does not inhibit your child’s freedom of expression or causes them to resent you bc they feel neglected. i believe this will help them navigate social situations a little more successfully and, perhaps more important, will make parts of my life now with a baby resemble those of my pre-baby life more closely.
  • you can read here about why i liked her theory of “le pause.” i credit this book with giving me the confidence to try to let ramona sleep on her own. now i have my bed back, ramona sleeps through the night, and  we all wake up a lot more rested.
  • i am also a fan of her food chapter. basically she writes that children try lots of different foods from the get-go and they end up liking many of said foods (sounds a lot like some aspects of baby-led weaning in that you give the child what you yourself are eating). also, food is not used as a coping mechanism for cranky behavior (it’s easy to shove a cracker in ramona’s hand and sometimes it works but i’d rather food be given at snacktime and mealtime and eaten properly: sitting down at a table), and special foods are really made special and are not expected or used to reward good behavior (desserts and sweets and such).
overall, i’d say: read the book if you haven’t already. be prepared to get sick of her writing voice (i really did) but allow yourself to consider some of the deeper implications of what topics she is addressing. as a mother in america it’s obvious that we tend to polarize ourselves into two camps: the AP-type camp and the one that is not that (the fact that i don’t even know if there is a name for what is not AP discloses what i most identify with). and we pit our parenting styles against everyone else’s. of course we know this is silly and we know there is not one right way to parent. but i was inspired by reading bringing up bebe, not only to be less judgmental of other mothers, but to seek more of a balance in my own parenting that takes from other styles and examples and experiences that works for our family, works for ramona, and works for me.

*there are, however, two books i recommend to every mama-to-be: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.


2 Responses to bringing up bebe

  1. Sarah C. says:

    Thanks, I was looking forward to reading your review! I’m definitely going to read it, but I’ll take it with a grain of salt 🙂

  2. I’ve been contemplating reading this – the waitlist at the library is about 200 people before me – so I’m glad to read this. I agree – I mostly wanted to read it because I want to know how to teach my girls to be respectful of our conversations AND not behave like wild animals in a restaurant. That’s the gold. I’m sad to hear she doesn’t advocate bf’ing, though. Boo.

    I’m curious about “le pause,” so maybe I’ll walk down to Powell’s and read that chapter, and not have to buy it after all 😉

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