Letting Down Bebe?

In my last entry I promised you a review of my recent parenting reads.  Here they are in no particular order:

  • “Bringing up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman
  • “BattleHymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua
  • “Positive Discipline” by Jane Nelson

Let’s start with “Bringing up Bebe.”  If you aren’t familiar with this book, the author is an American living in France who has discovered why French moms (or more specifically, Parisian moms) have a laid back, easy-breezy attitude toward parenting.   I wasn’t sure about taking parenting advice from a woman who gave her husband a threesome for his fortieth birthday but what the heck (by the way, read her article on that subject; it’s rather hilarious).

The book is a good read and I recommend it if you’re interested in seeing how the Parisians raise their young.  While I certainly didn’t take everything to heart, I did enjoy reading how those skinny French bitches put themselves first, always.   They take care of themselves:  physically, emotionally and sexually (as in, they still have sex and seem to enjoy it).  Some of their parenting philosophies definitely resonated with me.   First, they use free play to stimulate their young ones, as opposed to flashcards, listening to Mozart or taking as many classes as a toddler’s schedule will allow.  This made me smile as I am loathe to partake in any class that makes me sing “The Wheels on the Bus.”  Also, I like the notion of letting our kids explore their world with a little more freedom and independence.  How much harm can a kid do in a big grassy field?

Second, they draw a clear distinction between child activities and adult activities, and rarely do they coincide.  I love my kids but, as controversial as this might sound, I have little interest in playing with them.  I do not enjoy following their every move at the playground as I’d much prefer to read a book or chat with a friend than to squeeze my adult-size ass down a kiddie slide.  I am not craftsy nor am I chock full of kid-friendly activities to do on a rainy day.  I admit I do like to color and draw; I have been known to make a fabulous pyramid and sphinx out of legos, and I really enjoy setting up the Thomas train tracks.  Seriously.  I sort of have a problem.

a proud mama moment...pathetic

At the end of the day, however, I refuse to be the pink Power Ranger or play Mommy cheetah/baby cheetah or any game that I find treacherously boring.  I’ve tried.  I’ve said “ok, but just for five minutes,” at which time I set the timer and barely last thirty seconds before I’m staring longingly at said timer.  Go off already!  I just can’t do it so I stopped completely.  Now when my five-year old asks me to play I say “sorry, that’s why I gave you a brother.”  When my husband comes home from work, he won’t say no because he’s been away from the kids all day and wants to give them some attention.  I see him sitting there on the couch, holding the red Power Ranger, pretending to shoot some invisible bad guy.  I laugh and think “better you than me sucker!”

If we were French parents, society would expect us to say “no” to child’s play.  Even my husband would probably be given a free pass, so the kids would be left to play on their own while he and I enjoyed a glass of Beaujolais together. The problem I have, however, is that the French moms never seem to do anything with their kids.  From the author’s perspective, it seems they are too focused on being skinny, sexy and put together.  Their kids don’t come first, but they don’t even appear to come second or third.  One mom made her kids quit their tennis lessons because driving them back and forth was too “constraining” for her.  I don’t recall once reading in the book that a French mom snuggled with her baby or had fun with her kids.  Maybe “having fun” is just too American?

There were a few other things that made me wince:  All of the kids go to daycare, whether the moms work full-time, part-time, or not at all.  There are no playgroups or mommy and me classes because every middle-class kid is in daycare.  The author attributes this to the fact that every French mom wants to return to work and the French daycare, subsidized by the socialist government, is fabulous.  I think it’s wonderful that moms in France have options but it sort of bums me out that an entire culture has given up on taking care of their own kids.  No mom wants to be home.   As a stay-at-home mom I understand completely – the work is grueling and the pay sucks – but what does did this say about how French society views motherhood?  French moms rarely breastfeed after a month or two and I doubt you’d see one wearing a baby in a sling as it would surely ruin her outfit.  They don’t seem to practice anything we call attachment parenting, which, whether you agree with it or not, is certainly not something to be condemned by an entire country.   While Americans might certainly be too child-centric, are the French too me-centric?

A final point of contention:  French kids go to summer camp for eight days, starting at age four.  You read that correctly:  age four.  Never in a million years would I send my four year old off to camp by himself.  It’s not because I’m afraid he’d get molested or harmed in someway; I just think four is too young to be away, with strangers, for such a long period of time.   Even the author had a hard time with this one.

I’ve always fancied myself as worldly and felt certain I could hang with my European counterparts, no problem.  After all, I enjoy eating dinner late, am a socialist at heart, and wear black almost daily.  As such, I expected to read this book and become a convert.  In the end, however, the laissez-faire style of French parenting was a bit too much, even for me.  The French moms definitely seem more laid back and relaxed about parenting, but it’s probably because someone else is raising their kids while they have sex, get their hair done and go shopping.  Also, I got a bit tired of reading how the author could always spot the American moms as they were typically wearing sweatpants, interacting with their children, and, horror upon horrors, greeting her in a warm, friendly way.  Is that so wrong?

I guess at the end of the day I’d rather be known as a friendly, involved mom as opposed to a cold bitch with a great wardrobe and a killer body.  And as for the sweatpants, leave us the fuck alone already.  Yeah, we’re American moms and we wear sweatpants…and sneakers.  Get over it.

my mom wears sweatpants...so what?

Next entry: Battle Hymn of the Bitch on Wheels


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7 Responses to “Letting Down Bebe?”

  1. Christine says:

    So you’re saying the French secret to staying thin is no stress!

  2. Charlene says:

    Omg, summer camp at 4, I love that idea!!!! Personally, I remember going off to camp when I was 9. I loved the independence and freedom I had. It saddens me that most overnight camps do not start until the child is 12. I’m not sure I would shell out the money at 4, but certainly before 12!

  3. Mom says:

    I love this! And happy to see you don’t agree with everything..most of all I love the train track fetish and the pic of the baby laying on the flag. This is awesome..great job and great writing as always. Can’t wait for the book!
    Love u

  4. Chris Harding says:

    Kim, you KILL me..LOVE this!!! Seriously though, isn’t there a happy medium? Middle of the road always works for me. So far, so good. Love my kids but really enjoy wine & a night out! Can’t wait to see u!!

    • Kim says:

      i agree completely, though I’m still trying to figure out how to achieve that balance (hence this blog and reading these crazy books!). thanks for reading!

  5. Heidi says:

    Hey Kim, it was really good talking to you and your husband the other day, I would love to be able to chat some more very soon. Have you ever read the “girlfriends guides”? They are written by Vicki Iovine ( the wife of Jimmy Iovine from Interscope records). I think they are hilarious. I read the guide to toddlers all the time and it makes me laugh out loud. I would give it a try.

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