Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Raising Babies the way of Parisians

This is a blog post unrelated to cloth diapering but a great discussion piece.

My husband and I decided shortly after my daughter was born (probably before then) that I would make the sacrifice of giving up my career and stay at home with my baby girl.  It really wasn't that much of a sacrifice.  Truth be told, I worked for about 2 months after my maternity leave and it was dreadful leaving her every day.  And I had it good--I was given 1 day off a week so I only worked 4 days. It still was tough leaving my daughter every day.  I know moms do it all the time but it wasn't for me.

So outside of owning a cloth diaper shop that keeps me very busy, I decided that staying at home with my daughter would be my job.  I would weave her into my daily "chores" that my obsessive compulsive self couldn't let go.  I wouldn't allow for her to spend hours upon hours in front of the t.v. and I would not spend time on Facebook or on the phone when I could focus on her.  In other words, my focus is her if I'm not putting away clothes, washing dishes or preparing meals.  And even then, I incorporate her into those tasks.

Guess what?  It's hard.  Really hard.  And as she gets older, it's become even harder.  Why?  I'm really not all that creative with a toddler.  I'm not the type of mom who can find a string, a piece of paper and some play-doh and magically have a craft idea for my daughter.  My short attention span doesn't allow for me to sit for more than 15 minutes at a time on the floor in front of playmobil.  I get dizzy if I blow bubbles for more than 5 minutes.  When I read Scott Noelle's "Daily Groove", I get frustrated because I so try to be the ever-patient mother to a toddler but sometimes (okay at least once a day) the patience thins to nothing.

So several weeks ago my dad handed me an article from the New York Times that reviewed a book called "Bringing up Bebe."  I have not read this book, only the review of the book.  You can read the same article here.    It intrigued me.  Not because I want to be a Parisian mom (although subsidized nanny care and extended maternity leave IS awesome!) but because it made me realize that I actually don't have it in me to not focus on my child.  Am I happier for it?  I'm not sure.  I think that choosing to be this type of mom can make some of us a bit more frazzled, tired and unshowered some days.  But I really feel like I would be overridden with guilt if I raised her any differently.  I already feel a bit of guilt when I have a babysitter come over for 2 hours so that I can work free of disruptions.  I also think it's interesting because my thought has always been that Europe is full of attachment parenting-type moms and dads who co-sleep, breastfeed for years and focus completely on their children.

If you agree with the premise of the book, I don't think that makes you at all a bad parent.  If what the author writes is true and most Parisian parents raise their kiddos this way, do they have a happier culture?  Are all Parisian moms more relaxed?  Are the children better adjusted at some point?  Discuss.


  1. I have 4 children, I could not POSSIBLY be with them 100% of the time nor did I ever expect to be. They need some time to be children and play their own way. Just because YOU don't know what to do with the string and play doh doesn't mean they can't be given them to figure out something for themselves? does it? But you can be IN the room reading a book while she plays. She needs her own space as well. Someone once pointed out that "Bringing Up BeBe" Is the way larger families raise their children anyways if you stop to think about it.

  2. I hve a girlfriend from high school that participated in an exchange program. She grew up outside Paris and came over here with a program one summer and we were so close she came back again to stay with us. I also went over there for a summer. Oddly enough, we were pregnant together, an ocean apart, and her son is a month older than my daughter.

    She lost her job shortly after becomming pregnant, I lost mine last fall before my daughters 2nd birthday. Being two career women and now stay at home moms, we have similar struggles and experiences. I don't think that there is so much difference between us. We both struggle with maintaining our identity and passions while trying to encourage our children to grow and find their own.

    There will always be the family of misbehaved children and there will always be a child that behaves better than mine. I'm okay with that.

  3. So I am reading and commenting on this very late, but the article you linked to surprised me. I read a few very positive reviews on this book, and have heard not a few moms who enjoyed it very much. I've considered giving it a read, but never have yet. I agree the bit about not intervening when older children are bullying younger ones was a bit shocking to my American experience.

    That said, even though I have never been out of the country except for a short Mexico mission trip once in college, I have always been drawn to different cultures and had all kinds of international and non-white friends since my childhood. I have not known or met many native French people though. One thing I have noticed about the different kinds of people I have interacted with is that on so many levels we are all basically the same. We may do things differently, but our goals are the same. I don't know enough about the French to presume as to why their philosophy would be so seemingly 'free spirited' but this has got me curious to know - why? what is is about their greater culture that they are so seemingly hands off w/ their children - even their infants? What can we learn about these ideas from them - both good and bad?

    I hope this doesn't seem like I'm being antagonistic toward you. I'm just curious and now even more interested to read this book, even if the aforementioned article does make it sound odd.

    I do have to agree w/ the whole balanced approach of the first comment. Although I struggle to find that balance w/ my 3 and 4 year olds (w/ another shortly on the way), I have this sense that I should be able to read a book near them, or do the dishes or fold the laundry w/o needing to constantly engage them - not that I would be unavailable. Like you though, I struggle not to constantly engage, bc often, things just feel more peaceful that way. I think there must be some kind of balance that comes either from experience as a mother (me learning to relax), or with their maturity or some combination of both. This is somethign I've been contemplating a lot lately w/ adding a 3rd child to our mix.