This non-fiction book that questions ways of raising children is an interesting case. It explores the difference between how ‘Anglophones’ raise their children compared to the the way that French mothers and the French culture raises their children. I found the book an emotional roller coaster and actually quite controversial due to its strong perspective throughout; and perspective is a word you need to remember whilst reading, that is all it is; raising children from one mothers’ perspective.
It was given to me by my Mother-in-Law during my pregnancy so at the time it was very relevant given to me at a time when I was full of innocent ideals of how I wanted to raise my child. I was excited and began reading there and then. I read the first 3 chapters and was immediately hooked and identified with the French way- “Yes!” I kept saying to myself, “that’s what I think!” As with everything in life however and especially with giving birth and raising a child, my views and opinions changed changed as my experience increased.
During my pregnancy I found myself reading far too much and confusing everything tat I believed in so I gave it a rest and only recently picked it up again, but this time with emotion and that experience in toe. Here are my thoughts, and because I have limited understanding of mothers from around the world, these thoughts relate to English Mothers and society;
- It fascinating how many in the Anglophone society push and push their children and seem to believe that if their child is then able to do things earlier and reach stages in development earlier, that this is a good thing. I also have primary teaching experience to add to my critique of this book and I strongly agree. The French let their children develop and allow them to reach early milestones at their own rate and certainly don’t push their children to read and write until they have mastered speaking and communication. I see this time and time again in my classroom, gorgeous little children who just aren’t ready yet to read and write, who are still making sense of themselves and their social beings yet having to be pushed by law to achieve the un-achievable. I love this quote ” Let him just do tings for fun- not push him to do things he isn’t ready for” pg 105.
- The book however is written as a personal account and therfor has a very persuasive slant towards the French, but I kept thinking, ‘ just because it works for the French, doesn’t mean it works for everybody and certainly doesn’t mean that the French way is best. If there is one thing I have learnt during pregancy and the first 5 months of my baby’s life is that you have to do what works for you. Listen to advice, but make up your own mind. Because your mum, best friend or even health visitor says that this is the best way, it may not necessarily be for you.
- At times the book niggled me, but at times it made me cross. Druckerman talks a lot about French parents going back to work full time and their children going to daycare, often from the time their children reach 9 months. I certainly don’t agree with this. I believe that one of the main problems with society today is that parents go back to work when actually babies need mums and dads, their love and their life lessons. I have opted to return to work for 2 days a week and therefor sit in the middle. Also, I cant think of anything worse than missing all the wonderful milestones in my child’s development. What’s the point in having children if you’re going to ship them off 5 days a week?
- I found the chapter regarding breastfeeding difficult to read. I began bottle feeding at 2 weeks. I tried and tried to feed myself but eventually it was emotional stability that was in jeopardy and so I opted for that, for the both of us. I feel guilty every day but I don’t need somebody telling me how much worse it is. Yes, it isnt ‘the best’ but its not a bad trade to be happy. I even felt that I bonded better as soon as we switched. Whenever I feel bad now though I just read articles such as these and reassure myself that my baby will be fine. http://jezebel.com/5934750/sorry–you-cant-guilt-trip-me-about-bottle-feeding-my-kids
- I was also a bit perturbed by the insinuation that ALL anglophone parents over indulge their children. Many do, but i expect that many also do in France, just not the ones Druckerman spoke to. I have experienced so many wonderful parents and children who have the balance just right. It just so happens that children who haven’t been given the balance make more of a fuss and thus are noticed more.
Overall I did enjoy this book, but I would say to anybody reading it who is in the throngs of having a baby, read it with a pinch of salt. Don’t worry. I give this book 3 stars.