Friday, March 9, 2012

Les Enfants

Bonton, Paris, 2011

If the French mother debate won't go away, it's because it seems to be resonating.

Today in Babble, writer Beth Goulart explores the issue, and talks about how she feels that American mothers tend to stigmatize a more European style of parenting. I've excerpted it at length because I think it's so spot on.

"In my group, parents don’t let their babies cry, not even for a 5- or 10-minute-long “pause.” Mothers take pride in fully giving themselves over to the children, accepting that they will recover their own selves after the children are grown. I’ll confess that I even take a sort of pride in my firstborn’s delay in sleeping through the night. When I say, “He didn’t sleep through the night until he was 18 months old,” I establish to all the other mothers in earshot that I am a devoted mother. They are, I hope deep down, duly impressed...
But now there’s this book. I’m so excited: Might it signify a change in the tide, a turn in parenting trends toward taking back a bit of identity for ourselves? Toward expecting our children to fit into our homes, our sleeping schedules, our social schedules, rather than remodeling them all around the children? If the tide is really moving away from self-sacrificing mothers and toward a more balanced model of child- and self-care, I'll be able to take pride in leaving the kids with my husband for an afternoon, in hiring a babysitter so my husband and I can go out to dinner, and even helping our youngest learn to sleep longer. If the stigma of parenting this way lifts, I may tell my friends when my youngest one sleeps through the night." 

P.S. I took the photo in this post at Bonton, a very stylish children's store in Paris near the Marais. Whatever Druckerman may say about discipline, adult time, and family routine in France, there is no doubt that the French still obsess over and adore their little ones too. Nearly every Parisian park has pony rides or toy sailboats or impressive play equipment. So it's not as if les enfants are all marching about silently in grey flannel shorts and berets, afraid to speak out of turn.

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