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Book Review: Bringing Up Bébé

June 30, 2012

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. Reviewed by Louise Hilton.

PARIS. Does any other foreign city evoke such interest in the hearts of Americans? You’d be hard-pressed to find another place about which Anglophones have written, dreamed, and drooled over for centuries now. One of the latest offerings in the expat-in-Paris canon is Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman, a book that garnered a lot of buzz upon its release this spring. An American journalist, Druckerman is raising three children in Paris with her British journalist husband. Intrigued by her observation of the French as a “fully functioning society of good little sleepers, gourmet eaters, and reasonably relaxed parents,” she sets out to discover how and why that is.

Some tenets of French parenting to which Druckerman devotes entire chapters include the importance of fixed meal times, letting children know that adults are in charge (“C’est moi qui décide” – “I’m who decides” – is a refrain often heard in French households), and parents making time for themselves instead of slavishly rearranging their lives around their children’s schedules as is often the case in the U. S. Although there is nothing truly earth-shattering in these insights, the most interesting part of the book is her discussion of the advantages of being a parent in France: four months’ paid maternity leave, tax breaks for large families, free daycare and preschools, even the occasional tummy tuck on the government’s dime.

Overall, Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé is an engaging, provocative, even humorous read on the differences she observed between the American and French approaches to parenting. Interested in Paris but a parenting book not your thing? Check out these recent books on the City of Lights: Paris I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down by Rosecrans Baldwin, a charmingly offbeat memoir of his year as a copywriter for an advertising agency on the Champs-Élysées and the frothy Paris in Love by Eloisa James, a chronicle of the year she spent on sabbatical in Paris with her family.

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