Thursday Book: Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

This review was originally posted by NEWSWEEK and remains the property of Newsweek Inc, reproduced via The Daily Beast.

Every year, the American media
elite takes a big spin on the Wheel o’ Ethnic Insecurity and determines which
foreign culture we’re all supposed to emulate and fear. Last year it was the
Chinese. Maybe in 2013 everyone will finally come to appreciate Denmark.
But for now, the spotlight is on
France, land of bad breast implants and laissez-faire parenting, the latter of
which is the subject of the new book Bringing Up Bébé. Remember the vaguely
abusive-sounding prescription for Chinese motherhood laid out last year in Amy
Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother? This is basically its opposite.
Bébé, a memoir by former Wall
Street Journal reporter Pamela Druckerman, divulges the wisdom of French child
rearing. It’s a model, she believes, we could all learn to emulate. Not only do
French women manage to eat pastries without gaining weight, but they also are
able to maintain sane adult lives while raising well-adjusted children. Their
secret? Unlike their American counterparts, French women are not obsessed with
their kids. They don’t lose themselves in parenting. They do not negotiate,
tolerate tantrums, provide excessive snacks, or waste weekends shepherding
little ones from soccer practice to birthday parties to kiddie discos.
The book comes at the apotheosis of our French cultural
obsession. These days, Hollywood can’t find enough trophies to give The Artist,
the silent French film starring a Jack Russell terrier. Just when we’d
recovered from 2005’s heavy breathing over why French women don’t get fat, New
York last summer got its own Ladurée patisserie, peddling million-calorie
French macarons. And last month, legendary Parisian nightclub Le Baron opened
an outpost in New York that is so exclusive, no one may ever get in.
But perhaps no one is better
equipped to assess French parenting than Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, the
Bible-thumping reality stars and parents of 19 children. Reached in Florida,
where they are campaigning for Rick Santorum, the Duggars said they are open to
learning from the French.
“I think the world maybe turns a
little slower over there,” says Jim Bob. “They don’t have 24-hour Walmart
stores. Everyone spends more time at night and on weekends with their family.”