It's been my intention to review Pamela Duckerman's book since I read it back in the spring and found it frustratingly inconsistent. But looking back, Bringing Up Bebe isn't really inconsistent at all, I just hadn't spotted the theme. The book is less about parenting than it is about - as one New York Times reviewer wrote "parents protecting their own pleasures," and often at the expense of their children's best interests. Which isn't to say I'm against parental selfishness - to an extent. I'm a happily selfish mother myself - with my own time for my own activities and plenty of personal space (all things considered) but French Parenting as Duckerman presents it puts the concept of parental enjoyment at the pinnacle of parenting, and makes the sacrifices necessary to keep it there.
The most disturbing aspect to me was her presentation of sleep-training..apparently French mothers are famous for getting their babes to sleep through the night early..very, very early. Duckerman passes along the advice of a Parisian-born doctor, who recommends that children not yet sleeping the night at 6 months be put down in their own crib, in their own room (obviously) at 7pm and left there until 7am..to teach them that night-time is for sleeping. It seems more likely to teach that night-time is a time of terror, loneliness, and abandonment to me..but then, I'm not French.
There is abundant praise for French day-care as well..which can begin as early as 6 months and goes all day, Monday through Saturday. And, while the day-care does seem to foster wonderful attitudes toward food - actually, the book overall gives such a lovely sense of food, meals, eating and the joy of introducing children to new and exciting flavors - I don't think it's necessary or helpful to send your children away all day, everyday in order to develop their taste-buds. Honestly, with all it talk of full-time day-care, long lonely nights, and Dunkerman's insistence that French parents do not play with their children at the park; it seems like this book works best as a sort of 'no contact parent's handbook'.
Bringing Up Bebe has its good points, even apart from the fantastic thoughts on food and meals. It emphasizes that mothers are also women, and they do need to care for themselves as well. And the 'French' attitude toward pregnancy seems healthy enough, as well as the determination to stay healthy and in shape during and after pregnancy. The rejection of breastfeeding though, in an attempt to avoid de-sexualizing breasts, was disturbing and indicative of the selfishness behind Bringing Up Bebe's concept of French parenting and also of the strange dismissal of the physical I saw throughout the book - except where food was concerned. Overall, it was disappointing. It made me nestle my daughter closer when I read it, and it reminded me of how very differently we all see the important parts of life.