Bebe vs. Baby

White House Nannies Jobs

Feb 14th, 2012

First a disclaimer: I am no parenting expert. My expertise is in nanny placement. But I just can’t hold myself back from jumping into this conversation about the new book “Bringing up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman. French parenting is certainly getting a lot of attention.  My question is– are the French really so much better at child-rearing than we Americans are? I am clear that there is no contest with their food and wine.

Last week I sat at dinner with 3 baby boomer moms—all together we raised 9 kids for better or worse. We talked about how we were raised, how we raised our kids, and how the French are raising les enfants.

The conclusion we came to is that we were raised very differently from how we raised our kids. Very differently. In fact, we were brought up much more a la Francais. While we felt loved and cared for, we were not the centers of attention. Our parents did not drop everything they were doing to focus on us. We did not interrupt when they were speaking. Our parents did not go to our pre-schools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools unless there was a Christmas play, a teacher’s conference, the first or last day of school, or if we were in hot water. They had their own lives even though a lot of mothers were not working outside the home.

Now, many parents live at their kids’ schools. We used to refer them as “the moms who go to school.”  For us working moms, those moms did irk the hell out of us.  Then there are the moms who say:  “We have a science test to work on” or “We have an English paper due tomorrow.” Puhleeze!

As children, most of us wanted to please our parents.  We did our own homework. We were taught manners. We used them. My mother practiced the raised eyebrow school of discipline. All I had to do was sense disapproval and I shaped up.  This methodology failed miserably with my kids. What happened?

My window on the parenting world is fairly large because of my job. I hear parents talk about raising their kids. I hear nannies talking about how their employers are raising their children and what they think about that. Nannies also share how they were raised in countries all over the world and how they choose to raise their offspring—often very differently from how it is done where they work. Some prefer to leave their young children in their native countries to be raised by relatives because they don’t like American child-rearing.

I think we would all admit that the pendulum took a big swing when the boomers started raising kids. What I don’t get is why?  What were we thinking?  Were we reacting to the benevolent dictatorships in our homes? Had we felt ignored? Why did we think that all this uber parenting was such a good idea? It was just so easy to get sucked into this new culture of helicopter parenting.

I hope this book –which I do plan to read–starts a conversation that makes young parents look at parenting with some perspective. It’s exhausting to take care of children who run the show.


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