The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption

I can’t really express in words how proud I am of my bloggy friend Lori for creating her incredible book, The Open Hearted Way to Open Adoption. The adoption community is richer for this resource and I know it will change people’s lives for the better. When I heard Mel over at Stirrup Queens was going to host a book club for this amazing book I knew I had to participate.

As the daughter of parents that put their first child up for adoption, I spent most of the book wondering how fundamentally different my life would have been if my parents had had this book–and the option of open adoption–when they were placing their daughter over 40 years ago. How much richer would my life have been if my sister was a part of our lives from the moment I was born? It’s almost unfathomable.

Holden encourages adopted parents to embrace an and/both mindset instead of either/or thinking, through a careful process of fostering connections of an adopted child to both first parents and adopted parents. Why do you think this approach helps a child “grow up whole?”

I am not a child or family psychologist so I can only answer this question with instinct and conjecture. It seems that the more people who love a child, and are an active part of that child’s life, the better off that child is. Positive participation in a child’s life is ALWAYS a good thing; mentors of any kind can help a child grow into their best possible self. When both a child’s birth and adoptive parents are a part of their life, they are better able to understand themselves, as they can look to both sets of parents to understand where they come from. Having not only access to, but a loving relationship with, both sets of parents allows adopted children to understand their origins in both the nature and nurture sense. Being loved by both the people who brought them into the world and the people who are guiding them through the world makes them feel complete, there is no part of them that is missing, and for that reason they feel whole.

Lori often stresses the importance of exploring difficult emotions.  Describe a time when you have been forced to explore difficult emotions related to adoption and the outcome of this exploration.

I am not a direct member of any adoption triad but I am on the periphery of one. I learned of my older sister during my Sophomore year of college. My mother told me over the phone and all I remember is crouching on the floor of the kitchen of my tiny college apartment, back flush against the cheap cabinets, trying to incorporate this new information into my understanding of myself and my life. I had another sister, someone ten years older than me who shared my DNA, someone I would probably never meet. My parents had lived with this secret my entire life, never hinting at the loss they have suffered, never mentioning the member of our family who we would probably never know. Learning that they had not only placed a daughter for adoption but that they had never told me about it was a lot to take in. I felt deep empathy for my parents but I also felt betrayed. I never judged them for their decision but I often wished they’d trusted me with the information sooner.

Now, as an adult with my own family, I feel similarly trapped between two seemingly contradicting desires. On the one hand I want to search for my sister, on the other hand I don’t feel it’s my place. I worry I’ll hurt my parents (mostly my father) by looking for her and I also worry I could potentially hurt my sister by showing up in her life. For all I know she doesn’t even know she was adopted. If she does know, she may not want to meet us. My parents have taken steps to be found but it seems my sister has not taken similar steps to find us. If she did, how would she feel to know that her parents not only stayed together, but got married, had two more children and eventually celebrated their thirty-fifth anniversary.

My own experience with closed adoption is one filled with gaping, painful holes. I very much wish my parents had placed during a time when open adoptions were not only possible, but successful. I so wish my sister had been a part of my parent’s life, a part of my own life, from as far back as I remember instead of materializing as a missing link in my own family history. Imaging what my life might have been like if I’d always known my sister, instead of learning of her abstract existence in my so late in life.

I truly hope that The Open Hearted Way to Open Adoption helps bring families together so that great rifts like the ones we live with can be avoided. Open adoptions not only help adopted children to remain whole, but also maintain wholeness in birth families as well.

Sound of Hope Book Tour

As many of you know, I am very interested in adoption, mostly because my parents, at the very young age of 17, had a daughter who was adopted. All this happened ten years before I was born. I’ve always wondered about my sister, who and where she is and if she’s looking for us. I would love to find her and meet her some day, to hear her story. Until that happens (if it ever does), I enjoy reading the stories of other adoptees, hoping to get an idea of what her experience might be by hearing theirs. For that reason, and because the host is so supremely awesome, I joined Lori’s most recent book tour which gave me the opportunity to read The Sound of Hope: A True Story of an Adoptee’s Quest of her Origins by Anne Bauer.

I enjoyed the book and I appreciated hearing the story of one adoptee who wanted desperately to know where she came from despite almost constant opposition from her adoptive family. Throughout the story I was struck by how differently adoption was handled then as opposed to how it is handled now (or at least how I believe it is handled now from the limited exposure I have). I was saddened to read of how hard it was for Anne to find her birth parents, because of both the hostility she faced from her parents and the restrictions she faced from the state. I was also inspired to read how she overcame these obstacles and through her incredible determination and sheer force of will, was able to find, and connect with, the woman who birthed her.

I was struck by how differently the many adoptees in the book (Bauer, her brothers, her adoptee friends) approached the possibility of finding their birth parents. While I totally understood the author’s need to find her birth parents I was surprised that other adoptees didn’t feel that same urge, or that it was trumped by guilt or ambivalence. Did you identify more with the author’s drive to find her parents at any cost or did you better understand better the other adoptees’ ambivalence? Why?

I did notice the differences in the ways the various adoptees in the book viewed the prospect of trying to find their birth parents. Besides the author, none of the other adoptees seemed interested in searching. Her brothers seemed to harbor too much animosity toward the people who “abandoned them” and it was clear they also feared their parents’ retribution (a feeling I’m sure was amplified by witnessing resentment Anne faced). Her friend’s decision not to search for her birth parents seemed fueled equally by fear and guilt, which was interesting given her mother’s assurance that she would support her daughter’s attempts. I will admit that I was surprised by these attitudes, perhaps because they clashed so fully with the author’s, who seemed to have absolutely no reservations about searching for her birth parents. It was hard to understand how the fear, guilt and ambivalence was strong enough to prevent others from even considering looking for their birth parents and yet were hardly experienced by the author herself.

I, of course, can never know how I’d react in a similar situation. I assume I’d want to find my birth parents but I can’t know if fear, guilt or ambivalence would keep me from doing so. I suppose fear, guilt and ambivalence prevent me from actively searching for my older sister, despite a genuine desire to get to know her. In so many ways I feel like that is not my search to undertake; I worry I would be stepping on the toes of my parents (my mother is very interested in meeting her daughter but my father refuses to talk abou it). I also worry that my sister might not even know she is adopted, or know and now want to be found and it doesn’t feel right for me to force our family onto her and if that isn’t what she wants. I have so many rational (or they seem rational to me) reasons for not actively searching yet in the end they all boil down to the same base emotions that kept the other adoptees in Anne’s life from searching for their birth parents. It makes me wonder if their reactions make more sense to me than I realize.

There are many instances in which the people around Anne do not acknowledge her feelings about her adoption status. These instances range from her parents, especially her mother, her fiancee, her fiancee’s parents, and even her birth mother.  Do you think these instances occurred because of the general outlook on adoption at the time, and do you think that this outlook has improved over time?

I was very struck by how the people closest to Anne failed to acknowledge her feelings about her adoption status. I absolutely understood her need to find her birth parents and I was surprised, if not disappointed, that no one close to her was able to do so. I have to assume that their attitudes stemmed from the outlook of adoption at the time and I would like to believe that this outlook has changed over time. The fact that open adoptions are embraced now has to mean something for society’s attitudes about adoption in general. Even if open adoptions aren’t pursued by all, the fact that they exist is in such contrast to the secrecy surrounding back then, I just can’t imagine we haven’t enjoyed some progress. I think international adoptions, which are so commonly interracial, also help promote an openness about adoption that wasn’t as prevalent when adoptees could “pass” as biological children (as in the author’s situation). Of course, I could be wrong, but things do seem different these days.

After reunion, when her birth mother wants to hear that Anne had a good life, Anne allows Jo to believe she did. But she asks herself, “I thought about the nuns and how they hid the pregnant girls. Was I any better than they were, covering up the mistakes of others with lies?” Do you see any difference between the nuns’ lies and Anne’s?

This is an intriguing question. I want to believe that Anne’s actions, which allowed her birth mother to believe she had a good life, are different than the actions of the nuns who hid the pregnant girls and possibly coerced them into relinquishing their children. Anne did what she did out of love, compassion and empathy; she wanted to spare her birth mother the pain and regret she’d surely feel if she knew the truth. I don’t believe the nuns hid the pregnant girls away for the same reasons, although perhaps they did. To have a child out of wedlock at that time was a shameful thing and maybe the nuns were ultimately trying to help these girls in the best way they knew how. Still, it seems unlikely that Anne’s motives were the same as the nuns and I do believe motive informs action, so I believe Anne’s untruth can’t be compared to the nuns’ cover up.

To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at LavenderLuz.com.

PAIL Book Club: The Conflict

I have to admit, when I saw that Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict, How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women had been picked for this month’s PAIL book club I was a little shocked. It just didn’t seem like the kind of book that particular group of women would want to read.

I will also concede, I wasn’t all the keen on reading it myself. I swallowed a lot of pride, and some self-respect, when I spent $12 for the Kindle edition of a book that got 2.5 stars on Amazon. I NEVER buy something that gets 2.5 stars. Never.

I will admit, the book was a bit hard to read, not necessarily because I took issue with what she was saying but more with how she was saying. I actually thought Badinter had some really interesting points, I just felt they were hard to consider when she was presenting them in such an extreme (and inherently negative) way. There were just always little words thrown in, an extreme verb here, or a severe adjective there, and sometimes there was just this tone, like she was defending herself, and women everywhere, from what she felt was a deeply personal attack. The following paragraph (p.33), explaining how the 70s and 80s delivered us into a “natural” parenting movement that would ultimately bring women down, illustrates the general tone of the book:

Claiming to provide happiness and wisdom to women, mothers, families and society, each in its different way advocated some sort of return to nature. Having tried to dominate nature and failed, we had apparently lost our bearings and were lurching headlong toward disaster. It was about time we acknowledged our error and collectively and individually took the blame. It turned out that what we thought was liberating and progressive was as illusory as was dangerous. We had been warned: wisdom lay elsewhere, in the past.

Yes, Badinter’s tone, one of general anger and distaste was hard to look past, which is a shame because she actually brought up some interesting and important points. For one, it is hard to look past the effects of the reproductive revolution. It is clear that when give then chance, women choose to have fewer children.

(p.17) Since women gained control of their fertility, four phenomena have become apparent in developed countries: a decline in the per capita birthrate; a rise in the average age of first-time mothers; an increase in the number of women in the job market; and a diversification of women’s lifestyles with the emergence, in many countries, of couples and single women without children.

These are interesting data and have important implications for society today, as Badinter further discusses.

I also found Badinter’s discussion of why people have children, or better said, the fact that they have trouble articulating why they have children, to be enlightening. And I was especially affected by her discussion of those who do not have children and how the way they are treated illustrates our societal expectation that everyone will or should have a child, and that they are useless if they don’t do so.

(p.12) Childless people are always expected to explain themselves, although it would never occur to anyone to ask a woman why she became a mother (and to insist on getting good reasons), even if were the most immature and irresponsible of parents. 

I was also enthralled, and slightly perturbed, by realizations that “marriage has always come at a cultural cost to women, not only in terms of the unequal division of household work and child rearing, but also in its detrimental effect on their career and salary prospects.” In most marriages women actually end up doing more work than they would have if they had remained single, while most men end up doing less. That is a sobering thought. Knowing that these inequalities exist make it clear that women have a long way to go before they are treated equally, both in- and outside of the home.

As a mother who has felt attacked by natural parenting gurus and their “militant” (as Badinter continually refers to them) messages, I did appreciate her discussion on how extreme some natural parenting propaganda can be, especially surrounding breastfeeding and, by extension, returning to work in your child’s first year. In response to the natural parenting assertion that their way is “instinctive” and therefor ultimately (and for everyone) correct, Badinter says this: (p.54) There are not just two ways of experiencing motherhood but an infinite variety, a fact that should deter us from talking about a biologically determined instinct. 

During moments like the above I actually enjoyed the book and I wished the entire thing could be as evenly presented as some parts were.

I will admit that I didn’t finish the book in time offer discussion questions but I was really impressed with the list when it was posted. It was hard to choose which ones I wanted to address. And because I already wrote so much as an “introduction” I will have to choose my questions and my words of response, sparingly.

Badinter condemns the movement towards breastfeeding as forcing women to make themselves available to their babies constantly. How have you experienced breastfeeding (or not breastfeeding)? Are you someone who is happy to be at her child’s beck and call, or have you found ways to be an individual and a mother? How have societal expectations influenced your decisions?

I felt I had to address this question since so much of Badinter’s book focused on breastfeeding and what the implications of a 1-2 year on-demand breastfeeding ideal might mean for women.

First of all I did breastfeed exclusively for six months. It wasn’t easy–we had latch issues, oversupply issues, we battled thrush for three months and we never got to a place where breastfeeding was “easy” or “natural.” I basically LIVED at Kaiser’s lactation center where I was frequently treated in ways that I wouldn’t want other new mothers to experience. I was constantly told I needed to just suck it up, to breastfeed through the pain, that stopping because of incredible discomfort or dissatisfaction was NOT an option. It was always made clear that my daughter’s right to breast milk trumped ANY issue I was having personally. My needs were not even considered if doing so threatened her chances of getting breast milk. My first and last responsibility was to my daughter, never to myself.

Breastfeeding was not a positive experience for me. I was so thankful that I was able to provide my child with what I was told was the only acceptable nourishment, but I felt guilty for not enjoying it. I felt horrible that my daughter didn’t even seem to really like doing it, that it was never something that provided much comfort or bonding for either of us, that neither of us seemed to savor that time together. And when I read messages about how breastfeeding is just “naturally” and “instinctively” all those things and more, I feel even more shitty about my own experience.

So I appreciated Badinter’s discussion about breastfeeding and how intense the propaganda from groups like La Leche League can feel and how detrimental it can be for mothers who cannot, or choose not to breastfeed for whatever reason.

As a breastfeeding mother who didn’t revel in breastfeeding, I did struggled with the fact that I had to surrender myself completely to my daughter. When breastfeeding is not this amazing, transformative bonding experience we’re told it should be, it is a lot harder to sacrifice so much to do it on demand for months. At four weeks I was already pumping so that my partner could feed our daughter from a bottle while I got away to a work on graduate school work. While I was very thankful (and considered myself very lucky) to stay at home with my daughter for six months, I definitely needed breaks and time to myself. If I had not been able to pump so that someone else could feed my daughter while I was away every once in a while I doubt I would have made it through six months of breastfeeding.

I tried to pump once I returned to work but my supply quickly diminished. At the same time we were finding that my milk created an enzyme if it was frozen for too long and most the freezer full of breast milk was useless. My diminished supply and the realization that all those tortuous hours of pumping had been for naught broke my breastfeeding spirit. I continued to breastfeed my daughter twice a day for a month or two, until I stopped letting down and we (I’ll shamefully admit happily) abandoned the practice altogether.

If you left the workforce to be home with your kids, temporarily or permanently, did you find the need to continually rationalize your decision to yourself and others? Do you/did you feel pressure to return to the workplace or vise versa and have you ever felt threatened or made vulnerable by a dependence on your spouse for income?

Not reaching my goal of a year of breastfeeding was all the harder because I blamed it on my return to work. I already felt so guilty that I had to leave my daughter every day to make a living and I definitely worried I was irrevocably harming her by doing so. Messages like the one those quoted from the 1988 T. Berry Brazelton interview were everywhere, even if they had been toned down slightly:

(p.48) “These kids that never get it… will become difficult in school, they’ll never succeed in school; they’ll make everybody angry; they’ll become delinquents later and eventually they’ll become terrorists.”

Now obviously such things are not said anymore, but subtle and not-so-subtle messages about the harm that mother-baby separation and extended child care can do to babies under two years old abound, heightening the guilt that mothers who have to, or choose to, work already deal with.

In a world where more and more families can’t afford for a mother to stay at home it is irresponsible to tout SAHMotherhood as the panacea of parenting, as the only way to assure your child will be socially and emotionally well-adjusted and successful in life. Motherhood looks very different for different women and we should start embracing those differences instead of holding one ideal on a pedestal as “natural” and “pure” and “instinctive” so that other mothers who can’t, or don’t want to, achieve that ideal feel badly about themselves and guilty about the potential harm they are imposing on their children.

That message, and many others presented in Badinter’s book, are important and need to be said. I just wish she could have stated them in a way that more people would be willing to listen to.

Bringing Up Bébé Book Club Post List

Here are the blogs that are participating in the book club. There are few enough that I think we should all be able to read each post and comment in the next few days. Happy book clubbing!

If you originally signed up (or even if you didn’t) but never turned in a post, please feel free to read and comment. The more the merrier!

Stumbling Gracefully

An Engineer Becomes a Mom

not undecided

My Cheap Version of Therapy

Too Many Fish to Fry

A Little Bit of Special

The Missadventures of MissOkay

Three Geminis and a Sagittarius

Is French Parenting the Best Parenting?

When I choose Bringing Up Bébé, by Pamela Druckerman for the first PAIL book club I had no idea what to expect; I didn’t know anything about French parenting or what is espoused. All I knew was the book was getting some buzz and it looked interesting. I was pleased that so many others were interested in reading it too.

I must admit, I liked the book, or better said, I easily identified with the tenants of French parenting. Since I had my daughter and was thrust into parenthood myself, I’ve frequently felt that I feel differently about parenting than other mothers I’ve met, or follow in the blog world. While I’ve always felt different, or “other”, I wasn’t quite sure where the disconnect was occurring, I couldn’t articulate how my idea of motherhood differed from the messages of those around me.

Reading Bringing Up Bébé was the first time I’ve easily connected with a parenting “philosophy” of any kind. I walked away from Sears and Sears’ The Baby Book thinking I was a freak of parenting nature. Since then I’ve read a lot of other parenting “manuals,” picking and choosing that which best encompasses my own ideas and ideals. Bringing Up Bébé was the first book that seemed to consistently (but not completely) touch upon the kind of parenting that feels right for me.

Not everything in the book made sense to me. I must admit, I’m glad I didn’t experience the societal pressures most French woman feel to keep their weight down during pregnancy and lose it all immediately afterward. While I admire the French practice of not abstaining but also not overly indulging, it seems to come with some tight strings attached and I can imagine the pressure there to look a certain way is quite damaging to many. As someone who suffered from eating disorders for the better part of a decade, I don’t really want to have any part in that.

And of course I took everything I read in the book with a grain of salt. The author–who I liked well enough but never felt any special affinity toward–was obviously making a lot of declarations based on her own personal experiences in Paris (as she willingly admits), which means her claims are really only relevant within that small, limited sphere of reference. Having said that, I do think her personal assessment of French parenting authorities mixed with reactions to what she saw around her was interesting and eye opening; if nothing else it serves as a good jumping off place for further discussion about parenting in general, and especially in the United States.

So, now for my reaction to some of my favorite French ideas about parenting, as presented by Druckerman in her book.

“The Pause.” Ah the pause. To me it makes so much sense: wait and see if your child can soothe herself before swooping in to do it for her. The pause is not a call to ignore your child’s cues but to be aware of her cries and determine if she might be able to find comfort herself. The pause teachers your child that you will always be there for her when she needs you, but you’ll first give her a chance to try for herself. This seems to be the underlying philosophy of all French parenting.

Cadre, or Parental Authority. One of the central tenants of French parenting is an understanding, from the beginning, that parents have authority. The focus is on being authoritative, not dictorial. I know in the United States we’ve moved away from parental authority, giving children increasing control over their own lives. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing, but it has to be done in the right way. As we all realize, children do not know how to make intelligent choices about all aspects of their own lives, if they did, they could function by themselves and wouldn’t need us.

In the book, Druckerman talks a lot about setting firm boundaries and giving children freedom within those boundaries. I believe that is a wonderful way to provide children with the security necessary to practice decision making. One example of this is bedtime. It is common that French children go to bed a certain time but once they are in their room they have control over when they actually go to sleep. This is a great example of freedom within boundaries; some concessions are made, but only within a pre-established framework. I look forward to giving my own daughter that choice when she is out of her crib.

Bonjour. I found the French custom (or requirement) of saying “bonjour” when they enter a room to be quite fascinating. I couldn’t think of any American equivalent; there is no pleasantry that so quickly and definitively marks a person as belonging — or not — in our culture. In fact, I believe politeness is a lost art in the U.S.. Teaching politeness is very important to me. I request my not-yet two year old daughter say “please” when she asks for something and “thank you” when I give it to her. I believe “please” and “thank you” are a reminder that we are not operating in a vacuum, that there are other people around us and they should be acknowledged. They place importance on those around us and their needs.

The balance of child’s and mother’s needs. I think the idea I felt most comforted by in the book was the basic belief that a mother’s needs are as important as a child’s. Of course a mother is responsible for attending to her child’s needs but when a mother can take time for herself, she is urged to do so. As a mother I feel like we judge each other on our willing–and able–ness to sacrifice for our child(ren). Discussions about motherhood quickly become a contest of who has given up more and if you lose, you risk being labeled selfish. I can’t imagine living in a culture where instead of trying to convince other mothers of your superior sacrifice, you could share ideas for preserving your former self, or even nurturing it.

Patience and independent play. I found it interesting that patience is a skill French parents give priority to teaching; I had never realized that we do not give priority to this skill until it was pointed out that someone else does. I would venture to guess that in our children’s future, patience will be even more scarce, and therefore more valuable, than it is today. It’s important to teach children that instant gratification is not to be expected in all, or even most, circumstances. I’m already teaching my daughter patience; many times a day I require her to wait a minute before I give her what she’s asked for. When we go to the playground and she wants to leave immediately to visit the dog park, I require her to stay for at least five minutes. She has almost always forgotten her dog park obsession within two minutes of the wait. I hope that by instilling the skill of patience my daughter will be a happier, more well adjusted child and woman.

I also believe in the power of independent play that the French espouse. Research shows that children cannot be pushed to achieve milestones and they learn best when they are given freedom to explore for themselves. Giving children the opportunity to entertain themselves benefits them greatly; when they can pass idle time happily they will be happier more of the time. And parents will be too! My daughter knows that I cannot always be with her. I ask her to entertain herself in her playroom during different times of the day: when I’m cooking, when I’m cleaning up after dinner, when I’m tidying in her room, when I’m showering, when I’m doing anything that require I be away.

She also knows that when I have a friend at the park I might not be able to follow her all around; the other day I spent over an hour chatting with a friend while my daughter wandered around the playground, and then dog park, by herself (while I watched, of course). My friend was struck with the fact that most of her friends’ kids can’t do that and commented on how lucky I am to have a daughter who can. Of course, I don’t think it’s simply in her nature to play by herself, I believe she’s learned it from babyhood, because I’ve always given her opportunities to practice.

* * *

There are other aspects of the book I’d love to discuss but sadly I don’t have time or space (and you probably don’t either!) I will conclude with one final thought. As I turned the final page of Bringing Up Bébé I was struck with the novelty of an entire country united in their belief of how one should parent. Of course there are some who want to parent in different ways and I’m sure the societal pressure to adhere to the norm is great, but I wonder what it would be like for there to be an accepted way of doing things.

In this country there is no parenting decisions that doesn’t come up against loud and vocal dissent. It doesn’t matter how you choose to parent your child, someone will find fault with it. There are so many experts and professionals, all saying different things. As a mother I find it exhausting to read so many books and articles, judging the authenticity of every claim. The information we must digest is overwhelming; there are so many opportunities to second guess and even more to judge ourselves and others.

With the mommy wars raging, and trolling like the Time cover a not uncommon occurrence, I wonder if a nationally agreed upon style of parenting wouldn’t be better. Of course, if there were one, and I didn’t agree with it, I’d wish it were a free for all, but I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of the way we do things now. I wonder what it would be like to be free of the mental anguish, I ponder what I could do with all the time I’d have if I didn’t have to consider every choice a hundred times. Having that kind of freedom from parental fatigue is unfathomable. Unless, of course, I move to France.

Did any of these ideas about parenting resonate with you? What do you think it would be like if we had one accepted parenting style instead of countless contradictory beliefs on how best to raise our children?

Bringing Up Bébé Questions and Quotes

Photo credit: Wall Street Journal

Well, even though I waited an extra day, not many people ended up providing a question and quote from the book. Fortunately the ones who did (thank you!) provided very though provoking prompts indeed.

The next–and penultimate–step of the book club is to write a post reflecting on what you read. You can choose a question or quote provided below, you can respond to your own prompt or you can write a review or a reflection of the book in general. Basically you can write whatever you want!

Posts should go up by 11:59pm on Monday, May 14th. When you post your response, send me the link and I will include it on my post on Tuesday, May 15th. Then, we will read each others’ posts and discuss in the comment sections.

If you still want to add a question or quote email me or add one in the comments section and I’ll add it ASAP.

Happy posting!

Quotes

“I hear other American moms say ‘I’m a bad mother,’ too. The phrase has become a kind of verbal tic. Emily says ‘I’m a bad mother’ so often that, though it sounds negative, I realize she must find the phrase soothing.  For American mothers, guilt is an emotional tax we pay for going to work, not buying organic vegetables, or plopping our kids in front of the television so we can surf the Internet or make dinner. If we feel guilty, then it’s easier to do these tings. We’re not just selfish. We’ve ‘paid’ for our lapses.”

* * *

“There are no fixed rules…You have to keep changing what you do”

* * *

Quote from a French parent: “In the US, sometimes I have the feeling that if it’s not difficult for you, you have to feel bad about it.”

Questions

Did you find that you already possessed (or hoped to possess) some “French” parenting characteristics?  Did the book make you want to adopt some?  Do you prefer the “American” way in any of the parenting areas the book covered?

* * *

I love the French custom described by the author of both adults and children greeting everyone they come into contact with by saying bonjour. As she explained even when being greeted by someone at a restaurant or in a store this custom should be observed, “Saying bonjour acknowledges the other person’s humanity. It signals that you view her as a person, not just someone who’s supposed to serve you.” She also discusses that by the child acknowledging the other person we as adults are counting them as a full person as well.

Personally, I think teaching our children to recognize others we come into contact with, although a simple gesture can have a farther reaching impact. It is not only a wonderful way for them to see the importance of respecting others & acknowledging the inherit worth of each person it can also serve to instill in them a sense of confidence in themselves. What are your thoughts on this French custom? Is it a habit you’d like to introduce to your children?

* * *

I was struck by the message expressed in My Child book–the one proliferated by France’s public health department–that the relationship between a baby and mother should be balanced, that the needs of the mother are as important as the needs of the child. That does not seem to be the message spread in the United States, where mothers are expected to make intense sacrifices for the well being of their children, especially in their first year. Why do you think the American message requires so mothers to give up so much for their children, employing guilt as an inspiration? Which message do you most identify with?

* * *

The WHO reports that France has the highest level of clinical depression in the world. This is surprising, given Druckerman’s description of French parenting when it comes to helping children face frustration. Druckerman says the French practice of discipline is about ‘Making kids face up to limitations and deal with frustration (which) turns them into a happier more resilient people.’ In light of the WHO report, do you think Druckerman is maybe painting an overly bright picture of the success of this style of parenting? Or is she maybe sweeping aside other practices which may give a more balanced view of French parenting, warts and all?”

* * *

Questions about Quotes

“The playground is designed for toddlers to safely climb and fall….Then a white, upper-middle-class mother walks in with her toddler.  She follows him around in miniature equipment, while keeping up a nonstop monologue…”  Page 548/549

First I have to say this paragraph in the book made me laugh out loud.  I see this EVERYDAY at the playground.  As a former elementary school teacher I can’t tell you how much I used to be bothered by parents who just would NOT let their kids play on their own. Does North American society now dictate that we are to control ever aspect of our children’s lives even if it means that we put parameters around prime opportunities (i.e.:  playing on the rocking horse by themselves) for them to use their imagination in play?

 * * *

When we Americans talk about work-life balance, we’re describing a kind of juggling, where we’re trying to keep all parts of our lives in motion without screwing up any of them too badly. The French also talk about l’équilibre. But they mean it differently. For them, it’s about not letting any one part of life – including parenting – overwhelm the rest. It’s more like a balanced meal, where there’s a good mix of proteins, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and sweets.

Do you think this is a valid assessment of how American parents tend to live their lives? Do YOU live your life like that…or do you live more like the French ideal? How do you find your equilibrium?

* * *

“College-educated mothers rarely ditch their careers, temporarily or permanently, after having kids.  When I tell Americans that I have a child, they usually ask, ‘Are you working?’ Whereas French people just ask, ‘What do you do?’”

The question I’d pose is, how possible is it to achieve this kind of peaceful family atmosphere in the context of US culture?  Without paid maternity/paternity benefits,crèche-quality child care, and an entire society skilled in the art of éducation and cadre-building, can it be done here?  Do you think there’s a downside that the author overlooks?

* * *

“…[a french mother] also teaches her kids a related skill: learning to play by themselves. ‘The most important thing is that he learns to be happy by himself.’”

What do you think of leaving young babies (6-12 months) alone for a fair amount of time (20-45 minutes), if they are playing happily on their own? Neglectful, or smart parenting?

Bringing Up Bébé Book Club List

Here is the list of people who commented on the original Bringing up Bébé book club post. If I missed your name, or you still want to participate, please comment here and let me know.

If you left a link to your blog I included it below (click on a participant’s name to go to their blog). If you see that I didn’t not include a link for your name but you wanted me to, or if I included a faulty link, please let me know ASAP and I’ll fix it.

The next deadline is to have the book finished by the end of the month. I hope you’re all enjoying it!

Definitely In

Elphaba

kh99

missohkay

SRB

geochick

Single Mom BB (@singlemombb)

Courtney

elizabethkbaker

Amy

Jin

Mrs R

Josey

Jesica

Alex

reina

Rachael (The Second Act)

Tracy

AL

jjiraffe

Jen

uncommonnonsense1

Beth 

Claudine 

Gemini Momma

tigerdaughter

Rebecca

Local History & Genealogy at the OCPL

Tentatively In

Trinity

jana