Parisians have always been chic, but I can’t recall they were so trendy when it came to parenting.
Joining the high-profile release of “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting” (Penguin) by Pamela Druckerman earlier this year are two new books with related themes:
“French Kids Eat Everything: How our family moved to France, cured picky eating, banned snacking and discovered 10 simple rules for raising happy, healthy eaters,” (April, William Morrow) is by mother of two Karen Le Billon.
“Paris in Love: A Memoir,” (April, Random House) is by Eloisa James, also a mother of two, who chronicles her year-long sabbatical, living in Paris with her husband and two kids.
These books share a few basic assumptions: That American family life is a grind. That Parisians are happier (and look better being happier). That Parisians are better at food.
One of those assumptions is indisputable. We don’t need these books to know that whoever invented croissants is a genius.
The other two are debatable, or at least suspect.
American child-rearing can be a grind. We have a long way to go on offering more institutional support for families. But these books are not a call to arms to ensure the Family Medical Leave Act is enforced.
They tackle the differences in individual parenting approaches. On that front, are we more burdened than other cultures? Or, maybe the real question is, are mothers on what seem to be extended vacations qualified to make that call?
In the case of “Paris in Love,” James seems less inclined to offer parenting advice. Her book is closer to an overt travel journal. The other two are marketing as parenting books even though they, too, come at the subject with the perspective of an unfettered traveler.
There is nothing at all inherently wrong with a travel journal. I kept diaries when I was younger and sampling different cultures. I love looking back at those notes to recall how much extra time I had to pass judgment on my mundane peers back home.
The thing is, once my vacation ended, I forgot most of what I thought were such valuable lessons, especially the ones that had no relation to my day-to-day life. Yes, mid-day napping is brilliant, but not so conducive to meeting daily deadlines and making school pick-up.
I also, eventually, lost the illusion that vacations provide real insights into other people’s work-a-day lives. Then again, it’s been a while since I had a chance for an extended vacation. I’m too lost in the daily grind.