Only when I started typing this out did I realize how much I had to say. I'll post it in two parts so that you don't feel like you're scrolling down the page here forever.
I’ve referenced this book several times in the last few days, and now that I’ve finished it, I guess I ought to offer a brief review and analysis.
Honestly, I can’t think of a non-food, non-fiction book that has made me think as much as this one has.
On page 122, the author, Pamela Druckerman, references a UNICEF document (abbreviated title: An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries) in which she declares that in spite of French children consuming “enormous amounts of formula”, they “beat American kids on nearly all measures of health”. (For any readers who are interested, the chart illustrating this statement is on page 14).
Out of 21 developed countries, the United States fell in the bottom third in four of the six assessed “dimensions” (material well-being, health and safety, educational well-being, family and peer relationships, behaviours and risks, and subjective well-being; the US had no data for the last dimension).
Well, to say the least, I was shocked. The assessment’s stunning results caused me to wonder, What are we doing wrong?
So, I’m almost halfway through the book, and I've come up with a pretty serious question. Through Druckerman’s own research and interviews, she sheds a little light on this important issue. Highlights (for me) include:
- “Suffering and self-sacrifice” seems to be the expectation for new American mothers (122). Our babies sleep with us in the hospital rooms, we feed them on demand, we deprive ourselves of sleep...whereas French mothers regularly utilize the nurses and the nursery...and the French babies seem none the worse for the wear. American babies, on the other hand, are well on their way to becoming used to a life of being waited on by their moms. While we can maybe excuse this pandering at first because “they’re just babies”, it’s no longer cute when American moms cave in to their fourteen-year-old’s every whim.
- French parents (moms, especially) strive to “get back their pre-baby identities”. That is, they don’t wholly become absorbed in their children. In fact, there’s a “universal assumption that even good mothers aren’t at the constant service of their children, and there’s no reason to feel bad about that (130).” I found myself nodding at this statement, because I wonder how much time I’ve spent “in the service” of my children. And then, my mind begins to dream up all sorts of crazy questions like, how much of that time has been ‘quality’? How much of that time has been waiting for a sports/theatre/choir practice to end? How much of that time have I been thanked for?
- And while I’m on that subject, Druckerman relates the story of a French mother living in Brooklyn (140). The mother is surprised at how American parents put a lot of stock in their children’s success at sports, not to mention an obsession with anything that might give their children an edge in competing (camps, private trainers, elite equipment). American parents are “constrained” in just every area of their children’s lives, not just sports.