Monday, March 5, 2012

The Struggle That French Moms May Never Know - Part I

The Huffington Post ran an article about how French parenting differs from parenting in the US . A great article, it made a couple of interesting points. 1) generally, the French don't go crazy, changing their lives to adapt to raising children; children are expected to grow and adapt to the world of adults. 2) French mothers don't tend to carry the "Mommy guilt". Generally, the opposite is true in America, on both counts.

I find some things about the French parenting perspective fascinating. Since I'm open to the notion that we Americans can actually learn a thing or two from other cultures, I might have liked to apply some of the concepts to the early stages of my own kids' upbringing. But, like almost everyone else I know, I am organically entrenched in the American way (for better or worse) and my kids are past their formative stages, so it's too late to switch gears now! Seriously, I can't take back all the hovering and fussing and probably-uncecessary precautions (did anyone else use toilet locks during the toddler years?).

There was a particular line from the article that struck a chord: "… the French generally don't subvert their identities to the lives of their children."Now. Anyone reading who denies that this has happened to her (yes, HER, because I'm not so sure it applies in the same way to dads) is lying. I said it. Everyone knows that to be a "good" mother in America, you are expected to give til it hurts, to sacrifice (mostly) quietly anything and everything in order to turn out "good" children. And since we all consider ourselves to be "good" moms, I know this is what we are doing to ourselves. In a wildly ironic twist, we do these things so that we can have peace. We need the peace of mind that comes from knowing that we're throwing everything we've got at this parenting thing. Otherwise, we feel the pangs of "Mommy guilt". Here's the kicker: we have Mommy guilt anyway, regardless of how much we do. With no hint of an American parenting cultural revolution in the air, it seems like we're bound to stay on this track, at least through our stint. But there are little things we moms can do to get back a bit of ourselves without taking away from our mission. I'm happy to say these things are tried and true. By me. I found these things through trial and error, by accident and often out of sheer desperation. I'm hoping to discover more of these kinds of sanity-savers as I go, but for now, these are tops on my list: (continued in Part II)

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