Several months ago I started reading books and articles on different parenting styles. Every parenting styles claims to be the best method, but who really knows for sure? The more I read, the more confused I became on what is really the right way to raise a baby.
How long should I breastfeed? Do I tend to her each time she cries out? Should we share the bed? How do we teach her two languages? What are appropriate ways of disciplining a child?
Then there are differences between parenting in France and what I was raised to believe. So how do I mix the advice from my husband’s family to those of my own?
Yesterday my husband spoke to a family friend that he has not spoken to in years. When he opened up to the friend that he was a little nervous about being a father, he was given (what I think is) the best advice. The friend responded that being a parent is what humans were made for, so just listen to your instincts and do not worry.
There is so much pressure to be the perfect parent in the US. We are judged by everyone on our chosen parenting style and disciplining method. Others are quick to tell you that you are doing something wrong, or that there is a better way. If you respond to your baby each time she cries then you are spoiling her; or, if you try to let her self-soothe then you are being cruel. If you carry her all the time then you are, again, spoiling her; but if you do not hold her enough then you are negligent. If she does not know how to read before kindergarten you did not do enough; or, if she does then you put too much pressure on her too soon.
Parents are much more relaxed in France and do not pressure themselves with being the best. They know if they act on their instincts and are rational, their children will turn out fine. They do not worry about what others think of them or their parenting styles. They are not judged if they yell at a child in public or give her a little smack on the face (not saying I am okay with doing either!). French mothers are more strict, let the baby cry things out and do not hover over them.
So how to you raise your child guiltless and confident like the French? You can read books and get advice from others, but do not stress about what you can or cannot do. If your situation does not allow you to breastfeed, then there is nothing wrong with using formula. If you must work outside of the home after your child is born, there is no need to feel guilty about leaving her. Listening to others is a great way to learn new methods and techniques for raising your child, but only do what is possible for you and what feels naturally right. What is best for others may not be best for you and your family.
I love what I have read about attachment parenting. I want to hold my baby girl throughout the day in my Moby sling, learn how to read her cues and have her within reach to me at night. Breastfeeding also seems like the natural choice, something that I want to experience as a part of motherhood. My mother and older sister enjoyed it and I feel that it is the best choice for me. I am fortunate to be able to work from home, so I do not have the same pressures against attachment parenting or breastfeeding as many other working mammas.
I found a very interesting blog post by an American woman raising a family in France. She discusses her observations about the differences between parenting styles of both countries. She discusses the strict parenting styles of the French – of which some would make us Americans cringe at the though. Take a minute and read this post – it is worth your time.