French Moms Are Better Parents Than American Moms


If there is one thing we American moms know how to do, it's over-think parenthood. We worry we're pushing too hard, being too soft, yelling too much, working too much, working too little. The list goes on and on (and on). Truly, being a mother in the US today can be a maddening and guilt-ridden experience. Of course, the lack of institutional support for moms means we have designed it that way.

Perhaps if mothers were more supported with supplemented childcare, more vacation time and flexibility, and more respect, we could be more like the French. In France, motherhood is something else entirely.

Recently, a writer friend of mine moved to Paris for the second time. This time she has children and she has had the opportunity to view French motherhood. And everything about it is different than the American experience.

All that guilt we feel? Does not exist in French parenthood. They have more kids, they yell more, they prize respect over happiness, and the list goes on and on. And while writer Paige Bradley Frost admits she is making some generalizations, there are also a lot of truths. She says:

Observing it all has made me wonder: why are we, American mothers, so terribly hard on ourselves? Why are we so hard on each other? Why are we so obsessed with being 'perfect' when none of us really even knows what that means? It’s as if we’re striving to follow a set of prescribed parenting rules but no one seems to know who set them.

Of course, in France, things are different. They trust the state and schools. They have supported daycare when they return to work (and most of them do) after they have their babies. In fact philosopher Elizabeth Badinter has made it well known that the desire to be a "perfect mother" is actually detrimental to French women, but also women in general. Indeed.

But we American moms can't help ourselves. We are super paranoid perfectionists because there is very little government support for pregnancy and parenting unless you are below the poverty line and desperately need it. And even then, maternity leave is a joke. At best we are guaranteed 12 weeks unpaid but only a lucky few can afford it. We may over think parenthood and stress about it all the time, but that is largely because no one is helping us and what little resources there are, we are all competing for. It's all up to us.

Perhaps if our government supported parenthood as well as other countries, we could all learn a few pointers from the French -- stress less, enjoy the family more, stop worrying whether you're perfect, take time for yourself. The list goes on and on.

One thing is clear, though: We American moms kill ourselves to be the best we can and are still wracked with guilt. Doesn't something seem wrong with that picture?

Image via Terrazzo/Flickr



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nonmember avatar zizzler

I thought her blogpost is just silly and naive. Way to completely generalize and idealize another culture. France isn't that different from the US...they have the same mommy drama, maybe she just hasn't gotten into it yet. They DO have more support, but that doesn't make things a mothering fantasy land!

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

I am totally against state sponsored childcare. If women don't want to raise kids then they should either keep their legs shut or pay for someone to cafe for them out of their own pocket.

rerra... rerratron

Are you also against low-income women working their way out of poverty? How is a mother supposed to make a living when daycare costs more per hour than minimum wage jobs pay? It's very easy to be sanctimonious when you're not in a position like that, but circumstances- divorce, job-loss, etc- can and DO change quite a bit over the course of 18 years. Very few, if any women would be entitled to have a family by your logic.

orion... orions_mommy

 RhondaVeggie is here to set things straight!  Just have your crystal ball ready to be able to predict hard times and have children accordingly! Duh! Don't open your legs if you are going to experience divorce, job loss or injury of a partner, pay cuts, inflation, foreclosure, medical emergencies, long term illness, property damage, or anything else that would cause a family to need an extra income!

I am also glad I now know that daycare providers are actually raising our children! Amazing they can manage to raise a child with just 40 hours a week! I wonder what all those working mothers who are tasking babysitters and nannies with raising their kids do with all those extra hours? Surley they couldn't be grocery shopping for their family, attending their children's games or events, having meals with their children, doing their family's laundry, attending school functions, planning and attending birthday parties, playing games with their children, reading to their children, talking to their children, nursing their children when they are sick, comforting their children when they have nightmares, buying clothes or shoes for their children, disaplining their children, teaching to be good people, teaching their children the value of hard work, saying "I love you" to their children, or anything that may bond them to their children. Beacuse if they were doing all that, I would say they are raising their children.

jalaz77 jalaz77

I guess I don't understand why we need more than 12 weeks of paid leave from work. We should not get paid to have kids. I think breastfeeding rates would be different if leave were longer, one benefit. But if USA is so horrible MOVE!!!! I love my kids but after 12 weeks I was ready to go back to work since I worked my butt off for that college education-which I was not about to sit on. Part time would be great but student loans prevent that. College tuition needs to be fixed in my opinion.

Amie Castille

Why do people say if we don't like something about our democratic government- leave? That statement itself goes against our democracy. Democracy is about identifying the things we don't like in our government and complaining loudly enough to change it. So to those of you complaining? You're good Americans! Keep it up!

We lived in France for 1 year and 3 months when my daughter was younger. They parent differently for sure, and it works for them and comes with its own set of problems. Same number of issues we have here - just different ones. You commonly see French mommies slap their children across the face in public when acting up. Good? Bad? Who knows - it works for them and no one thinks anything of it. Just cultural differences, IMO.

Amie Castille

Countries who give their parents more paid leave from work for maternity, job sharing and "transition" child care have more productivity, healthier children (haven't seen the data on health of parents), and better quality of life.  That's why governments should support parents.  Because it is proven to work, and it is proven to work in a way that helps the population at large (through productivity and health).  Those who can't get away from their kids fast enough and want to return after a few weeks are welcome to and good for them - while those who need more time to recover or bond are also able to make that choice.  Sounds like a win-win to me.

jalaz77 jalaz77

I say leave because complaining doesn't fix the problem. Be proactive, like the saying goes "Shit or get off the pot"!

Kimberly Virga

The issue lies in our fundamental beliefs. Every mother and parent will parent differently somewhat, be we are TOLD by our fellow mothers and the collective belief of a nation or state what is normal and what is not. For example, I do my best to follow attachment parenting (although this is just what I consider "normal" parenting for ME)- I co-sleep, I wore my babies for as long as they'd let me (neither was a big fan), did my BEST to breastfeed, etc. According to other people because I follow this, I am automatically chracterized as "crunchy" "hippie" or "most likely to only eat organic." Which is IDIOTIC! That's our problem! And then we have these women above saying, "I only now realize child care workers raise our children"- NO. YOU RAISE YOUR CHILD- the child care workers provide HELP. We are allowed to accept HELP, and only once the typical American mother realizes this will we be able to calm down and act like a French mother. BTW, I was raised by a French mother, and I totally agree with this article.

DeeDa... DeeDaa313

Life can bring so many changes, it doesn't care if you have children when you lose your job, or when your spouse suffers from an injury. Anyone's world can be brought down financially by an unfortunate accident or circumstance of life. If everyone waited until they were totally stable to have kids (by the way, can someone PLEASE tell me when that is???) the population would dwindle down to nothing very shortly. Their is nothing wrong with the government providing support to ALL mothers, especially when statistics show it's better for the children, who will be the future leaders of this country.

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