Showing posts with label pamela druckerman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pamela druckerman. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

French Women Don't Have Mommy Guilt

Mommy Guilt: Why Americans Have it and the French Don't

Mommy Guilt is terrible.  Before I had kids, a friend told me that Moms never stop feeling guilty.  I remember thinking she was crazy.  "What on earth will I have to feel guilty about?" I thought.  "That's absurd!"

Then came the day when I had to hand my 12 week old baby over to the nanny.  My boobs were spurting breast milk and my little girl seemed so helpless.  Of course the raging hormones don't help anything, but I remember feeling so overwhelmed with guilt that I almost couldn't function.  Then when I was working I couldn't concentrate and then I felt guilty for being such a bad employee.  Then when I came home and the nanny told me she cried all day, I felt guilty for leaving the nanny to have such an unpleasant day.

Now, three and half years later, the guilt still never ends but it almost amuses me.  When I'm alone in the shower and I feel a pang of guilt for being away from the kids, I smile.  After all, why should I feel guilty for my 15 minutes alone?  Yet I do.  When I put them to bed at night, I have to admit that I'm thrilled to finally be able to sit down and relax.  And then I feel guilty for being so happy to be rid of them.  What kind of Mom am I anyway?  The good news is that as far as I can tell, every Mom out there feels guilty almost every second of every day for one reason or another.

Imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that French women don't feel guilty.  How is that possible?  Are they heartless?  I picked up a book called, Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman.  Ms. Druckerman is an American but she moved to France to raise a family with her British husband.  I was really floored when I read this book.  She introduced all kinds of concepts to me that are hard to grasp, like school trips for a week at a time for four year olds, kids who don't snack, and babies who sleep through the night at two weeks old. The most revolutionary idea to me though, was this idea that French women don't feel the guilt that we Americans do.  Surely Ms. Druckerman has misunderstood, right?  Isn't being guilty just part of Mom DNA?

Of American Moms, she says:

"For American mothers, guilt is an emotional tax we pay for going to work, not buying organic vegetables, or plopping our kids in front of the television so we can surf the Internet or make dinner.  If we feel guilty, then it's easier to do these things.  We're not just selfish.  We've "paid" for our lapses."

Now, I have to admit that is a very true statement.  I've never thought about it like this before, but I think she's right.  Yet this is what she says about French  mothers:

"French mothers absolutely recognize the temptation to feel guilty.  They feel as overstretched and inadequate as we Americans do.  After all, they're working while bringing up small children.  And like us, they often aren't living up to their own standards as either workers or parents.

The difference is that French mothers don't valorize this guilt.  To the contrary, they consider it unhealthy and unpleasant and they try to banish it.....What really fortifies Frenchwomen against guilt is their conviction that it's unhealthy for mothers and children to spend all their time together...The French also talk about l''s about not letting any one part of life - including parenting - overwhelm the rest."

I have really embraced this concept because anything that promotes less guilt and more fun in life is something I can get behind!  Now that I think about it, I do think guilt is unhealthy.  It makes me unhappy to feel guilty and then I also feel defensive.  Sometimes when people (i.e. Hubby) make innocent comments, I get offended and pick fights, just because I already feel inadequate.

Of course, there is a lot to be said for being a devoted Mom and I applaud anyone who wants to spend every second with their child.  However, I have found that for me, guilt really can be damaging and I'm determined to try to find a way to live without it.  With this in mind, I have resurrected a quote that I lived by in high school.  My wonderful Mom printed it out for me and made me hang it on my bathroom mirror so I would see it every morning before I left for school:

"No one can make you feel inferior without your permission" ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

If you are interested in reading Bringing Up Bebe, I do recommend it.  Aside from the Mommy Guilt issue, she introduces a lot of concepts that are truly helpful and interesting.  Here is the link to Amazon:


And don't forget to check out my new book!  It will seriously help you save your sanity.  If you have ever tried to cook dinner while your kid clings to your leg and cries, this is the book for you!  It was released in July, 2012 and was co-written by me and Susan Case, a Kindergarten Teacher.  We worked together to give a Mom's point of view and a teacher's point of view, so that we could give you activities that not only keep the kids busy, but also keep them motivated to learn and develop their natural curiosity.  Kids behave better when they are given challenging projects to work on, which will in turn give you more free time to do the things you really need to do, like washing dishes, paying bills, and relaxing so that you can be a better Mom!

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