- Last Updated: 2:25 PM, May 3, 2012
- Posted: 10:25 PM, May 2, 2012
How great is it being a mom in France? To hear one author tell it, c’est magnifique!
French mothers “do not intend to give up any aspect of their lives,” insists professional provocateur Elisabeth Badinter, whom you can almost hear smoking as she writes.
Par exemple: Breast-feeding, such a hot topic in the States, is largely seen as a ball and chain. “Bottle-feeding mean[s] a woman has freedom of movement,” Badinter writes, “and could be replaced as her child’s caregiver, therefore restoring the ability to be both mother and woman.”
In other words, motherhood is a light, part-time gig for French women — unlike their American counterparts, who are often 24/7 robots devoted solely to raising their young.
In “The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women,” out now, Badinter claims that in the past 30 years, Western women — with the exception of the French — have moved away from championing equal rights and regressed to stay-at-home motherhood and years-long, on-demand breast-feeding, all in the service of what she labels “maternalism.”
In the past 20 years, she writes, “There was a powerful swing toward celebrating the sublime state of motherhood as women’s true destiny, the condition for their happiness and the source of their power.”
As a result, once-ambitious New York women lose their identity after giving birth: “ ‘I want everything’ becomes ‘I must do everything for my child.’ ”
To even suggest otherwise, she writes, “would brand you as a reckless monster.” A better ideal is the French mama who gives herself time for wine, laughter, fashion, culture and — of course — sex, says Badinter.
Now some New York moms are taking issue with Badinter’s attempt to foist French norms onto a different society. “I’m getting sick of these books about how other cultures do everything better than our own,” says Forest Hills mom Elaine Cipriano, whose daughters are 3 and 6.
“I don’t think we need any more of that.”
Just three months ago, another book — “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting” — also trumpeted the benefits of French parenting to US moms. In it, Pamela Druckerman argues that blasé French parents raise well-behaved, mellow children who sleep through the night and willingly eat things like paté and leeks.
Attorney Fiona Schaeffer, mother of two young boys, says enough with the European snobbery. “It’s a very popular thing to bash American parents, particularly American mothers,” she says. “There’s a new book out every year. One year it’s the Chinese Tiger Mom, the next year it’s the French model.”