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le 20 décembre 2012
I am neither Anglo-Saxon nor French, but like the author, I have been living in Paris for the past couple of years and raising my kid here, so I was curious to read the book. However, it turned out to be quite a disappointment.
First, this is NOT the book about French versus American way of raising kids, as you may expect (and as the book positions itself). It's a book about one experience; that of a neurotic over-stressed New-Yorkese, contrasting herself with a few calm and cool Parisians. I have friends on both sides of the Atlantic who do not fit into any of her examples; Americans like the author's "Parisians" and Parisians like the author's "Americans"; people who raise eye-brows when I tell them about the examples given by the book. So the book is about practises of some people in some cities, and cannot be generalized like it is. It is simply stereotyping!
Second, the book is full of information that is simply wrong. Examples include French men not interested in assisting the birth (surprise surprise - mine did!) ; public French maternities being against breastfeeding and the like. I gave birth in France, and oh my God how much I heard about breastfeeding! My "sage-femme" (specially trained nurse for pregnant women) gave two lessons on the advantages and techniques of breastfeeding out of the seven state-reimbursed preparatory courses; in the public hospital where I delivered all walls were covered with posters on the advantages of breastfeeding; during my stay in the hospital the "sage-femme" attended to me every two hours to make sure the baby is "taking well the breast"; and upon my return home another nurse (from the PMI) visited me twice, completely free of charge, to ensure that the breastfeeding is going on well. I was also able to rent a pump maching from the pharmacy, and this is, too, reimbursed by the state. Finally, on every box of artificial milk you have a statement "natural breastfeeding is the best alternative for the baby". So yes, there are fewer French than American women who breastfeed according to the statistics, but please do not try to convey the message that the public sector in France is against breastfeeding!
And please - PLEASE - do not believe the author when she says it's OK to eat non-pasterised cheese, because one of her ignorant neighbours has done so. In fact, any gynecologist at you very first consultation warns you about the dangers of the non-pasteurised milk for babies; every book on pregnancies does so too. The first thing my French mother in law said to me when we announced my pregnancy was "so no rocquefort for you!". And at the markets, whenever I was asking for pasteurised cheese, starting from the early weeks of my pregnancy, every seller would ask "Madame can be congratulated on expecting a baby?" .....
So all of these erroneous misleading statements throughout the book are simply dangerous, and continue nurturing the misunderstandings between cultures.
To the author's credit, she did some interesting research and presents some interesting facts in the book. But I am still amazed at how - after so much research - she still gets many things wrong.
In brief, I am not recommending this book. It IS funny in many places (perhaps more so to an American than to anyone else); however, myself, I read only half of it, as I was sick of false information. From this book, I also got an impression that we live in two different kinds of France.