Sunday, 20 September 2009

Babygroup à la française

Let me just start by saying that until last week, I had always believed that the very idea of a babygroup was anathema to your average French maman. First, by the time your average mom is ready to attend a babygroup, maman is already getting ready to go back to work (and she's looking forward to it). There are very few French stay-at-home moms.

Secondly, I'm trying to remember the last time I heard French mothers talking to each other about their babies, starting solids, or teething. I can't.

I have heard French moms discuss Sleeping Through the Night. It's the first thing they mention when they see your baby: " Est-ce qu'il fait ses nuits?" they ask, their voices carrying undertones of quiet desperation, in case your six-week old is not yet sleeping 12-hours straight.

But apart from the question of Sleeping Through the Night, which is an obsession of all occidental mamas, I don't think that most French moms enjoy discussing babies the way we Anglo-Saxon moms do. They would rather focus on getting their bodies back into shape, getting their perineum ready for sex again (French social security actually pays for the six sessions of ré-éducation at the physiotherapist. Not bad, eh?), getting ready to return to work, etc. Sitting around with other moms to discuss breastfeeding obstacles or which infant formula one's baby is drinking? What's the point?

So imagine my grande surprise when I discovered that here in Tana, there is (gulp)a French babygroup. Actually, it's a playgroup of mixed ages, including babies. Having now attended the French Playgroup, I have taken it upon myself to write up the following list.

You know you are attending a babygroup à la française when:

1. Half the mothers, er, didn't bring their baby. They left the baby at home with the nanny. They just came for the company.

2. You're the only one breastfeeding. If there is by chance another mother who is still breastfeeding her 10-week old, she will probably get up to find a more private place to do so. Heaven forbid that anyone see her breast bared in a non-sexual context!

3. At least one mother is smoking (I am trying really hard to imagine the reaction of my Anglo-Saxon mommy friends to someone lighting up a cigarette at a playgroup but it's hard to imagine it without laughing).

4. The topics of conversation include anything but babies or children. The idea is to have some enlightened discussion about something (anything!) else, such as where you will be going on vacation, where you have been looking for work, the new house, politics. We Anglo-Saxons might be able to learn something from the French about conversations concerning things other than teething, solids and crawling.

5. Should you start to actually talk about the babies, the discussion will be about which infant formula to buy.

6. You show up in a T-shirt and sweats and find the other moms wearing pencil skirts, high heels and blouses.

7. All the mothers are thin and have perfect bodies, even the ones who have just recently given birth. Also, there is a bowl of cookies on the table but no one is eating them except you.

8. None of them have ever heard of, or care about, Dr. Sears, Dr. Brazelton, Dr. Weissbluth, Dr. Ferber, Dr. Grandsenne, Dr. Rufo or any other famous doctor, American, French or other, who has written some treatise on raising a baby. However, their own child's pediatrician is God.

All this to say that parenting is definitely cultural.

7 comments:

TigressP81 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Natasha said...

Item no 1: That was Me! Oh dear. I just didn't want to interrupt her morning nap ;) And I did want the company. hey, at least I wasn't smoking :)

The Globetrotter Parent said...

You weren't the only one. ;-)

Juliette said...

Su funny !
But what about the ones who did bring their beloved, long time breastfed child, whithout a nany, didn't smoke, and rushed over the cookies ? still a bit French ?
But I have to admit I don't know any of the famous doctors you mentionned. Almost stopped reading parenting stuff after Laurence Pernoud's famous "J'attends un enfant" :-)

The Globetrotter Parent said...

Juliette, Laurence Pernoud's famous "J'attends un enfant" really was a terrible book. I think I put it down for good at the part where she says that whenever you get Braxton Hicks contractions, you shoud lie down, and if they last more than 30 seconds you should contact your doctor!

Natasha said...

OK, tomorrow Nina is coming with me to Juliette's :)

Along with homebaked vegan goods!

mamagnome said...

I love this!