Banishing guilt to be better: let's chill out and trust ourselves

February 20 | Guest post by Erin Human
By: outcast104CC BY 2.0

You may have seen the Wall Street Journal article that's now circulating called Why French Parents Are Superior. If you haven't, I'm sure it will pop up on your Facebook feed sooner or later. In it, Pamela Druckerman, an American ex-pat living in France, talks about how French children seem better behaved than American children and French parents seem much more relaxed.

The part of this piece that really rang my bell was not the part about how well behaved French children are. To be honest, I'm not that worried about my kids having perfect table manners at 18 months old. No, the part that shocked me in the gut was the mention of a 2009 Princeton study that found "that American moms considered it more than twice as unpleasant to deal with their kids. In a different study by the same economists, working mothers in Texas said that even housework was more pleasant than child care." Oof.

Also, "Nobody seems to like the relentless, unhappy pace of American parenting, least of all parents themselves."

Sometimes you read something at JUST the perfect time such that it resonates too deeply to be ignored. I have to tell you that at one point this week I asked myself, "Do I kind of suck at this motherhood thing or is it WAY, WAY, WAY harder than advertised?" I have been breaking into a panicky cold sweat every time I think about soon having TWO young children, and then questioning what is wrong with me that I can't even seem to handle one lately?

Do I kind of suck at this, or is it REALLY hard? Orโ€ฆ is there a third option? Am I doing it wrong?

I think I am doing it a little bit wrong. Not horribly wrong, but, you know, could use some tweaking. My problem is not my son Miles. He's a good kid. Inquisitive, active, not a huge fan of sleeping, but he's not a brat or ill behaved or a "discipline problem." My problem is me.

I think I have a very common issue: I've let Mommy Guilt seep in to the point that it's affecting my parenting in ways that do not benefit me or my child. I'm making choices motivated by guilt and feelings of inadequacy and insecurity rather than what I actually think is right.

I wonder if American mothers get off on a bad foot with our almost total lack of proper maternity leave. I know, for me, this was the kickoff of a cascade of Mommy Guilt. Guilt over pumping and bottle feeding so he could have breastmilk while I worked when he should really be all-boob-all-the-time. Guilt over leaving him with someone I didn't really know at the time. Guilt over leaving him AT ALL at eight-weeks-old. Guilt that he was mad at me for leaving him and that's why he had tantrums in the evening. Guilt that he missed me and that's why he couldn't sleep. Guilt that I wasn't LOVING EVERY MINUTE of our time together even though I had a break from him every working day. Guilt over having to be a disciplinarian when we were together when I just wanted to be the All Loving Ever Patient Mother Goddess.

Just hang out on social media long enough and they will find you… articles about how you're inevitably doing it all wrong.

Now I'm working at home, but a pattern has been established. A hypothesis has been posed — You Are A Bad Mommy — and from there it's all too easy to find research to back it up. Just hang out on social media long enough and they will find you: articles about proper attachment, articles about crying causing brain damage, articles about the right amount of time to breastfeed and what happens if you don't, articles about discipline and how you're inevitably doing it wrong. Who can ever measure up? No one I know. Not me. Even if you rationally reject some of these ideas, they are now in your head. One thing that I've learned in Hypnobabies is that negative messages get into your subconscious whether you consciously agree with them or not.

What I've realized is that it's completely impossible to parent competently when I feel so unsure of myself. It's impossible to enjoy parenting when this idea that I'm Not Good Enough is lurking way down below the surface.

What I have to face up to is that I'm on track to become a kind of woman that I don't want to be: insecure, my behavior driven by conflicting emotions, giving too much and then feeling resentful that my needs are unmet. A kind of mother that I don't want to be: inconsistent and unpredictable because I have no confidence in my decisions, overtired and cranky because I'm not taking care of myself.

I want to be a French mother! Eating cheese! Drinking wine! But most importantly (if Druckerman can be believed), a woman who exerts "calm authority" and takes time for herself, her husband, and her friends without feeling guilty about that.

It's odd how I got to this place without really thinking about it, but I guess that's how it happens. I think one way I can tell that I've gotten off track is that I am not doing what I would tell other people to do if I were giving advice. I would tell other parents that it's important for children to learn to play independently, but I find myself constantly wracked with guilt over doing ANYTHING else but playing with Miles when we're home all day. I would tell other parents to be loving but firm about bedtime and not feel bad about that, but I haven't done that AT ALL. I would tell other parents not to act like a waitress or a short order cook for their toddlers, yet I find myself popping out of my chair to fetch raisins upon request — why?

Because I don't want to deal with the protest, because I can't listen to a simple toddler tantrum without tormenting myself over whether I'm doing the RIGHT thing every single time I make a decision. Whew. It's exhausting. No wonder I am so tired and overwhelmed.

I have to get my groove back and return to the place where I started when I had Miles: feeling like I can do this.

I don't want to let myself be bombarded with messages that make me feel guilty and inadequate; it's tricky because as a thinker, a writer, a blogger, I like to take in information, sift through things even if I don't agree or only partially agree. But there has to be some kind of filter. Some kind of Bubble of Peace to protect me.

I have to get my groove back and return to the place where I started when I had Miles: feeling like I can do this. I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to do everything right. I can make mistakes and he'll be just fine. I can be wrong and he will still love me. I can be firm and he will still feel loved. I don't have to make it so complicated. It's all going to be okay.

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  1. I can't even express the words for how much reading this TODAY of all days means to me, except just yes. YES yes and YES. Thank you.

    8 agree
  2. I have the exact opposite issue I am not a french parent…I am the Chinese version that is hard on my child becasue of what I know she is capable of and genetics. Now of course, I have my friends who feel I am too hard but then when they see her behavior and when at 4 she can self-sicipline herself (something I pride myself on) they are amazed.
    I sometimes, usually after listening to them, feel bad about putting so much pressure on her. And then I realize that this is my parenting style. Not all kids can handle it, and I have had to adjust it when wtching others kids, but for my own. It is just right. I think once you realize your child is thriving under your parenting; all the rest doenst matter.

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    • Thank you for sharing this. I am half-Asian and have heard a lot of criticism about Asians being too hard on their kids. I like the way French women can have time for themselves, but I also have a lot of respect for traditional Asian moms who stress the importance of schoolwork and living up to their potential. I haven't met many Asians (in particular, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) that didn't have an extremely close relationship and TONS of respect for their mothers. Keep doing what you're doing. I think you're intelligent emotionally enough to know when you're pushing them too hard and when to just let them play and " be kids."

      1 agrees
      • While growing up, during my beginning yrs, I was reared by a Korean nanny while my parents were stationed in Korea. When I came back to the states my preschool was (mostly) Asain women. I truly love and respect the Asian women. It has truly shaped me.
        And thank you for the compliment…I doubt when my daughter hits the tween age she will say the same thing ๐Ÿ˜€ lol

    • Not all kids can handle it, and I have had to adjust it when wtching others kids, but for my own. It is just right.

      I think that's an excellent point, and I admire that you can tell the difference between what works with your kids and other kids. I have a hard time with that sometimes. I tend toward a laid-back style of parenting, and that works for my son; he's really self-sufficient and thriving. However, that doesn't work for my buddy's daughter, who is used to having a firmer hand in her upbringing.

      I once had an interesting conversation about parenting with one of my Chinese coworkers in college (long before I was pregnant or trying), and the differences are fascinating. Not better or worse, IMO, but really something worth studying when considering parenting styles.

      • I love looking at the different parenting styles. I find it giives you ideas on ways that you can improve the way you handle different situations.

        • Also agreed, my parenting 'instincts' will probably only tell me to do what my parents did – I've learned a lot from other people! Things that never would have occurred to me, but some have turned out to work amazingly for my family!

  3. I read a lot of baby books before getting pregnant and while pregnant but now that I have my babies (yes, twins!) I purposely don't read anything baby-related unless I have a specific question or issue. When I read too much in books or online, I feel more of that mommy guilt – I should do things this way or that way, my babies should be sleeping better or feeding like this… Helps keep myself present in dealing with my babies without expectations and so much guilt.

    8 agree
    • RC – I am doing the exact same thing. I am 6 months pregnant and will go to a birthing class and read some books on birthing but I have no plans of doing much else. I started to read everything and anything when I was first pregnant but the cascade of guilt that caused was ridiculous. Blissful ignorance for me.

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    • I learned this lesson when my son was a couple months old. I was reading one of those "if-you-do-everything-I-say-your-child-will-be-perfect" books and getting myself all worked up about how we weren't doing the sleep thing right. We were doing the total opposite of what she said. But it was working. I realized we didn't HAVE a sleep problem. This book made me question myself so much it was driving me to doubt every single thing I was doing. I think we need to listen to our children not to a book or ideology. And that sometimes we find problems where really there are just normal developmental stages.

      3 agree
    • I feel the same way! I read so much before my baby was born, but after she was born I realized that reading anything made me second-guess myself and actually be less sensitive to her cues. I sometimes feel guilty about not reading as much as I "should" right now, so thanks for putting this into words and helping me feel ok about it.

      I love this article as a whole! Such a great reminder!

    • I read parenting books while pregnant! But they were all about child brain development, how they learn language, that sort of thing. It's been fascinating to see my son's brain make the connections I read about.

      I ignored the sleeping books because they seemed like hooey. I just let my son sleep when he's tired and don't sweat it. I'm happy; he's happy.

  4. My first one isn't due for another month, so maybe I will be in for a surprise ๐Ÿ™‚ But as I read your post, I am so grateful for the exposure to children I've had long before I got to this stage.

    I'm the oldest of 5, and by the time #5 showed up, my parents were pretty laissez-faire about the whole thing. I've learned from them that children are pretty resilient. NOT that that is a reason to NOT do your best as a parent, but seriously — a cup of soda or eating a bug or getting a little sunburn is NOT going to ruin a child's life.

    I also worked in early childcare for 5 years, and I saw so many parents for whom their child was a once-and-only experience, and every single moment and to be perfect, and they were wearing themselves out over worrying about the tiniest — and somtimes contradictory — things. Was their toddler sleeping enough? Too much? Drinking too much milk? Not enough? Spending enough time outside? Exposed to the sun too much? Parents would arrive in the evening and freak out because their kid was sweaty and red-faced. Yes, because he had just been having the time of his life racing around the slide and shrieking happily with his friends! Not because he had third-degree sunburn and a fever!

    I'm sure the answer is some kind of balance here (it always is, isn't it?). But I think in the end that it's generally more important that kids have a not-too-stressed out mom than that they never, ever ingest sugar before age two!

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  5. I'm due with my first in two months, and I'm also very very glad I have experience with kids. I'm the oldest of six with the oldest of THOSE being 11 and the youngest about to be born this Friday. I have also seen just how resilient kids can be. I have seen two different parenting styles (mom and stepmom) and I've seen the benefits and drawbacks of both. I'm really hoping to take what I've learned from my moms and apply that to my kid. I also agree with not reading EVERYTHING there is to read. I found my stress level is way below that of fellow pregnant ladies who read all the "expert" advice. I only read what applies to me, and I don't take it as Gospel.

  6. So, I think you're me, and your kid is my kid (they even have the same name). Empathy, my friend. Empathy.

  7. I love
    "I want to be a French mother! Eating cheese! Drinking wine! But most importantly (if Druckerman can be believed), a woman who exerts "calm authority" and takes time for herself, her husband, and her friends without feeling guilty about that."
    So hard with no family around and little money to do extras.

    1 agrees
    • I have to say, having lived in France and had multiple long visits with French family members, the article is pretty spot-on, at least the descriptions of how French families work.

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    • Yes. When our family has enough for rent, bills, food, and a little extra — hell yeah we're a happier and healthier family. When we're struggling to pay the rent, our parenting stumbles.

  8. Some of the best advice I've ever received about parenting (note that I'm not a parent!) is that by the time you have your child, so much is already set in stone as to how your child will grow up, that it's ok to chill out!

    Basically, the theory is that what really matters is the type of person that is the parent. If you think that you and your partner are pretty decent people, chances are your offspring will be as well. If you read freakonomics (which I recommend, although it's probably not the most scientifically rigorous book out there), they talk about how there are a lot of correlations with school performance (easy data to collect) that is based on things like whether there are books in the home – not whether you read to your children every day.

    I'm not saying you shouldn't read to your children, but if you're the type of person to have a lot of books, you've already put a lot of value on reading. You're likely the type of person to encourage reading, even if you don't have the time/energy/kid that will sit still to read to your child every day.

    I have to admit I totally see this with my parents and myself. My parents really valued school. 3/4 of their kids were honors students. My parents really value music, all four kids can play 2+ instruments. My parents are both perfectionists, although about different things. 4/4 of us are perfectionists. My parents didn't really exercise or eat terribly healthy. Only 1/4 of us really do any major exercise. My parents owned a lot of books and read to us everyday, all of us continue to read as one of our primary forms of entertainment.

    7 agree
    • Basically, the theory is that what really matters is the type of person that is the parent. If you think that you and your partner are pretty decent people, chances are your offspring will be as well.

      ^ I love this! This will stick with me!

  9. As a French mother-to-be I really hope I'll meet all these expectations ๐Ÿ˜‰ What I'd like to say is that it is a tricky problem and I find that the Wall street journal article kind of idealizes things: there are spoilt brats in France too, and more and more of them. It is true that we have maternity leave (not so much of it actually: you must stop working well before your due date so after the delivery you have only 10 weeks (most of the time) for the first child. And I'd have so much to say about the mandatory prenatal appointments and the lack of choice for giving birth (you cannot give birth at home in fact)… Sometimes I feel that the French mothers are to be passive and just obey the doctors. Does it play a role in the ways we raise our kids afterwards? I could'nt say but it makes me think a lot…

    3 agree
    • omg seriously, you have that much maternity leave? My company gives 6 weeks total (for before and after), and from what I've heard that's about average around here. And we JUST got maternity leave for adopting children, and I think paternity leave was fairly recently instated, and is… two weeks? The wikipedia entry on parental leave (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave) is sooooo depressing. WTF America?

      3 agree
      • Sign up for Short Term Disability insurance if you can. That will extend the amount of paid leave that you can take (at least it does at my company). Granted, you only get paid around 50% of your salary but that is better than nothing…

      • In Quebec, Canada, we get 50 weeks. !8 at 75% of your former salary, and the rest at 70%… I don't think I would be having a third child with 6 weeks off!!!

        1 agrees
  10. Oh man, this post really hits home for me. I minored in Psych and spent the entirety of it on developmental and family psychology. This means I am the most neurotic parent on the planet, because I cannot shut off the part of my brain screaming statistical proof that I'm doing everything WRONG. The best days are those when I'm able to kick back and quit over-analyzing my every action. I have been on a peace bubble construction site for years now. It's getting easier but it is sort of like trying to be super conscious to not be super conscious.

    1 agrees
  11. I didn't know that American maternity leaves were only 8 weeks. ๐Ÿ™ That must be really, really hard.

    • It depends on the company. I can take up to 12 weeks. However, many woman can not afford to be out of work for three months, so they go back before that time. It's very variable, but almost everyone agrees that it's totally not enough time!

      • By "cannot afford," do you mean that this in unpaid leave? Here in Israel, we get 12 weeks paid leave (which I couldn't take because I'm an independent contractor for an American company, but I work from home, so it works out) and have the option of much longer (I think up to a year) unpaid leave. Fathers can take up the half of that 12 week leave in place of the mother, if needed.

        • Often it is unpaid. It depends on the good will of the company. Also, any company with fewer than 50 employees is not subject to the Family Medical Leave Act that 12 weeks (unpaid) are guaranteed by law. About 50% of all women work for places with fewer than 50 employees, making it difficult to even get 12 unpaid weeks. I know a friend who ended up quitting her job over this — a loss for her company as well as for her, but she was asked to come back at 6 weeks and she had a lot of issues at home with herself and the baby and she just didn't feel she could.

          It's very very bad here. Interestingly, however, we still have a higher birth rate in the US than in many European countries with her progressive policies, like Germany, the European country I know best. Very intriguing and puzzling.

  12. That book is being marketed pretty aggressively; I've heard about it three times this week already – which is enough to make me suspicious.

    Like anything I've read on childbirth/rearing there are some gems of truth that I have found helpful, but really the energy expended to figure out what is the truth is a time and confidence-suck. It's like reinventing the wheel each time.
    For example, I had serious trouble breastfeeding. In my effort to become educated on the subject, I beat myself up with all the anti-formula articles and books out there. According to many sites – and women – I am a bad mother for not breastfeeding (fighting the urge to explain that I wanted to. I shouldn't have to excuse myself).

    I am learning to let that go, 'cause once the powerful feeling of inadequacy dies down a little, I realize it has done nothing for my child. It is in a way selfish, and not in a cool, French, cheese-eating kind of way.

    Just like the author mentions subconscious infiltration of negative messages, it works the other way as well. If only I came across more of it onlilne!

    By the way, has anyone else looked up the countries that have mandated maternity leave? My husband and I were discussing it the other week and found this:

    Albania – 1 year, Botswana – 12 weeks, China – 90 days, Cuba – 18 weeks, Ethiopia – 90 days, Haiti – 12 weeks, India – 12 weeks, Iran – 6 months, Libya – 90 days, Russia – 2 years, United Kingdom – 1 year …

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave

    โ€Ž"Only four countries have no national law mandating paid time off for new parents:

    Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States."

    3 agree
    • Wow, reading about the little time US (and other) moms get to spend with their newborns makes me thankful to be Canadian!

      I get 52 weeks total combined maternal/parental leave which is paid for by Employment Insurance (which everyone pays into). However, EI only pays a percentage of my annual income. I'm also an employee of the Canadian Federal Government, which tops up my leave pay to a combined total of 93%.

      2 agree
    • "That book is being marketed pretty aggressively; I've heard about it three times this week already โ€“ which is enough to make me suspicious."

      No kidding. I'm getting the same vibe off this book as I did from "Tiger Mother". The comments on the WSJ article have a lot of people refuting the author's stereotypes with extensive first-person experience.

      Bottom line? I think authors have figured out how to write bullshit books based on flimsy pretenses and zero actual research that will sell by the truckloads because they play into American parents' sense of insecurity and self-doubt.

      4 agree
  13. I am scared shitless to be a mother but if I trust my instincts I know it will be OK. I think I might stop reading any and all articles you referred to here as ones that invoke guilt. I'm all for being informed but there's a line to "over-informed-so-much-so-that-you-doubt-you're-a-good-parent-even-though-you-do-your-best." I hope to find the line, turn, and run in the opposite direction.
    Love to you!

    1 agrees
  14. My parenting is also led by guilt and fear. I hate it. However, these feelings come from a nauseating paranoia that I will parent like my own parents – and thus hurt my kid. So, if I am ever hard on my child (raising my voice or whatever) I panic and bend over backwards trying to make it up to her…it is unhealthy and I know it but what can you do when you are stuck with what you know?

  15. For someone with an advanced sense of guilt about everything else, I've actually never been big on parental guilt. I hate this media language that says 'X or Y DAMAGES children' and yet you are never really told what that 'damage' is. The fact is, I assume that aspects of my parents will be unhelpful to my kids and maybe give them less-than-ideal outlooks or characteristics. But I also assume that the positive stuff will make up for that, and 'less-than-ideal' is all the problems will be – not life-destroying, not 'damage'. Because that's how it is with almost all parents, barring a tiny minority who are abusive or neglectful. If children were as mentally fragile as they're painted, we'll all be headcases, 'scarred' by every time mum didn't comfort us because she was exhausted and had enough, or dad shouted at us for something we hadn't done. Human beings are resilient! We can cope with the knocks of everyday life, or else we wouldn't have got this far.

    I think parents need to take a cognitive behavioural therapy type approach as in 'What is the worst-case scenario from my parenting choices… and, really, how likely is it?' Because you'll find it's not likely at all. Caring about how you parent and questioning it in the first place is a sign that you're doing something right, as you care about doing it well. But there's no need to drive yourselves nuts with guilt.

    1 agrees
  16. Hello mom guilt! It's hard to let go of, even though it doesn't serve us ๐Ÿ™
    When I read the article about French parents, I felt like it would have been helpful if there was a follow up explaining some of the parenting methodology in ways that parents could actually employ it. It's similar to my own philosophy, and in my experience, it really does work. I think the way it's written, though, is bound to just make most parents feel bad and wonder if they're doing it wrong. What is that good for?

  17. Oh god I am so guilty of mom guilt. I work at home too, with a spirited Miles (about to turn 3) and some days it's impossible. Today I let him eat marshmallows and watch a movie while I worked on a new client's project. I felt so bad — and I always will, because the television is his babysitter while his father is at work.

    I always look at him and think, "Am I ruining his innate brilliance with all this PBS and Pixar? Why is he scared of everything — do I need to filter our adult entertainment? Is he eating enough? Do we not eat at the table enough? Where did he find that cereal? Oh god why can my three-year-old work YouTube? Do we need to go outside more? Should we hang out with kids more?"

    So on and so forth. I know some of the things I'm worried about are more valid than others, and that some are genuine issues. (Yes, I do need to stop watching Supernatural around my 3-year-old.) But in the end, I've concluded I need to do the best with what we've got, and make sure the child always feels loved and wanted.

    TL;DR: This post wins.

  18. I to worried if I was doing it right.The kids are grown now and the grandchildren are in their teens.What I remember that was a tramatic incident is not the same take and importance my daughter has on the incident.We are alot harder on our selves. Ease up and injoy and keep at it for grandchildren are our reward for surviving those teen years. Laurie

  19. Does anyone else find it ironic that the "French parents" article telling us to stop worrying about articles containing parenting advice is, in fact, an article containing parenting advice? Yet another shell in the bombardment of messages making us feel inferior. Indeed, almost every article I read during the anxious first few months of my son's life seemed to say, "Just trust yourself, don't listen to experts, and then do exactly what I say."

    Chinese parents, French parents, economist parents: the purpose of all these articles is not to help us be better parents. It is to generate controversy, which translates into clicks, which translates into advertising revenue.

    2 agree
  20. As the parent of the world's most awesomenest (it is so a word…) teenager, I suspect that it's actually quite difficult to permanently fuck up your child when they're very young. The sort of thing that requires work.
    I have bipolar disorder, which was misdiagnosed, and untreated, until she was twelve. I worked very, very hard at being a less than terrible parent, and most days I succeeded, some days I was even above average, but in some things I failed utterly. There are things that I did when she was small that literally make me cringe to think of, and I'm not talking about not being able to breastfeed, or using disposable diapers, but she is remarkably not fucked up for all of that. I often believe that she is not fucked up in spite of me, not because of me.

    The best piece of parenting advice I was ever given when Megan was a baby was that raising babies and toddlers is quite a lot like wild animal training. It's hard work. Takes ages to show any results. The little darlings have their own ideas about the way things should be done. And sharp teeth. Rewards work better than punishment in most cases. Whatever thing gets the results you want is the thing that you should do. But don't be surprised if that thing doesn't always work. You're not going to get it right all the time. And lastly, it's hard work. And you're not going to get it right all the time.

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  21. I'm not a parent nor do I plan to be, but I find myself relating to the feelings and sentiments you shared here. I think woman have to face the "Am I doing this right?" question ALL the time, regardless of parental status. Am I saving enough for retirement? Is this the person I should share my life with? Am I showing enough love to my friends? Should I really spend $60 on a sweater?

    Thanks for the perspective. ๐Ÿ™‚ I'm keeping these words for when I feel "off track:"

    What I have to face up to is that I'm on track to become a kind of woman that I don't want to be: insecure, my behavior driven by conflicting emotions, giving too much and then feeling resentful that my needs are unmet.

    I think one way I can tell that I've gotten off track is that I am not doing what I would tell other people to do if I were giving advice.

    I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to do everything right. I can make mistakes and he'll be just fine. I can be wrong and he will still love me. I can be firm and he will still feel loved. I don't have to make it so complicated. It's all going to be okay.

  22. Hmm I'm also from Canada and yes we get a full year of paid leave – a combination of maternal (about 24 weeks I think) and parental (to be divided up between the parents).

    My son was a micro preemie and was in the hospital for 4+ months. I was able to delay the start of the leave until he left the hospital, and receive unemployement insurance (for health reasons) in the 4 months in between. There was no way in heck I was NOT spending each day at the hospital, pumping etc.

    I have friends in the states and I find it absolutely crazy that they have to go back to work after a few weeks. I lived in teh states for a few years – that and the lack of healthcare sent me running me back to Canada. All of my US friends who come to visit all state they are insanely jealous. And taxes are not THAT much higher; you pay into the system via your paychecks so you're essentially paying yourself. I really think a year with your baby is a minimum to allow yourselves to get to know each other etc.

    As for parenting styles, here in Quebec we`re a bit between both worlds. Philosophy and viewpoints somewhere between the two models. I really, really think we need to LET GO of the GUILT. We`ve been having children for millenia, many of the mothers working long hard days in the fields, hand washing clothes etc and their children were fine. Without being too new-agy, living as we are disconnected from the life-death cycle has made us baffled by the most basic, natural events like having a baby.

    I think what`s changed is the physical community, being able to have the neighbourhood kids play freely together in the alleyways while parents sip coffee together. Now we don`t trust our neighbours and taxi our precious little ones to various specialized classes etc.

    I'm in the same boat, our families are far away and my offbeat friends are scattered all over with few young kids. We`re pretty much on our own for babysitting, playdates, … But the one positive consequence of having a sick baby is we don`t sweat the small stuff. I am constantly in amazement at how other parents obsess, drive themselves bonkers over tiny details. I am convinced (from observing my own 18 month old) young kids are very attuned to our emotions; they pick up on our stress, our anxiety and instinctively know something is off. You just have to witness how they react to something scary – they immediately look at you to see how YOU reacted. If you seem ok, they relax right away. If not they scamper to your side for safety.

    If the mom is relaxed and content, so globally is the child.

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  23. This has everything to do with maternity leave, people!

    In Canada, everyone (except the self-employed like me!) gets one year of maternity leave by law. You need it! It gives you a year to nurse on demand, take your kid to museums, drink wine in the afternoon and get to know your kid.

    That's why they're (allegedly) so relaxed over there in France.

  24. I didn't read the said article or all the comments. But, as a French expat in Canada, lemme say this. Sure, there are some cultural differences. But one thing that French parents are not known for, is calm parenting. To the point that you can easily spot newly-arrived French parents in the streets in Canada: they're the only ones shouting at their kids (or at each other, for that matter). They calm down within a couple of months, though.

    Different cultures value different things in education, and this all adds up to create good, albeit different, human beings. I've been living in Canada for 2 years and I still can't believe how tolerant kids seem to be. Or how well-spoken at a very early age, not afraid to talk to adults, with an entrepreneur spirit.

    So to hell with the guilt-trip. You make mistakes, French parents make mistakes too. We're all decent human beings in the end.

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