My (almost) French Life

I realize I am guilty. I have (gulp) a double standard.

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Sometimes my mouth gets me in trouble. Last week I had one of those moments, when I blurted out “want to take Baby E with you?”  What I was talking about was my husband’s upcoming business trip to France. As I imagine the bewildered looks you have as you are reading this, let me explain 1. I didn’t think before I blurted this out (Clearly) and 2. I didn’t think he would take me seriously…

I mean, Baby E is only 14 months, and if you read my previous post, he is still BF twice a day… and of course I would miss him too much—for all these reasons—I should have really never even uttered those words. But hubby took this to be a serious proposition. He could drop Baby E off with his grandparents and they would be more than thrilled to spend a week with him… as my husband contemplated this more and more, and rattled out the logistics (“we have to call my mom, ask her if it’s OK, I have to pack his stuff”, etc) I was thinking OH MY GOD what did I just doooo? So I cautiously said “but he’s too little” after a few going back and forth, he said “why did you even mention it then?” and among other things, “you don’t think I could do a good job taking care of him” and I said of course not… and then he said “if you were taking him somewhere ALONE would this be an issue? That he is too little??” to which of course, I had no response, because the answer, is no. It is at this moment I realize I am guilty. I have (gulp) a double standard.

Now, I hate to admit this because while growing up I had to live with the double standard. Growing up in a Hispanic family, there was a set of rules for me and one for my brother (albeit him being younger than I)—but I digress… so this double standard—baby E is only 14 months, still nursing, can’t really talk aside from a dozen words and there are days when he wants to be attached at the hip to his momma. I am trying to justify my double standard in my mind, because in principle I do think that women and men should be equal in parenting, and my husband is GREAT with him— but there are certain things that dads cannot do, like breastfeed. Now, this would be the perfect time to wean, but – would I be traumatizing my little boy? Just sending him off, to endure a 13 hour flight, to a different time zone and country? He loves his grandparents dearly and jumps at the sound of Skype ringing and wants to hug the computer monitor, but I cannot imagine being away from him for 8 days. He is just too little. (Selfishly, I will admit, I also want to be there to capture those moments of him being in France for the first time!)

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Photo credit: Doodlehedz Photography

I recently read a book by Pamela Druckerman called “Bringing up Bebe.” In it she explores French parenting (of course being married to a Frenchman, I just had to read it). She says that in France, mothers don’t search for the American coveted 50/50 model: “Frenchwomen don’t expect men to be their equals. They view men as a separate species, which by nature isn’t good at booking babysitters, buying tablecloths, or remembering to schedule checkups with the pediatrician.” According to Druckerman, French women just accept that there are certain things that women do better than men, and they are fine with that, perhaps carrying more of the workload at home and with the kids, planning the birthday parties and micromanaging all of life’s details.  It seems that they are happier this way, instead of being resentful that their husbands aren’t chipping in as often or as much as they would like.  (she does go into details as to why life in France is less stressful than in the US—with the free daycare, more vacation time and subsidized nannies, etc. etc—but that’s for another post!)

As I said before, in theory yes parenting should be 50/50 but it seems that it is NOT… and our mamas, tias and abuelas acknowledge that, and even tell us that. “Si porque la mujer siempre hace eso…” or, “Ellos no saben como hacer eso” and “asi mismo es” : “yes because it is the woman who does that” “They (referring to men) don’t know how to do that.” “That’s the way it is” (referring to what men do or don’t do).

I can help but ask myself all these questions: Do mothers inherently have more responsibilities no matter how equally you try to divide the parenting work? Does this mean they have more rights in parenting? Do women, being the bearer of children get to make more decisions? Is it time to just STOP trying to make everything so EQUAL? Could it be that maybe mama (and French women!) was right after all….?

 

Even as I write this I question my decision and I can’t help but feel a bit guilty— have I been unfair? But then again… Baby E is just too little.

Diana Limongi
welcome! I'm a Latina working mom from Astoria, NY, mom to a trilingual four-year old. I blog about motherhood, Latino issues, women's issues, work/life balance, food, parenting and raising my multilingual and multicultural son!

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