Motherhood

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

Today, we’re thrilled to kick off our sixth annual Motherhood Around the World series! Emilie Johnson and her French husband Xavier live with their two daughters in a small village in Provence, surrounded by vineyards. Here are 14 things that have surprised Emilie about parenting in France, including strict teachers and funny expressions…

Emilie’s background:

Emilie grew up in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maine and Seattle, since her father moved frequently for work. “We were a tight-knit family with eight kids, and home was sort of each other,” she says. She met her now-husband, Xavier, in New York, and they spent three years living in Paris. They then moved back to New York City, where they welcomed two daughters, Colette and Romy. But both Emile and Xavier worked intense finance jobs and found they had zero work-life balance. “So, we took a map of the world. We said, where we would go if we could go anywhere?” The answer was Provence.

Two years ago, they sold their New York apartment, moved into a 400-year-old house in Provence, and started a finance technology company. The transition wasn’t without bumps. Xavier had always spoken French with their daughters, but in New York they had responded to him in English. “My then 4-year-old was terrified to find herself in a classroom where she couldn’t articulate her ideas well,” says Emilie. “For the first couple of months, Colette sounded like an American making a real effort to speak French, overplaying the ruh in the ‘r’ in her throat.” The transition was easier for littler Romy, who never had an accent in either language. Today, two years in, they are both wholly French.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

On spending time outdoors: We live in a rural village, and I take the girls out every chance I get. We find ourselves alone in wild places. We remark on the bumpy lumps of the wheat field that has been churned up by a farmer. We eat eggs whose shells are still decorated with feathers. The girls smell the jasmine in our garden and are running barefoot all the time. Our house is also surrounded by vineyards and farms. You get to see what a potato looks like as it’s planted and as it grows, and the vines as they trim them. It’s so elemental, but to me it’s one of the best things here.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

On shedding guilt: In New York, I would wake up before my girls, ride my bike to work with a podcast in my ears at 2x speed, all the while making checklists in my head to try to get everything in before I went home to be a parent. I was soaked in guilt. Our move here shifted that feeling. Childcare is widely available, and most French mothers count on it from the time their babies are still young without feeling a negative cultural imputation. This is one reason that France has one of the highest rates of women in the workforce in Europe. The culture supports my traveling for work or doing things on my own.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

The girls imitating the strict face of their teachers.

On school: Kids can start school at three years old. Our preschool is full day, from 8:30 to 4:30, with nap time. There are two teachers for 28 children. When I first arrived, I was like, ‘There is NO WAY.’ But I witnessed how strict they are. My youngest comes home and imitates her ‘mistress’ and sometimes it’s quite harsh. She’ll say very strictly, ‘That’s not possible, that’s not okay, get back in your spot IMMEDIATELY!’ Still, both of my daughters have loved it.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

Four-year-old Romy recently said, “I’d really like to eat some escargot. We talked about it at school, and it’s very normal.” Emilie said, “Okay!”

On food rituals: The food culture in France is very rich, and ritual is the source and keeper of that richness. When we first arrived, I marveled watching the 20 children in Romy’s crèche (daycare), ages 0 to 3 years old, sit around a table for their goûter (afternoon snack) and not one child was allowed to begin until all the other children had put on their bibs and passed the plate around. Something like this is only possible in a culture where taking part in food is a daily ceremony, practiced and taught. Other than the goûter, children around here don’t eat between meals, as a rule. One French friend insisted: a child should feel hunger every day, before each meal. After all, she said, only a hungry body can fully appreciate food.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

What Emilie bought one day at the February market. Each vegetable was labeled with the Provence town where it was grown; most farms were within walking distance.

On school lunches: One day, a group of parents were huddled around the school gate, and I stopped to see what they were looking at. It was the lunch menu for the week, which included beets, goat cheese, endives, zucchini, veal and on and on. The menu was divided into three courses: entrée, plat and dessert. I listened to their conversation. They were shocked that the fruit being served for dessert one of the days was not in season. They were going to bring the issue up in the next PTA meeting. Very young kids here identify fruits and vegetables by season. Strawberries are found in April, May and June and if eaten outside of those months, children will ask, but how? I’ve heard people at the market refuse a melon because it was grown more than 15km from our village.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

On doudous: Another thing that is universally French and really sweet is the concept of a doudou (from the French word doux, or soft). It is essentially a lovie or blankie, and all French kids have one for moments of crisis and always for sleep. At the girls’ school, there is a ‘doudou wall,’ where each child has a pocket with her name. Some kids get very attached to just one doudou, rendering it difficult to launder, and life gets very tricky if this doudou gets lost. There is even a service called SOS Doudou where found doudous are listed online. The service will also ship out a new doudou that matches the lost doudou via overnight express!

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

Xavier making crêpes.

On doing things the French way: There is definitely a specific way to do things in France. When I was cooking with my French mother-in-law for the first time, we were peeling potatoes. I was apparently using her peeler in a way she had never seen, and she gasped. I jumped and asked her what was wrong and she exclaimed it just was not possible to peel a potato that way! It’s a similar story with many aspects of parenting — down to when a bath is taken at night. I like to do the bath right before bedtime. But most French parents we know start with the bath, put their kids in pajamas and a bathrobe, and then usher them downstairs for dinner at 8 p.m. My children’s French grandparents can’t reverse this order in any way and find it aberrant that we would! I do feel dissonance in my need to do things in the way I know, versus the French way.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

French kids often pout with their mouths when they’re listening. When my girls do it, I’m like, ‘Why are you making that face?’ And I look over at my French husband, and he’s making the same face.

On the language: Watching my girls become French has been surprising; in fact, it has taken my breath away. On rare occasions, I worry that I am losing them somehow or that they are distancing themselves from my home culture — a feeling I didn’t foresee. I see the shape of the vowels on their lips and mouths, their expressions and gestures (blowing their cheeks out in exasperation, their lips sinking downward in an upside-down U shape) and they are French. The other day, Colette even put a finger under one eye and pulled the skin down to say, yeah right. It feels strange that my children will have this trove of cultural knowledge that I cannot ever know natively. I am an immigrant and they are natives, a curious divide.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

Also, I feel like I’ll never be funny in French — the cultural references, getting the timing right, etc. I’m able to do that in English, but it’s really hard in a different cultural context. My sister-in-law doesn’t speak English at all, so our entire relationship over the past 12 years has been formed in French. There are parts of myself I’d love her to know.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

The girls’ bug collection.

On bugs: We have crazy bugs in the Provence countryside, and we’ll find them crawling up our walls and plants. The girls will see a metallic striped beetle and call, ‘You have to come see this amazing bug!’ In New York City, they would have freaked out. Our bug collection includes scorpions, cicadas, beetles and spiders. We watched a bee swarm take over a hole in one of our sycamore trees and now they buzz in and out of it daily. Last night, a bat flew in. I was trying to get a bat out of my house. I was like, ‘This is crazy.’

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

Making Easter eggs at home.

On religion: My husband grew up Catholic, like many French people by culture. He says he’s atheist, and he doesn’t see a big contradiction there. More than a fifth of the French population are openly atheist, and two-thirds of young people are atheist. My parents are devoutly Mormon, although I don’t practice anymore, so that’s an interesting cultural divide between my husband and me. Sometimes, my daughter Colette will say, ‘Ahh, I just need to know if God is there.’ I think my girls have to find their own way.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

The 13 Christmas desserts of Provence.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

Shoes for Père Noël.

Families in Provence go all out at Christmas, and there are many traditions that exist nowhere else in France. We eat the 13 desserts of Provence, including olive oil cake, nougat, calisson (marzipan like) and on and on. Children also ceremoniously shine their best shoes with their parents Christmas Eve and leave them under the tree for Père Noël to fill with candy. And the locals in Provence glean (“grappiller”) at Christmas time, meaning they go into the vines and eat the sweet raisins left hanging there in the months after the harvest.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

On praise: The French parents we know don’t often praise their kids. When I’d say to my own kids, ‘Wow, Romy, what a beautiful drawing! Colette, great job pushing yourself on the swing!’ French parents look at me strangely. Of course, I want to celebrate and support my children, but then I read an article about kids who stop doing things because they love them but instead because they’re seeking external reinforcement. I see that even in my own kids. Now I’ve tried deliberately to hold back my tendency to say, ‘That’s wonderful!’ I want my girls to enjoy things like swimming in the pool because it feels good for them, not because I’m on the sidelines cheering.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

On children’s books: French books often take on heavier topics without even blinking. They’re not scared of addressing things like death, without it being a book about death. Stories don’t always have a happy ending. A couple French books I found in my daughters’ room are Peau d’âne (the story of a girl who uses a donkey skin to hide from her father, who wants to marry her!), La Barbe Bleue (about Bluebeard, a wife murderer) and another one about a knife-wielding giant. The graphic images and barefaced way these stories are told to children of all ages is definitely cultural.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

On sex: When it comes to sex and menstruation, our French friends talk openly with their children. My friends who have teenagers talk to them about condoms and help them get on birth control, if they’d like. For me, at least growing up in my very religious household, there was a lot of shame around sex. In France, sex isn’t seen as a sin of any kind. I love that. This article about the morning-after pill being offered by high schools is definitely in line with broader cultural attitudes about sex and sexuality for young people.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

The market.

On a close-knit community: When shopping for our family’s groceries, I walk through the village market — the bread shop is separate from the cheese shop is separate from the meat shop. Each time, the owners will strike up a long conversation, even if there are five people behind me in line. The pace of life here blew me away. I adore it, except when I’m catching a flight soon and just need to get bread! Those sweet relationships are part of being a village. The butcher says his son will take his place after he retires, and he’s training him on sausage making. When we go on vacation, the baker’s son feeds our cats and waters the plants.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

Drying clothes outside. “The girls smell like sun,” Emilie says.

I hope we can stay here for a long time. We left New York not knowing what we were doing. All our friends were like, ‘You guys are nuts.’ But the balance we find here, and the way we see our children integrating into this little village, it’s what we dreamed of.

14 Surprising Things About Parenting in France

Thank you so much, Emilie! It was a joy to talk to you.

P.S. The full Motherhood Around the World series, including Iceland and Japan.

  1. Lisa says...

    Love this series! Would love to see one on parenting in Thailand.

  2. Mado says...

    Waow. I really love this series and i’m so glad that it’s back!

    As a french teacher teaching in France though, some of the comments saying that the school system and the teachers are ‘too strict’ and ‘inhumane’ break my heart. But as someone who also have had experiences and trainings in schools in the US, the UK, and who spent a year in Ireland, i know this is all about perspective and i can understand where this comes from.

    Our school system isn’t perfect and our country isn’t perfect. I definitely noticed a tendency to idealize everything french (the food! childcare! Paris!), paired with some sort of french bashing (french people only work 35hours a week! they are on holidays all the time!) that, in my experience abroad, i was never able to understand. We don’t do things better, we only do them differently, just like every other country!

    When it comes to teaching, I am probably what you would call a ‘strict’ teacher. I definitely noticed that when i did a 2 weeks training at a school in England: i found the atmosphere in the classroom was rather chaotic and i was suprised kids would learn that way! – obviously it wasn’t chaotic, it was just my perspective. The way they did things was just as valid as they way we do in France, it is just different. And i definitely made some mental notes about some things that i found were absolutely awesome and implement them now in my classroom.

    So, i am a strict teacher. I am also very attentive to all the children in my care, affectionate and kind. I create a safe environment within my classroom, making sure that the children know they can come and talk to me anytime. I teach them to be kind to each other and to support each other. I praise them for their work and their efforts – what they have accomplished. But i also wholeheartedly believe that children need boundaries and rules to thrive. It makes them feel safe, and reassure them. We call it ‘un cadre’ in french, ‘a frame’, and i like this image: a structure, a limit, a foundation to hold your base and keep you safe and explore and grow.

    What it means in my classroom is that we’ll have group time when we’ll all be together and the children will learn to work together and help each other, and we’ll also have time when each of them will be at their seat doing some work in silence, because i believe both working in team and being able to solve a problem on your own is important. And to be able to think and understand something, silence is key, so during this time they have to stay at their seat and raise their hand if they need my help – which i believe teach them patience and respect for the private space of others. We’ll have creative writing and arts and they are encouraged to draw and paint and write freely. And i also tell them to go back to their seats and stay put and that certain things aren’t ok and that they are not allowed to do that. I raise my voice. I give them ‘the look’ when they do something bad. And I wipe their tears and listen to them when they are hurt and welcome them when they spontaneously give me hugs. I am strict AND fair AND kind, but not ‘too’ strict or ‘inhumane’, as i saw it written on some comments… And i am very sorry if that was ever anyone’s experience within our school system.

    Also, about the praising: so true that parents don’t praise children as much. I was wondering how much the language influence that? To me for example, it seems much more natural to praise a kid in english, in french it just sounds odd. Or maybe it is because i’ve heard parents praising kids much more during my time abroad? I’m not sure, but i do know that i praise the kids much more during english lessons than the rest of the time, because it seems more natural.

    Breastfeeding: not a hot topic at all in France. You are not stigmatized whether you choose to breastfeed or not and are given the choice right at the hospital after you deliver. I only realised how different it was when i was in the US. So much pressure! I guess it’s mostly because women have to go back to work 12 weeks after the baby is born (maternity leave gets slightly longer when it’s your third child), so really, you can breastfeed only for a short period of time anyway and stay at home mums are not the norm.

  3. Luana Holloway says...

    I just adore this series! Thank you x

  4. CK says...

    Hi Jo, I’m a reader from Singapore and I love your blog. Would love to see a post from this series from a mother living in Singapore.

  5. Firstly your photographs are knock-your-socks-off beautiful! Book please. Why does everyone show the lavender fields without figures? The scale is lost… so many things you write about resonate. I moved to Paris 5 years ago from New York and have never looked back. What most visitors don’t realize is how child-centric Paris is. Events, activities revolve around children. It lightens the atmosphere here..the joy, the playfulness. There are so many toy stores in Paris! Next time readers visit wondering what to do, look at activities for les enfants on https://www.evous.fr/Paris.html

  6. Julianne says...

    Emilie you won’t remember me, but I knew you through Dr. Kerry at BYU, and you helped me get a guest room at New College, Oxford… I eventually went there too for a masters and DPhil, inspired by that visit! :) It’s so fun to see where you ended up. I married a German man I met at Oxford, and can relate to this “one way to do things re kids/life/everything” – hahaha I think this is a European trait.

  7. Najwa says...

    I loved this piece so, so much. Thank you for all the detail and length. I have family in France and it has helped me understand them. It also helped me get why they think it’s so weird that I didn’t go right back to work after having 3 kids – childcare where I live would be about $3000 a month.

  8. Kelly says...

    This was so beautiful to read! Thank you for sharing.

  9. Audrey says...

    My father is French and I grew up in DC. My Dutch husband and I are now raising our daughter in Paris…I recognize so many aspects of my childhood in this post and so many little things that I never thought twice about. Thank you so much for sharing!

  10. Olivia says...

    So refreshing! Wonderful!

  11. Megan says...

    Such a lovely post, and my absolutely favorite part was the photos of the girls imitating their teachers’ faces! That’s priceless– what beautiful, funny children!

    I also had to laugh at the ‘I’m not funny in French part’. Although I’m American, people don’t think I’m funny here in the US! Whereas, when I studied abroad in France, I was, for the first time in my life, funny, despite the language barrier. People said I ‘sparkled’– whereas, here in America, I’ve always been considered a bit of a wallflower! I also thrived in the stricter French university classes. I actually found a degree of cultural resonance in a country that was not my own. I sorely miss that since returning to the US.

    This post kind of makes me wish I’d worked harder to find a way to stay in France, because I returned to work full-time 12 weeks after having my son, and it’s hard to find adequate support for that in the US.

    But– I’m truly American in that I lavish praise and cuddles on my 2-year-old son! I can’t resist doing that, and I find so much joy in celebrating all his little accomplishments, and even just being silly with him. No matter how much I agree with other French parenting practices, I’d never change that– childhood’s too short to censure that happiness!

    Also– baths BEFORE dinner? What’s with that?!? Haha, I’m with Emilie on that one, too!

    • My Mexican friend suggested it once when I complained how the whole bath, pajamas, teeth, books, lights out routine would drag on and on. Then I tried it, and I am a convert. Bathtime is still fun, but they get their pajamas on so much more quickly because they are hungry and want to get back downstairs for dinner. Then we brush teeth and have more time for books and cuddling. I think baths before dinner is magic!

  12. Kay says...

    Kind of amazed at those who can’t imagine kids in school “all day” or the pressure to return to work – in America those pressures are to get your salary and insurance back and are very often not a choice at all for American mothers.
    On the “strict school” complaint, as someone who has been part of the French school system, I agree, there is an expectation for the children and less strictly creative work HOWEVER my local school is overcrowded, has barely any recess, metal detectors, many standardized tests and has to fundraise to get a music teacher. I wouldn’t say American schools, outside of privileged places, are creative wonderlands.

  13. Courtney says...

    Love love love this series! I love taking a peak at what is happening around the world. I love the insightful comments, too; however I wish everyone would read this for what it is: a woman sharing her unique experience and how it is working for her. The need to compare is an itch that doesn’t have to be scratched. Everyone is doing their best raising children and one way is not the right way. And while I do read this with jealousy (uh hello? I want my own French bread baker to shop from daily!), there isn’t a need to think the way I am doing things isn’t “as good”. We are all doing what we think is best.

    • Luiza says...

      Standing ovation for this comment!!! We’re all just trying to be the best moms we can be, no matter how, no matter where!!!

  14. Steph says...

    The listening pout face and the non praise for kids doing regular things….. omg this sounds like me! Maybe I’m french and just don’t know! Haha!

  15. Rosalie says...

    I’m an American who has lived in rural France for 13 years now (in the Normandy region). My husband is French; our two daughters were born here and have attended our village’s public school since they were 3 years old. Many of these points resonated with me, and Emilie’s life certainly sounds lovely. However, I find it frustrating that articles about ex-pats always seem to focus on individuals and/or families who are financially well-off. As a solidly middle-class ex-pat, I feel like I should remind everyone that for most of us, life isn’t just about going to the market and frolicking in lavender fields. Haha.

  16. Haylee says...

    I’ve noticed a lot of comments discussing praise/childcare and just thought I’d contribute! I got my BS in Human Development and the research we reviewed showed that childcare quality is what mattered, not whether or not the child was in childcare, even during the first year :) in the field, there’s actually a list of characteristics to look for when daycare shopping that are associated with really positive outcomes for the child. With praise, research supports “growth mindset” praise over “fixed mindset” praise. I feel like this idea is becoming more well-known, but just in case, “growth mindset” praise refers to praise that acknowledges the action and progress, while “fixed mindset” just acknowledges a characteristic. Giving primarily “fixed mindset” praise is associated with negative outcomes that a few readers have mentioned from personal experience—this is actually backed by the literature, too. In other words, research supports saying “Wow, you worked really hard to hit the ball more!” versus “You’re such a great athlete!” Food for thought. As always, love this series and so glad it’s back!

    • Dinah Yu says...

      Lovely explanation! Thank you for sharing!

    • Lauri says...

      Yes, thank you!

  17. Kate says...

    The SOS DOUDOU website made my day – the posts are hilarious! Thank you so much for this one – I loved it!

    • sasha l says...

      I thought of this too! Loved that episode.

    • Lauren E. says...

      My husband is a standup comic and will occasionally play a room full of tourists who do not laugh at ALL (even though they speak English!). He said they’re some of his most challenging shows. I’m so fascinated by humor.

  18. As always: the Cup of Jo post was so beautiful and dreamy, made me feel almost jealous… but then the comments helped round everything out, to remind me there are always 2 sides to every story, to not compare my life as harshly to others and remember our differences. Thank you.

  19. RLT says...

    OH MY GOODNESS. Love this. My 7 year old son walked-by while the picture of the lavender fields was on the screen and said “Oh, mommy! You would LOVE that!” Yes, yes, I would :).

    What a phenomenal way of living! Bravo to them for making this brave and beautiful move.

    Love this series!!!

  20. Kathryn says...

    ah, the not-being-funny aspect! I’ve lived in Germany for the past nine years and the worst is that I still have so much trouble with the humour. Not only do my jokes and sarcasm go over people’s heads (or worse, are taken as offensive!), but often I don’t find humour in things that Germans find hilarious. At the same time, my partner will try to make jokes in English and think they are hilarious, but they are dad-jokes at best

    • Alexandra says...

      I am a German who has been living in the U.S. for almost 20 years, and I can still see the difference in sense of humor. Germans and Americans have very different senses of humor …. I think German humor is a lot rougher and harsher than American humor, speaking very generally. Political correctness is less important in Germany. I have very good American friends here, but to really let loose, I need a native German speaker. I feel that I am a bit of a different person “in English”. I hope you enjoy living in Germany.

  21. C. says...

    For those parents who are interested in reading research-based information that addresses the impact of praise on children, I highly recommend the book “Nurture Shock”, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. In particular, the chapter called “The Inverse Impact of Praise” describes the neurological and developmental impact that constant praise can have on a child’s confidence and performance.

    • Angela says...

      Yes, would second this recommendation. It is a great book!

  22. Alex Simpkin says...

    I have created a new folder in my library of bookmarks labelled ‘Beautiful Keepsakes’ just for this piece.

    I lived in France with various local families some years ago while on exchange, and reading this makes it feels familiar and recent once again.

  23. Suzanne says...

    I’m so happy that this is back! I really really really enjoy reading these each and every time!! :)

  24. PAMELA J. DECKER says...

    I love this series SO much! Wow – her instagram is breathtaking.

  25. Lisa says...

    Love all these comments and loved reading about Emilie’s experiences. I lived in France as a child (American expats) and loved going to school outside of Paris for five years. Our school was very well structured and I learned so much – very academic, but of course we had playtime too. What I remember that I still appreciate was a sense of we were all in it together – we wore the same navy outfits, we ate the same things, etc. even though we represented different cultures and ethnicities. It was so sensible. In the U.S. there is so much ego (my kid is so bright, our nanny speaks 3 languages, I breastfed for 2 years, our kid is vegan…blah blah blah – every child is a snowflake.) What is wrong with giving kids boundaries, standards, and a sense of not trying to outdo everyone else all the time? I miss it.

  26. Inês says...

    Love these series!
    As we say in Portuguese “Nem 8, nem 80” (Neither 8, nor 80). As in, we should praise our children just enough. Not too much, not too little. As everything in life. Balance.
    As for this particular type of living, I like it just for vacationing.
    I’m a city girl.
    I can’t wait for more posts!

  27. Alice says...

    I love this series so much (thank you Joanna and your team for the great contents we find here) ! I’m french (living in the french countryside as well) so for once I could particularly relate, it’s fascinating to read about what surprises families from other nationalities here :-)
    (I totally couldn’t eat a strawberry in winter)
    I’m astonished to learn that our concept of “doudou” is not common to all cultures. However, not all french kids have one : my second son doesn’t, he has his thumb ;-) But indeed the preschools allows kids to bring it for nap time :-)
    I praise my children a lot, but indeed this is not traditionnal in France, which is sad (that’s why we’re all so grumpy)…
    About preschool, it is not mandatory but it’s free, teachers are fantastic, and it’s more stimulating than childcare… A lot of children only go in the morning. Governement thinks indeed about making preschool mandatory, particularly to help children from least educated families, or foreign language speakers, to fit in better and get more luck to have a good school path…

    • Libby says...

      We definitely have a similar thing to doudou here in the US – we call it a lovie :) like you said, some kids have them and some kids don’t. Maybe it’s more prevalent in France and that’s what she noticed, not sure!

  28. Adele says...

    I loved this and thank you for posting! I read Bringing Up Bebe (can’t find accent marks on the keyboard) in preparation for becoming a grandmother, and would have enjoyed it more with these beautiful photos. More from Emilie!

  29. Genna says...

    Beautiful!

  30. Pamela says...

    I think the French way is fine if you are living the French way. So many comments on how they couldn’t pu their child in daycare so early, or that that it sounds too restrictive. Emilie’s experience makes sense for the culture she lives in. You may think 3 is too early for the kid to spend so much time away from home, but that may only be true if you are in the US. France has a way different lifestyle, system of support for families. Emilie no longer spends her time making lists in her head of tasks she has to monitor and accomplish for daily life. She relaxes and enjoys every moment with her kids, who explore their environments in ways that they didn’t in NYC. Different worlds, different experiences.

    • Jojo says...

      I agree. The work day for everyone is 35 hours per week and they get gobs of holidays, both working adults and children. It’s just a completely different lifestyle. It sounds dreamy.

    • jules says...

      Sure. But she and her husband started a finance technology company. That’s a lot of work. Unlikely that they accomplishing it on 35 hours per week with constant bank holidays.

  31. Wow! Thanks for taking me back to France with this post. And Emelie’s Instagram…wow…one beautiful photo after another!

  32. Meggie says...

    Yes, Emilie!! I’ve admired you since you were my teacher back in 2008, learning about Gay Paris. You are an amazing woman. <3

  33. Renee says...

    I lobe this series. Thank you so much for sharing!

  34. Suzie says...

    What a lovely and refreshing way of living. I’m inspired!

  35. Sarah says...

    I actually got a little teary when I read your comment about not being funny in French, because I remember that feeling SO WELL. I don’t remember the joke itself, but I remember exactly where I was and who I was with and, most importantly, how it felt when they laughed and I finally felt like myself in French – 16 years after I started learning. All of that is to say that it will happen eventually so don’t give up!

  36. Brenna says...

    I am reading “bringing up Bebe” right now and I cannot get over the chapter about the CRÈCHE! The fact that childcare can be a career in France is amazing. The quality child care at an affordable cost does not seem like a hard thing for a society to figure out – but yet America still has crazy expensive day care. I loved reading about the training and education you have to do to be a childcare worker at the crèche.

  37. Megan says...

    Upon opening this page and reading “motherhood”, I think my heart skipped a beat. Loving this series…thank you!

  38. Bec says...

    Love this post but was so confused about who was in the photos! Kept having to scroll up and re-read how many kids they have.

  39. Melissa says...

    I ate every word up. Thank you so much for sharing!

  40. Was your house featured in the show Patrick Melrose by any chance?! Looks oddly similar!

  41. Maggie says...

    I echo the concerns others have expressed regarding the French education system. My kids attended a French immersion school in the US, regulated by the French ministry and staffed with French teachers (from France, here on temporary visas) for several years. While we’re excited to be raising bilingual children who have a sense of the world outside the US, the strict teachers, rote curriculum, lack of emphasis on creative expression, and overall severe approach were a disappointment. As they became middle schoolers and once they achieved fluency, we returned to an American school, primarily due to these concerns.

  42. Ramona says...

    I appreciate all the ways families are families all over the world. There is no ‘perfect’ way. There are many wonderful qualities from every culture. The main thing is that a child feels loved, respected and learns how to take care of themselves and helps others. (p.s. love the ‘teacher poses’! being an early childhood teacher, myself, I can appreciate the discipline!) thank you for sharing this! I love it! <3

  43. Rachel says...

    We moved to NH from NYC for our kids, and they experience a lot of what you mention in your first section. They are outside all of the time, know the farms, how plants grow… I love it

  44. Irina says...

    Please do a post on an American expat family raising kids in Russia! I’d love to hear their take on child-rearing practices and family life in my home country.

    Also would love a post about a topic that has emerged in many of the comments on this post: families where parents have different child-rearing philosophies, and how they resolve their differences. Could be from different countries/cultures or not.

    My husband and I are both from Russia, now living in the US, but I feel that if we were ever to have a child, we’d disagree on a lot of things. He would be much more likely to “spoil” them (buy them whatever they want, let them eat whatever food they like) but also would not tolerate any talking back or boundary pushing. I’d probably take a more middle of the road type approach.

    Also, my husband believes it’s essential to be able to cover our kids’ college tuition. I say, “Let them take out loans or go to school in Europe where it’s free or low cost, and we’ll chip in whatever we can, if we can.” To which his response is, “Why have kids at all if you’re not going to pay for something as basic as their education?”

  45. Marisa says...

    “My sister-in-law doesn’t speak English at all, so our entire relationship over the past 12 years has been formed in French. There are parts of myself I’d love her to know.” This, this, this! Except replace in-laws and a different language than French, but still.

  46. gfy says...

    Wow, that was a blissful read. It sounds like she is living the dream. I hope manage to make such successful decisions in my lifetime!

  47. Emily says...

    Having moved to France with our two very young children earlier this year, I LOVED this. My mother is French but I grew up in the U.K. She has been living in the U.K. for longer than she lives in France now but mentioned the other day how she still has moments when she is left out of the conversation because she didn’t grow up there with the same tv shows/celebrities/musicians…I admire Emilie and her husband’s courage about picking a dreamy place to live and making it a reality. Wish them all the very best.

  48. Megan says...

    I just love these series, Joanna! One thing I always think every time I’m reading is—“what would a mother in France/Iran/Mongolia/etc. think while reading my American take on all these same parenting topics??”

    Or even more interesting perhaps—“how would a mother in Texas/New Hampshire/Utah/etc. feel about my responses to these questions, knowing that culturally we are all American?” I can imagine just how varied and different we all are just in our own country! Perhaps this would be a good insight in these times when we all feel so divided… ❤️

    • Lydia says...

      Yes, I love the idea of a “Motherhood around America” series or something like that.

    • Kirsten says...

      wow yes, definitely!

    • I’ve lived in a few different places here in the US and have found many regional differences. It’s sort of hard to put your finger on some of them, but there are differences. It’s interesting.

  49. Paige says...

    Have you read the book “French Kids Eat Everything and Yours Can Too”? It matches up exactly with the section about school lunches in this post.

  50. Lindsay says...

    I was so happy to see this post – I love this series!

    Two things that stood out were how Emilie feels she isn’t funny in French. That would drive me crazy but perhaps the trade off is worth it, living in another place that’s so difft than what you’re accustomed to. France seems magical.

    And on praise … does anyone remrber the line in Meet the Fockers when Dustin Hoffman says, “we hugged and kissed that little prince like there was no tomorrow…We Fockerized him.”

    I love that! I will always praise my kids when they deserve it. Affection and outward displays of love are not something I had as a kid, so as a mother I want to make sure my kids know how I feel about them and when I’m proud of them. Perhaps praise and affection are two separate things but to me it’s all love.

    • Z says...

      So sweet!

  51. i love this series.. it reminds me that the ‘grass is always greener’ syndrome is often true once you dig a bit deeper. putting 3 year olds in school for so many hours a day is really upsetting to me, also the level of strictness in the schools is crazy and inhumane. kids are meant to play, to explore, to use their bodies and run around.. my beloved doctor in brooklyn is french. i asked her why she left and she said there are no opportunities for upward mobility. everyone is expected to stay exactly where they are — perhaps the school rules mimic their larger visions for their citizens. my sisters boyfriend, also french, says the same thing. i noticed that there was no mention of breastfeeding which seems to be a hot topic there..

    the food part looks magical and i so appreciate learning of her personal experience. motherhood is such a wild, individual ride.

    • Claire says...

      As someone who did go to school full time from age 3 in France, I did enjoy it! Before that, my sister and I were looked after by a childminder. I don’t think either of our parents would have enjoyed being a full-time parent (also living in the middle of the countryside meant there weren’t any other children to play with) so it worked for us. I didn’t mind the strictness of school either.
      That said, the upward mobility part is very true – hence why I moved to the UK at age 18!

    • Cynthia says...

      In the book Bringing Up Bebe the author mentions that since all women go back to work after maternity leave (there is basically no such thing as a stay at home mom in France) breast feeding is not done for as long as it is in the US.

    • Rita says...

      Not sure this is representative, but in Portugal most women go back to work after a 4-6 month maternity leave as well. I breastfed almost exclusively (sometimes we would complement with formula if I had not pumped enough that day and in the beginning it was hard to get it going) until she was 6 months old and I kept going until she was 11 months old. I planned to continue until at least 18 months.
      I am the oldfest of 5 and nmy mother did the same – she also went back to work after maternity leave and she breastfed all of us, one of my sisters until 2 1/2 years old…

    • Emma says...

      I grew up in France and went to school at three (technically two, since I only turned three in October). It was really great and I was extremely happy. There was unstructured play time, nap time, story time, and some structured learning, which I really liked. There was discipline, but the teachers and assistants were extremely kind and caring and I felt very safe there. It was more like daycare in the US I think – and I grew up to be a happy and well-adjusted adult. Most French kids go to maternelle and it’s seen as very normal. I’m sort of sad that my kids may not have that unless I move back to France.

    • Poppy says...

      Not all parents in the US can keep their kids home. My kids all had to go to daycare because I have to work. And because I like to work. And because I think kids who go to daycare are better socially. I can generally tell the 5 year olds who went to pre-school and the ones who did not. Not all schools in the US are strict. My kids are lucky enough to go to a play-based school. They spend much of the day outside and run around like banshees. They are strong and healthy. Best part — no parent running behind them saying “be careful, be careful.” or “share” or ” don’t do that.” Nope. They get to learn how to be people without me, and they have been the better for it. To each her own!

    • J says...

      I think the word “inhumane” is a bit extreme, no? I live in France and work with public schools here to develop contemporary art residency programs. Things are very much adapted to the age and development levels of children. Teachers are very attetive to adapt to the “rhythms” of a child’s life. They do play, explore and use their bodies to run and be free! The thing is just that there is a system that structures this time to help families of all incomes to give their children access to these educational spaces!

  52. Sarah says...

    I *totally* identify with not feeling completely known (or as funny!) in French. My family is Belgian but I grew up in Australia and, despite speaking French at home (or a mix of French and English that we call ‘Franglais’) and visiting every few years, I’ve never felt able to express myself as fully in French. I work in communications and make my living shaping (the English) language so it frustrates me that I can’t speak with the same nuance (or wit) in French and that my extended family only knows what feels like a two dimensional version of me. But on the plus side, I *can* order French wines with a halfway decent accent so you win some, you lose some I guess! ;)

    • Laura says...

      As another Belgian raised in Franglais (my family lived in the U.S.), I sympathize! But, I feel lucky to have grown up on gauffres and Tintin :)

  53. Capucine says...

    It LOOKS beautiful (it’s so, so, beautiful), but after ten years navigating between Provence and California cultures, seeing the idealized comments on this article hit a nerve. I believe many American mothers would not be OK with the daycare or schools in France. When we were considering enrolling our children, I sat in an elementary class and was horrified by the reality of it. Ultimately, we homeschooled and went for US schools. Children reciting poems from memory standing alone in front of the class with hands behind their backs, blunt meticulous criticism on homework without any recognition of good work, cursive and fountain pens only from kindergarten upwards, and teachers who overall were harsh, critical, and blunt – and burned out – with no encouragement frankly, to me, looked straight up mean, I couldn’t accept the never-a-kind-word style. It felt like 1955. If you are a professional mama, you go back to work – it’s a strong social obligation and there is very high pressure, preschool is not there so the mom has time away from her kids, it is so she can uphold her social contract for her university degree. Children have a cumulative GPA from kindergarten up to the end of highschool; those with lower GPAs at about age 14 are shunted to technical schools to be cooks, mechanics, and waitresses and have no route to ever go to university; there is no community college. There is huge pressure therefore to really nail schoolwork, and academics are all there is with kids compared to the US. Watching my husband’s two brothers agonize over their slower kids struggle in math in the early grades was shocking; it clearly mattered for their entire LIVES in a way second grade math…doesn’t, for the US. The hours are long – elementary school is 8:30 to 5 – and daycare is cheap because the government pays for university, so if mothers are unable to work due to childcare the government’s university investment becomes a bad one, ergo free school that matches adult hours. The institutions of preschool and school form the culture of France; many stereotypes of France come from the education system – the children with good manners who do not snack and excel at homework and are thin and dress well (their is frequent censure around weight and clothing). Parents alone cannot create that; our French friends in the US have kids who dress sloppily and snack, all of them! The French school system in many ways IS France.

    The snacking thing and the doudous have become an institutionalized thing in part because of bottle feeding. French kids all have doudous because that is their source of extra snuggles from birth – while deeply loved, love is shown differently. Cosleeping and breastfeeding even newborns is extremely rare and socially unsupported even though doctors recommend nursing and babywearing, babies are often encouraged to suck their fingers from an early age to self soothe, and have their doudou to hug. Breastfeeding is necessarily on demand for young babies because of how breasts work, but bottles can’t be given that way, so babies must of course use pacifiers, thumbs, and doudous, and crying, until the next bottle is given. Breastfeeding rates are so low and have been for so long that the whole idea of the snuggle-snack that breastfeeding is has vanished from the cultural ethos and being able to wait calmly until the next meal is the underpinning of expectations for babies.

    We’re a French-American couple, and spend several months a year in Provence with my in-laws, our home is in California because of the schools. I treasure the aesthetics, the beauty in the theater of the table, his close family, and Sunday lunch, but the darker truths that also exist were harder to see and hard to swallow…I believe breastfeeding is ideal and kind words celebrating effort in kids are ideal. Probably this particular family was already adapted to full-time daycare and the realities of how work affects breastfeeding and parent time; I couldn’t adapt and ended up going to half time and then exiting my career entirely, so neither France nor NYC agreed with my gut! Dealing with censure breastfeeding my five month old drove me to look for research explaining how to understand what I was disagreeing with. I think ‘French Kids Eat Everything’ is a great place to start!

    • Tatiana says...

      Capucine, I resonate with this as well. Married to a French man, living in Northern California. His entire family lives in the south and for a while, we contemplated moving (actually went so far as to ship all of our stuff). Ultimately, we ended up getting pregnant and staying and now settled down with the baby, but all you say about child rearing, in general, is so true. Especially the educational system – my husband still shudders thinking of the strict teachers he had growing up. As a teacher myself, I find it quite shocking. I love visiting, and there is so much beauty to take in, but living there, and especially sending our child to school there seems like a difficult decision and one I am glad we circumnavigated, at least for now!

    • gfy says...

      Fascinating comment, thank you!

    • Midwest says...

      Thank you for sharing your experience in detail. I am often tired of hearing how much better life is in other countries compared to the US and how other cultures’ child rearing norms are superior. I’ll stay where I am, thanks.

    • Abesha1 says...

      Thank you.

    • Angela says...

      What an amazing comment! Thank you for showing your side of things. It looks so ideal and it’s fascinating to hear about what’s on the other side.

    • Lindsay says...

      Thank you for the reality check! I always like to know the pros and cons of things that seem picture-perfect.

    • A Martin says...

      I loved reading your perspective!! Thank you for sharing.

    • Shanna says...

      I really adore your very realistic portrait you paint of what looks like an idealized life. Thank you. I think many American parents do feel like a failure, but it is often the social institutions that create the structure in a culture and some of those structures in reality are not perfect, and don’t create perfect people.

    • Elizabeth says...

      This is a very insightful, valuable comment. Thanks for taking the time!

    • Margle says...

      What a thoughtful, insightful comment. Thank you for sharing this perspective.

    • Julie says...

      Wow, thanks for your perspective. I love reading about different experiences in the same culture.

    • Sammy says...

      Capucine, thank you so much for your balanced and personal comment. The pictures do look quite lovely and it’s a lovely story also, of course. I read ‘French Kids Eat Everything’ and in the end I felt sad for the author that she felt she had to move back to Canada because she never felt truly like she fit in in France. When the author described her sadness, I felt it in my gut. It reminded me, having been to Paris twice and loving it, that what you see on vacation or idealize, is not the truth. Many of us say (and I have too) that we would love to live in France. But many of us would probably have a difficult time with the judgement of others (I would).

      I grew up in a very strict family (not French) that rarely praised for work well done. I do praise my children often now and do not think that it is the wrong thing to do. Everyone has to find their own way to parent. I don’t think that praising them is going to make them do things just to get the praise. I want them to feel my love, affection, and adoration and know that I am always there for them. Of course I discipline and criticize when needed, etc. – it’s a balance. Growing up in a very strict environment, I rarely felt the “love” from my parents even though after I grew up, I understood it was there. But that affected me deeply as a child and I had a lot of damage to repair as an adult.

    • savy says...

      great perspective!!

    • Erin says...

      There’s a reason why American students rank so low in the world when it comes to competency in math and science and languages. French students consistently rank higher, and the intense focus on coddle-less education is certainly one of those reasons. Of course there are larger societal issues at play, but your perception of cold, un-encouraging teachers actually yields quantifiably better results in students. French students graduate knowing two languages other than their own, and are trained from a young age that education is serious, with life-changing implicationa, unlike American students who are allowed to find themselves or fail without consequences. Or, really, not even apply themselves to the level that their international peers are. Why *shouldn’t* second grade math count?

    • Katie Larissa says...

      Thank you for this honest, kind reminder that not everything is as idealistic as many people on this comment thread seem to think based on this one (!) BLOG post on a (admittedly lovely) lifestyle site.

    • sasha l says...

      Capucine, thank you for this thoughtful and insightful response. I truly appreciate another perspective. There are wonderful (and not so wonderful) aspects to every culture it seems and we’d do well to appreciate what we admire, and leave the rest.

    • Suzie says...

      Capucine, I am rewriting my response to you as it didn’t appear to have gone through. Thank you for this balanced and personal view of parenting in France. I read “French Kids Eat Everything,” and I was sad at the end of the book when the author decided to go back to Canada, as she felt she never really fit in in France. I felt it in my gut when she described how people would be unfriendly to her in France, or misunderstand her best intentions and scold her. I have been to Paris twice, and love many things French, but this book opened my eyes and made me realize I would have a difficult time dealing with the judgment if I moved to France.

      I grew up in a very strict family where praise was rare. I now have my own children and I do praise them often (and of course, discipline and criticize when appropriate). I do not believe that praising children is a bad thing and makes them do things just for praise. Everything is a balance and parents have to work out what that balance is for them. Having had so little praise growing up, it was something that damaged my relationship with my parents and something I had to repair later in life. As an adult I grew to understand that my parents expressed love differently than saying the words, but the words are important in addition to the actions.

      Anyway, Capucine, I always enjoy your thoughtful comments.

    • Amy says...

      I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thought. It’s good to see both sides.

    • Wow: what an incredible and honest counterpoint to the article, thank you for the background. So often we idealize other countries, especially as mothers. The more I learn about the 360* of raising children is that, with the good comes the bad— just like anything else. While I love this series for opening my eyes to lovely parts of mothering internationally, I think I love the comments even more for showing the honesty in full. We can learn from both parts!
      MamaMD.GianninaMD.com

    • K says...

      Thanks so much for this – I am so happy that the authors of this series love where they live, but it is nice to see a counterpoint. Everyone on this blog is always so negative about American parenting and has the tendency to idealize parenting in other countries. The reality is certainly somewhere in the middle, and I know several foreign born parents who are staying in the US specifically because of the opportunities that our educational system offers their children as opposed to their home countries in Europe.

      On an unrelated note, I also think that young people tend to overestimate the magic of a different culture for raising their kids and underestimate the importance of extended family. I have three kids (4, 7, and 10), and recently moving back to my boring Midwestern town to live near my family has been better than any exotic locale. I know not everyone has a family that meshes with them, but for us it has been wonderful. Perhaps some of the traditions that seem so lovely in foreign countries are because of those strong family ties and cultural traditions? Maybe we can find them or create them in our own backyard?

    • Lindsay says...

      Wow, so interesting! Thanks. I was sitting here wishing I had been born in France but after your comment, I’m ok with my California upbringing ;) …….but I still love France!

    • Anne says...

      Love this comment, thank you for speaking your experience. I too am always skeptical when Americans idealize the “French way of things”, for the reasons that you mentioned (especially the pressure to institutionalize one’s children from infancy) and some of the other dark undertones of French culture…namely the racism and xenophobia…

    • Jeannie says...

      Incredible insight from your own experience; thank you for sharing!! There are many sides to every story ;)

    • Jane says...

      Born in the US to American parents, I grew up in Provence (6-17), then lived elsewhere in France and in the US. My husband is French. I relate to what you wrote. Provence will always be home to me: there are so many cultural aspects I love or have grown to love. There are other aspects that make the choice to move back to France difficult: school and parenting being among the most important. Whenever someone starts talking about the bestselling French books on diets, rearing children, I groan inwardly. There is definitely a darker side as you mentioned. And yet, while we decided to educate our kids in the US, it’s still my favorite place on earth.

    • Jane says...

      Born in the US to American parents, I grew up in Provence (6-17), then lived elsewhere in France and in the US. My husband is French. Provence will always be home to me: there are so many cultural aspects I love or have grown to love. There are other aspects that make the choice to move back to France difficult: school and parenting being among the most important. Whenever someone starts talking about the bestselling French books on diets, rearing children, I groan inwardly. There is definitely a darker side as you mentioned. And yet, while we decided to educate our kids in the US, it’s still my favorite place on earth.

    • J says...

      I’m not American or French, but I’ve lived in many different countries and completely agree with the point you are making.

    • Vivian says...

      I so appreciated this frank and considered response. Thank you for writing, Capucine. I would enjoy reading more from you.

    • Sara says...

      All so interesting, thank you for sharing!

    • Kelsey says...

      Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this perspective. I think that we do tend to idealize other European cultures, and these realities are important to understand.

      I also wonder if this kind of bucolic rural existence is only really available to white families in France. I live in the Midwest and the intolerance and lack of diversity in our rural areas keeps me from wanting to move out to the country to enjoy a more simple, small-town life. France seems to have similar issues with immigrants, race, and religion, so is it the same there as in the rural Midwest?

    • Really enjoyed this perspective, Capucine! I love this series and enjoy getting glimpses of parenting in other countries, since we’re all basically doing the same things, just in ways that work best for us. This profile is definitely very affluent, and it would be insightful to read the experiences of a middle-class family.

      My kids attend our local school, a Title I (low income) public elementary in Texas, and the thing I’ve noticed most is that all parents want what’s best for our kids, regardless of background and income.

    • Lisa says...

      My husband is French (I’m not and we live in the UK) and a lot of what you said I’ve seen with French family. For eg I breastfed my eldest until he was a year and plan on doing the same with my second. No one in my mother in law’s generation breastfed and in our generation, few do (or only do it for a few weeks). For returning to work – my cousin in law went back to work as a lawyer, and was sidelined effectively. By contrast, my manager put me up for promotion and I received a lot of support. Someone very senior in my department had been lured back into work (she didn’t go back after she had her second) and I sense in London at least there’s a real push to support working mothers (though not through making childcare less extortionate).
      I was also shocked about the rigidity of the baccalaureate. You can only select a suite of subjects (not pick and choose what interests you / you’re good at) and the more sciencey selection is more highly rated than say liberal arts. They also think there’s only 5 continents which is CLEARLY WRONG <- spot the ongoing argument in my home.
      But – I love how you still have lots of small shops and restaurants (London is becoming just chains), they get so much annual leave and the education system produces people who are really good at technical jobs (I have two French friends who are quantitative analysts)

    • Liza says...

      I guess I’m crazy because everything that you described is what I wish we got from our education system. I don’t think American kids are tough enough and most don’t know the value of hard work. I also firmly support the fact that the government funnels young people towards trades because I think college is an enormous drain on many Americans who would really have benefited from learning a trade more than dicking around and drinking beer and racking up huge debts for four years of fun or worse, 2 or 3 years of fun and coming out of it with a ton of debt and no way to pay it off because they end up struggling to get a career track job without a degree. I’m really strict with my kids because I think it’s healthy. I wish my 3rd grader was learning how to recite poetry instead of filling out silly worksheets.

    • agnes says...

      Wow Capucine, your description seems so strange to me! I’m wondering if you’re not referring to a private school? I’m a teacher and let me reassure you, we do praise the students and don’t teach them like in the 50’s! (children reciting in front of the class with hands behind their back? come one!). And we do breast feed and are encouraged to do so… Your comment seem very resentful to me, I’m sorry you had a bad experience in France but it’s not fair to generalize this way.

  54. Liz says...

    Incredible timing! My husband and I just returned from a trip to Provence (and Paris). We’re thinking of starting a family soon, and last year I read Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman to learn more about raising children the French way (because everything is better the French way, right?). Initially, I was very taken with everything in the book. The near-adult lunches, the better patience skills, the “cadre” that Emilie refers to, which gives children boundaries within which to operate. But after my trip and now reading this article, I actually think I’d really struggle with many aspects of raising a child in France. Principally, as Emilie states, I would be devastated not to feel smart or funny in the language and culture my children are growing up in, which at this point I never would in French/France. But secondly, while some of the practices around traditions, patience, sleeping through the night, respect, and others are great and definitely worth incorporating into American parenting, I could never get behind the concept that there is only one “proper” way of doing everything. This is true of Europe in general, in my experience. Wine must be made this way. Vegetables need to be sliced this way. And on and on. I guess as a Californian, I appreciate the creative freedom of living in the wild west, and I want my children to grow up embracing that freedom too. What’s more, the idea that there is only one right way of doing things seems to have some negative implications when it comes to being open-minded about other races and cultures; I want children who look at a family doing something the Thai way or the Australian way or the Nigerian way and not see that as somehow “incorrect.” I really appreciate Emilie for sharing her experience and how it has been both dreamy and wonderful, but also challenging. It is so wonderful to have a realistic account in order to ask yourself, is this what I would truly want!

    • i completely agree with you. it is so important to inspire in our kids of sense of security, unconditional love, and creative freedom. the europeans are not great at this, yet.. bringing up bebe was a silly book and i completely don’t understand why it was so popular. raising my daughter and thinking toward some of the french ‘rules’, i am so grateful to be in brooklyn where there is much more space to be as we are.. a privilege, for sure.

    • Heidi says...

      Surely not all of Europe is set in its ways!! In the Netherlands, for example, there is so much creative freedom. Plus there is this different level freedom that is, sadly, hard to find in the US these days. I think this is an interesting article about the topic:
      https://dispatcheseurope.com/netherlands-vs-the-u-s-two-wildly-different-definitions-of-freedom/

      Remember that children’s happiness research shows France at the 16th place and the United States ranking 26th, just above Lithuania, Latvia and Romania – the three poorest countries in the survey. Dutch children are the happiest in the world.

    • Sara says...

      I beg to differ… Europeans are a lot of different nations and even more regions. There is no European way or something that Europeans are universally good or bad at. I live in Berlin and I can assure you that everyone here is free to bath there kids whenever is good for them. Also daycare or not daycare, breastfeeding or not breastfeeding etc is totally up to the parents. I think being strict about traditional ways is more common in rural areas and villages than in bigger cities. Regardless the country.

    • Heidi Smets says...

      @zivar: Please remember France is not Europe. Most northern European countries ‘beat’ the USA big time when it comes to child security, freedom, and health…

    • Zoe says...

      I am from the UK and your comment and the one below that “this is true of Europe, in general” is such a huge sweeping statement! When it comes to parenting, most of the British mums I know (and as a mother of three under five I know a fair few), don’t follow just one institutionalised method that is considered the “proper” way and I’m sure mums from other European countries would argue the same. In the UK there is a wide spectrum of approaches to parenting, and attachment parenting – where you breastfeed on demand, co-sleep, praise and encourage your child for doing well etc – is definitely a popular one here as it is in the US. We certainly encourage creative freedom in our children. There is also a strong movement among mums in the UK across social media to promote support for each others’ parenting choices without passing constant judgment. In the UK we certainly don’t view the way other cultures do things as “incorrect”. Of course we have our flaws like any other nation but London is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. Given the recent headlines surrounding the appalling treatment immigrants crossing your borders have faced in recent months I would respectfully submit that open-mindedness, cultural awareness and “freedom in the wild west” are not always the default mode in the US.

    • Rita says...

      I would advise against putting all of Europe’s 44 countries in one basket like that, the education systems and parenting styles are so, so different and so diverse… the whole movement of progressive education started here, Montessori, Jenaplan, Waldorf, most countries have extended maternity leaves, in some cases even up to two years…

    • Liz says...

      I’ve never really commented on this site before, and am amazed and happy to see responses to my initial comment. To each of you, your points are well taken, and thank you so much for posting them. I should not have said “This is true of Europe in general.” I absolutely realize that Europe is an enormous, diverse place where millions of people are breaking the mold, creating incredible and new things, practicing whatever kind of parenting and lifestyle they want, and more. What I intended to do was draw a distinction between parenting within a set cultural paradigm, as Emilie at times refers to in her description of parenting in Provence/France, and parenting in a more fluid space. There are undeniable benefits to both: for instance, where you have a stronger cultural framework, you are likely to have more support and infrastructure from your community and less stress about researching “how” to do everything under the sun; where you have a more fluid framework, you are likely to have more opportunities to do things your own way, or to make up a new way. My husband works in a global consulting firm, and has commented a number of times on how his European colleagues tend to follow a “playbook” and often suggest that when companies are operating outside of the playbook, they’re wrong. The American consultants, on the other hand, are frequently more willing to be flexible and re-invent the wheel. My very cursory study of winemaking in various parts of the world indicates that there are many more rules and processes dictated by the government in France than in California, for instance. These are the kinds of anecdotes I was basing my comment on, and they are certainly not enough for the generality of the statement I made. So I will edit to say, I think there is something to be said for growing up in a place where there is plenty of room for creative expression, be that in California or the UK or the Netherlands or elsewhere. And I agree that as Zoe says, there are MANY homes in the US/California where there is little space for creative/free/radical thought or expression!

      The one other point I’d make to those citing statistics about U.S. children and those from countries in Northern European countries, for example, is to remember how many more people there are in the U.S., and that what a child experiences on one of the coasts or in a major metropolitan area here may look very little like what a child experiences in a different part of the country. If you did a study of children in San Francisco or Boston against children in Denmark, for instance, the comparison might look different than when you look at the U.S. as a whole. Just something to consider when citing statistics!

  55. Sarah says...

    I so appreciate this account of French parenting. So balanced compared to other accounts I’ve seen. Parenting in France sounds lovely in many respects, but also left me with a sense of appreciation for things I experience here in the US. I praise my children liberally, for example, and think there’s more than one way to peel a potato. :)

  56. Laurel says...

    Gah, Emilie, I so feel you with the cultural differences between you and your kids. My difference is nominal in comparison as my husband and I are Americans living in Australia. This is the only home my sons have known. I hear their little accents being formed and see the things they will associate as being home to them as adults and it’s not easy. They won’t understand the dull ache I feel for Washington State, and there are cultural aspects of my childhood that are totally lost here. And I know the things I’ve given up pale in comparison to the life I can provide for them now, but it’s still hard.

    Thanks for sharing! Your home is gorgeous.

    • Lindsay says...

      Would love to hear more about growing up in Washington. My husband and I are considering a move from NY to the west coast. We’re open to a variety of locations. Whenever I hear that someone has lived on the west coast I get so excited and want to say , Tell me more!

    • Nat says...

      Laurel! Your situation really resonates with me. My husband and I are Australian, living in Vancouver for his work, so we too have only a nominal difference (not *reeeeaaallly* a language barrier!). We have a little boy and I am really struggling with the fact that he will not experience my home the way I did – you articulated all this so well in your comment. I also find that it’s almost like I have no right to be sad about it, since there is no hugely obvious ‘culture clash’ – but still. Everything is different in subtle ways. I mourn my family, with which I am really close. Here we have no one and my little boy won’t have incidental grandparent interaction. I wonder if my ache will ever dull – at the moment the pain is terrible!
      Hugs from across the Pacific!

  57. Scout says...

    This is everything I strive to be as a new mother.

  58. Celine says...

    It is so funny because as a French mom raisin a child in the US i have the opposite comments : anericains kids are always snaking, so much congratulation on everything : OMG …. that is so wonderful you did that ……??( but I do this too now !!!!)

  59. Marie says...

    Thank you for this post – it helped me in its own strange way.

    I have the opposite experience – I’m French but grew up in different countries, all outside Europe, as my parents were expats. Save for a mere 3.5 years during my studies, I have always lived outside France. I now live in Brussels, and before that in London.

    I will be moving to Paris in a few weeks for a new job and to finally live with my boyfriend again. It’s a decision I’m very happy with – the new job is very exciting and distance relationships suck – but there is a small part of me who is afraid of just being this boring French gal living in Paris. I reckon that the prospect of not being “international” anymore is sort of generating a mini-identity crisis.

    Being French, I love to complain, especially about France – although I am very French in the way I do things. It’s rare for me to realise that this is making me adverse to my own country and culture, and I fail to recognise the sadness in this.

    But with the euphoria caused by our WC win yesterday – chanting on the Champs-Élysées while the sun was setting was so gloriously dizzying – and now this piece, I am starting to recognise that it’s not shameful to love France unabashedly and to be happy to live in my country again. I am on the verge of actually being excited at the idea of becoming a Parisian (ugh – this still feels weird!)

    So thank you, Emilie.

  60. Diana says...

    My husband is from Montreal and his first language is French. He speaks to our 2 daughters in French and we’ve been able to find a French/English daycare on the UWS. My older daughters security blanket is a sleep sack she used to wear as a baby. Of course, they started referring to it as her doudou at daycare. My younger daughter has her own little doudou now too. I’m terrified of the day anything happens to one of the doudous! That section of the article and the SOS dou-dou service made me smile.

  61. You had me until the bug collection. No dreamy lavender field could make up for a grasshopper that big. ?

    • Neen says...

      Or the scorpions!!

  62. Miruska says...

    That picture of two of them in a field of lavender is everything.

  63. Lisa says...

    House tour please!

  64. I’ve been following Emilie on Instagram for a bit, love her dreamy look into life in Provence. This is all so fascinating to me, especially since my husband and I have a goal to move to France for a year (or two, or three) with our kids in the not too distant future. I’m sure I’ll be coming back to this post. And Joanna, I love this whole series, by the way… you said in a comment above that you could do a whole book about it. I’m guessing you might not have time for that, but if you did, I’d buy it! xo

  65. Britney says...

    I’m so happy this is back!! Thank you for that little escape in the middle of my day!

  66. Cassie says...

    What a dream- house tour please!!!

  67. Claire says...

    I’ve read about French school lunches before and that is just one of many things that made me want to be a kid again, except in France. Next lifetime maybe!
    Also, I am looking forward to following Emilie on Instagram to learn more about France from someone who lives there. I love the water and swimming and from the photos she shares it seems she is a water spirit too- I see many wonderful swimming possibilities!

  68. Sarah Beth says...

    I’ve been reading the Motherhood Around the World series long before I became a mother, and I still feel so happy when a new series starts. And while I won’t ever raise my child in another country, sometimes when I feel stressed out or overwhelmed, I’ve found it a very helpful exercise to imagine how I’d describe my own family and local traditions in a Motherhood Around the World (or Chicago suburbs, ha). The local music venue where we listen to the symphony and eat picnics, the wonderful Pakistani woman who runs the in-home daycare where I send my daughter, living in the same town where my husband grew up in walking distance to my mother-in-law’s house. Definitely puts things in perspective to give a narrative to many of the wonderful, charming aspects of a regular American family and childhood.

    • Amy says...

      I love this comment!

    • Chelsea says...

      I agree with you! I really enjoy this series and learning about the experiences of mothers abroad. At times I do find myself quick to think how idyllic the other life seems. I love that you imagine how you’d describe your own experience and give it a narrative. If we’d describe our “regular” lives and the people we interact with we may discover how interesting our lives actually are.

  69. Jill says...

    I had a range of emotions while reading this lovely series. Lavender fields and fresh markets are what my dreams are made of most nights. However, nurses giving high school girls morning after pills made me so sad. Is it just me?

    • sasha l says...

      Re young women having access to birth control. That made me really happy. I hope for a world where every child is wanted and every woman is granted the freedom of autonomy over her own body.

    • Marti says...

      Teen pregnancy rates are three times higher in the U.S. than in France and teen HIV rates are close to two times higher here in the U.S., as well. It might not bode well with personal ethics, but prevention is scientifically proven to coincide with education and accessibility.

    • Haylee says...

      I think that’s fair to express :) I agree with Sasha and Marti, I’ve always felt that access to resources, prevention, and forthright sex education is essential, well-substantiated by research, and HEALTHY (instilled by my mom, also a devout Mormon like Emilie’s parents…different experiences, it appears!). However, I do feel that sex brings with it certain physical and emotional responsibilities, and high school kids already have a lot on their plate (figuring out who they are/their role/what their bodies are doing/feeling immense social and academic pressure/fearing failure, etc.). Makes me feel a little pang over all that they are asked to navigate when developmentally they don’t have the same resources (emotionally, cognitively, etc.) as adults. I wonder if Jill was thinking more along those lines?

    • Your comment is very interesting, especially since you lived it too. Sad in so many ways! I enjoy the choices and freedom we have in the US as mom’s.

    • A. says...

      Jill, it’s not just you.

      Providing a girl (who is, according to the linked article, “living a painful moment of isolation and fear”) with something to force a healthy part of her anatomy to malfunction does juxtapose with the backdrop. Thank you for noticing; you saw more than I did, and it took your comment for me to look again.

    • Claire says...

      I went through the French school system (graduated 8 years ago) and our school nurse was wonderful – she was happy to discuss contraception and general sexual health, with no judgement whatsoever. She also gave out condoms and advice on how to get access to emergency birth control. My parents were comfortable discussing these things with me, but it felt awkward (and not all parents were great at having that discussion!). It was nice having a medically trained adult we could have access to without going through our parents.

    • Regina says...

      Getting the morning after pill from a high school nurse sounds like a much more convenient option than getting it from a Planned Parenthood employee after hours in a brown paper bag in a major American city. Young women are having sex; why not give them the tools to control their reproduction when it best suits their lives?

  70. Andrea says...

    what a wonderful series! I have been obsessed (i.e., telling everyone I know about it) with this for years. Now that I have my own babe, it’s even better! Totally agree with another reader’s comment – it makes me feel better about my own parenting :)

  71. whitney says...

    I’d love to read the article she referenced, “article about kids who stop doing things because they love them but instead because they’re seeking external reinforcement. ”
    Interesting.

    • Alex says...

      I wish I could remember the source but I read that it’s better to say something along the lines of “I loved listening to you play” than “You are excellent at
      piano”. This has helped my understanding of how I give and receive praise.

    • sasha l says...

      As a preschool teacher I say things like this all day:
      “Look at all the yellow in your picture!”
      “Those are sure fast feet!”
      “What a fun game you made for your babies!”

      Praise looks like this: “thank you for following those directions so quickly.” “Thank you for helping Iris, that was kind.” “Children, everyone had such nice manners at lunch!” It’s purposeful, not just meant to inflate egos, but to help the children grow.

      I aim to convey my enthusiasm for their world. I try to give them words to express. I give more to see or think about.

      When I child says “look at my picture Miss Sasha!” literally, the least interesting or engaging thing I could say is “”oooh, that’s so beautiful.” So instead I recognize that they are asking me to come into their world and be a part. “Is that a rainbow?” “Your elephant has a happy face doesn’t he?” “I love how much you like to draw. Does drawing make you feel happy?”

      Love looks like this: “would you like a hug?” “You know what? I LOVE you.” “I’m SO happy you are here today.”

      It’s about being conscious with our words. And I keep my chatty mouth shut as much as I can too. When children are engaged in their work, they deserve silent respect, not a grown up asking questions, fawning or pestering them. I let them be in love with their work without disruption.

    • agnes says...

      Sasha L thank you for these examples! Love your attitude and your respect for your pupils.

  72. Elysha says...

    My favorite thing on the internet every year! So happy this series is back!

  73. Allyson says...

    My most-favorite Cup of Jo series! Even since before I was a mama, I told all my friends about it! I’m inspired by each of these women. I think my take away from this one will be a line in the backyard to dry the clothes I’m learning to make for my daughter Marion. < 3 This is just what Monday needed. Thank you!

    • Haylee says...

      Same! And your daughter’s name is lovely!

  74. Irenedkw says...

    Loved the story & the beautiful pictures!☀️

  75. Kathy says...

    Reminds me of one of my favorite books by MFK Fisher, “The Boss Dog”. It is about an American mother living in Aix-en-Provence with her two daughters. She aptly describes her daughters’ acclimation to living in France as “…they were ‘there’ instead of perching, which is the usual state of wanderers in any country at all…”.

    • Eve says...

      I love that book!! It was the first book I read to my baby out loud. I’ve read almost everything from MFK Fisher. Gahhh, so nice to hear about other fans!

  76. Eve says...

    I am deeply intrigued by the design of that kitchen table!

  77. natasha says...

    Wow! This is amazing! I agree with the first comment: best motherhood post of all! I must have been a mother from Provence in my past life! Love this!

  78. Kelly says...

    Fuck. Why don’t I live in France?

    • Carrie says...

      the bugs?!

    • Jen says...

      My sentiments exactiment.

    • Umm, I grew up in New Orleans where every nearly every bug has teeth and fly. I think the pros outweigh the cons here :D

    • Carrie says...

      liz, I’m realizing how good I’ve always had it here in Oregon. We have hardly any bugs to deal with! A great thing for this non bug-lovin’ gal

    • Emma says...

      I think the point here is that they made their own jobs. Unemployment is a problem in rural areas and they probably make may more than the average person in the area (which is great for them, but means it’s not that viable for everyone to move there).

  79. Elle says...

    I’m so interested in the topic of praise vs no praise. I grew up with minimal praise and my parents weren’t wordy with encouragement but my husband grew up with the opposite. (My heart bubbled over entering their family). A difference I perceive is that I don’t need a lot of praise to feel worthwhile/secure but I also don’t have much confidence to achieve things. My husband is very confident in taking risks and stepping out into the world but also desires a lot of admiration.

    • Susan Shockey says...

      A quick read that you might find interesting is Mindset by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck. She talks about the impact of generalized praise on children and gives suggestions for how to praise in a way that encourages persistence. It’s worth a look.

    • Amber J says...

      This is so interesting! Thanks for sharing this insight. I’ll be pondering it as I venture into motherhood. <3

    • Ellen says...

      Same. I refer to my upbringing as being “raised by mannequins”. There was no overt damage done, and they were mechanically and consistently present.
      BUT I was delighted to join my husband’s more outwardly affectionate family. (I still can’t keep up with how frequently they text and talk to each other!) I agree about the confidence and desire for admiration. In his case, that makes him a super great, likable guy who follows though and is an excellent team player. I, regrettably have much less of that than he does, but I also don’t super need it to feel good about myself. Our teens are like their dad, in a “good citizen” rather than “like my Instagram” way and I’m SO glad for that.

    • Jen says...

      OMG. this is us exactly. I thought it was because my husband was a Leo. You kind of nailed it!

    • Cait says...

      I grew up in a loving, intentional, and positive home but without a lot of specific praise, encouragement or affirmation. And that’s very much my love language! It’s been hard for me to even be able to express to my husband how much I could use more encouragement from him. My parents realized that in the later years and it’s something they wish they could have done differently. I might overcompensate with my kids, but try to use words that aren’t empty (you’re the best at drawing! Everything is beautiful!) but still constantly speak life over them and affirm them with my words.

    • I never got little praise as a child for my immersion in drawing…mostly discouragement and comments like, “you’ll end up in a garret with a bunch of cats!” I never stopped drawing and I did end up in a garret (chambre de bonne) minus the cats in Paris. I wish I’d known my parents were so prophetic.
      I love the comments at Cup of Jo. Eye-opening!

  80. Laura says...

    I’d love to hear from Emilie how she felt about moving abroad when she comes from a big, close knit family. I fantasize about moving far away with my husband and children, but our families are such an important part of our lives that we feel like we can’t ever leave. I’m fairly certain my mother would hunt me down/disown me if I moved her grandchildren to another country!

    • Jessica says...

      We moved abroad for four years with our children. It was definitely a huge change for both our families, given that everyone lives within 30 minutes of each other. With modern technology, it really isn’t bad and grandparent relationships are maintained via video chat and other ways. The main thing was having our support system ripped out from under us. It brought my husband and I much closer together, as we only had each other to rely on. For us, it was definitely worth it and I wouldn’t even hesitate to move abroad again.

  81. holagranola says...

    i think this could possibly be my favorite motherhood post of all!

  82. jill c. says...

    this just sounds so dreamy…i love this post so much!

  83. Jennifer says...

    I love this series and am so happy to see it back! It’s always so fascinating to see parenting through the lens of different cultures. That being said, I sometimes get frustrated with this idea that “French is best.” There are many things to admire about the French way, but it seems like ever since Bringing Up Bebe and French Women Don’t Get Fat, Americans have had some sort of fetish for French culture. I love a lot of the ideas of slow living and laissez-faire parenting, but I also think feeding snacks and praising your children is perfectly lovely!

    • sasha l says...

      I think Americans admire many cultures. You might say we go over board with scandanavian culture too.

      Although what works in Provence, or Norway, may not work in the US always, I love that Americans are open to other ways of doing things and always looking to improve, be happier. I think the author subtly implies that the French are NOT so open about change. Bath AFTER dinner!?! Heaven’s no.

      Take what works for you, leave the rest.

    • Hi ! I am French and I also think some countries have a sort of fetish with French culture, which is weird. Even though tons of things are great here, a lot of others are not so perfect, and often go unsaid. I’m not about to make a list here (too many things !), but it’s interesting to note that there is such a thing as “syndrome de Paris”, which is (according to Wikipedia) :
      “a transient mental disorder exhibited by some individuals when visiting or going on vacation to Paris, as a result of extreme shock derived from their discovery that Paris is not what they had expected it to be.”
      I think it can apply to France in general – it has this romantic, even bucolic image, but it has, like every other place, some uncool bad sides. Not very patriotic to say, so shortly after our national holiday, but I never got why we often have such good press :/

    • Cynthia says...

      Here in the US we have definitely fetishized French and Nordic cultures.

    • Juliette says...

      I am also French and as Irene said I find it baffling how idealised our culture is. Don’t get me wrong, I love my country, I love being French but there are many things that are wrong in France and also many good things to be taken from other cultures. I am married to a Brit and we live in the English countryside and work in London and I love it here. And boy, does it irritate me when my parents visit and my dad criticises the way Brits do things because “it’s not the French way”… :-)

  84. Kate says...

    “There are parts of myself that I would like her to know.” This is so me. I grew up in a country where English is not primarily spoken, so I had to study a lot and now I can make a joke and make a delivery guy laugh or at least grin, but there were times where I was making a sentence in my mind and when I was about to say it out of my mouth, people often moved onto another topic already. The feeling that you can’t be known as your whole self in other languages and other cultures is disheartening (especially when you’re an immigrant) but I have made progresses and will continue to do so, so hopefully I’ll be a queen of joke one day! Haha.

  85. Hayley says...

    Oh this was wonderful. I am a east asian currently in the US but grew up in France, and recognize so many aspects of my childhood here. Strict teachers, 3-course lunches, laissez-faire attitude, 4pm goute, weekly visits to the marche, vividly horrible children’s books.. also lots of school trips, museum visits, long summer days reading books, many strolls along the river.. thank you for letting me remember some very fond memories :-)

  86. Loesie says...

    Bonne chance! J’aime cette histoire et je me souviens mon éducation à Nice, beaucoup des années passées.
    La Provence; c’est vraiment la plus belle région de la France.
    L’odeur de lavande, les crêpes et la mer bleue… take me back!
    Wonderful story. All the best to you and ta famille… XO de Pays-Bas.

  87. Lauren says...

    this is a stunning fairy tale life and i love it.

    how about a house tour???

    • Karinny says...

      Yes, please! House tour of this 400 year-old home sounds lovely

  88. Beautiful. As a mom who has been feeling overwhelmed with the “hustle” lately, I really appreciated reading this and taking the time to think about how I can add little bits of this Provence lifestyle to our home for my daughter.

  89. Kristian says...

    Love this series and hearing form Emilie is a delightful way to start off this latest round of Motherhood around the world!

  90. TC says...

    Kitchen of my dreams.

  91. Kate says...

    I loved the way she described the limitations within the languages.. It was very poignant and rings so true. This was such a pleasure to read, thank you!

  92. Emma says...

    This is so lovely. It makes me homesick for the France I recently left. The strict teachers, the importance of food, the direct and open conversations about love and sex (and more importantly the sex!).

    But the laissez-faire attitude about children is what strikes me most. As a single woman, the “French” approach to parenting inspired me. They didn’t cater to every whim, they fed them bottles or nursed them at given times, they hived them off to the grandparents within the first six months to go on a much needed two week trip to Vietnam, and they took them to the bar with them after work… There wasn’t the idea that they were bad parents for going back to work right away, or putting them in daycare at 3 months. I saw a form of liberation and freedom in parenting that I rarely see in North America. France was the first time that I saw families and women really live for themselves and not cater to every child’s whim. It made me think maybe being a parent wouldn’t be so bad after all…

    • Yana from LA says...

      Thank you for bringing into words something that I’ve struggled with as I am about to start the journey of conceiving.

    • Sarah says...

      This! Exactly this! I studied in France in 2006, and have decided I would LOVE to raise children in France. I want to be a woman, first, and a mother as one of the many things I’m known for. I don’t want mother to become the first word to describe me. France enables that with it’s systems.

      I’ve enjoyed seeing some of the negative feedback on France in the comments, but… I have no waivered.

    • Jo says...

      Yes! This!

  93. Jess says...

    Just love this and hearing stories about families taking the leap to leave the stress of the big city for a simpler life. I know the grass is always greener, but it’s so inspiring!
    Also just love a French market…and the lavender field, wow!

  94. Renee says...

    Emile’s instagram is beautiful. Glad to see this series back!

  95. Lindsey says...

    I love everything about this, especially the school lunches! It’s so funny to think of people crowding around, horrified that a dessert was out of season. Any American I know would be thrilled if the dessert wasn’t made by Hostess! But wow, do I wish the French way of eating was taught and embraced more here in the States.

  96. Oh, living my dream. I lived in France for a little while but eventually had to leave because of visa stuff. If I had citizenship I’d move back so fast! I want a village, I want neighbors who know me, I want local food, I want old architecture. Of course, nearly all my family and friends are stateside, so there’s that. I just wish we could all relocate as a group to somewhere with a slower-paced life. Tu me manques, la France !

  97. El says...

    I love love love this series, but I thought you guys announced that this year’s edition would be features of parents who were parenting in their home country?

    No complaints here (this post is ridiculously dreamy), but did I imagine that things would be changed this year, or what?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, yes, we opened our scouting process to all mothers — whether you were born there, moved from another country, are american, etc. in this summer’s series, we have native mothers coming up!

  98. jackie says...

    Is the village Aix-en-Provence? I studied abroad there and think I recognize that market <3

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! they’re in a rural village about a half hour outside aix-en-provence.

    • Caitlin says...

      I studied abroad in Aix too. Instantly recognized the market. Totally daydream about living there again!

    • Christine says...

      I instantly recognized the market picture too! I will never forget living there during study abroad, I feel so lucky to have been in that lovely area.

    • Morgan says...

      Aix is my fantasy home. This was just *swoon*-worthy for me. Thank you for the virtual vacation.

  99. Alissa says...

    I’m so happy to see this series start up again! I always look forward to it. And as an American NYC-dwelling mom of three, I’m amused that our family tendency toward baths/showers before dinner would fit right in in France!

  100. I’m so happy these are back!! These are some of my favorite posts. French life has always fascinated me.

    xox
    Allie

  101. So many of these things are exactly what I experienced moving to the “other” south of France (Languedoc, near Carcassonne) with a three-month-old baby. My child grew up with me speaking only English and Papa speaking only French and would switch between the two as fast as a whip. For a while, French had the upper hand because of school and friends, but thanks to the Internet (YouTube and WattPad, mostly), our kid’s English is as good as any American teenager’s. I am relieved, because for a while I feared our kid would grow up without a connection to the U.S.
    Another thing I love about France is the way the government supports so many programs. My kid is doing a photography class for a week this summer, 9-5 daily, lunch and photography equipment included; total price for the week: €15. Obviously there are some subsidies going on. It makes such activities accessible to families who have tight budgets.

    • sasha l says...

      Yes, that’s socialism. Democratic socialism to be specific. We could have that too.

  102. This is just wonderful. The photographs are absolutely gorgeous! Makes me miss France. Thanks so much, Emilie, for sharing!

  103. Paula says...

    I love this series but I hate this idea that keeps being propagated that the French eat the right way by not giving their children snacks. I totally bought into it when I was pregnant and was super strict with my daughter (who, granted, is a pretty good eater and almost never requested snacks until she was 3.5). Now my daughter’s best friend from preschool is French and this child/family is always eating snacks. And the worst for you snacks too: cookies, crackers, fruit snacks, etc. They are really French (been living in the US for 1 year and planning on returning to their village outside of Paris in another year) but completely don’t follow this system of no snacks, vegetables first I keep hearing about. I even asked the mom at some point about all the snacks and candies and if it was common in France. Her response: “I think it’s fine, we let them eat what they like.” (she might not have fully understood the question as there is the language barrier)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, i hear you — just remember this is one mother’s experience in her area, not meant to represent every french family in france and abroad. same with how one person could never represent all the parenting experiences in the U.S. thank you so much for your input, paula!

    • Paula — I understand the frustration you’re feeling, but I think the French family you have met in the US and their relationship to snacks is more the exception and not the rule. Not every family or parent is going to have the exact same values, but generally speaking — as a *culture* — the “no snacking” approach to eating is widely considered the norm in France. This is because it’s embedded in the schools as well as their historical relationship to food, unlike in the US. It’s much harder for US children to avoid getting snacks, particularly if they’re in daycare or school, not to mention we simply have a social culture obsessed with never letting children feel hungry.

      One approach is not worse than the other, necessarily. I think an overall emphasis on a healthy relationship to food is the most important takeaway here.

    • Jill says...

      What shocks me is many schools are letting students snack during class, all day if they wish! I can’t imagine holding class with children eating and drinking all day long. As an older woman (and mother of three grown children), I notice the trend of indulging children so they are never unhappy. I’m not sure this is a good thing.

    • Capucine says...

      Schools. These French parents do not have French schools structuring their kids lives! Our French friends raising their kids in the US largely fall in line with US families on food, and manners. Only the kids moving here from France have the stereotypical good manners-no snacking thing going on, and it comes directly out of the schools, which are extremely strict and, obviously, have the power of peers and authority that a parent cannot do alone to accomplish food and manner rules. The parents have the same rules from THEIR childhood, but without school doing the indoctrination, the kids aren’t so ‘French’. Fighting against cultural norms isn’t winnable; French parents in the US don’t create little French kids. (I was sad about this, wanting my little half-French kids to be, you know, FRENCH, so I researched deep and wide on why they were not.)

    • sasha l says...

      Jill re never letting children be unhappy. Yes! As a mom, nanny, preschool teacher I encounter this, and it’s very sad effects on children and whole families. Some parents are terrified of making their children unhappy and it creates, ironically, terribly unhappy children.

    • Catherine says...

      Hi Paula! I am a French mom, living in France and here are my thoughts about this snacking/no snacking-it is true that a lot of French families follow a rule of “ne pas manger entre les repas” (do not eat between meals) but some parents don’t necessarily care. When my son was in preschool, they had a morning snack, each mom would sign up to bring it. It was cancelled nationaly bc the government decided to fight child obesity, which had been increasing in France, because, well not all French families go to the market and cook fresh food everyday, Mc Donalds’ has become very popular in France too.
      in my cupboards I have French cookies, ice cream in the freezer, fruit on the counter and cheese in the fridge, like most French people, but these are only for THE official 4 o’clock snack, le goûter and desserts. We feel if you snack (grignoter in French) you’ll waste your appetite for a good meal, which is healthy. That’s how the French are raised and I guess 75% of Fr parents follow that rule.
      PS: I lived and worked in the US for 2 years and loved every minute of my time there!! :))

  104. Cynthia says...

    But who is Marguerite in Emilie’s blog?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      she’s her lovely 12-year-old stepdaughter; she takes the train from paris to visit provence. such sweet photos of them all!

    • bes says...

      too bad she didn’t cover this (not that she has to cover every personal thing) – I’ll have to read up on the blog. As a step-parent to a teenager I’m always curious how step/half/etc families are received in other countries.

  105. Holly says...

    I love these posts. I’d be so interested to see one about raising a family in the USA coming from another country (I’m from the UK but have an American partner, so would love to know more about raising a family in the States) xx

  106. Nina says...

    What a lovely article. I so long to live in a small European village with my son while he’s still young to help him learn at least one language and experience the culture.

    My mother is German and we had Grimms Fairy Tales (so much darker than others, the Little Mermaid dies) and Struebelpeter which is a book with very bad children and the consequences…suck your thumb, a guy comes with a big scissor and cuts them off. play with matches your cats cry around your pile of ashes. make fun of different races and be dipped in black ink.

    • Jo says...

      I grew up with the Brother Grimm’s fairy tales too. The Little Mermaid is Hans Christian Andersen (Danish), who also wrote The Ugly Duckling and The Snow Queen that Frozen is loosely based on.

  107. Guylaine says...

    This was so interesting for me to read! I’m a french Canadian and 3 years ago, my husband (who is english) and our 3 kids (who are bilingual) moved to a rural town in the south of France for 5 months. The kids went to school and we explored, ate, cooked and sipped some great wine! We were there long enough to catch some glimpses of the culture like Emily mentioned and this article was accurate in so many ways. The photos especially bring such beautiful memories. I have to agree that the schooling method seemed way too strict and old fashioned compared to what we are used to but I didn’t want to generalize since we only frequented one school. In general though it was an incredible experience and I would love to return some day! It’s a stunning country, the food really is beautiful and delicious and it seemed to me that the French really know how to enjoy life!

    Guylaine

  108. beth says...

    i love this series so much!!!

  109. I absolutely love this. All the reasons why French culture is so appealing! The sense of freedom really resonates with me.

    briana

  110. Gemma Burgess says...

    Wow this is WONDERFUL!!

  111. Jessica says...

    “There are parts of myself I’d love her to know.” The language section was easily the best part of this post; I love how thoughtful and articulate Emilie was about the cultural divide. Beautiful words!

    • Willow says...

      Yes exactly. It was so thoughtfully and articulately expressed. Thank you Emilie!

    • Carly says...

      This struck me the most too! My husband is German and his family does not speak English. This has been good motivation for me to learn the language but I inwardly mourn the fact that there will always be a slight barrier between me and my in-laws. The cultural divide is real and despite speaking German, there are parts of me that simply don’t translate in a language other than English.

  112. I’m so happy for this series again- I love these posts SOOOO much. This one was wonderful!!

  113. Melissa Henderson says...

    I just wanted to say that I look forward to this series all year! I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures, and love seeing it through the eyes of another parent. Thank you for sharing these beautiful stories!

  114. B says...

    Ohhh, I adore this series! I am also happy it has returned. I especially loved this feature as I was an American exchange student in the French countryside. I’d love to parent there now. Some of my fondest memories!

  115. min says...

    love this series! this post makes me want to pack up my bags and move to france (if only!). does anyone know the article emilie was referencing about not praising too much? lord knows i’m very guilty of this!

  116. Ana says...

    That photo of the two of them in the lavender field is stunning!

  117. Lillie says...

    These are my favorite posts to read! Reading articles about French parenting always makes me feel like such a failure though. Kidding. Not kidding.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      haha, i hear you, lillie. but i do think it’s just a different approach, not better or worse! here’s an outtake from emilie’s interview, if that’s helpful:

      “I do feel dissonance in my need to do things in the way I know, versus the French way. For example, Xavier will often tell the kids to stop their drama or to go where they are not in within earshot of everyone else. Whereas I try to understand what is going on emotionally when there is a crisis. He does not agree with this approach and feels that I pander to them and allow them to manipulate me. Part of this struggle is certainly cultural. I know that French parents regard me as having a lack of ‘authority’ (a word they use with great admiration and praise). Yes, authority is important, but I trust that kids have real emotional knowledge and can be guided to understand it and become intelligent in that way. Voilà, my biggest parenting struggle.”

      just different approaches, both totally valid!

    • Jenny says...

      Lillie, I agree! Whenever I reach about French parenting I feel like the (not-so-subtle) subtext is “American parents, you’re doing it wrong.” But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to pack my bags and move my family to Provence after reading this! Such thoughtful answers and beautiful imagery. So, so happy this series is back!

    • Maria says...

      I loved reading Emilie’s outtake. Thanks for sharing this Joanna. A good reminder to take what resonates from any culture/parenting method/way of thinking – then leave the rest.

    • Agnes says...

      Love reading that outtake! It really reminds me of my old-school British ex-army father, who had no truck with nonsense or drama. However, he definitely was emotionally available and attuned to us. It was a strange dichotomy when I look back on it, and we were very lucky to have him. I hope I manage to do this when I have children.. authority and warmth are definitely not mutually exclusive :)

    • sasha l says...

      Agnes, authority+ warmth is widely regarded by psychologists as the best parenting practice for psychologically healthy humans.

    • A Martin says...

      I REALLY appreciate the outake, this really resonates with me. As I read, I kept wondering about the parenting styles and approach of Emilie and her husband. Emilie is, in theory, in her husband’s turf and I applaud her on how she is navigating her way around. That is not easy even if you speak the same language. I hope she is getting the support needed or has an outlet to help round out those thorny parts of parenting, living abroad and being away from family. Bravo to her and her husband for recognizing that the hustle and bustle no longer served them and their family and for making the changes needed. Life can be a mix of sadness, loneliness all intertwined with deep contentment, joy and peace. <3

  118. Thank you for this post- one of my favorite motherhood posts yet! As a New Yorker it is hard to imagine living this beautiful life, but I think I would love it!

  119. Yay for Motherhood Around the World! I studied abroad in Provence and it really is just a dreamy part of the world. I totally get the idea of never being funny in French. I’m very sarcastic (in English) but was never able to get it right in French. I felt like my host family only half knew me! (Also, OMG Peau d’Ane! We watched the movie in my 7th grade French class and I was HORRIFIED)

  120. Klixie says...

    I am an Aussie living in Germany with my hubby and two children. We moved here when the littlies were 1.5 years and 3 months old and have also felt surprised by their and our(!) integration into the German culture. After 5 years, their German is accentless (mine is definitely not), they wear shoes in all public places, and their favourite foods cannot be found in Australia.

    I love so many aspects of our life here in Germany but there are some things I wish my littlies could experience but won’t, like doing nippers on the weekend (surf life-saving for kids) and eating meat-pies and sausage rolls at birthday parties. I also worry that they won’t identify strongly with either country enough in order for it to be their mother-country, a problem some of our friends are experiencing with their teenagers.

  121. Debbie Connell says...

    I am not a mother (single and over 60), but I loved this article! And, the photos are stunning and evocative.

  122. Carrie says...

    I love this series; clicking over and seeing it absolutely made my day. And ohmygoodness that lavender field!!

  123. Christine Hart says...

    This was an absolutely wonderful essay. Made me nostalgic for something I’ve never experienced.

  124. Christina Y. says...

    I’m an American raising my kids in Tokyo, and I feel so many of these very same things!! How my kids are so very Japanese in language and gesture and life, how communal food is so important, how seasonal food is the norm and how kids identify seasons with certain foods. And drying clothes outside, and laundry that smells like the sun. And even wondering if I’m losing them because they don’t have the same childhood I did. Two very different places, and yet such significant overlap in experience.

    • Z says...

      Crazy! I lived in France when I was younger, I’m now living in Tokyo as an adult. The experiences are different just based on age etc. but reading this made me think wow there are a lot of similarities I never noticed between the two! You confirmed my thoughts.

  125. christen says...

    first of i love this series!!!I’m sure someone has already commented on this but… all of these moves come from so much priviledge and represent the easy side of moving countries. I know the focus is on Americans moming elsewhere but…? there must be more stories and perspectives. also what about doing a post on privilege? so so timely

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’d love to do a post on privilege, christen. thank you so much. we’ve talked about similar things (as well as politics, race, money, service, etc) before, but i’d love to talk more directly about privilege. and we’d love to expand the conversation in other ways in other posts. thank you.

    • Haylee says...

      Would love this! One of my favorite podcasts is “Revisionist History” by Malcolm Gladwell. I HIGHLY recommend it, but if you only listen to one episode, “Carlos Doesn’t Remember” is the one (I’m actually getting goosebumps remembering it). I feel like that episode is what really helped me better understand privilege, coming from a place of privilege myself. If I were a high school teacher, I would definitely squeeze it into my curriculum somehow. Worth a listen! And then check out his other episodes. You either learn something you never would have otherwise, or listen to highly relevant conversations that need to be had more broadly.

  126. So excited this series is back! It is just so fascinating to look into other cultures from a parenting perspective. As a parent of three young kids, I can see the appeal of parenting in a culture that has a unanimous consensus about the “right” way to parent. Sometimes I feel like there are too many options here in the US and I get decision fatigue about what my parenting philosophy is or should be after reading like, three parenting articles online (which all say completely different things)! Although I’m sure if I had to do things a certain way, I probably wouldn’t like that either :)

    • Lorena says...

      Decision fatigue! I love this phrase and I also feel this all the time in parenting.

  127. kaye says...

    this series is so bittersweet, it reminds me that nearly every place on the planet is a better place than the USA for becoming and being a mother–i really hope maternal health, social safety nets, etc. are one day a real priority in the USA.

    • Nina says...

      Here here! I second this sentiment. I would like to know logistically how to move abroad w/out being married to a foreigner or sponsored through a job.

    • Alex says...

      I’m sorry but this is a huge exaggeration. Let us not forget that most of the countries in the world are rather poorer than richer. If as you say almost every place on this planet is better than USA to be a mother why would so many people want to immigrate, often risking everything? You may want to compare USA to the Western Europe or other high-developed parts of the world but please do not generalize.

    • Regina says...

      I second Alex’s comment. While I agree the U.S. needs many improvements in maternal health care and social support for mothers, let’s also consider the difficulties of becoming a mother in a Rohingya refugee camp or in many other areas of the world where women live with extreme pain and suffering.

  128. This was such a pleasure to read, thank you for sharing!

  129. Ana says...

    As a french women, I was so happy to see a parenting story in France. I must say, this is very accurate, I am not a mother (yet) but I recognize my childhood in Emilie’s words. The doudou thing is a real issue, I often see facebook posts about desperate parents who are trying to find a lost doudou in their neighborhood , it has got so bad that when buying a doudou for their child, parents usually buy one or two more so they can save the day in case the 1st doudou gets lost…

    • Catherine says...

      Je vais avoir 50 ans la semaine prochaine, et j’ai toujours le mien, hihi!! ma fille de 13 ans et mon fils de 16 ans ont toujours les leurs près de leur lit!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so cute, catherine!!!!

    • Juliette says...

      We bought 4… Monsieur Lapin is very precious. At least we can rotate and wash them because they get filthy haha!

  130. Amy says...

    I am SO, SO, SO glad these are back. This series was so comforting when I was pregnant and still is as a new mother.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i felt the same when i was a new mother! it helps to see that there are so many different ways to parent happy children :)

  131. lesley says...

    this is probably my favorite one in the entire series. emilie, your photos are beautiful and i enjoyed your even handed way of talking about your experiences with french vs. american parenting culture. i think we would be friends! ;-)

  132. EmilyD says...

    I have followed Emilie’s personal blog for years and have loved watching her family grow as they’ve moved from Paris to NYC to Provence. Her writing is captivating – she really allows you to feel like you are there by describing colors, tastes and smells. Her photos are dreamy! As an American married to a Frenchman myself – I feel a strong sense of connection to her and her family. Perhaps we will eventually make the move to Provence ourselves. Bravo :)

  133. agnes merat says...

    Such a lovely village! Preschool is not obligatory in France; instruction is mandatory at the age of 6, whether it’s at home or at school. Usually, preschool starts at 9 am and is not obligatory in the afternoons. My 4 year old rarely goes to school in the afternoon. At least for public school. Your photos are lovely!

  134. g says...

    Sounds like a dream. I’ll take all of it!

  135. Lisa says...

    I so love this! I’m South African, married to a Frenchman (from Marseille in Provence), and so much of this has resonated. I find he’s harsher with the babies than I am (or let’s say stricter) and doesn’t praise as much. As our children are being raised bilingual (using the OPOL method – one parent one language) each of us only speaks to the children in our mother tongue (me English and him French). I’m curious to see if this affects their personalities in each language / culture, like when they’re speaking French they’re stricter or something.
    On the working motherhood – some of our friends have had a different experience (but maybe it’s relative). We live in the UK where you can take up to a year and labour laws are flexible. My employers have been very supportive (at an institutional level) with generous maternity pay, lots of support before during and after leave. For our French friends, you only get 4 months and you have to stop work a certain amount of time before the baby is due. One friend struggled to find work, even before having children, because employers assumed she would take time off to have children and it’s very difficult to fire people.

  136. Andrea says...

    While I love this series and did agree with some of what Emilie described about parenting in France, I can’t help but notice that her depiction of life here comes from a very small segment of the population. It romanticizes life in France in a way that isn’t indicative of how most of the moms I know — even the Anglophones– experience it. It would be nice if you could show a broader view of life that shows a bit more of the struggles that mothers face here. For instance, we had to battle to find a place in a crèche due to overdemand, and which is certainly NOT free unless you are very poor. People work until 7pm, but schools and crèche let out much earlier, so there is the sorting out of who will leave earlier (normally the mother, of course!), which leads to issues at home and work. There is a real problem with work/life balance for mothers in cities, just like in the U.S. and discrimination against working mothers is just as explicit than anything I have faced back home.

    Just something to keep in mind as you publish the next stories in this series. Sometimes the less rosy parts of life are important to mention, especially in a series about motherhood, and can also be more unifying.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your thoughtful note, andrea! we keep this in mind when we’re scouting parents to feature, and strive to feature a mix of parents with different experiences in the overall series (city vs countryside, single parents vs married couples, working parents vs stay-at-home parents, etc.) we feature just one woman in each country and that woman talks about her personal experiences. they’re definitely not meant to reflect the entire country. it would be wonderful to feature more parents and experiences in each country — you could write a series books on parenting in each country (as people do!:) — but for this blog series, we feature one parent in each country, and welcome and encourage comments about people’s differing experiences. thank you so much!

    • Sara says...

      As an American married to a Frenchman, I agree that discrimination against working mothers (both at my firm and at others in Paris) was significantly worse than in the U.S., with immediate mommy-tracking and pretextual layoffs. We left Paris for the U.S. when we were ready to have kids for this and other reasons, including that the French schooling method is far too rigid and fails to promote creativity and risk-taking. The culture of not celebrating successes big and small I also find unhealthy, and I was sad to read that Emilie has embraced this philosophy with her kids.

    • mary says...

      pregnancy discrimination is rampant in the USA too, unfortunately. recent articles include….. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/opinion/workplace-discrimination-mothers.html
      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/06/arts/design/moma-ps1-discrimination-suit-baby.html
      https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/06/15/business/pregnancy-discrimination.html

      childcare is appalling expensive with no support from the government in any way. my partner and i live in new york and we pay $900 per week for childcare for our two children. you can understand why more and more people here are “choosing” not to have children because of financial constraints.

      all countries could and should do better!

  137. Love these posts about parenting in different countries!

  138. Charlotte K says...

    Gorgeous photos.
    Many of the things she says about strictness, meal rituals, infrequent praise, etc., sound like my own very traditional “old fashioned” American upbringing in the 1960s. Maybe we had it and decided to let it go. Something to think about.

    These kids, however, are the same ones that grow up to protest madly when they are in Paris at the University! Maybe they get it all out of their systems at once.

  139. Cece says...

    I absolutely love the Motherhood Around the World series! What a great insight into parenting in France and very timely with France winning the 2018 FIFA World Cup, I must say :)

  140. Michelle Zhao says...

    What a beautiful life! The picture of the lavender field was breathtaking.

  141. I am so glad Motherhood around the world is back !!!!
    As a French mum living in Berlin, it couldn’t start better and Emily makes me feel like moving straight to the Provence. There is so much in there my German boyfriend constantly makes me notice about the French (no praise, doing “things the French way” and such), I couldn’t help smiling :)
    I just have to correct some things about the French school system. It is far from perfect but it is the only system I know that is totally unified nationwide (all the kids have the same curriculum and holidays, all the teachers have the same training and so on) so I thought the following points were worth mentioning:
    – School between 3 is not mandatory, it is a right for children whose parents choose to sign them up (a huge majority). After 6, only education is mandatory (in other words, homeschooling is totally fine as long as your kid meets the school standards). There is a current discussion on whether this obligation should apply to kids from age 3.
    – The école maternelle (between 3 and 6) operates exactly like primary school : there is one ‘qualified’ teacher per classroom (usually 25 to 30 kids). In the first year or two (depending on how much money the city invests in schoolfunding), the teacher has to be assisted at least part time by an “ATSEM”.
    – Most ecoles maternelles will totally be okay with you picking up your kid before lunch and keeping her home for the afternoon.
    Emily thank you so much for your participation. My kid is a native German and I’ll always be an immigrant here, I had never seen it that way but now I can put words on how weird it feels when he asks cold cuts for breakfast :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i just read this, which is so interesting: Macron recently announced that he is making preschool obligatory for all children in France (starts in 2019). The attendance rate at present is 97.6%. It is part of the push to make childcare available for families. Here is an article that references this decision: http://bit.ly/2NVCL8G

      curious to hear french parents’ thoughts on this!

    • agnes says...

      French parent here Joanna! The one that will change with this law is that daycare (crèche) is not free and making preschool mandatory means we will have the same service, only free! those of us who want to keep our children at home can do it as going to school is not mandatory, only instruction is (you can school your children at home, at any age). So, it’s a great law, nothing changes, juste the price.

    • Kelsey says...

      I’m an American living just outside of Paris married to a Frenchman, and our oldest child started school when she was 2.5 years old, since her birthday is in December. On the one hand we benefit greatly from having free preschool at that age, but she also took a while to adjust to school after being at home until then. (My husband worked from home and took care of the kids since she didn’t get a place in the daycare. We have two kids now.) We spoke mostly English at home and she’s very shy, so it took her time to feel confident enough to speak up in class. So I hesitated having her go and wanting her to mature a little more, but in the end my husband said it’d be good for her. The first year, class time is 3 hours in the morning, then lunch, then nap time in the afternoon, 4 days a week. That’s from 8:30am-4:30pm, with added costs to stay for lunch, drop off before that, and pick up after. She went just for the morning and then my husband would pick her up for the rest of the day which worked out really well.
      My impression has been that at least so far for the first two years, their day is very activity based and learning is through a lot of artwork, song, and small group activities. After two years in school, the 2nd year has been all day 4 days a week and a half day on Wednesday, and she’s adjusted very well. The new plan this fall, at least at our school, is school only 4 days a week, with Wednesdays completely off. So parents still have to figure out childcare for that day. Not a perfect system, but on the whole I like how it works.

  142. Erin says...

    I’m always so jealous reading about how France supports working moms. Having good childcare be widely available and affordable is a dream.
    That school menu sounds fantastic. I’m so guilty of giving my kids the same “safe” meals over and over, I need to take a tip from the French and bring in some diversity to our menus!
    Thank you for continuing this series, I love it.

  143. Inês says...

    Love this! How soon can I move there?

  144. Clare says...

    This is enchanting. I’m so excited that this series is continuing. I love Emilie’s sensitivity to, and beautiful way of expressing, the small details and textures of life – I felt like I was transported into her world!

  145. JoeG says...

    You had me at “moved into a 400 yr old house”. Such a beautiful essay and a wonderful thing you and your husband did in taking the leap from chasing a life to living a life. Your children will be amazing adults!!

  146. Lauren says...

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this series!

  147. Jess says...

    Beautiful! This is by far my favorite series anywhere on the internet! I love taking things from each story and applying it to my own family.

  148. Ryann says...

    This life looks like a romantic storybook, right down to the color palette! I wish I could just jump in!