Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review: Bringing Up Bebe

By Pamela Druckerman

Druckerman's Bringing Up Bebe made a splash last winter before it had even hit the shelves at bookstores. The book stirred up controversy by promising to show American mothers just how much better French mothers do it. The book wasn't as anti-American as it was portrayed, but it was still a very entertaining read.

Druckerman's PR folks decided to pull out all the stops by casting their lot in with Amy Chua of Tiger Mother fame. Chua's advanced praise received the top spot on the back cover. (Spot two went to French Women Don't Get Fat author Mireille Guiliano.) If the two of them combined isn't enough, Chua "couldn't put Bringing up Bebe down" and "love[s] Pamela Druckerman's premise that parents of all cultures should be able to learn from one another." While true, it's laughable coming from someone whose notoriety is based on her disdain for Western mothers.

This book wasn't a how to to French parenting but a memoir of Druckerman's struggle to be a good mom and fit in with the French mothers who surrounded her.

Unsurprisingly, French babies are better eaters and sleepers than American babies. Dr. Michel Cohen, author of the New Basics and a French doctor transplanted in Tribeca, recommends that parents pause before responding to their crying newborns. He says this gives the infant a chance to self soothe and sets them up for successful sleep. In The Happiest Toddler on the Block, Dr. Harvey Karp makes the same recommendation to teach toddlers patience.

As far as eating is concerned, French infants eat four times a day by two to three months old. This schedule encourages good eating habits. As they age, French children are introduced to a world of wonderful foods, which they eat and enjoy. French mothers know they have to keep trying to get their kids to eat new foods.

I was fascinated by all the government-paid perks that French women get, incluidng perineal retraining and subsidized daycare. Thanks to that subsidized daycare, very few Parisenne women stay at home. Despite that, French women lag behind American women in some major regards including:
  • a larger earnings gap between men and women,
  • fewer women in the legislature and heading larger corporations, and
  • French women spend 89% more time doing household work and caring for their children than men do.
According to Druckerman, an indication of rampant sexism in France is that post partum perineal retraining is often used to keep French husbands satisfied, not to help women. I do think the government benefits parents receive might help French mothers feel better about the discrepanices.

In the end, I can conclude that Chua was right, using tips from other cultures can be good for us as parents. I think that does neeed to go both ways; Western mothers aren't all overindulgent and sometimes we do say no to our children.

Do you have any thoughts on this book?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book Discussion: Secrets of Six-Figure Women

By Barbara Stanny

As women we often discount ourselves. Most of us know is bad for us mentally and physically, but it's also bad for our careers. As modern women, careers are a large part of our lives if not ourselves. It's time we start to refocus on ourselves. Reading this book is a step in the right direction.

Secrets of Six-Figure Women is a quick, engaging read chock full of excellent advice. Stanny, whose father was a successful and recognized businessman, was a chronic underearner who set out to learn the secrets of successful women. What she learned was both surprising and expected.

For example, I was surprised to learn that many of the six-figure women didn't work unGodly hours. Many have taught themselves to focus and work as little as four hours a day, and they're even more successful than when they'd worked four hours by 8:00 a.m.

It takes focus to reach six figures.

While surprising, I'm fully in support of this. What's the point of making six-figures if you can't enjoy it? (This is a rhetorical question. Life is meant to be lived; not worked.)

It wasn't surprising at all that Stanny found belief in oneself, hard work, education, and talent to be the most important factors to her interviewees success. These are four marked characteristics that I would list for successful women.

Stanny also found that six-figure women have a profit motive (they expect to be well compensated), audacity (they often step outside their comfort zones), resilience, and encouragement. She also learned that the women were self aware, were non-attached, and had financial know how.

Stanny is quite quotable in this book. Her writing is strong and her insight deep. Her quotes are the type I'd want to embroider on a pillow, if I had the patience to embroider. Some of her most quotable lines include the following:

"[T]he moment we stop waiting and start acting, we have the opportunity to walk through a doorway to a richer, fuller, more abundant life." (page 73)
"Our state of mind shapes our way of life." (page 74)
"To really change your financial situation, you have to let go of that part of yourself that stands in the way of greater abundance." (page 117)

Of course you can't write a book about women succeeding in the workplace without addressing sexism. According to the women interviewed, there are two ways to handle sexism: 1) shake it off or 2) leave the organization.

Shaking it off would be a good idea for minor instances of sexism, the cases in which proving oneself will help eradicate a sexist culture or superior. But sometimes the culture is so bad that you just need to leave. I know it's sometimes hard to leave when we want to change the culture, but it's not always possible, especially when the culprit is an older man. Some people need to age out of the workforce before we can change negative corporate cultures.

Success sometimes requires adequately handling sexism.

This only addresses the cases when women have a choice to stay or leave. When a woman is forced out due to sexism, she has to do something about it.

Stanny ends with a little last minute advice:
"Claim your power. Value yourself, honor yourself, take all your desires to heart."
What do you think? Do you have any tips to help women achieve six-figure success? Do you agree with the two ways to handle sexism? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Fun Blast From the Past

Now and Then might become a TV show! Words can not completely describe how happy I am about this. This movie just speaks to my childhood. It makes me so happy when it's on!

Monday, July 16, 2012

R.I.P. Donald J. Sobol

Did you grow up reading Encyclopedia Brown? Like My Side of the Mountain there are certain aspects of the Encyclopedia Brown books that I still recall to this day. Encyclopedia Brown taught readers to be observant and critical of our surroundings.

Donald J. Sobol passed away at the age of 87 on July 11th. I hope his legacy continues to live on, and that my daugher could read some of these books some day.

Rest in peace Mr. Sobol.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rest in Peace

May and June seemed to have been plagued by the loss of important authors. We lost Maurice Sendak on May 8th, Jean Craighead George followed on May 15th and Nora Ephron rounded out the triumvirate on May 26th. If death truly does come in threes, I hope we’ll be done for a while.

Maurice Sendak was and will continue to be loved and remembered for Where the Wild Things Are. It’s hard to believe that Where the Wild Things Are was first published in 1963. Love and acclaim for the book hasn’t dried up in the nearly 50 years it’s been a part of our world. Sendak has received the Caldecott Medal, the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the National Book Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, the National Medal of Arts and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award among many, many other deserved awards. He’ll be remembered for many years to come for his contributions to children’s literature as an author and illustrator.

Many literature loving adults probably remember reading Jean Craighead George’s Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain among other books. Although not my typical book choice, My Side of the Mountain made such an impact on me as a preteen that I randomly recall parts of the story as I go about my daily life (which has nothing to do with living alone in the mountains). George’s books brought the outdoors and natural life to an audience that isn’t always naturally receptive to it: young girls; while, at the same time, still being entertaining for and loved by boys (after all, I did find this book on my older brother’s bookshelves).

Despite a long list of accomplishments, I believe that Nora Ephron’s most important contribution to the world was in showing that women can be multiple things and do multiple things well. Ephron herself was an award-winning filmmaker, director, producer, screenwriter, novelist, playwright, journalist, author and blogger. She was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Original Screenplay for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally… and Sleepless in Seattle. Ephron came from a successful literary and film family. Her parents were screenwriters (Take Her, She’s Mine among others), her two sisters Delia and Amy are screenwriters and her sister Hallie is a triple threat—journalist, book reviewer and crime fiction novelist.

Many of us heard the news of the passing of these authors with sadness, but their contributions to the craft of culture will be remembered for a long time to come.

What impact have these authors had on your life?