I gave birth to my first daughter, Lily, in the United States back in 2004 and my two other daughters were born here. So I was fortunate enough to not only see the difference in maternity practice between France, and the U.S., but also the biggest differences in child rearing.
Now, don’t get me wrong -Modern French women are as up to par on health issues, science, child development, and current affairs as Americans are.
It’s their mothers that are the problem.
You see, different generations believed the common cold came about by various conditions in the environment, biggest ones being:
Air currents. If I leave the door open someplace where there’s children, I’ll be sure to get the death glare from their grandmothers. Everyone knows air currents cause colds!
Stuffy house. Even today the government recommends we air out our homes on a daily basis. This means opening every door and window to your house for a full 20 minutes in order to let out all the germs.
Or let in new air.
Or, as my mother in law explained- to let in the cold so it will kill all the germs. (which still leaves me wondering why we’re expected to do the same in summer?)
In winter time, you’ve got to open each room separately and not all at once (or else you’d freeze your arse off) so, depending on how many rooms you have, it can become an all day affair.
In the summer time, even if it’s 100° degrees outside, you’ve got to ‘air out the house’, preferably in the morning. Air conditioning isn’t already included in the construction of many buildings around here and it’s expensive to run.
Your head, neck, or feet aren’t covered. Now- I grew up running around the woods and the hot concrete of our street barefoot. I swear, by the end of summer, I could walk across lava rocks without flinching. I used to affectionately refer to my soles as ‘Pocahontas Feet’. And in winter I preferred going barefoot in the house. Dressed in sweaters and turtlenecks, I found if my feet were too hot, my whole body’s too hot. And I had always heard when it comes to babies you should ‘put one layer of clothing more than what makes you comfortable’. And after a certain age, your kids can tell you themselves if they’re hot or cold, right?
However, my in-laws stared at me aghast when I’d step out of the house without shoes or socks for the first time. And if they stop by and see my kids aren’t wearing socks, they’ll flat out tell them to go put socks on. ‘You’ll catch cold!’ Even if it is warm in the house or the middle of summer. I’ve tried to explain that colds aren’t caught from your feet. Or head. Or neck. And they sweetly acknowledge this fact- but still insist that bare feet won’t help if there are germs about. (Needless to say, I’ve given up this battle. I don’t mind. I know once they leave my kids will kick off their socks anyway.)
No matter the season, when walking outdoors with my children, they will be consistently ‘too covered’ or ‘not covered enough’ according to random elderly French women who stop me in the street.
And to top it all off, should my kids eventually come down with the common cold. (Which they do. Several times a year. Despite house-airing, current-closing, and sock/hat/scarf-wearing) – my in-laws generation was the ‘antibiotic’ époque. So, when I come back from the doctors with one of the kids, they’ll ask ‘did they give her antibiotics?’. And when I respond ‘No, they didn’t think it was necessary’, I’ll be privy to a nice rant on how doctors are inadequate now a’ days.
The French government is even trying (in vain) to change this out-dated concept with their long running publicity ‘Antibiotics are NOT automatic’.
But I don’t think it’s sinking in:)
Have a great weekend everyone!