Bringing Up Bébé, by Pamela Druckerman. Even worse than Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, it makes the assertion that le snooty French are better parents than Americans. Quelle horreur!
Actually, it doesn't seem to be a manual for how to raise kids, as it is another American "OMG the Europeans have got this whole 'living' thing figured out" memoir (though, I haven't actually read the book, only the excerpt). Which should be a genre in itself--Americans realizing that they're not the center of the universe, that the way of constant strife and competition is not the only way, that "socialism" is not, in fact, synonymous with "evil"--and what it all means to their identity as Americans. It's always funny to read these things, because, unlike most Americans who write such books, I've always been relatively laid-back and willing to entertain the idea that people elsewhere might just do and think differently. And when in Rome, as they saying goes, do as Romans do.
One review that excoriates the book raises the point that Druckerman seems to consider "American mothers" until one huge, very-broad brush, one that spans the entirety of "hypervigilent helicopter moms" to "criminally negligent crackheads", and that the degree of involvement spent in parenting likewise spans a broad range of parenting styles. But I think the review misses an opportunity to adress a critical point that Druckerman brings up, which is, "Why do American moms always feel like they're doing something wrong, and why do European moms 'just know' how to parent?" Or to paint a broader picture, "Why are Americans never satisfied?"
To answer that: certainly there is a lot about the US that could be improved--gay rights, latent (or not-so-latent) racism and reverse-racism, better social and environmental policies, more humane maternity leave policies, public transit, etc. But these are not the kinds of things that can be changed by making yourself better--these are not the kinds of changes that can take place simply because you resolve to be a better person than you were yesterday. It is my amateur-anthropologist's belief that Americans, who've grown up surrounded by this myth that you can do anything you want if you just work hard enough, have also absorbed the hidden message that's never articulated: that good people don't rely on others. Which means, rather than fostering cooperativity towards making a better future, people focus on being more/better themselves, and to hell with the rest of the world (see aforementioned about "good people"). Hence, too, the popularity of religion--self-improvement in God!
But there's a lot about Europe that could be improved, too--the coming retirement crisis, for instance. Mass confusion about signage on the roads, an ungodly tax rate (though, in light of the benefits, I'll take an ungodly tax rate), and of course there's that pesky integration-of-new-immigrants issue. But Europeans are surrounded by the myth of destiny rather than self-determination, and the hidden message that's never articulated is: we depend on others to make us good. That does seem quite creepy, actually....
Believe it or not, I did not consider any of these when I moved here. I could only trust that everything would work out in the end--and it has, mostly. There are a few quibbles that I have with my current situation, but then again, I wouldn't be American if I were so easily satisfied, would I?