The Longer I Have My Daughter, The Less I Care What French Moms Do

I was using this idea of trying to act like a French mom to try to retain my pre-baby life.

A mom playing with her daughter at the playground Courtesy of the Author

French women are skinnier than other women, yet they eat copious amounts of croissants and drink liters of wine every day.

They are more stylish, yet they don’t spend tons of money on a designer wardrobe or even seem to care that much. 

Their skin is absolute perfection with not a blemish in sight thanks to that secret drugstore find, and their makeup is always natural due to this; just a little lip gloss and mascara, right? 


Their hair always looks like they just had really great sex, but still falls perfectly. 

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They wear matching lingerie no matter what, even at home, and never wear sweatpants unless they’re at the gym (of course they never go to the gym because their bodies stay perfect without working out.) 

Oh, and they are better mothers than every other woman on the planet. 

Basically, they are these mythical creatures that can’t be touched lest you get shocked by their beauty and je ne sais qoui. At least, that is what we’ve been told time and time again. Article after article on the internet will tell you how to eat, act, look, and parent like French women. 


Cut to this scene: I had just brought my newborn daughter home from the hospital and she stared up at me with big eyes, like, “What are we supposed to do now mom?” Of course, I had no idea. 

Three months later, in a sleep-deprived haze, and bored of watching Netflix while breastfeeding at 2 a.m. in the living room, I looked for a book to read. 

I came upon the book, Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman, an American woman who was raising her children in Paris. I ate up every word of this book that explained why French women were far better in their parenting abilities, and when I got to the part that said their babies started sleeping through the night by around 10 weeks I broke down crying. 

What was I doing wrong? Why was every other woman a far superior mom to myself? Why couldn’t I get my baby, who was attached to my boob 24/7 to sleep more than a 2 hour stretch at a time? I was frustrated and down, and felt like I wasn’t good enough. 


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My only course of action, or so I thought at the time, was to try wearing lace bras (that made breastfeeding entirely uncomfortable), listen to Carla Bruni, eat a lot of croissants, try talking to my 3-month-old like she was a rational adult, and practicing ‘le pause,’ or that 5 minutes French women wait to see if their sleeping baby will self settle. 

I tried wearing just red lipstick, however, the bags under my eyes and post-partum acne left me feeling less than sexy, so I tried a ‘no makeup, makeup' look. I wore black turtlenecks and tried letting my hair go natural (though that wasn’t hard since I had no time to wash it anyway.) 

Of course, it isn’t all about looks, and as my daughter got older I tried baby-led weaning, hoping she would develop a love for fancy food and all manner of green vegetables. I sat there sweating bullets as my daughter gagged on various solid foods, terrified she would choke.


I was still breastfeeding her to sleep, but at least she started sleeping 3-4 hour stretches, and I tried to take her on outings to coffee shops or get some time to myself to make sure I still had a life, as French women apparently do. 

In reality, I was using this idea of trying to act like a French mom to try to retain my pre-baby life, and it was only stressing me out more. 

So, I leaned into motherhood and decided to work my own schedule around my daughter, a major faux pas according to French moms. My life revolved around her for the rest of that first year and into the second. 

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It was right around the time when my daughter turned 2 that things really fell into place, naturally, all on their own, without the presence of wine-fueled dinner parties or floral dresses that would be better worn on the French Riviera. 


We moved to a new house just after her birthday, and I stopped breastfeeding that very same week. I told her mommy had “ows” on her boobs and the milk was gone.

I even resorted to putting band-aids on my nipples, and though French women would probably be disgusted at this or even the fact that I breastfed my child until she was two, it worked like a charm. Not chic or cool, but it did work. 

Once breastfeeding went out the window, my daughter started sleeping from 8:30 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.

And, with some sleep, I started freelance writing again while she napped. I started going to the gym and working on my body, and I had the energy to smile once in a while. 


While French moms may never give up their pre-baby lives (though I’m finding it hard to believe that’s actually possible), I’ve found a new identity within motherhood. While it may not involve daily walks along the Seine after dropping my little cherub off at her state-funded creche, it’s mine.

It’s easy to lose ourselves in motherhood, falling prey to the whims of a tiny dictator who screams at even the tiniest hunger pang, or has a tantrum when the birds actually ate the food she left for them (true story). 

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But, as I come out of the haze of those first couple of years of sleep deprivation and a steep learning curve, I’ve become a new version of myself; two different women merging onto the same road. And, the longer I’m a mom, the less I care what French women do.


Sarah Veldman is a freelance writer living in Netherlands with her husband Jan, and her daughter Olivia. She has been published on various sites like Bustle, The Everygirl, HelloGiggles, and more.