What is the real deal with Parisian Mamas?
MLP talks to some French Mums to uncover the truth
France is revered for many wonders, from its beauty, charm and architecture to its history and culture. But on top of all of the obvious stuff, France is held in the highest esteem, for being the country that gave birth to the world’s most envied females.
French women unsurprisingly, have a certain ‘je ne c’est quoi’ that, is always being romanticised in film, photography and literature – zee zexy accent, the svelte coca-cola bottle physique, the reserve of her nature, fashion sensibility and undeniable beauty. These and many more well-marketed attributes, have become a fascination for many admirers of the French woman; and there is no question that Parisiennes, lie at the heart of this fantastical ideal; and when she becomes a mother, the myth becomes even more pronounced.
Last year, Mama Loves Paris wrote a ‘tongue in cheek’ article called 10 Things you need to know about Parisian Mums – a comic assessment of how people might perceive her. This year, MLP wanted to go a little deeper and talk to a few French mums about how the world sees Parisian Mothers, and uncover the truth behind what we think we know and the reality!
She is calm and laid-back
“They seem to glide rather than stride, even with children in tow. If the stress of motherhood is present she hides it well. What would cause a British mum to see red, for example, would just be a shoulder shrug for a Parisienne”
When asked if this was true, MLP got a mixed bag of responses. Given that the Parisian mother is living in the city, the perception, certainly from non-Parisian French mothers is that she is always rushing, never having any time, always racing against the clock. But this surely could be said of any mother living in a major city non?
On further investigation, however, it was revealed that the Parisian Mother does exercise a certain level of calm, in her demeanour.
She is not one to cause a scene or draw attention to herself especially in a situation involving her kids.
Her unruffled moments are quick and brief – so more than likely go unnoticed by the rest of us. In the privacy of her home things may be different but in public, she looks like a woman in control.
Also, the Parisian mother really has no time for nonsense, only important matters will garner her attention, she is just too busy – our perception is probably about right but what is going on her mind is quite different to what we actually think! Hers is a strategic calm it seems, although one mum did point out
“Ze Pareezienne maman is calm but not gentle.” Just so we don’t get it twisted!
She looks good.
“When it comes to style and fashion ,The Parisian mama looks hot. Her garments are not just thrown together…no way…she has put some serious thought into it. From her casual ‘pick up the kids from school look’ – slim cut jeans, teamed with a fitted tee and ballet pumps, from Zadig & Voltaire or maybe a Chanel blouse! Okay so it’s not quite Rue de Catwalk but…
This perception was met with an eye roll from more than one French mother. “Zeriously…”, she retorted! “Zis is not what we are all like“. The mums confirmed that there was indeed a percentage of Parisian mothers who did fit this stereotype; but they were well-off, well paid and living in certain districts of Paris.
“You can find zis mum in ze 5,6,7, 18 areas of Paris… een other arrondissements you will find ze Boho maman, the hippy chick mother like in the 4th, 10th, 11th and 3rd districts.“
One mama confirmed that the Parisian Mama, to which we refer has impeccable taste but she probably has someone looking after the kids so she can spend more time focusing on herself. Without question appearance is important and Parisian mothers whatever their budget, do their utmost to look as good as they can.
When asked if a Parisian mother could be identified whilst walking along a busy street, one French mother said “oui biensûre.” How would you know, MLP enquired.
” Heels, designer brands, the hair, her style” she explained
She can cook
“It’s in her DNA, this is not a chore for her, it is a labour of love”
The most revealing insight here, was the suggestion that Parisian Mothers do not actually cook or spend huge amounts of time in the kitchen. First, her kitchen is likely to be one of the smallest rooms in the apartment and secondly she just doesn’t have the time to dedicate to it. One MLP source suggested that Parisian women ‘fake it”.
Instead of slaving over the cooker, they go to the market bright and early, buy as much ready cooked produce as they can get their hands on. Fill the dining table with all the scrumptious food they have bought, and then pretend that they made it!
Ha! Surely this cannot be true! And what is this talk of lazy baking! Yoghurt cakes? Parisian Mama I implore you to set the record straight!
If she is NOT a ‘can’t cook, won’t cook’ mother, she or her other half will prepare food. But regardless of which way she rolls (in or out of the kitchen) – the spread she provides will be super healthy! On this, all the mums are in agreement. As daughters of French women, they have been brought up with an acute appreciation and love of food, it is truly medicine for the soul, they will invest in fresh organic produce as a first choice especially for their kids.
She is weight conscious
“Parisian mums always look so slim. Any excessive bulges are more likely to be attributable to ‘wind’ rather than excessive food intake right?”
The Parisian Mother does not eat very much. She wants to stay slim. So she can fit into her size zero clothes right? Well not exactly.
The French mothers that MLP spoke with, admitted that culturally it was deemed ‘to not be very elegant’ if one carried a little extra weight.
They confirmed that Parisian Mothers will focus on fitness, and stay trim because it’s better for her, she is happier that way. In Paris, women are slimmer than in the rest of France according to one of our interviewees. The jury seems to be out, in terms of where this need to be skinny comes from, but MLP gets the sense that in French culture there is a level of obsession, in terms of physical appearance, that rewards slimmer shapes and serves up a portion of judgement upon those with a little more ‘junk in their trunk‘ so to speak!
A case in point, an MLP spy tells us that Adele has been ridiculed severely in France for her weight. She has been cut down to size with quips from designers and even joked about, in an episode of the French version of the Muppets. Is it just a coincidence that this criticism is only coming from France and that culturally they can not see beyond her size? Should they not focus on Adele’s amazing god given talent? Surely that is all that matters! Food for thought maybe!
She is a smart shopper
“Obviously, the Parisian Mama won’t be seen struggling home from the supermarket weighed down with carrier bags. No way Mama!..who knows who she might bump into between the pasta and the Olive oil’
The Parisian mother is not going to the supermarket unless she has no other alternative. La Parisienne will order everything online, or do a quick whizz around the local Marché, wearing shades obviously! If she is forced to endure such a task she will, maybe reluctantly invest in one of those colourful strollers but if she can get someone else to do it..she will! If not she’ll probably slip into an uber to get home!
She ain’t no taxi mama!
The Parisian Mama doesn’t spend her valued hours ferrying the children around the city like some kind of ‘uber mama’ for playdates and the like….
This perception of the Parisian mama is a sneak peek into how the other half live. There is a percentage of mothers in Paris who can afford to hire a ‘nou nou‘ (pronounced nu nu) – aka childminder, who will pick up and drop off their offspring, so she can indeed spend her precious time in other ways. However, this is not all Parisian mothers – most of whom, would love to be able to afford such a luxury.
She is in control
“Sometimes it eez like ze parents live with ze children! C’est ridicule“(sic).
According to the French Mums we spoke to, the Parisian Mama is definitely in control. She doesn’t allow the children to become confused with regards to their status. They are the child, and the parents are most definitely the parents! She makes the rules, the children have clear guidelines, there is structure. She will not compromise her needs or respond to attention seeking screams unnecessarily.
“If there eez no blood, zere eez no problem!”
One mum explained to MLP, that children respond well to this discipline. When asked, if a Parisian mother could be singled out in a playground, One French mother exclaimed ‘Maybe not, but ze mother from America I can definitely spot!” “How can you tell ?” MLP asks probingly?
“Because of ze tone…she eez too nice and calm to a naughty child….Parisian Mothers I think are more firm!”
Social training for kids
The Parisienne does not stop existing the day she has a child! In fact, she is ready with her manual for her new offspring, who will be well schooled in learning how to behave at cocktail parties, luncheons and at fashion boutiques – according to the book – How To Be Parisian: Wherever You Are
Mmmmmm. The MLP French Mama crew suggested that this was a bit of an aspiration, although it was considered a great idea, an acceptable rites of passage for a child. A perfect way perhaps, to learn the necessary social graces required at engagements. However, only a small percentage of Parisian Mothers actually put this idea into practice.
Is wine considered one of her five a day?
“Wine eez necessary for all French women! All women I think”
Oooh! I think we should all raise a glass to that last statement!
So, the impression we have of Parisian mothers might not quite fit the reality. Or our reality doesn’t quite match her truth. Either way her throne at the top of the ‘most admired mama in the world‘ pedestal is showing no signs of abating, not anytime soon anyway!
The Parisian Mum clearly comes in many guises but there are several commonalities too, despite the economic, class and attitudinal differences. All existing under the same umbrella, the common thread of French culture binds them, and shapes a certain way of approaching fundamental matters regarding her womanhood and motherhood commitments.
One thing is for sure, though. Whatever the realities, whatever the myths, the Parisian Mama is to be respected. She operates under a historic global perception and boundless admiration and that is a lot of pressure!
Parisian Mamas, French Mamas everywhere MLP salutes you as we do to all the Mamas in the world. All of us different and special in our own unique way.
In the spirit of Mothers Day here in France, MLP just wants to say that you rock Parisian Mamal!
It’s that simple.
MLP thanks the wonderful women who agreed to participate in this process. Thank you, Myriam, Alisa, Amelie and Ms Anonymous for your time, energy and openness.
PS: In light of the recent mothers day celebrations in France and abroad. Mama Loves Paris is in the middle of discussions to hold a very special and exclusive Secret Beauty Lunch in a very special new spot in Paris.
There will only be limited spaces available to subscribers of Mama Loves Paris, so if you want to be in with a chance please subscribe. Places will be given on a first come first serve basis. The date is scheduled for June 16. 11:45am until 3pm. Believe me, you will not want to miss this. More details coming soon via the newsletter.
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Thank you so much for reading!