Thursday, 9 May 2013

Being A Mother: Here And There



Well, for once, I think that I miss France. Am I allowed to say that being a mother is so much easier over there? In London, being a mum can be, well, challenging. Nothing is designed to help you.
Let's start with the delivery of your baby. In France, you will be able to recover in hospital for a few days and, if you want, your baby will be taken care of during the night. Well, in London you will be kicked out after a day. Then, you are on your own. If you are lucky, a health visitor will come to visit you every other day, but most of the time they are too busy to bother anyway.
In France, you will be offered free physiotherapy sessions to get your flat tummy back. In London, well, you have no help to get back in shape. It is entirely up to you, but as you will have a lot on your plate, it is likely to be very low on your priority list.
I am starting to believe that there is a conspiracy against mums over here. For starters, the cost of childcare is prohibitive (twice as much as in my home country, as a rule of thumb).  The worst is, as far as I am concerned, the opening hours of the schools and nurseries. It is simply a joke. Basically, nurseries usually open at 9.15/9.30 and, before you child is 4, they will only keep him or her during the morning, or until 11.30 am. Yay! You have been kindly given two whole hours of freedom. It is hardly going to help you get back to work, isn't it?


In France, you can start school at 2 or 2 and a half and they will keep your child from 8.15/8.30 to...4.30 pm! And the best part is that it is completely free. I can assure you that my daughter was not traumatised at all with such long days. She was running to school every morning and I had to follow, half asleep.

That said, every cloud has its silver lining, right? In France, everything is taken care of, everything has been designed to help you, and there is, in general, little need for additional support. As it is clearly not the case over here, mums have to build a network of support. All mums know and help each other, and I can always count on another mum to pick up my daughter if I am stuck somewhere. We all cover for each other. We even lost weight together after the birth of my younger daughter. Simply put, we are on the same boat and I have found a solidarity that I didn't have in France, which is nice.

Wherever you live, there is a group of mums ready to help with local information and to provide some support. In my new neighbourhood, I found Kensington Mums, a site run by Dina. And the dynamic Dina is organising a Kensington Mums Motherhood exhibition on the 7th of June. If you are around, you are welcome to join. I decided to participate and it was good fun (you will see on the day...). I can't help thinking that such an initiative wouldn't have happened in France.
Don't get me wrong, I still wish that London schools had a sibling policy, the same holidays and longer opening hours. But at least, in London, I have friends and shoulders to cry on when it all gets too much!

19 comments:

  1. Great Post. In Toronto, I had "drop in centres." After the 3rd child, I had a nanny and went back to work. Day-care for 3 was prohibitive. Great post!

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  2. And, if that's the child who ran to nursery school, she must be very quiet without a mouth slot :-)

    But, seriously, there is a line between too much and too little. Glad to see you've found your own way to garner support.

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  3. The U.K. way seems to be the U.S. model, as well--which is one of the reasons I appreciate the socialized support that we have in Serbia (similar to what's available in France). I did love my mommy friends in the U.S., but I understand the value of affordable, safe, fun, enriching preschool.

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  4. Carolina HeartStrings9 May 2013 at 08:38

    Interesting contrasts. US is more like UK than France. A network of other mothers is ALWAYS helpful, regardless of country!

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  5. Free physiotherapy sessions, really? Wow, France is where it's at! But, we here in the US also must rely on our friends and family for much of our support in child-rearing. I will say that we can easily find childcare for longer hours than you mention in the UK, but it is very expensive.

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  6. I like the sound of the French approach to motherhood. You are certainly abandoned here, as you say. However the English 'mum network' is a priceless commodity!

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  7. I love French childcare being so affordable. I was able to go back to work straight away without bankrupting the family and knew my child was in good hands.

    There is no mum network though, or wasn't until a British woman set up the PIGS group in the village next door for at-home mothers. It took a while to get going apparently, the French had never come across such a group, but once accepted, it was very popular. Not sure it's still going though as the kids of the woman who started it grew up.

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  8. 'It takes a village to raise a child.' I may not be a Mom but I think it's pretty cool how you Moms are helping each other, old-school. Bravo!

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  9. Don't even get me started on how family 'unfriendly' the US policies are in terms of maternity leave, healthcare in general, child care etc. To have help losing the baby weight?!! Oh my, that's simply amazing!

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  10. The beauty of France is that your 3rd kid doesn't cost you any more in day-care (well, that's the way it was when I was living there). And if you hire a nanny, the state used to pay all the taxes for you, so basically you just had to pay her salary. They stopped this recently. All good things must come to an end I suppose.

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  11. The good thing, Roy, I to have a choice. the problem in London is that you can have a choice, but it will cost you!

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  12. I know! Why do nurseries at a young age have a bad reputation in the UK/US? I don't get it. My daughters loved it. I don't think that they are traumatised.

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  13. That's true, but the sad fact of the matter is that you don't really need such a network in France. That's why happens when the state takes care of everything!

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  14. I know, that's why we manage to keep our flat tummy -courtesy of French state. And, just like you say, you can have good childcare...at a (huge) price!

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  15. It is very nice to have so much support from other mums. Well, as they say, every cloud has its silver lining, right?

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  16. ou are fortunate to have such a group. I have never had something like this in Paris. Maybe you have the best of both worlds then? Good for you!

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  17. Do you think that it is old school? I feel so old right now...Well, it is nice to have friends, and I suppose all moms around here have become friends by now!

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  18. What can I say Joy, come to France! I have to say that, being left to your own devices is pretty daunting here, and I am not sure how first-time mums can manage. I am glad that I had my first child in France.

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  19. I was never part of it as it started after my boys were bigger, and I work so would be unavailable for all activities.

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