Living in France you soon realise the advantages of a fundamentally socialist system. Here every mother, working or non-working, has the right to subsidized childcare. A non-working mother has the right to 2 half days a week at a place called “une halte garderie”. My daughter loves it! She learns to sing new songs, dance little dances and play with all her friends, all for the maximum price of 3 euros an hour.
The downside for me, however, was that when we first moved to Paris I did not know a soul. As the state here takes on the responsibility for entertaining the kids, there isn’t really a platform to meet other mothers.
In London, the moment I had a newborn baby and realized I needed daytime friends (most of my socializing up to then had been nocturnal), I joined various groups. I had the choice between baby massage, baby yoga, general baby groups, even baby music for newborns. In France these kind of networks don’t exist, because most mothers go back to work within 4 months of giving birth as the state nurseries are plentiful, cheap and good.
So I fell upon Message: www.messageparis.org (A group of other mothers coming from anglo backgrounds, who must have had the same issues as I did, started it up). It has turned into a highly organized network of playgroups, workshops etc.
So now we have the best of both worlds; my daughter gets to play with other little French kids and sing cute little French songs, and in the afternoon I get to gossip with my mom friends, and the kids play together and everything is bon, as they say in Paris.
Then Italy must be the worst of both worlds!
We pay high taxes as in France but we do not get any subsidy for childcare. State funded nursery would cost me 450 euros a month, but my son won’t get a place because my husband (and now I) make too much money (or at least we do declare all our income to inland revenue). My son then goes to private nursery which sets me back 650 a month.
So with all this lack of incentives for mothers to go back to work you would expect a plethora of baby groups and baby activities…WRONG!!!
Very few events, and no information!
Mothers can be very lonely in Italy, especially in the winter months when the only socialising places, i.e. the playgrounds, are not the most comfortable spots to hang out.
I’m not sure about Amsterdam yet; a lot of women are working (I haven’t heard about subsidized childcare yet) so it will probably be hard to find girlfriend/mothers!
I did find an international playgroup / chatgroup: http://www.robbeburg.com/
I went twice now on a Tuesday and it is really nice!
I really like the idea of Message though, because it is more than just a playgroup – it seems to provide activities not just for the kids but also for the parents! I saw they even published a cookbook! Have you seen it? I’m interested! Can you get me one, if it’s nice?