When she announced the great news to her other friend, who already has a 6-month old, she was surprised to hear that she should already be investigating a spot in a crêche - a daycare center. Over two citron pressé, (freshly squeezed lemonades), we gawked over the jeune maman's comment - a crêche? already? My friend is not even three months along!
Our conversation got me thinking about being a maman à Paris - how on earth do women do it? Voilà the things that are plaguing my thoughts:
1. The physical aspect of being pregnant in a city where everyone either walks, metros or Velibs. There are stairs galore in Paris - I'm surprised women aren't going into early labor everywhere with the number of stairs they must climb just getting out of the Chatelet metro station.
2. The sad reality that most of the parental income will go towards rent in order to have an apartment large enough for a family (with neighbors who probably want to strangle you after 3am crying episodes...or convince the syndic (building manager) to reinforce the thin Parisian apartment walls). In addition to rent, will be the crêche. Now, in France, families are charged for the crêche on a sliding scale, depending on their income. Families with a higher income pay more, and those with a lower income pay less. I'm pretty certain that I will be smack dab in the middle - paying the regular, full price. And so will my copine. That my friends, is CHER (expensive). I'm pretty certain that it is nowhere near the cost of daycare in the US, but salaries in France are nowhere near salaries in the US - so voilà.
3. Getting a spot in said crêche. While speaking with my colleagues with children there were two cases of crêche: 1 maman had a 4 year-old and a 1.5 year old baby, the other maman had a 9 year-old and a 5 year-old. Maman 1, at one point, had TWO children in the crêche and was therefore paying a bundle each month - that is, when she finally found a spot for each of her children. She lived a galère for awhile there, but it finally FINALLY worked out. Maman 2 had her oldest in the crêche and somehow the stars aligned so that when the older child graduated to school, her youngest took her old spot. Much less stressful. But you can't always time these things, can you? No, you cannot.
4. One area where the French have gotten it right is when you are in the hospital. Women are cared for here in a way that they never could be in the US (unless that had the Daddy Warbucks of insurance plans). My friend who recently gave birth right next door in the 12th arrondissement, spent 4 days in the hospital after a very healthy, vaginal birth. She was able to rest, learn how to breastfeed and heal. While a long hospital visit doesn't sound ideal (it's so nice to be chez soi), I'll bet that women come home in a much better state to begin doing things without the help of the medical staff. They are surveyed in case there's a problem, and they have professionals on-hand for all of the thousands of questions that must come up as a new mom. In addition to caring for women during the accouchement, is the care they receive AFTER the birth. Women attend sessions for the réeducation périnéale, meaning less chance of complications later in life.
5. Beyond the physicality of actually carrying a baby to term in a big city like Paris, is the reality of getting around with a stroller once the baby is born. How do women do it?! Remember Anabelle Tess' blog post about the bus in Paris? I probably would have flipped out and cried. The other option is the metro - a gazillion stairs to walk down and then up - and all you can do is A. hope your child and your stroller are not that heavy or B. hope that a good samaritan will stop their rush down the stairs and offer to help you (not easy during 9am rush hour...). I'm always so impressed by these women and I offer to help as often as possible, but I have to say, after one stroller-metro adventure, I'm not sure I would be that motivated to leave my own quartier. I'm not even going to mention the fact that not all apartments buildings have elevators...
Perhaps these things seem less stressful when you actually have a beautiful new baby to enjoy and love, or perhaps you just give in to the reality of it, embrace the situation, and pretend like metro stairs carrying a stroller are a great way to lose all that baby weight. I tried to reassure my copine (and my future self), but let's face it, being a maman in Paris is hard work n'est pas?