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to prefer the french way: less mat leave, cheap childcare?

91 replies

dreamingbohemian · 13/04/2011 12:53

Actually I'm still unsure about this, would be interested in others' opinions...

We are moving to France shortly and will be putting DS (1 yo) in nursery a few days a week. Delighted to find it will cost us only 10 euro/day (much less if DH can't get a job right away), as opposed to the 40-50 pounds/day it costs here in London.

Also have the option to put DS in free pre-school FT from 2.5 y.o.


But on the flip side, apparently French women only get about 3 months paid maternity leave.

Obviously this is a moot point for us at the mo, but I'm thinking about it as we may end up having another child while living in France -- or we may come back to the UK.

Which system do you think you would prefer?

I kind of think the French system is not only cheaper but offers more flexibility, but then again I was really happy not to have to go back to work at 3 months...

OP posts:

dearyme · 13/04/2011 12:55

or radical idea

dont have kids until you can afford to take care of them without needing free this and free that


GwendolineMaryLacey · 13/04/2011 12:55

Depends on whether finance or wanting to spend time with your baby has the deciding vote. It will vary for different people. Personally I wanted to stay at home with DD so it wouldn't have suited me.


GwendolineMaryLacey · 13/04/2011 12:56

Is that to the fathers as well dearyme?


winnybella · 13/04/2011 12:58

Did you inscribe him into creche yet?
Yes, it'd rlatively inexpensive here, but there's a shortage of places.
For DD (26 mo) there's no place in either creche or maternelle (as they have barely enough places for 3yos, so they don't accept 2 yos)


CharlotteBronteSaurus · 13/04/2011 12:58

my babies are crap at sleeping.
i need the 9mo off to rehabilitate myself into the world of the well rested.
i say this as someone whose net profit on returning to work will be £50per month.


vezzie · 13/04/2011 13:04

What do you mean by "paid" mat leave?
Most of the UK mat leave is SMP which is not very much. I seem to remember reading something on here once which implied that the French mat leave isn't significantly worse paid.


VinegarTits · 13/04/2011 13:07

i only got 10 weeks paid maternity leave, i would have had to take SMP for the rest of it, i thinks thats standard here depending on your employer


GetOrfMoiLand · 13/04/2011 13:08

I would much rather have cheaper childcare, and go back after 3 months.

I went back when dd was 3 months and it worked brilliantly. If I have another baby I would do the same - less time taken out of work, plus is the optimum time I think to have a baby settle with a childminder. However I spent more on childcare than I did on rent at the time, things were a struggle until she went to school (but that was my choice, so am not complaining).


Greythorne · 13/04/2011 13:09

I agree with Winnybella.

What you describe in your OP is the theory.

The reality in Paris and it's suburbs is:

-- v limited places in full time crèche. Allocated to families with both parents working. I know no-one who got a place.

-- v oversubscribed maternelles so children are accepted the year they turn 3, not before. This means my Jan baby will be 3.8 before she can start maternelle

-- state maternelle schools have incredibly rigid catchment areas. If you don't like your allocated one, you have very little chance of getting a place elsewhere

-- state maternelles are often industrial in scale. Our local one has 6 form entry from age 3. It is far from the nurturing, safe nursery of many Brits' imagination

-- if you work full time, you will be offered a place at the canteen for lunch. If you do not work, and the canteen is oversubscribed, you might be offered a place one day a week only

Anyway, just saying that it's not always what it seems on paper.

If you are moving to France and hoping for a place in crêche, maternelle or a garderie, then make sure your apply as soon as you know have an address here.


GetOrfMoiLand · 13/04/2011 13:09

Mind you I had dd back in the day when you only had 18 weeks maternity leave, so I had to go back at 3 months (took 6 weeks off prior to birth, which you also had to do then, which is madness as most people I know are happy to work up til the birthdate, so I am glad that rule was relaxed)


dreamingbohemian · 13/04/2011 13:10

Charlotte, that's exactly why I wouldn't have wanted to go back at 3 months, at that point I was never sleeping more than 3 hours at a time, my brain was so fried.

Vezzie, actually I don't know how they compare as far as pay, I didn't get SMP, I was on MA

OP posts:

seeker · 13/04/2011 13:10

Just so long as "cheap" doesn;t also mean " not very good" Personally, I would prefer the person looking after my child to be paid a decent wage!


Greythorne · 13/04/2011 13:10

IPhone autocorrect:

its suburbs

Not it's suburbs.



GetOrfMoiLand · 13/04/2011 13:12

I imagine in France it is partially state financed. There is not a cat in hell's chance that that would be implemented here.

yes seeker you are right - you get what you pay for with childcare, I spent far more than I could have with dd's childminder, but she was more expensive as she had less mindees, and came very highly recommended, I was lucky that I could send dd to her.


BikeRunSki · 13/04/2011 13:12

My sister is in France and has had 2 kids there.
I am in the UK and and pg with DC2. I work in the public sector and get a fairly good mat package of 18 weeks full pay and 21 SMP.
DSis hated leaving her DS at 3 months, and I would have too. With her DD she gave up work rather than leave her so young.


dreamingbohemian · 13/04/2011 13:15

Winnybella and Greythorne, thanks for the practical advice!!!

Very sobering actually.

We will be in Brittany actually, my MIL has been checking our options and she seems to think we can get a place in September... but after reading what you say I'm going to follow up with her and make sure.

What are you doing instead? Are you using a childminder? Is that a lot more expensive?

OP posts:

lesley33 · 13/04/2011 13:16

GOML - As I understand it, the 6 weeks off before giving birth was really brought in because of fears that a woman doing a highly physical job would be putting both her and her babies health at risk is she continued to work right up to her due date.

Now of course few women do tough physical jobs and that is why ML was changed. So it did make sense at the time.


dreamingbohemian · 13/04/2011 13:17

Seeker, I think they are paid well, it's just subsidised heavily by the state

OP posts:

OhHelpOhNo · 13/04/2011 13:17

French mat leave is 16 weeks on normal pay (more for multiples or 3rd child) then you get an allowance similar to smp for up to 3 years...

And day care/creche fees depend on income.... For us it was comparable with what we now pay in UK (not in London though)


violethill · 13/04/2011 13:19

My experience is like GetOrfMoiLand's.

Back in the day, returning to work when the baby was around 3 months was the norm. The maximum ML when I had dd1 was 6 months, but the last 3 months were unpaid, and with interest rates what they were back then, I barely knew anyone who could afford longer than the first 3.

I think physically it was harder (on the mother). I was fully bf so was having to do 5.30 am feed, then feed after work, and in evenings, and express for when dd was at her childminder.

However, emotionally I think it was probably a lot easier, as the evidence seems to show that starting to leave a child before about six months, or when they are older than about 12 months, is the optimum time. The worst time seems to be around 9-12 months, when the separation anxiety really kicks in, which is a bit ironic, as nowadays that's exactly when many mothers do return to work. I've noticed that colleagues having babies now seem to find their children take longer to settle in childcare than was the case with mine.

So, swings and roundabouts really. Having a longer ML is perhaps nicer for the mother, but a shorter one is probably better for settling the baby.

Also totally agree that you get what you pay for, and I would rather pay through the nose for good quality care, than have more take home pay but leave my child in an industrial-scale provision


GetOrfMoiLand · 13/04/2011 13:27

violet - well done for carrying on BF. I simply couldn't do it - used to take god knows how long to express a cm of milk, so that was out, so started off mixed feeding, and that went by the wayside as I was working varied hours. I felt very guilty about that.


vezzie · 13/04/2011 13:31

OhHelpNo - so actually the French way is better all round - better mat pay and cheaper childcare (in theory - if you can get it)

16 weeks full pay (France) as opposed to 6 weeks 90% (UK)
something like smp for up to 3 years (France) as opposed to smp for 9 months, potentially 3 mo unpaid mat leave (UK)
10 Euros a day childcare (France) as opposed to 50 quid a day or thereabouts min (UK)

I think it's worth pointing out as a lot of people are comparing UK mat leave now to UK mat leave a few years ago which was a lot tougher, rather than to France now, which looks lovely relatively


winnybella · 13/04/2011 13:32

I stay at home with her dreaming bohemian. She's actually going tomorrow for the first time ever to a jardin d'eveil- sort of private nursery group, where she'll stay for 2.5 hours-25 euros. I plan to let her go there for a couple of mornings a week so she can socialize a bit. It's very annoying, as Greythorne says, because I can't go and look for a job because I have no childcare for DD, but I can't get her into creche because I'm not working.

Greythorne- I agree with everything you said, but tbh I've never heard about cantine being oversubscribed Shock. Never had that problem with DS (and I didn't always work)-we've lived in the 1st and 12th arr.


winnybella · 13/04/2011 13:34

vezzie- I think how much you pay for creche depends on your family's income. I know my friends who don't make lots of money (even though the h is a surgeon) pay more than 600 euros a month.


OhHelpOhNo · 13/04/2011 13:38

Vezzie- agree with you about mat leave! But I said creche is more expensive the more you earn, we were on the highest fees which was about the same as we pay here in UK - £38/day.

And also our creche was excellant, lovely lovely staff, I was really sad to leave it when we returned to UK....

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