"In my experience a pregnant lady doesn’t have much choice as to how they give birth. There was no offer of a birthing pool, and home birth is incredibly hard to achieve, as you need to find a midwife who has adequate insurance. I do know of a couple of people who have done it, but it certainly wasn’t easy and is very much outside the ‘norm’." (NS Nov 2010)
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in France?
Nancy Simons. 34 Yrs. I have lived in France for just over 8 years
Whereabouts in France do you live?
Near Castillionnes in the Lot et Garonne.
What nationality are you and your partner?
How many children do you have and what are their names and ages?
Two little girls – Isabella 5 yrs and Chloe 2.5 yrs
Do you work and if so what to you do?
Yes I do all the admin for my husbands small building firm and I am also the SouthWest France Lettings Expert for Tots to Travel (www.totstotravel.co.uk). I love my job with TOTS. I help holiday home owners realise that with just a few changes or extra bits and bobs, they can niche market their property, by targeting families with pre-school children (who would prefer to come on holiday outside the peak season to avoid expensive flight & ferry costs etc); thereby extending the house owners letting season considerably!
What was your experience of having a baby in France? (if relevant)
My prenatal experience was not very good for either of the girls due to a particularly nasty Obstetrician (fell into he bracket of “better the devil you know” by using her again second time round)… Oh how I regretted this decision… At 8 months pregnant having handed over my very simple birth plan (expressing my hopes and dreams of how I would like the process to pan out, and what route I’d prefer, should things go wrong). Mme Obstetrician declared that it wasn’t up to me to make these decisions; a medical professional would decide what would happen to my baby and I, and if I didn’t like it I could “go and have my baby somewhere else”!!
HOWEVER… I cannot praise the midwives at Villenueve Sur Lot Hospital highly enough. They were amazing, and the after care I received from the PMI at home and in their drop in centers was just as good. I also highly recommend the emergency 15 number. It doesn’t necessarily mean an ambulance will be sent out to you but you can have your fears put to rest at 3am by a medical professional should you feel your baby or child is seriously ill and they make the decision as to whether to send an ambulance or if medical treatment can be delayed until the morning when you can see your GP.
What was your experience of relocating to France with children? (if relevant)
My husband and I did not have children when we relocated to France. Building our own home and setting up two businesses wasn’t exactly straightforward- I’m glad I didn’t have to do it all with two young children in tow that’s for sure!
How well integrated would you say you and your children are?
Very well integrated. Isabella is happy at school and has many friends. Chloe has been going to Crèche a few days a week for about 9 months now, which she loves as she seems to have taken on the role of ‘assistante’ doing what she loves best by looking after all the younger children putting hats back on and getting ‘dou dous’ (comforter teddies) for them (Bless). I am assistant secretary for the APE (PTA equivalent). So I like to feel I am contributing to the community. I have to admit a lot of what is said at the meetings does go straight over my head, but luckily the secretary speaks very good English so she can help me fill in the blanks! We find there are a lot more opportunities to participate in community events now we have the children. The Christmas ‘Spectacle’ is also another lovely get together. We attempted a ‘Vide Grenier’ last year… hmmm don’t think I’ll do one of those for a few more years… not easy with a 12 month old and 4 year old! Well, not our two buzzy bees anyway! As for the ‘Chasse’ lunch? Well, you don’t need to eat for about 3 days after!
What language do you speak to your children?
English. We do not want to give them any bad habits and have been told it is best to allow the children to make a clear distinction between the two languages. French at school and English at home.
What is your impression of childcare and education in France so far?
I can’t praise Chloe’s Crèche highly enough. Their system, facilities, and staff are all fantastic. I’m not so sure about Isabella’s school. It is an incredibly small village school of about 60 pupils split in two classes which does seem very regimented; with little freedom of expression (yes even at 5 yrs old!). Ella’s teacher is especially ‘cold’, however, every time I ask who she likes best, of all the assistants and teachers, she always says her teacher! So there you go, perhaps a she feels she doesn’t need any ‘warmth’ from her!
What school do your children go to?
The local village school
Why did you choose this school and are you happy with your choice?
We chose it as there wasn’t any choice (!) without paying a vast amount of money… You need to have permission from your Maire if you want to send your kids to another school other than that in your commune, and ours said he would not contribute if we were to go down that route. We are also are slightly concerned that there are 4 different ages groups in the younger class (Petite, Moyenne, Grande and CP) plus facilities are rather basic. The girls are only young at the moment so we feel we have time to think about this a little more- who knows what the future holds… we may find our dream home in another village.
Is there anything you think would improve children´s lives in France?
I think children would benefit from more art, craft, music (other than just singing songs -which they do a lot of) and drama in the school curriculum… Learning is very regimented, and parrot fashioned… Although they come up with good results, in French schools I think there are better, more fun ways to achieve them. As we all know, all children are different and as a result learn differently too. Some may be auditory, others visual etc… It is France’s inflexibility around this subject that needs addressing in my opinion. Having said that, I do like the way they are so ‘hot’ on discipline. Although she is never in trouble at school, my eldest daughter thrives on knowing where boundaries are, and I can really see that it keeps her very focused on pouring all her energies (and she does have lots of that!!) into concentrating on her schoolwork; she’s doing ever so well (cue the gooey proud mum bit!!).
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to France with children?
In my experience a pregnant lady doesn’t have much choice as to how they give birth. There was no offer of a birthing pool, and home birth is incredibly hard to achieve, as you need to find a midwife who has adequate insurance. I do know of a couple of people who have done it, but it certainly wasn’t easy and is very much outside the ‘norm’. However the facilities and medical care is truly fantastic, I felt/ feel very well looked after by the midwives and my GP, as are my children (my only gripe is perhaps that they tend to be a bit ‘free’ with the antibiotic prescriptions!)
What couldn’t you live without in France?
The SPACE.. The fact that we spend so much time outdoors as a family. Gorgeous cheese and wine (my bête noir!!). The weather- I love that we still have distinct seasons, but that our summers are that little bit longer.
What could you live without in France?!
The awful drivers, complete lack of customer service, red tape and high taxes.
(NS Nov 2010)