Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Room Full of Gemini

Paris is teaming with babies these days. Is it the spring? Just the natural order of things? Lamb chops for dinner and new borns in strollers? Just another month of May in Paris? Well my friends I am here to tell you that there is a lot more than happenstance going on here.

I have no doubt that those clever clever parents who gave birth this month did so with one thought in mind: May babies have the best chance of scoring a spot in the much sought after Parisian daycare system. You see daycares, or crèche in French, accept babies when they are 3 months old. This coincides perfectly with the standard 3 month long maternity leave french working women receive. The trouble is that the daycare-to-baby-ratio is way out of balance here, which means that the race to get a spot for your little cabbage is on way before they are conceived, let alone born.

This was made clear to me by the director of the most fantastic crèche in Montmartre, a sunny, clean, charming spot populated by hip parents, beautiful babies wearing hand knit cardigans and playing exclusively with Scandinavian-esque wooden toys. Coco and I dressed in our Sunday best (or rather Friday best given the history of this particular daycare) and headed up the hill to see the directrice who is available to speak to potential recrutes for two hours on Thursdays. We arrived, chit-chatted, smiled, exchanged compliments and then she cut to the chase, "Madame, as charming as you two are... unfortunately your child was born during the month of August which is.. well... a difficult month." "Difficult?" I replied. "Oui, you see almost all of the spots open up in September, when the little ones move up to the one year old room, Coco was only one month old last year so couldn't sign up with us then and this year she would be ready to go up with the one year old kids but all of the little ones from last year are taking those spots... so unless somebody moves...".

Unless somebody moves? As if anyone would move if they had a spot in daycare?

"I see..." I replied. "Well I suppose we'll just organize ourselves better next time around. So it is true what they say about the month of May then?" She laughed, nodded and sent me on my way. As I walked into the waiting room I looked around and saw a long line of parents cradling babies that were days old... May babies. As I walked down the hallway I peeked in the windows and saw rooms full of bouncy happy children... May babies. And I though to myself, my God, so many gemini! Those daycare workers must be exhausted.


Anonymous said...

I'm an American medical student, and I was training in obstetrics in Paris from June through December of 2010. I started reading your blog on arrival, after a google search on the mastery of French toilets of all things, and have followed it ever since. I just wanted to thank you after all this time for your observations on French culture, and particularly on the French approach to birth and babies. It really added to my experience. So much of what you say is so spot on and makes me realize things that I seen but not particularly reflected on. Keep blogging, and best of luck with your beautiful Coco! I hope you find a daycare spot for her soon so she can socialize with all the other oh-so-French babies. =) Bon courage.

Madame Bouron said...

Elizabeth! Thank you for your lovely comment. What a delightful way to start my day. The little cabbage and my husband are napping so I have snuck off to the kitchen to write a little more...

Tell me, did you enjoy studying obstetrics here? What were there big differences you noticed in the French approach to birthing?

A bientôt.


Anonymous said...

Hello again,
Took a slight break in reading... but here I am back again. Thanks for your latest posts on grading. It makes me feel better about the grades I got in Paris.

The differences in medical practice aren't huge. French women get 3 sonos instead of 2. And the French love cervical cerclage (naturally, it's a French word). But my favorite part was always calling them "Madame" all throughout sweaty, grunting labor. Let's keep it polite please. =)

Looking forward to coming back for a patisserie class in May. Keep blogging!