Tuesday, September 11, 2007

La crèche

I have no reason to complain, I know: French law gives me an automatic ten weeks of maternity leave in addition to the six weeks before the due date. I or my husband can take an additional three years of unpaid leave and be guaranteed our jobs will be held open when we return. I decided to take off until January so I could stay at home with le Petit until he's almost six months old. Long enough, I figured, for me to breastfeed him and delay worrying about bottles (or to build up a supply of frozen breast milk, which is my current strategy). We'd been assured that a place in our town's excellent municipal day care would most certainly be available by then. After all, we'd put our name on the waiting list a full year ahead of time, when I was merely three months pregnant.

Alas, French government administration is rarely so simple to navigate. I should have known. On Friday, I trudged over to city hall with le Petit in the Bjorn to pop into the office de la petite enfance and see if I could find out any news.

It turns out that we're on the waiting list, despite the fact that we put our application in the first day it was possible, that both of us work full time, that le Petit is our first child, and our town has supposedly some of the best and most plentiful crèches in the Paris region.

"Where are we on the waiting list?" I ask, naively.

"We don't give numbers," they explain, "Because it depends on so many things..." Like how well you know the mayor, I think to myself.

"The best thing is for you to do is make an appointment with madame l'adjoint maire in charge of daycare. She can explain."

I made my appointment. She's apparently not available until early October, so I have plenty of time to uselessly worry about it all. The other, very common option in Paris is to find a nanny, but I'd concerned about leaving Petit with someone I will most likely know very little about.

So I'm preparing myself to beg, plead, perhaps bribe (okay, so I don't have the nerve, or probably the pocketbook) to get a place. Why do I fear this will be a very French experience?

Luckily, my mother-in-law is on the case, and has already canvassed neighbors, colleagues and friends to find a good nanny if we end up needing one.

And, after all, we have three and half more months...

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