I meant to write this open letter to my Dad on Sunday in honour of Fathers’ Day, but we were too busy enjoying Fathers’ Day all together. Then Tara from Sticky Fingers offered up the subject of “Dad” for this week’s gallery, so this blog post is in honour of my amazing dad.
I suppose this letter is a thank you really. A thank you for all the things you’ve done for me, big or small, over the last 37 and a bit years. I’m not going to list them here as that could (would) go on forever, so here are what are for me the main ones:
Thank you for being a fantastic dad – you were strict but not too strict when I was growing up, so I never felt like I had to lie to you about what I was doing, but I had clear boundaries too. You helped me out just enough financially, so I was never totally stuck but so that I knew the value of money – getting my first part-time job aged 14, and paying you back various loans over the years.
Thank you for being the font of all knowledge. Despite studying maths at Oxford (many moons ago), you somehow know everything about anything, be it science, maths, history, geography, the English language, Latin, music and more. Now you’re retired you should really think about taking up quiz shows and pub quizes as a little money-spinner
Thank you for being a DIY god, and for helping Hubs build our swimming pool in France when I was pregnant with L, and for all the DIY builds and fixes you’ve done for me over the years!
Thank you for what you did for me/us on our wedding day. There are very few dads who would do their speech in English and in French when they barely speak the language, in front of 120 people (more than half of whom you don’t know), when you’re naturally a shy person (a trait you totally didn’t pass on to me!). As if that weren’t enough, thank you also for singing Louis Armstrong’s “What a wonderful world” for Hubs and me to dance to as our first dance.
Even when you’re being completely pedantic and I tease you for being Victor Meldrew, you’re still the best dad ever and I’m so lucky to have you, and to be living near you and Mum again.
Thank you ,finally, for being the best Grandpa to my two girls, and for being a second dad to Hubs.
Lots of love,
Your pain in the a*se middle child,
I love this picture that I took of you and L this Fathers’ Day, just after you’d explained to her the Greenwich Meridian Line and you were teasing her about brushing her hair with your beard
If you want to see other photos on the subject of Dad, pop on over to this week’s gallery on the Sticky Fingers blog below.
C is 7 months old today and I haven’t seen any medical person with her (apart from to get her jabs done by a nurse) since she was 8 weeks old. Whereas by 7 months old L had seen the paediatrician in France 8 times for routine check-ups. I have had no phone calls, letters or enquiries from anyone in the NHS as to how C is doing.
Fortunately C is in perfect health, she feeds well, sleeps well and is generally a very happy and contented baby. I weighed her at a friend’s house today (she has proper baby scales) and C is slap bang in the middle between the 25th and 50th centile, so I’d say there’s nothing to worry about there. As for me, I’m doing really well too, and I’m definitely in a much better place now than I was when L was the same age.
I’m very lucky in that I have a great support network in Hubs, family and friends. I also did the NCT refresher course and met a great bunch of mums who I still meet up with weekly, on top of that in our street alone there are at least 6 babies aged 3-7 months, so I’m far from alone.
However I do wonder what happens to the mothers whose babies are not thriving, who are not sleeping, or where the mothers are suffering through lack of sleep, lack of support or various forms of depression. Do they pass through the net or does the NHS somehow pick up on them? I chatted to my baby mum friends about this and none of them have been contacted by doctors, health visitors or anyone “medical”, and most of them have not seen a health visitor or doctor since their babies were around 8 weeks old. They are all second mums, and their babies, and they themselves, are doing well. But how does the NHS know who is doing well and who is struggling?
When I think back to L’s first year in France it couldn’t be more different, she had a paediatrician who we had a check-up with every month. She would be weighed and measured each month and this information would be entered into her “Carnet de Santé” (equivalent of our red book), she got her jabs there, the arrival of teeth were noted at these appointments as was her food intake, from the early months of just milk, through to what foods she’d been introduced to each month (although I did have to lie about doing baby led weaning!). Whilst that is possibly overkill it did at least give the French health service an overview of mothers and their babies and possibly a heads up if things were going badly.
Whilst I’m on the subject I don’t find the red book overly helpful and I often refer to L’s Carnet de Santé as it is far more complete. In fact I based a lot of my weaning (introduction of solids) for C on the information in L’s Carnet de Santé as I couldn’t find much useful information on it over here.
What do you think? Did you find you got enough support from the NHS? Is the French system too much?
Personally I’m happy with the system in the UK as I have very few questions about C as she’s so easy, and with her being my second I feel a lot more laid back too. But I know that my French family and friends are utterly shocked to hear that no one has examined C since she had a quick check over at 8 weeks old. Oh well, I doubt it’s the last time one of our family’s culture gets shocked by the other cohabiting culture!
You may or may not know that the Franglaise family moved house a couple of months ago (from one side of the street to the other, as you do!) and it got me thinking about how I’m a bit of an expert on house moving.
I moved from the UK to France in 1998, which was a simple move as I took one (BIG!) suitcase on the plane, but once I decided to settle in France I started to cumulate possessions and my moves got more and more complicated.
I have moved 10 times in the last 15 years so here are my top tips to share with you:
- As soon as you decide to move, go through your house and throw stuff out! If you’ve not used it in a year, recycle it, sell it or give it to charity.
- If you are using professional movers, start researching different companies and ask friends for recommendations.
- If you are moving yourselves, start contacting friends and family to ask for help. Also work out what size of vehicle you might need and book it in advance.
- If you are moving yourself start gathering boxes. Either pick up free boxes from local supermarkets, or order packing boxes online, this is slightly more expensive but it’s guaranteed and you can usually choose the box sizes you want.
- It is far better to have lots of smaller boxes that people can lift than just a few big boxes that no one can budge. Take my word for it!
- Start packing early, it takes much longer than you think. Start with winter gear if it’s summer or vice versa, you’ll find there are loads of things that you don’t use every day and that can be packed in advance.
- Contact the post office so that your post gets forwarded to your new address.
- Contact everyone who needs to have your new address – family and friends, but also your employer, the tax office, the electoral roll, the bank, your GP, your children’s school/nursery etc.
- If you have pets, remember to change the address on their chip.
- Now is a good time to compare home insurance and utilities’ providers to see whether you can save money elsewhere. Just check that you are not tied into an existing contract before signing up to anything new – you don’t want to end up with two contracts and double the expenses!
- If you’re packing your own boxes, here is my top OCD tip – number the boxes and list what is in each box. Hubs took the mickey out of me so much the first time I did this, but then he was grateful when I found the TV remote control for him in a matter of minutes!
- Find someone reliable to look after your children all day – moving always takes longer than you expect.
- If you have dogs and cats, work out where they will be while you’re moving; we keep the dog in the garden and we choose one room in each house, that we don’t need to access (much), for the cats to be in.
- Once you have moved everything into the new place remember that you won’t get everything unpacked the first day, or even the first week, so my suggestion is to get your children’s bedrooms and your bedroom ready first, then at least everyone can collapse into bed when they need to.
- Try not to stress, moving house is tough but take it one step at a time and enjoy your new home.
- Don’t forget to chill some champagne to toast your new home!
Today was the day I’d envisaged going back to work after maternity leave. C is 6 months old, L is back at school after half term last week, today would have been the day I’d have left my two girls with a live-in nanny to go back to work in an office, leaving them from 8am until 7pm for 4 or 5 days a week.
Then everything changed. About 2 months ago. I was getting all ready to go back to work, I had contacted nanny agencies in our search for a live-in French nanny, I started to think about work clothes and weaning C off breast-feeding during the day. Then I had a moment of clarity. I don’t want this, I thought. I can’t do this.
In the back of my mind – you know that fanciful area where anything is possible – I had been entertaining the idea of childminding, so that I could work and spend time with my girls too, especially as I’d really wanted C to have a playmate her own age somehow. But the rational side of my brain kept arguing me back into place, with things like “you’ve got a degree”, or “you’ve got a good job as an account director in a digital marketing agency in London, are you going to give that up?”, or “won’t you get bored?”, or “your brain will shrivel up and die”.
But none of these arguments were enough to deter me from what I really want to do, right now, which is to provide fun childcare in French and English for my daughters and a couple of other children (preferably of a similar age). I started to look into it, and I discovered that it’s feasible and financially viable.
So I set up a meeting with my bosses and handed in my notice, fortunately they were really supportive of me, as were all my (former) colleagues when I told them. It’s a very strange feeling as I went back to work 4 days, then 5 days a week when L was just 3 months old (as is fairly common in France), and then didn’t really spend any time with her, not working, until last September when I went off on maternity leave. And I have seriously loved this time.
It may not be what I do forever, but for now it feels like the most right thing in the world and I couldn’t be happier.
I was chatting recently on Twitter with @EssParent and we got to talking about funny expressions in different languages, which has prompted this blog post. I hope you enjoy these French expressions which make me laugh, the expression is in bold with its literal translation underneath, scroll down to the bottom for the equivalent English expression, can you guess what they are without looking?
- C’est l’hôpital qui se fout de la charité/C’est l’hôpital qui se moque de la charité (more polite).
It’s the hospital that takes the piss out of/laughs at the charity.
- Il pleut comme des vaches qui pissent.
It’s raining like cows that piss.
- J’ai un chat dans la gorge.
I’ve got a cat in my throat.
- Il parle français comme une vache espagnole.
He speaks French like a Spanish cow.
- Elle a du monde au balcon.
She has the world on the balcony.
- Tu ne peux pas avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre.
You can’t have the butter and the money for the butter.
- Ca se fait les doigts dans le nez.
It is done with fingers in the nose.
- Ca coûte la peau du cul.
It costs the skin of your arse.
- Appeler un chat un chat.
To call a cat a cat.
- J’ai les dents du fond qui baigne.
My back teeth are swimming.
- Quand les poules auront les dents.
When hens have teeth.
- Ca arrivera le 36 du mois.
It’ll happen on the 36th of the month.
- J’ai d’autres chats à fouetter.
I’ve got other cats to whip.
- J’ai des fourmis dans les pieds.
I’ve got ants in my feet.
- Il faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué.
You mustn’t sell the bear’s skin before killing it.
- Il a la chair de poules.
He’s got chicken skin.
English equivalents below….
- It’s the hospital that takes the piss out of/laughs at the charity.
That’s the pot calling the kettle black.
- It’s raining like cows that piss.
It’s raining cats and dogs.
- I’ve got a cat in my throat.
I’ve got a frog in my throat.
- He speaks French like a Spanish cow.
He speaks pidgin English.
- She has the world on the balcony.
She’s big chested. (Not really an expression in English but the French expression makes me laugh lots so had to include it.)
- You can’t have the butter and the money for the butter.
You can’t have your cake and eat it.
Break a leg! (i.e. theatre).
- It is done with fingers in the nose.
It’s a piece of cake.
- It costs the skin of your arse.
It costs an arm and a leg.
- To call a cat a cat.
To call a spade a spade.
- My back teeth are swimming.
- When hens have teeth.
When pigs fly.
- It’ll happen on the 36th of the month.
When pigs fly.
- I’ve got other cats to whip.
I’ve got other fish to fry.
- I’ve got ants in my feet.
I’ve got pins and needles in my feet.
- You mustn’t sell the bear’s skin before killing it.
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
- He’s got chicken skin.
He’s got goose bumps.
Hubs is away at the moment, and as I blogged about here this means that not only am I solo parenting but I also need to attempt to walk the dog on my own with L (age 6) and C (age 6 months). The solo parenting I don’t have a problem with, but trying to walk the dog with the kids is always a challenge.
So I was delighted yesterday evening when my baby brother came by on his way home from work (he lives a 10 minute walk away and we’re on his walk home from the tube station), and sat with the girls while I walked the dog. His payment? A beer or two.
I’m linking up with the The Gallery on the Sticky Fingers blog, where this week’s theme is Drink. Pop on over to see more drink images.
There seems to be a general consensus, in the UK at least, that people in London are cold and unfriendly and I was wondering what other people’s experiences are.
It has always been my dream to live in France, from a very young age I couldn’t imagine myself living anywhere else. When I lived in France I always said I would never move back to the UK, I couldn’t envisage myself living anywhere other than France. Yet I have been living in the UK for nearly 3 years now, and in London for over 2 and a half of those years.
When I was at school I had friends whose dream was to move to London. When I was at university, further friends aspired to living in the capital. London was never a dream of mine, I ended up here by accident I suppose, as Hubs really wanted to live here so I thought “let’s give it a shot”. I never in my craziest dreams would have imagined living in London, and raising my family here.
So let’s dispel some myths here. London is an amazing city. It’s a great place to raise kids and we have a far better quality of life as a family here than when we lived on the French Riviera.
I am constantly amazed by how friendly people are here, be it fellow parents at L’s school, neighbours, staff in our local shops, bars and restaurants, as well as those in central London, fellow commuters, whoever.
Today is a prime example. I had to take C into central London on my own today; when I got to our local tube station I had a set of stairs to navigate down with the pushchair, it was 9.15am so I was catching the tail-end of rush hour, I had barely started on the stairs when a woman rushed up to me, offering to help.
When I arrived at my destination station, a woman took ill in the lift, not really visibly, but she was wobbly, pale and not 100%. A stranger, standing next to her, noticed this and helped her out of the lift, grabbed a member of TfL staff as they came out of the lift and asked for a place for the ill woman to sit down. The member of staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful either.
All I could think while I witnessed this was “is this the cold, unfriendly place I hear so much about?”.
So, is it just me? Do I only see all the good acts and people or do you also come across friendly, helpful, nice people in London?
One thing I can say is despite wanting to live in France for most of my life, for now I’m more than happy with our life in London
6 years ago I was a first time mother to a 5 month old baby girl and living in the south of France. I didn’t have a clue how to even begin weaning, so I looked online and discovered Baby Led Weaning (BLW), it sounded perfect – no making up tons of purées, and none of this letting my food go cold while I feed the baby.
I embraced it fully with L and even translated Gill Rapley’s report on it for our “nounou” (childminder) to help her understand this crazy Rosbif* and her strange English ways. I was so excited about it but I totally wasn’t ready for the backlash that this decision would receive. I am very lucky in that Hubs was 100% behind me and our nounou accepted this and “fed” L this way without trying to talk me out of it.
However this support was not universal and I had to lie to my paediatrician (in France you see your paediatrician every month when you have a baby) and tell her we were weaning with purées. Wherever we went I got shocked looks, negative comments about my parenting, including one woman who asked me “are you trying to kill her?” when L was happily feeding herself courgette batons at 7 months old! Fortunately I’m pretty bloody-minded and we carried on and I’m so glad I did, from L’s earliest age we’ve shared mealtimes as a family and she understands the importance of meals as a social occasion, and now eats pretty much anything (even though she’s never had a huge appetite and prefers playing to eating!).
With C this time round, it’s 6 years on, we’re living in the UK and no one seems in the slightest bit shocked by BLW, which is a relief after having to fight so hard to do it last time. We’re only on week 1 of C’s weaning but it’s much easier this time round, maybe because I know that it’ll all be fine, maybe because I don’t have to hide the way we’re weaning or be embarrassed or apologetic for it, or maybe because things just tend to be easier second time round. Or maybe it’s simply a case of BLW being more acceptable 6 years on, as I can’t comment on how it was in the UK 6 years ago. Whatever it is I have to say that BLW is the way forwards for this family, and no, I’m not trying to kill my kids!
*We call them Frogs, they call us Rosbifs.
After seeing so many people in my Twitter feed talking about this book (French children don’t throw food) and asking me if what Pamela Druckerman says is true I had to read it myself to see.
In case you don’t read this blog often and want to know if I’m qualified to comment, here’s some quick background on me:
I am a Brit, married to a Frenchman and I have two half British/half French daughters, we spent the first 3.5 years of our eldest daughter’s life in France and have been in the UK for the last nearly 3 years. In total I lived in France for 13 years and I have lived in the UK for 24 years. I should also point out that I never lived as an expat in France; I have a degree in French, I am bilingual, the majority of my friends in France are French and I had a French boyfriend for 3 years before meeting my husband of 10 years (both of which came with a French family that I became part of).
So that out of the way, here are my thoughts/feelings on the book.
Whilst it is a very interesting read and sometimes has valid points, an awful lot of the book has no truth to it with regards to the majority of France and not a tiny minority in Paris.
I read it whilst on holiday in France last summer, and staying with various French friends who have small children. I loved seeing their faces when I read snippets of it to them – they varied from horror to amusement to utter disbelief.
The book has recently come out in France and has been highly criticised as it is so far from the truth. Interestingly it is entitled “Bébé Made in France”; just the English title made my French friends laugh, as they pointed to their own toddlers throwing food on the floor whilst we were talking.
France has a real problem with “Enfants Rois” (King Child) as Druckerman talks about in her book. But she doesn’t really go into detail about this phenomenon which is getting worse and worse. My MiL is a school doctor in the Avignon region and when I told her about this book she burst out laughing as she told me about the nastiness, aggression and lack of general respect that she gets from children as young as 3 years old pretty much every day, as parents are letting them get away with murder.
So what is true and what is false and what differences are there really?
- Children in France throw food. Children in the UK throw food. There are some children in both countries that don’t, but in general this is what small children do.
- Women in France have a lot more pressure on them to go back to being “a woman” very quickly. This includes everything from weight, to general appearance, to having a social life sans bébé to returning to work soon after giving birth. French maternity leave is 16 weeks and most mums return to work within 3-6 months of having a baby.
- As most women do go back to work soon after having a baby and as childcare is so affordable (with state help) in France, it means that most French children are raised on average 4-5 full days a week by a “nounou” (childminder) or in a crèche (like a UK nursery).
- French babies on average sleep in their own cot, in their own bedroom as soon as they come home from hospital (aged around 5 days). Co-sleeping is almost unheard of and definitely frowned upon. Some parents have babies in their room with them, but nowhere near as much as in the UK and not for as long.
- French parents shout at their children. At home. In the park. In the supermarket. I have heard the following being yelled at small children in public “tu me fais chier!” (you’re pissing me off!), “tu me gonfles!” (you’re doing my head in!) and “tu continues comme ça et je t’en colle une!” (carry on doing that and I’ll give you a smack/wallop you one!) Not exactly the picture that Druckerman paints in her book.
- Our eldest daughter is 6 going on 16 at the moment, as are most of her school friends in the UK, and the other mums and I are often talking about the attitude we get from them. On a recent holiday to France I had the exact same conversation with a French friend about her 6 year old daughter. It’s the same, people!
- School on the other hand is totally different. School in France is super strict, with children being shouted at regularly and kept in place by fear, with creativity shunned and learning done by rote (French children have to learn poetry and do dictations from a young age). I remember our nounou’s 6 year old daughter being terrified one day as she’d forgotten her ruler and would get in trouble for not having it. Her mum and her plotted that she would drive home and get it, the daughter would sneak to the toilet so the mum could get it to her without the teacher knowing. Wow, great lesson in life to teach kids: lying and deceit.
- School in the UK is more relaxed, creativity is encouraged and all the teachers that L has had so far (3 different ones) have managed to keep their classes of 30 children in line through being nice but firm. I have never heard any of them raise their voices to the children. I was recently on a school trip with L’s class and it’s amazing the respect and control that their teacher was able to command.
- Druckerman talks a lot about British parents being “helicopter” parents, but I have rarely witnessed this. I have seen as much helicopter parenting in France as in the UK and I think it depends on the type of person the parent is, rather than their nationality.
- French parents are more willing to leave their babies/children at a younger age and for a longer time than British parents. As an example I went back to work 4 full days a week in France when L was 3 months old, and when she was 2 years old Hubs and I went to the Dominican Republic for 2 weeks without her, leaving her with her nounou, who she called “Tata” (Auntie) as she was so like a member of the family. I have also just left C with Hubs for the weekend so I could have a girls’ weekend with my friends from uni – she turned 6 months on Sunday. (I am still breastfeeding so simply expressed whilst away and Hubs fed her bottles in my absence.)
- From experience I would say that the French are far more open to smacking (bottoms) than the British. I don’t know anyone in France who this shocks, yet a lot of my British parent friends would never do this and frown upon those who do it.
I don’t mean this to be an attack on either France or the UK. I love both countries, have great French and British friends (most of whom are parents these days), I think that both countries have pros and cons in their parenting styles, hence us raising our children the Franglais way (taking the bits of each culture that work for us). However at the end of the day babies are babies, children are children and some will be livelier/better or worse behaved than others, I’m not sure how much culture has to do with that, I’d say it’s much more down to the child’s and parents’ personalities than anything else.
One final thing to point out, this is based on my experience which is in the southeast of England and the French Riviera and Avignon area of France. Social class also plays a big part but I have friends from quite broad social classes, encompassing cleaners, bar-tenders, secretaries, teachers, computer programmers, lawyers, managers and business-owners.
So all in all I’d say you’re probably doing a good job with your kids, whether you’re British or French or any other nationality. It’s a war zone out there and if you can make it to the end of the day in one piece then you’re doing well. French or British or other – go and celebrate that with a glass of wine! Cheers!
If I can find the time (and energy) I might write my own book one of these days on my personal experiences of the differences in British vs French parenting, if you might be interested in hearing more then sign up for blog updates via RSS or email on the top right hand side of this page.
About a year ago I kept seeing numerous bloggers who I follow on Twitter tweeting about BritMums Live and I vowed that I would go this year. Having my second baby in November of last year means I’ve not been as proactive with my blog as I had hoped as I’ve been too busy enjoying spending time with my two daughters. But I’m still blogging and I’m going to BritMums Live 2013!
I’m linking up with the BritMums Live Linky with my answers to their questions below, I hope to meet lots of you in a few weeks’ time.
Blog: Franglaise Mummy
Twitter ID: @FranglaiseMummy
Height: Somewhere between 5ft 3 and 5ft 4 – which was average height when I lived in France, but now I’m living in the UK again I’m back to feeling dwarf-like.
Hair: Chin-length brown with high-lighted bits. Depending on what it decides to do on the day it can be anything from full-on ringlets to a mass of frizz.
Eyes: Again it depends on the day, they can be green, grey or hazel and they change depending on what colour I’m wearing and how hungover/tired I am.
Is this your first blogging conference? Indeed it is, and I’m excited and nervous in equal measures.
Are you attending both days? That’s the aim but I’m not sure what time I might get there on the Friday. I may also be accompanied by my 6 month old daughter at some stage.
What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2013? Meeting all the lovely bloggers whose blogs I’ve been reading and who I’ve been tweeting with over the last however many months.
What are you wearing? Wow, that’s a question and a half. I have absolutely no idea. How dressy (or not) is it? If it’s dressy it’ll be jeans, a nice top and heels or even a dress maybe. If it’s not too dressy then jeans, a more casual top and flats no doubt. If the weather’s nice I’ll be rocking a full on summer wardrobe.
What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2013? I want to meet other parent bloggers, chat to them about blogging, parenting, juggling it all, and pick up some tips in the workshops.
Tell us one thing about you that not everyone knows: I have amazingly toned pelvic floor muscles, as the French make you go to “rééducation du périnée” (reeducation of the perineum) sessions after having a baby!