Kids are in full time education age three
This is a major plus point about having children in France. OK it might feel a bit weird to send off your baby to a school aged just three, but for a start it’ll save you lots of money and it does the kid well too.
"Think about what your friends back home in the US or UK are paying for daycare," say the mums at the Mama Loves Paris advice website for Parents. "From the ages of 3 to 6 in France, the emphasis is on socialising the kids and getting them used to school life. This full time care means parents are free to work or spend time with their younger kids."
A recent OECD education report on France praised the fact that the vast majority of kids are in full time education at the age of 3.
Cost of creche and childcare is fairly cheap
Talk to anyone with kids in London or indeed anywhere in the UK about how much they pay in childcare and you’ll be glad you are in France. The price of a place in a municipal creche or a "Halte Garderie" is based on wages but the top price is normally around €600 a month for full time. In the UK, that might get you a couple days a week each month. Although the only problem is trying to find a place in creche, which can be difficult in certain parts of Paris and surrounding suburbs.
Your kids will be polite
“Kids in France are comfortable around adults,” said Normandy-based mother of two, Miranda Ingram, a writer and the creator of the Kids in France website. “So even the scariest-looking teenager your children brings home will always shake your hand, look you in the eye and say: “Madame” rather than grunting at their trainers."
Your kids won't get fat
“Instead of being fobbed off with rubbish food, such as Turkey Twizzlers or “kids menus” in restaurants, French kids eat proper meals at school and they learn how to use a knife and fork,” says Ingram.
Quality of the canteen
"Yes your child will get a four-course meal at school in the canteen," say the folks at Mama Loves Paris.
"In Paris there is a city-wide committee dedicated to planning the menus for the year and when you take a look, you will see your child has the chance to try all kinds of foods and due to the social atmosphere, they might actually things they would never accept from you at home. French cuisine broadens their horizons and taste buds from an early age."
Have three and it gets cheaper
“It’s well worth having three children if you live in France,” says Ingram. “Official policy encourages this so there is lots of extra money (increased child benefits) and perks, such as cheaper train and cinema tickets and cheaper holidays after the magic third child is born.”
Out of school activities
These are often heavily subsidised by the state and as a result are fairly cheap. Just check out the activities on offer through UCPA a non-profit organisation that makes outdoor sports holidays available for anyone aged seven and upwards.
'We are family...'
"Family time is valued here," says Paris-based mother of one Jenifer Hamerman, a contributor to Mama Loves Paris.
"Broadly speaking, the weekend is the weekend and a vacation really is a vacation. France has not succumbed to some of the macho posturing around who works the longest hours that we see in the UK and US. It is normal and acceptable to have preserved family time here."
You might feel like you are permanently in front of a doctor when you have a kid in France, but they do take health seriously here, especially when it comes to kids.
France not kids obsessed
"When you become a parent here, it is not automatically assumed you have lost the rest of your identity. Kids don't rule the roost and they shouldn't rule your life..." from Mama Loves Paris, as are the next two plus points.
Superhuman parenting is not cool here
No one wants martyr parents here who brag about all their self-sacrifice whilst manically home-making everything. There is a lot less pressure to be an amazing parent. Competence is enough.
Your kids are exposed to a lot less materialism.
The French tend to fix and take care of things rather than replace them. It's vulgar here to talk about money or to spend to excess. These values filter into parenting and that is a positive point about family life here. In general kids are not spoiled with every last plastic toy on the market and that too relieves pressure on families to keep up.
They learn two languages...
Living in France is the best way for your kids to become bilingual French/English or French and any other language.
AND THE DOWNSIDES...
Lack of baby changing facilities
Good luck trying to find baby-changing table at a restaurant or café in France (not including McDonald’s). Paris is particularly pathetic. Given France has the highest birth rate in Europe you would have thought restaurant owners might have cottoned on to the idea that all those baby-making parents still want to enjoy a drink or meal out, with their newborns. Granted, most toilets in Paris cafés are too small to swing a full nappy but surely a fold up table could be added. Or just a ledge.
There’s only one high-chair in Paris
Or at least that what it feels like. Yes French kids learn to eat properly from a young age but it the lack of high chairs in restaurants means it’s often hard to show off their skills. Space might be an issue too in many cramped cafes, but babies are good for business.
Your kids may end up smoking
“Beware, if your child grows up in France they will probably end up smoking,” says Miranda Ingram. “Just drive past a lycée (high school) at break and see the numbers of kids having a quick cigarette outside the school gates."
How many holidays...
The sheer number of school holidays might sound great for the kids (although these days are actually beneficial according to a recent OECD report) but they can really be a nightmare for working parents, who have to find some kind of help to cover the regular breaks.
French parents will have send the kids off to the grandparents for a week, but expat parents rarely have this luxury.
Art, Music and Sport take a back seat at school
If your child is not the most academic and prefers subjects like music or sport, then they might find French school a little boring as they tend to concentrate on the main academic subjects like maths, French and science. Achievement in other areas is perhaps not as recognised as it would be in other countries.
Paris Metro is not parent friendly
“Let’s face it, the Paris Metro was designed long before anyone cared about people with disabilities or babies trying to use it,” say the folks at Mama Love Paris site.
“There are so many steps, it’s hellish with a stroller. Very few stations have escalators or lifts. You just have to rely on the kindness of strangers or just lug it up yourself.”
Why are they so strict?
French parents tend to more into discipline and rules than Anglo parents. Some expat parents report being given the evil-eye after letting their child do something that was clearly “irresponsible” in the eyes of Gallic Maman watching on. Some have even been told off.
“It gets sort of wearing to hear the constant "doucement" (gently) instructions in the playground and what sometimes seems a barrage of reprimands directed at kids,” say the mums at Mama Loves Paris. “At first you feel pressure to be the same way with your own kids but then you get the confidence to just follow your own path.”
Stay at home parenting not easy
“France is not an easy place to be a stay-at-home parent,” says a contributor to Mama Loves Paris. “In general both French parents work and mums return to work quickly. It's not always the three month stereotype but it's not far off. Some of us are used to a real spectrum back home from stay-at-home mums and even dads, to part-time workers, to full-time workers.
"Many of my friends have been made to feel as though they are odd for not working. There is also a practical problem in that the system is geared up to help working parents with crèches and there are less destinations to simply hang out with your toddlers during working hours.”
Miranda Ingram who is behind the Kids in France website and several contributors to the Mama Loves Paris blog for English speaking parents in Paris, including Jennifer Hamerman, contributed to this article.