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Our Tiny Home: Office & The French Admin Hunger Games

Hey beauties! I thought I would do a little combined post today about our tiny office space AND the apocalyptic Hunger Games situation that is French Administration. I’ve been talking loads lately about the Admin situation with various people. From those who want so badly to get control of it and understand it, to those who willingly give it up to their French other-halves (with mixed results!). I wanted to share my plan of attack, how I combat it so I don’t find myself drowning under the sheer amount of paperwork required by this country to be completed for every little request. 

Office Space

Office space is the smallest need in our small space. I work from home right now but it’s still pretty mobile – I can work at the desk, on the sofa, in bed etc. The main thing we need office space for is our vital family documents, communicating with various government agencies and our pretty basic filing system. 

I have a big ring binder with file dividers that houses all of our paperwork, a printer that is also a scanner and a photocopier (vital equipment that I’d recommend to every French family!) and internet access codes and the app for every government agency I deal with. 

Admin Advice

  1. File it as it arrives. There is nothing, NOTHING as important as this for being able to find documents when you need them. Open letters as they arrive and file them into the correct folder.
  2. Have a clip-board in-tray. One of your folders will be stuff that needs to be filled in, dealt with, sent back. I like having a clipboard. It all sits behind my monthly calendar so it doesn’t take over my desk space. Every month, when I turn over my calendar I see what’s left to do and it gets done. 
  3. Admin day. Once a month, usually within the first week of the month I sit down and get all our filing, admin and finances in order. I send all the forms that need to be sent, update all the “situations familial et professionel” that need to be updated on CAF and make sure our various dossiers are up to date. Keeping it to one day of hell, occasional tears and need for a massage by the end of the day keeps my marriage safe, my mind clear and my filing organised. 
  4. Keep a “Dossier” of vital documents to hand. In the front of our filing ring binder I keep a selection of documents that I’m most likely to be asked for when presenting a “Dossier” for anything and everything. (Things I’ve needed to present a dossier for include; creche, school, giving birth, renting apartments, signing up for CAF, signing up for social security, joining the library, extra-curricular sports, joining a gym, applying for child benefits, applying for jobs, maternity leave, parental leave etc etc etc…) The documents I keep there are our passports, marriage certificate, the boys birth certificates, each of our last three pay slips, our last two tax returns, a “justicatif domicile”, our latest electricity bill…Keeping all of this stuff together in a smaller folder in an easily reachable place means that you can grab it on the way to the Mairie, when you sit down to fill out the endless online forms, whenever! 
  5. Sign up to do as much as possible online. This one is obvious, it makes so much sense. Save the planet, reduce the amount of paper you have to keep in your apartment and reduce the amount of shredding you have to do every couple of months. Having said this, sometimes the only thing to be done is to go to whatever office you’re currently battling with and cry at them until they give in. 

Other Vital Equipment For Admin Day

  1. Coffee
  2. Anti-stress essential oil roll-ons
  3. Leuchtturm Notebook
  4. A relentlessly optimistic attitude

That’s it! If you’re in France and need help sorting out your admin life, there are many many knowledgable women on the facebook groups “English Speaking Mums/Moms living in Paris” and “Mums Space France” both professionals and just old hands. There’ll always be someone around to help!

As I went to hit publish on this post I picked up a phone call from the crèche where Fred is due to attend in September. They told me that the Mairie has NO record of Fred even existing, or the application to the crèche system which we made when I was six months pregnant. Fred’s dossier is due to be examined by the Mairie in order to approve his Crèche space THIS WEEK. So on Monday morning I will be hot-footing to the Mairie at 8h30 to give them an original of his birth certificate and some ID. Which brings me to my final but potentially my most vital piece of advice.

Be Assertive.
Don’t just trust that your applications, dossiers and various documents will be seen to in a timely fashion. Make the phone calls, send the follow up emails, call the person in charge, demand to speak to supervisors, put in the leg work. It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, it’s seemly never-ending but you can do it. It might mean being a little more “direct” than you’re comfortable with but you will get there. May the odds be ever in your favour. 

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Our Tiny Home: Kids

It’s a funny thing what we, as adults see now when we look back on our childhoods. I grew up in a lovely, but not massive three bedroom house in the South East of England. All of my childhood memories in that house, where my parents still live, involve my mum and dad working their arses off to decorate, improve, maintain and make that house a beautiful, adapted home for our needs as a family. It never felt small or anything less than perfect to me. Now, when I return as an adult, the house seems huge, the up-keep of it overwhelming and never ending. I have far more comprehension of my parent’s never ending demands to keep it tidy – letting standards go for a little while results in a whole day of playing catch-up. This is, of course, because I choose to live with my two small children and husband in an apartment approximately the size of my parent’s living room.

I’ve spoken before about why we choose to do this and, yes, one of the biggest reasons is necessity. We need to live in central Paris for work and central Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world right now. We cannot afford anything bigger. However, SINCE we’ve been doing this, some reasons to continue have become clear – not least to do with our children. When I was pregnant we started to think about what children really need to thrive and, although it’s still very much a work in process, we came to some different conclusions.

Bedrooms

I’ve written before about how we don’t have a bedroom. We sleep in our living room and have given the bedroom of our apartment to the boys. For someone else who does this, check out the wonderful Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves. It’s been an interesting experience, mostly when having guests over but we’ve only really found it problematic when I need to sleep in the mornings (my husband could sleep through the apocolypse!).

Fred currently sleeps next to us in the Chicco Next to Me Co-Sleeper but as of next month will move in with Arthur and share the bedroom with him. I really really think that shared rooms are so great for kids. I shared with my eldest brother for a while and my brothers shared a room until one of them moved out at eighteen. I like the idea of them having a camaraderie and a space that’s theirs away from adult life.

We try to keep the space as simple as possible, rotate the toys out and available for them and easy to keep tidy and clean. 

Kid Spaces

Something that takes up alot of space but I really love is our toddler size table and chairs in the kitchen. This was such a great addition to our home when we were really struggling with Arthur needing to have one of us close by (another advantage of a small space is, let’s face it, that we’re always close by!). With the table in the kitchen I can cook, Fred can be in his chair and Arthur can be playing or drawing at his table and we can be spending time together whilst doing our own things. 

We try to keep the living room/bedroom space toy and kid stuff free. This is firstly because there’s already so much of our life jammed in there and secondly because it’s where we sleep – I like it to be as calm and clutter free as possible. We keep a play mat and baby-gym in there and that’s about it. 

We try and keep things as accessible as possible for Arthur around the home. He can help with dinner & chop vegetables at his table or he has a step to get up to the kitchen counters. His bathroom stuff is in a cupboard at his level and he can use his step to get to the sink. 

Small living is constantly forcing us to redefine what we think of as necessary space. What do we need to have a satisfying home life? I don’t think that having children means that you need to immediately move into a bigger space, or that you suddenly need more storage to store all the extra stuff that traditionally comes with having children. As with all things, a little shift in thinking, a movement in the right direction is all it takes. 

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Pelvic Floor Re-education…What, Why & How?

Today I want to write about a topic which is always surrounded by much intrigue in our English Speaking Mums in Paris facebook group: Perineal re-education. Not a week goes by where I don’t see a question about this mysterious therapy asked by a mum who’s been prescribed it after giving birth. I asked the lovely mums in our group what they’d like to know about re-education and got some fantastic responses. It seems that there’s a lot of mystery and myth surrounding re-education, what to expect and why it’s practiced so widely here (hint; it’s not, as the myths might suggest merely to make monsieur feel a little more snug!)

I’ve enlisted the help of three experts in their fields to explain to you all the what, why and how of Perineal re-education.

  • Vicki is a UK based physiotherapist specialised in female health care and she’ll be telling us all about the amazing muscle, or group of muscles that make up the pelvic floor and why it’s considered so important to re-educate them.
  • Sharon Bales is a wonderful yoga teacher whom I’m sure many of you know personally. She specialises in fertility, pre and post natal yoga and is also now teaching hypnobirthing classes here in Paris. She’ll be talking about how we can care for our perineal muscles in our daily movements and how to keep them healthy.
  • Diana Powell-Bodrone is a midwife and lactation consultant who works here in Paris under the French healthcare system and is going to tell us all about how to get your free re-education sessions.

Vicki

  1. What is my pelvic floor and why might it need to be “re-educated”?
    The pelvic floor is a layer of muscles within the pelvis. Its functions include support of internal organs (bladder, bowels and womb), maintaining continence of both the bladder and the bowel, assisting in bladder emptying and sexual function.

    It can be weakened by both pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, recurrent coughing, constipation/straining, lack of general fitness and neurological damage and the common conditions associated with pelvic floor weakness include incontinence, prolapses of bladder, bowel and womb and faecal incontinence. 
     

  2. Why do I need to worry about this if I’ve given birth, either vaginally or by c-section?
    When you’re pregnant with the growing foetus inside your womb, the muscles are stretched significantly over a long period of time. Without muscle retraining, they will not necessarily spring back into place following childbirth (whether you gave birth vaginally or via c-section). Therefore exercise is needed to shorten and tighten the muscles again, reducing your risk of the above conditions associated with a weakened pelvic floor. 
     
  3. Why have I never heard of this reeducation where I am from?
    Unfortunately, lack of education. This country (The UK) is particularly poor at education in the ante natal period. People are handed leaflets within a pack of information regarding childbirth and pregnancy by their midwife but are not specifically trained or educated regarding the importance of this muscle. 
     
  4. Why is this so important?
    Leakage of urine is a common and well known problem for women following childbirth. It is known to affect 1 in 3 women.

    The incidence of 3rd degree tears is as high as 1-9% of all vaginal deliveries, as recognised by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG). This could have a huge impact on a women’s continence, both bladder and bowel in the short and long term. It can also affect sexual relations due to pain. The incidence of faecal incontinence as a result of these tears is as high as 50%, but is not discussed as openly as urinary incontinence. Failure to manage these conditions at the time of injury could be detrimental to a women’s quality of life and many become socially isolated as a result.

    The menopause can highlight problems with discomfort, leakage, pain and prolapse as a result of hormonal and vascular changes. These symptoms can be minimalized in the future with regular pelvic floor training immediately following childbirth and for life. Up to 30% of women who attend physiotherapy on their first session are not correctly performing a pelvic floor muscle contraction. It is vital that you know how to do this correctly for long term protection.
     

  5. How common are these problems?
    1 in 3 women suffer with Stress urinary incontinence
    50% of women have some degree of prolapse
    1 in 10 people suffer with some form of bowel problem
    21.8% of women complain of pain with intercourse

Sharon

The first step in maintaining a healthy pelvic floor is to establish a healthy connection to it.  There is so much bad and old information out there about the pelvic floor.  Many women never even consider their pelvic floor until pregnancy or post-birth recovery, and many, many women honestly have no idea what the pelvic floor is.  Understanding that these muscle bundles, which should operate in harmony with the respiratory diaphragm are in fact an integral part of your core strength is key.

Another great myth of the pelvic floor is that every woman needs to tighten and strengthen and do kegel exercises to achieve this.  Oh dear, this is such an oversimplification that it is simply worthless information.  It’s important for the pelvic floor to not only be able to contract and be strong, it is just as essential to be able to relax these muscles.  In fact, a “too-tight” pelvic floor, or what is called a “hyper-tonic” pelvic floor, is often the culprit in pelvic pain and other pelvic issues.

Once you can connect with your pelvic floor and it’s clear which muscles we’re talking about, learning to engage these muscles in movement will make you feel stronger… because you are stronger when using these muscles correctly!  We have so many movement habits in our lives, it’s important to start thinking about the way we move, sit, stand, and carry things and how this impacts the balance of those muscles.

Connecting with and maintaining the health of your pelvic floor will not only strengthen your core power, but will also do much to prevent prolapse of pelvic organs, allow you to breathe more deeply and efficiently, prevent and resolve some pelvic pain issues including pain during sex.  Training those muscles to engage and release properly will usually resolve problems with leaking pee when you laugh, cough, jump, etc.  

Diana 

  1. How can I obtain my free re-education sessions in France?
    Usually you will be given a prescription when leaving the maternity. This is however, changing a little and is not always prescribed upon discharge to mothers who’ve had “normal” complication free births. This does not mean that you’re not qualified for it. Ask your midwife or gynaecologist at your six week check up for a prescription and they’ll be able to give it to you. You can also ask your general practitioner or gynaecologist at any point for a prescription and they will give you one for ten, or more sessions. 
  2. What are the methods of re-education? 
    On the prescription there is usually three things:
    Sondre (this is a wand used for internal muscle stimulation when there is no feeling)
    Manual (this is the part when the practitioner goes through various exercises using their fingers to work the internal perineal muscles)
    Abdominals (It’s really important that this is included in the re-education programme as these are the support of the pelvic muscle)
    Both sage-femmes (midwives) and kinéstherapistes (physiotherapists) can perform just one, or a combination of these techniques to achieve results. You should ask, upon meeting your practitioner, which techniques they practise and make a choice based off of your preference.

Ladies I just cannot over-state the importance of these re-education sessions, if only if as a tool to get to know your pelvic floor. If a medical environment is not your thing, get yourself to one of Sharon’s classes, take a beginners pilates class (lots of pelvic floor connection!) do some reading about your muscles and learn about how your amazing bodies work! Putting some good work in now can truly make a difference in the fight against some of the above listed conditions and, as women we need to take the time to take care of ourselves and do some preventative healthcare! 

If you need any help or advice about pelvic pain, incontinence, pain during or after sex or any other problems, do ask your gynaecologist, midwife or general practitioner what can be done to help. There are options out there!

You can find all of Sharon’s details here.

And all of Diana’s details here.

And finally, these gorgeous designs are by Duvet Days and you can get them here. Designs by Duvet Days Is a subsidiary of DuvetDays.org – An organization that uses design to create awareness, self discovery, and a space for self-love while supporting those affected by rape and domestic abuse. 

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When Wine 0’Clock Becomes a Problem

I’d like to preface this post with an admission. I’ve been avoiding publishing this since January. I’ve been worried about what the reaction might be, I’ve been worried that people might feel judged and I’ve been worried about my own reaction. Because here’s the thing, by publishing this I have to really step up and tackle my own relationship with wine. I have to draw some lines. If I’m calling out a culture that is hurting and affecting women, I need to not be a hypocrite in my own life and I need to cut out the thing that’s hurting and affecting me. Although I’m not in trouble yet, how far will I let it go? How far would I let a friend go?

Let’s get this out of the way. I love wine. Love love it. I come from a family of wine lovers, I live in France, my in-laws have spectacular taste in wine. I am not standing in judgement of any wine lover, any mother, or any drinker – addict or otherwise – at all. I’ve spent most of my working life in pubs, bars and restaurants – as has my husband – and we have both, at different times been heavy drinkers and tee-total.

This is not a post about wine per say. It’s more a post about the things we as mothers are using as crutches and wine happens to be the biggest one and, in my opinion, the most dangerous. Because let’s be honest, when we’re counting down the minutes until we can pour ourselves a nice crisp glass of white every single day, there’s a problem.

This whole issue stems from something good – the honest mother bloggers, the mum’s who tell each other the honest truth, that parenting – particularly motherhood, is hard; here, have a glass of wine. Relax, un-wind. You deserve it. I get it. And you DO deserve to treat yourself, you DO deserve something adult that’s yours. We spend so much of our lives now tied so closely to our children, never alone, their music on the radio, their toys littering our previously glamorous lives that that six o’clock glass of wine has almost become a symbol of our old selves. An act of rebellion, an act of freedom that our children cannot partake in. 

The thing is though, with this wine o’clock rhetoric is that it’s dangerous. Whilst you – the generally happy mum who finds motherhood challenging, but is not depressed, who has a messy house, but is not about to be evicted with your three children and nowhere to go, who likes a glass or two on the odd occasion, but does not struggle with addiction – you can moderate, there are 100 other mums who can’t. I realise that this is a point of personal responsibility, but we also have a responsibility to each other. When every single mother on social media seems to be declaring Wine O’clock every single night at six PM, heavy drinking seems normalised. Well – everyone else is doing it, so I can’t have a problem. The thing is that I know at least three of these lovely ladies who are huge Wine O’clock proclaimers, who in fact rarely drink and have zero problems regulating themselves. 

My wonderful, sensible friend Michelle would point out here that your treat might not necessarily be booze related. The “You Deserve It” mentality is giving us free reign to hurt ourselves. YES you deserve a treat, NO you don’t need to eat a whole tub of ice-cream every night. YES you deserve a nice glass of wine occasionally, NO you don’t need one every night. YES you deserve nice clothes, NO you shouldn’t go on a spending spree with money you don’t have.

Alcohol in general is certainly socially acceptable in most places now and, along with food and shopping,  is an addiction that has become socially acceptable too. I think it’s very easy to forget that alcohol is a drug and when we replace “I’ve had a hard day and I need a glass of wine now” with “I’ve had a hard day and I need a line of coke now” suddenly that doesn’t seem OK. Are we getting to the point where we as mothers need to re-evaluate what we use at the end of the day to relax?

For all of these reasons, I’m calling an end to my personal Wine O’Clocks. No more cheers selfies sent to my Whats App groups. I’m not going to celebrate addiction anymore – even when it’s wrapped up in the pretty packaging of a deserving, over-worked mother. 

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Self-Care for Selfish Mums

You can’t pour from an empty cup – as every mum ever has been told. How true! What a lovely sentiment! Of course we can’t care for everyone around us until we’ve taken care of ourselves! If only it were that easy. Quite honestly once my day is over, self-care is the thing furthest from my mind. 

The problem is that many mums feel the same way. Taking care of yourself feels like another task on top of all the tasks that already need to be completed. 

Why?

Why do mums in particular need to enter into the craze of self care? Well the simple answer is that it benefits us. Because our work does not end. Ever. How many times after the kids are in bed and you’re lying in yours trying to sleep have you found yourself thinking about their health, their happiness, their school, their activities, their appointments, schedules, night-time routines, the upcoming birthday, Christmas, whether everyone in your family is eating healthily enough? The mental load of mothers by Jami Ingledue, details this wonderfully and is well worth a read. 

Secondly we need self care because it benefits our children. When we have first taken care of our needs, we are more equipped for dealing with the needs of others. We are more present, more enthusiastic and more loving parents. Our children benefit from seeing us like this, and we benefit from having our needs continuously met. 

The joy of taking care of ourselves is that it will look different for every one of us but taking the time to do it will benefit you mentally and physically as well as your relationships with your partner and children. I’ve detailed some ways below in which you can start incorporating self-care into your daily life in ways that won’t feel like an extra task or pressure. Starting small and growing a practice where you know what works for you is ideal. 

Nourish

  • Drink more water, hydrated people are happy people! Start carrying a re-useable water bottle with you and make sure it’s empty at the end of the day. 
  • Incorporate energy filled foods into your day. You’ll feel more full and satisfied after a big bowl of roasted veggies than half a ham and cheese sandwich that your toddler didn’t eat. 
  • Make sure that you’re remembering to eat and drink regularly. Sit down for your meal at a table, take your time – enjoy your food. 

Escape

  • Take every possible opportunity to walk everywhere. It does take longer, but you’ll be getting exercise, clearing your mind and be spending some time outside. All three can give an instant mood re-set. 
  • Take that class/do that sport. Organise a time every week to do something you love. My mum played netball twice a week when we were growing up & I think it probably kept her sane!
  • Organise to see people. There is nothing NOTHING worse than facing a week in winter at home with a baby with no plans to see anybody. 

Rest & Replenish

  • Give your child a busy activity or take advantage of nap-time and sit down with a book, your knitting, a magazine and a cup of tea. Breathe. 
  • I know this just isn’t an option for everybody but; take a day off. Send the kids to grandparents, organise a babysitter and just stay in bed for the day. Sleep, relax and unwind. 
  • Go on a date with your partner. Nourishing your relationship is important! Spend the day walking hand in hand, get some lunch together, leave the smartphones at home. 

Organise

  • Last but not least! Organising my week on a Sunday afternoon means that I spend less time on annoying tasks during the week. I write out our schedules, plan our meals, write the grocery list, fill out any forms that need to be sent off and make any appointments that need to be made (Doctolib for you Paris based readers, allows you to make all your Dr’s appointments on the app.)
  • Stop multitasking. I know it’s our mum super-power but lots of studies have shown that we’re more productive when we focus on one task at a time. I certainly know that this is true for me – so step away from your smart phone! (More on balancing family and tech soon!)

Self Care Sunday

How do I practice what I’m preaching? Self care Sunday. Every Sunday evening, once my son is in bed (with the bedtime routine hopefully completed by my husband!) I roll out my yoga mat & get in a half hour to an hour practice – generally more like half an hour now I’m pretty pregnant. I shower, shave, paint my toe-nails and give myself a facial. I put on fresh, clean pyjamas and settle myself down on the sofa with my diary and plan for the week ahead. Sometimes we watch some Netflix, sometimes we read. I spray my pillow with NEOM Organics tranquility pillow spray & light their tranquility candle an hour before bed and then I go to bed really early. I’m talking 9pm. It feels amazing. 

Hopefully there are some ideas here that you can slip into your life easily. 

I’d love to hear if you’ve given any of them a go.

xx

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Curating Life: Finding Your Village Far From Home

This post has been sitting at the back of my mind for ages now. It’s a culmination of all the advice I’ve ever given to someone new to this city and all the hard work I’ve done establishing myself here and creating a life for my family. Because it is HARD work. Until now I’ve not really had the words or the platform to express all of this, but finally here we are. As mums we’re told over and over that “It takes a village…” but what does that mean for those of us who are far from home? How can that be true for us? 

The funny thing about France is that, for a Brit, it doesn’t seem that foreign. We’ve nearly all been here on childhood holidays and school trips, booze runs to Calais (what, that’s only my family?) and having grown up in Kent and Sussex it really seemed just a skip and a hop away. Honestly, Paris is closer to my hometown than the North of England and so it didn’t seem like a massive leap to move here. Lots of people I’ve spoken to have said the same, for Brits it just doesn’t feel like a big deal, for Americans it tends to be the romantic Paris vision but sure enough, for pretty much everyone, the romance evaporates fairly quickly when faced with daily life here. 

This is understandable. Quite honestly, when I do my quarterly battle with the French administration system (or ANYTHING that involves dealing with a government agency: National insurance, taxes, family benefits, school applications, creche applications…) I am ready to pack my bags and swim back over the channel if that’s what it takes to not to ever have to deal with them again. However, the French administration system is just a system and once you’ve made your peace with it, you’re halfway to beating it. It’s not the excessive paperwork that renders so many new-comers so depressed and isolated, it’s loneliness. 

As in any big city, loneliness is a huge problem and particularly so among young mothers. Paris attracts a great number of expats, who when they come to work in France bring with them “trailing spouses”, who have no family or friends nearby to help out and even those of us foreigners who are married to locals are not immune to the loneliness of the first months and years of motherhood. As foreigners here, most of us don’t have the option of popping over to mum’s for a cup of tea, we mostly don’t have an established friend group who are all having children at the same time as us, we don’t have a village! Many women have remarked to me that French people are very difficult to make friends with, as they tend to have friendship groups that they’ve had since they were children and have very little interest in making new friends. While this is true (not always, but mostly!), the good news is that it all changes when you have a child in creche or school – a real bonding experience with other mothers! But up until then, what is a mum to do? 

How can I feel at home here? How can I make friends? How can I feel like I’m not swimming upstream just trying to survive in this country? How can I find my village?

  • Shop in your local market street & say Bonjour! Even if it makes you feel like an extra in Beauty and the Beast… getting to know my local shop and market vendors made a huge difference for me in the loneliness cloud. Just being able to walk down my street and have nearly every person I came across greet me, ask some small talk questions and wave me on my way brightened my days considerably. It will also help your language skills! One fruit and veg vendor used to refuse to give me my order until I had given her the correct masculine or feminine for them (its une orange…) At first I was horrified and embarrassed and now we greet each other with bises and she knows all about my life! Take a deep breath and Bonjour!
  • Find your local mum group. Even if it’s online. Online is actually often the best option as people organise meet-ups, play groups, baby massage classes, mum’s nights out, Halloween and Christmas parties etc. France has an excellent France-wide Facebook group for English Speaking mums: Mum’s Space France. A community of over 2500 mums of all ages – every question I’ve ever had about life in France with kids can be answered by these ladies. As many of them struggle with the same things I struggle with, or have beaten those things – it’s a great tool for realising that you’re not alone. Most cities now have Facebook groups for mums – Get involved, even if you don’t use Facebook for anything else!

Feeling at home in a place takes time. We’re here to stay, but I don’t envy the people who have to move every couple of years for work (although they are some of the most sociable, generous, organisational party people I know!) If you’re feeling lonely, the most important thing is to reach out, approach that mum at the park, call that acquaintance, make it to the mum group or even just get outside. I have a friend who follows English speakers in her local park and invites them to parties. I got approached by a lady in a shop just the other day and I have a good friend who first approached me at the assisted boarding gate at Eurostar – be brave. It really is worth it. 

In this modern world “The Village” doesn’t look like it used to, but that doesn’t mean that it’s gone. We’ve redefined it, remade it and now that we’re far from home, we need it more than ever.

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Toddler Life: La Rentrée

Each August every year, Paris suddenly empties. School has been over for a month already, the streets are quiet, restaurants close and most of the residents of Paris pack up and head for the sea. In fact, the whole country seems to take a collective holiday – a big deep breath of relaxation and release.

In previous years, if I’m honest, this concept of shutting down a whole country for a month seemed laughable and at the very least, irritating. If you have administrative tasks or banking to do, doctors visits, house renovations or even need to find a plumber during August – forget about it. It’s not happening. Frustrating to say the least, no? 

Well this year…no. For the first time since living here we have really embraced this enforced month of national relaxation and three nights ago we returned home from three glorious weeks of holiday to…La Rentrée, my absolute favourite time of year. Despite never having been a fan of the August holiday, I am a die-hard rentrée fan. La Rentrée literally translates as The Return and really is when everyone comes back from their long holiday but it’s so much more than that…

It’s shiny new school shoes

It’s brand new stationery

It’s the beginning of a new year, a fresh start, a clean slate

It’s resolutions and goals set

It’s late summer days turning into chilly evenings, crunchy leaves on the floor, knitting projects picked up again

As we’ve got a toddler heading back to créche, I’m at work three days a week and my husband works full time, I’m reminded of how important strong routines are for us as a family. It’s time to put back into place things that make us stronger, good bedtime and morning routines for all of us, healthy meal plans and more creative outlets. 

I’m currently working on a list of resolutions that I’ll share with you when finished. I always find that this time of year comes with a huge surge of energy and productiveness and I’ve found myself with several exciting projects in the pipelines, perhaps at totally the wrong time considering I’m nearly six months pregnant…or totally the right time!