Tuesday, 5 July 2016

My New Parisian Life

When you don't have kids (and especially when you're pregnant), people who do love to tell you how you cannot possibly ever be prepared for how much your life is going to change. They also use the word "overwhelming" a lot in relation to how you will feel both when you hold your newborn for the first time and when you're confronted with yet another explosive nappy change at 4am when you haven't had any sleep.

So I'm a little surprised to be reporting that I haven't found my experience of parenting to be particularly overwhelming or astonishing so far. (The exception to this might have been this morning on a crowded bus, when a rather large woman with a shopping trolley decided she had to push past me to grab a seat that was about to become free, meaning that I had to step off the bus to let other people get out, leaving the baby in the buggy on the bus without me. It took about a minute and the baby was almost a WHOLE METRE away from me with STRANGERS in between us. The tiger-mother fear and rage I felt was totally justified, obviously, and might be described as overwhelming.)

This is not to say that my baby daughter is not the most precious thing in the world to me, or that cleaning poo off the curtains in the wee small hours is easy*. It's just that, maybe thanks to all the warnings, being a parent does feel pretty much like what we signed up for.

And life has definitely changed. Gorgeous baby cuddles aside, one of the nicest things has been enjoying life in our little quartier of Paris. When it takes several hours to be ready to leave the house, and public transport is either inaccessible or carries the risk of incidents like the one above, it's just so much easier to stay local. And so, after 3 years of living here, I have finally got to chatting with the baker and the greengrocer and the pharmacist. (Especially the pharmacist. Having a baby in France involves lots of trips to the pharmacy.) An afternoon's outing might be a visit to the PMI (Protection maternelle et infantile), where the nice ladies offer you glasses of water and supply you with cushions while you feed your baby, or a walk around the park. We've even been to see an osteopath, which also felt terribly French, as it was basically an extra checkup to find out if anything might be wrong with the baby which would probably be deemed unnecessary in the UK but was actually incredibly helpful, as she gave me lots of tips about how to get her to sleep and feed better. All in all, I am enjoying the sense of integration, as well as my expanding baby-related French vocabulary!

I find it funny, too, how some aspects of life are so much more stressful, but often balanced out by how nice people are. This afternoon, for example. After the bus rage incident in the morning, I met a very old friend who was passing through Paris for coffee, then took another bus back home. By this point it was 3 hours since the baby had been fed and there was every risk that she was going to start screaming before we got back. It looked as if we were going to make it until the bus driver announced that the next stop would be the last one, when we weren't even nearly home. It turned out there was yet another manif and the streets were blocked, leaving me with pretty much no choice but to walk the 45 minutes back. And of course, five minutes later, the baby woke up, leaving me desperately looking for a park bench to stop and feed her on. Even after some milk, she was still cross (changing her nappy on a park bench was a step too far, and she was also suffering from indigestion.) But as I sat there desperately trying to strike a balance between soothing her and getting her home, the slightly threatening-looking young man with a very large dog on the next bench struck up a conversation on the causes of infant crying, asked her name and complimented us on how pretty it was. And somehow that made the world seem a better place again. 

*In a small Parisian flat, keeping the changing mat away from soft furnishings can be somewhat tricky.


  1. I completely understand your feelings! Or least, I think I do. Don't get me wrong, becoming a parent is a life-changing adventure. But at the same time, you had a bit of time (like, 9 months) to think about it, adjust a bit and we, humans, have been reproducing for a long long time now - we are programmed to do so (not to say that you HAVE to have kids!).

    Take it easy, though. I hate to be that person, but I did find Mark super easy at first, it became harder later on. This is my own experience of course and my challenges won't be yours. My issues were mostly a mix of being exhausted (no help around), work, being stuck at home during a long winter and Mark not sleeping.

    So far, I found that early parenting involves awful stages, where you think you hit rock bottom, and amazing moments, where it's all good and amazing. As time goes by, there are less extremes ;-)

    1. Yep, the 9 months to prepare is exactly what I mean. It's not that it's easy, but the hard parts are not unexpected. I hear you on parenting becoming harder later on though - I've seen my friends dealing with their toddlers and that's a whole other level of patience. With a newborn, as long as they are sleeping and eating enough, you're pretty much OK. And I'm sure there are plenty of challenges in between now and the toddler stage that we'll discover as we go along!