New Beginnings – Living and Working as a Mama in Paris
Super Mama Cleopatra Narcisse from the USA shares her tips on living and working in Paris
Taking the big step to move abroad is one of the most important decisions one can make. Making the decision to raise children in another country away from your nearest and dearest, is a whole other ball game. But it’s Paris! A city that is hard to say no to. When I think of Paris, the word which immediately comes to mind for me is sophistication but sadly this is difficult to attain when carrying a stroller over multiple stairs! FAIL!
That is the thing about being a Mom in Paris, there are some challenges but in the end it is an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
I have been here for 5 years and have learned many lessons along the chemin (path) and I wish I had the knowledge then, that I have now which is why I have decided to share my tips with the Mama Loves Paris community.
As a young Mom, my first goal was to just make human connections as I didn’t know anyone in the city. Over the years, I have met many who have come and gone. That is just part of the expat life, so you should be prepared to make friends, and then make more friends as your social network will inevitably change. Having support is key, and fortunately in Paris there are many ways to seek support through organizations and social networks. In addition, for those with young children there are PMI (Protection Maternelle & Infantille) centers throughout France which help parents with any questions they may have. These centers also have information on activities for children, so it should definitely be one of the first stops a Mom in Paris should make.
Making connections with other expat Mamas in Paris is important, but it is also crucial to be involved in your local community. Be it your children’s school, community centers’ and the like. There are often many activities available in each district, such as languages, dance, sports and music etc. So don’t be shy, and definitely stop by for information. One of my favourite weekend past times is going to the local library with my daughters.
For those who are working Mom’s, Paris has a great childcare system in place. There are state-funded subsidized daycares called creches all over. However the only downside is that it tends to be difficult to secure a spot. But no worries, if you are not placed with a creche, there are also certified sitters called assistant maternelles, who take care of children in their homes. Finally there are also many multi-lingual nannies available. To find out more you have to go to your local city hall where they will give you a list of all the creches and also the assistant maternelles in your area. Some companies offer daycare for their employees but it is quite rare.
Which leads me to the subject of working in Paris, France. The French work culture tends to be different from what many are used to. I remember being shocked that if one did not have a coveted CDI position (contrat à durée indéterminée meaning open-ended permanent contract), then the salary is not counted when doing things such as buying property, sorting contracts and other official duties. So depending on your family’s situation, know that if you are looking for a job that it is important to take the type of work contract into consideration before accepting an offer.
For those currently searching for a job, know that as someone who has changed jobs multiple times in France, that there is plenty of work available in France. Despite what you may see in the news. However for me personally, it took a while to get used to the French work culture which greatly differs from the American work culture. Obviously all cultures, have their positives and negatives.
I would say there are a lot more politics played in France than in the US. I think in the US employees make more of an effort to not let emotions get in the way of working. On the other hand employees here who are not happy, will not hesitate to go on strike in order to have their needs met. There are pros and cons on both sides. From a positive perspective, there are many of perks in France such as transportation reimbursement, restaurant vouchers, 35 hour working weeks plus 6 weeks of vacation! All of which are especially important as a Mama!
“You should also note that in France, women have the right to work 4 days out of 5 until their child is 3 years old. Yet another way to help the work life balance”
For me, I realised that working in a job that I love takes on even greater importance when living in another country. I would not want to live in different country to my origin and work in a job that I really disliked. So if you are having difficulty don’t settle for a job you will regret further down the line just because it was your first offer and more importantly, don’t give up. As an aside, I did not speak French before coming here, and till this day after changing jobs multiple times, I still don’t have a French resume and this proves that if you are determined you can definitely find work, whether or not your French is up to par. Remember, English is a skill employers are seeking so it definitely helps. If you are looking for work, the sites I use the most are Monster, Indeed and Linkedin. Pole Emploi also has good leads.
With work comes vacations! As I mentioned above when living as an expat, you come across many people who come and go. You might even be the person leaving, so use your time wisely! Take advantage of those 6 week vacations, and extended holiday weekends. Living and working in Paris take advantage of the some of the most beautiful cities in Europe accessible within 2 hours or less by train, plane or car. But when travelling, don’t forget to explore around France itself. France is a beautiful country, and there is something magical to discover in each region. The options are limitless!
For the times when you are in Paris, definitely keep up with the Mama Loves Paris site for information on all the cool outings both for Mama and children! Paris hasso much to offer from all the museums, to parks, ateliers, etc. The hardest decision on the weekend, is choosing one activity from the array available.
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Cleopatra Narcisse is International Coordinator at a Business School and a mum of two beautiful girls. She lives and works in Paris.
Thank you Cleo for this fantatsic article – it gives such a wonderful insight into adjusting to life in Paris and making it work. Excellent tips for Mama’s