Friday, February 03, 2006

Milo and Antoine: an adventure called 'garde partagée' (part I of II)

When I was six month pregnant, I had to go to the city hall and sign up for a daycare waiting list for Milo. It was a very weird sensation: the baby was not even born yet, and there I was, crossing my fingers and begging an inflexible adjoint maire for a place in one of the half a dozen daycares available in our neighborhood. The demand being immense, we did not get a spot. So, like many other Parisians who do not wish to interrupt one of the parent’s career, we opted for another home made solution: la garde partagée (literally ‘split guard’). The concept is easy: two families share a nanny, who looks after two babies, taking turns: one week at each baby's house. The only requirement is for the families to live very close by, in order to save on transfer time in the mornings and evenings, and to agree on most financial, logistical, nutritional or educational issues that such a venture might arise.

We started when Milo was 8 months, and we found rather easily a family already equipped with a super nanny (there’s an abundant numbers of websites where parents can investigate the issue and touch base with other parents).

It has been exactly one year now, and we are totally satisfied about this experience, especially because we have been lucky to find a star of a nanny. Milo has been looked after together with Antoine, a French boy six months his senior.

Milo and Antoine have become like little brothers, they share their days, toys and escapades to the park, socializing among one another.The financial weight is important, although the French government allows for a substantial tax write off for hiring home personnel. The advantages are numerous: Milo did not have to adapt to a totally new environment (in our case the arrangement is that the kids are always at out place), they get individualized care and attention, they are not constantly exposed to the millions of bacteria and microbes that circulate in daycare, if they fall sick the nanny comes anyway and I am not obliged to stay at home, etc.

Antoine’s 6 months leverage has been an accelerating factor in Milo’s physical development, while now it's a great one for his verbal development in French. It's fun to hear the two exchanging full sentences, often about nonsense...They look after each other, they learn how to share and to do things together, they fight, they cuddle, just like two siblings!

When I come home at night, competition peaks for attention! Antoine has become part of the family and I naturally greet him as such, but Milo is VERY possessive of his mummy, and has made clear numerous times that he has got attention priority!

The cultural exchange is even: I have been singing to them little Italian rhyming songs, and Antoine is also now capable of singing them in flawless Italian!

The harmony between the two is guaranteed by the nanny, who happens to have a very charming and solar personality, and from day one has interacted with them a lot, playing and truly teaching them not only words and games, but also manners.During the weekend we are always impressed to see how Milo asks about his little friend and the vice-Mum, they have become very much part of his life, and when we go on trips, finding them back is a source of joy for him! This arrangement has made my going back to work much easier, although the first months I was naturally very apprehensive. It is a great human experience.

Next September Antoine will start kindergaden but only in the mornings (and on Wednesdays schools are shut in France!), so we will continue the adventure until at least December. After that I hope some school will accept Milo, even if he will not be three yet; I am already investigating the matte, a year in advance: life in a metropolis gives the expression “planning ahead” another meaning!


Alice in Austria said...

How interesting! It's the first time that I hear of this kind of childcare method and it sounds great! So did I understand this correctly: you share a nanny with another family and the nanny comes one week to spend at your house and the other at the other family's house - and you drop off Mio at the other family's place that week she is there? And then you have Antoine over at your place?

Clo said...

That's right Alice, but in our case we agreed to have the kids always at our place, which is very convenient for us, and made the initial transition very easy on Milo. I hear both wonderful and horrific stories about this solution, I guess it takes time and flexibility to find the pproper partners. We were lucky so far!