Giving birth and life as a parent in Spain
Georgina was recently asked for her insight into having a baby in Spain, the intricacies of the Spanish healthcare system, childcare and schooling for expat parents for Spain Expo. Obviously, it is a big topic, but an important one, and Georgina was happy to open up and share her experiences, tips and tricks for coping as a Mum in Spain.
In this article, we wanted to ask her some questions and give you a little teaser into her in-depth interview as part of Spain Expo – all you need for your new life in Spain.
Hi Georgina, tell us a little about your family
Well, my son Lucas is currently 8 and my husband and I juggle raising him alongside running the marketing agency Shaw Marketing Services. We’ve lived in Spain for 13 years and Lucas was born here. My Spanish was already good when I came to Spain, so we decided to use the Spanish national health system when we got pregnant, supplemented with a few private services when we felt we needed them. Schooling wise, we started with a bilingual private nursery, but since he was 2, he’s been in state Spanish school and is now bilingual and well adjusted. We are big fans of the quality of life you can have in Spain as a family and how much kids can be part of your life. We think Lucas has been enriched by growing up as a bilingual kid here.
Were there any challenges to having a baby with the state healthcare?
First and foremost you have a language barrier, so getting all the answers you want is more challenging. However, more than that I think the big challenge for foreign Mums is that there’s not a lot of love and kindness. You get really good medical attention, but the bedside manner is not great and it can be a bit harsh at times, especially if you’re going through difficulties. Also, the system is quite rigid, so if you want to do a birth plan and have anything unusual at all, you’re going to have to fight hard and probably not get the experience you want.
We’re lucky on the Costa del Sol though, with an incredible hospital with an outstanding reputation for maternity care. You and your baby will definitely be well looked after!
How is childcare in Spain for young children?
In a word – cheap! My English friends can’t believe how little you pay, even for really good, private nurseries.
Lucas went to nursery at 10 months old, as we had to focus on work and he was totally bored at home as an only child. He went to a lovely bilingual nursery in Marbella called La Latina and we had a wonderful experience there. The teachers were kind and patient and taught the two languages in parallel, so he developed a strong grasp of Spanish and English from a very early age. He even picked up some Swedish, as there was a lot of Swedish families there.
They cared for him like family and offered us guidance and support that we desperately needed, being away from our own families. And going back to the cost of it – we paid less that 400€ per month for him to be there from 9-5pm, food and everything included. Amazing! There are also really good free, state run nurseries in every town and village, which come highly recommended.
How do you find being a working Mum in Spain?
It’s hard to juggle work and being a Mum, as it’s so much more than simply the practicalities of it. The working Mum guilt is an absolute killer, which I struggled with for a long time. Also, being an expat working parent is harder because you don’t have a support system to help you with babysitting, advice and a shoulder to cry on.
I went back to work very quickly, but was super lucky as my husband was happy to be a stay at home Dad. I also had it easier as I only worked out of the house part time when Lucas was tiny and now work from home the majority of the time. Plus, as I run my own business, I can manage my time to suit me, and be available to do school pick up when necessary, even if it means I have to go back to work later, or when he’s in bed. We created a playroom next to our office and that’s been a real lifesaver for us all. I think the key is to try to make life as easy as possible for yourselves and try not to beat yourself up for not being perfect, either at work, or at home.
Is Spain a good place to have a family?
Yes, yes, yes! I think it’s the loveliest place to enjoy having a child. The whole culture is family focused and you can bring your child with you everywhere. We’ve continued to have a great social life and Lucas loves being out with us and being sociable. The climate is great, they will never be bored on the beach, there’s playgrounds everywhere and fantastic sports and extra-curricular activities. We love it here and my husband often says he doesn’t think he’d have had a child in the UK, where it seems like you have to give up your life to start a family.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what Ali and Georgina discuss in the Spain Expo interview. Georgina goes through details of hospital appointments and difficulties, anti-natal classes and how she found having a baby in the Costa del Sol hospital. She then moves on to offer her personal experience of schooling, nursery, infant and primary level, as well as her plans and concerns for secondary schools. She also offers advice on whether to choose state or private schooling for your child and offers lots and lots of practical tips.
There are also some other great experts offering their perspective and insights on parenting and family life in Spain. Lisa Sadler, author of the book Moving to Spain with Children, talks about the practical matters important to families with children of school age. Also, Andrea Robson, Head of Primary at St Georges School in Madrid talks about international schools, so there’s loads of great information available to families.
Sign up to Spain Expo on the website for access to all this information and much more. Readers of the Shaw Marketing Services blog can get a 15€ discount when they sign up, by using the coupon code SMS01.