© Angela Fusaro

A chat with Anne on life, work and parenting in France for a Dutch mum

July 30, 2018

Anne Dohmen is a journalist for a Dutch newspaper. She writes about diversity at the workplace, the pay gap between men and women and work-life balance. She lives in Paris and is a mother of two children, ages 3 and 1.

 

How was your career before becoming a mum?

I worked full time as a journalist. I wrote, and still write, about economics.


How has motherhood impacted your career?
Suddenly ​another priority was added to my life. That was a big change. At first I continued working five days a week. That didn’t go well. My daughter was a bad sleeper during her first year - and with that I became a bad sleeper as well. I decided to take on some parental leave for one day a week.

The largest impact on my career however, was our move to France because my partner got a job there. I agreed with my employer that I could remain in service, changing my contract from 40 hours to 16 hours a week. Going from a full time job to working two days a week was a huge shift. I enjoy the time with my children.

 

What do you enjoy most about your life in France?

The calmness of our life, well as much calm as you can have with two toddlers! (laughs) The French life suits us well, with the attention for good food, cheese and a nice glass of wine. And being surrounded by forests and nature helps too.

 

And what do you find challenging?

I live far away from my family. We miss them and and they miss a big part of the growing up of our children.

 

What are the main differences between the Dutch and French on work-life balance?

Interesting question! Without a doubt that would be the part-time working culture of Dutch women, whereas the French work full time. Our children’s daycare is attended for five days a week by most French children. Our neighbours, for example, leave their home very early in the morning - when we’re still having our breakfast - they bring their son to the pre-school and their daughter attends the daycare. Around 18.30 they come home again. They run this schedule for 5 days a week. In contrast, the majority of the Dutch children stay at the daycare for only two or three days. But: the French have a lot of holidays and they live in a great country to enjoy all

their free time.

 

What is one thing Dutch working mums can learn from the French ones? And what is one

thing French working mums can learn from the Dutch ones?

Hmm, I suggest the following: Dutch working mums could learn to let things go. If they wish to work more, they must realise that other people can take care of their children. But that’s easier said than done; I’m aware that I don’t let things go easily as well.

 

And what can French working mums learn from the Dutch?

The working culture is different in France, but I do think that the Dutch mums are quite happy with their relatively small jobs, and the time they spend with their children. Dutch children are amongst the happiest ones in the world.

 

According to recent surveys, many women in The Netherlands are not financially independent. And that counts especially for mothers. Why is that?

That is because about 75 percent of the Dutch women work part time. And they continue that even as their children get older. And by then the roles at home are established: Dutch women still do most of the housekeeping. The other consequences are a lack of a well-developed career and the associated benefits, like a higher salary.
 

What can be done in your opinion to improve the situation?

I believe it starts with making childcare cheaper and better. Additionally, the government should be generous with parental leave for both parents. The Dutch government is taking small steps, but these are not enough for a real change. We should have ambitions similar to the Scandinavian countries.


How do you see yourself professionally in 2 years from now?

We’ll be back in the Netherlands by then, and I’ll be working more than I do now, hopefully for the same newspaper.

 

What’s one wish you have for your children?​

Dear Hanna and Mathieu, I wish you a very happy life, in which you make your own choices and enjoy the good that (hopefully) comes from that.

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