When we lived in France, I found the expat community to be really welcoming and close knit. Even if we didn’t live in the same part of the country, we had a bond and an understanding that many of our family and friends back home couldn’t relate to. Logan and I have now been back in Texas for 3 years but I still keep up with most of my expat friends. One of those friends is Kristen Beddard, my Parisian friend. Her and I have kept up over the years as we both walked through giving birth abroad, the struggle to make French friends and of course learning a foreign language as an adult! I asked if she would mind sharing with all of us what it has been like raising her daughter, Grady, in the City of Lights! I hope you enjoy our exclusive Dallas Moms Blog interview about raising a bébé abroad.
1. First of all, what moved your family over to France and how long have you been there?
We’ve been here for five years and moved for a few reasons. 1) My husband Philip had been doing more business in Paris than in New York so it made sense to move there and 2) Why not? We were newlyweds so the idea of moving to France together seemed like a dream (and it has been for the most part!) and 3) My mother in law was nearing 80 and Philip wanted to be closer to her again (he’d been in NYC for the previous three years – he grew up in Geneva and the UK).
2. What has been the hardest part about raising Grady abroad?
The hardest part is being far from my family. We do a good job “staying in touch” with Facetime but not having my parents close is a bummer. I also envy friends who are close to family and able to just pop over for an afternoon or Sunday night dinner. Sometimes I feel like Philip and I are really doing the parenting thing completely on our own without a family support network. On the flip side though, because we are far away, when we do get together, it’s for an extended period of time which is great.
3. When you move back, what will be the thing that you miss most about being a Mom in Paris?
It will be bittersweet but we are moving back in the autumn and I’m already getting teary-eyed about the things we will miss or miss out on because Grady isn’t old enough yet. I know we will really miss the manèges or carousels! They are all over the city at different parks or even just near metros stations. It’s a simple activity that can make an afternoon feel like you’re really “doing” something. And she loves trying out the different cars, horses, animals and so on.
I’m also disappointed that we will be moving before she will enter maternelle. France has full day public school starting at three-years old, so every child has the same opportunities starting at a young age which I think is fantastic. She will miss out on really being immersed in the language.
4. Have you noticed a cultural difference in the way the French parent vs. Americans? I know that “Bringing up Bébé” book is super popular over here! Anything specifically you wish we did differently in the states?
Yes – the playground is definitely one of them. French parents really do sit back on the benches and let their kids go free (to a certain point) while the Anglo parents hover a lot more. I think one of the most interesting things is that French children do not snack. They eat three meals and have one snack around mid-afternoon and because of this, they are hungrier for their meals since they aren’t grazing all day. In general, the food for kids is better. Grady is starting a little crèche (daycare) a few afternoons a week and the menu for lunch is extraordinary. They sit down together and eat through a three course meal with things like beet salad, cod and carrots and then finished with a different type of cheese each day. The schools take food very seriously here which ultimately builds a healthier generation.
5. Describe a typical day for you and Grady in Paris!
Well like most moms and kids, I wouldn’t say our days are that exciting because even though I live in Paris doesn’t mean I don’t do mundane tasks like laundry, grocery shopping and cooking. We wake up, have breakfast and then might go to a nearby park for awhile. Through my work with The Kale Project and something I write about in Bonjour Kale are the wonderful outdoor markets and specialty shops selling different things like cheese, wine, meat, fish and so on. One of my favorite things to do with Grady is run errands with her and show and talk to her about everything we are seeing and buying. We’ve become friendly with the shopkeepers as well and they love when I bring Grady with me. My heart melted the first time she was given a piece of comté cheese from the cheesemonger. These experiences are also things I know we will miss when we move back.
6. Logan and I are planning on visiting France next summer (We haven’t been back since Stella was 12 weeks old!) I would love to know some kid-friendly things to do around Paris.
Merry-go-rounds: They are all over the city but there is a lovely one in Parc Monceau and near the Eiffel Tower.
Jardin d’Acclimation: This is a part of the Bois du Boulogne (a big park) on the west side of the city that is entirely meant for kids. It’s a park within the park that has rides, animals, merry-go-rounds and a train. It’s also near the new Fondation Louis Vuitton, which was the new museum designed by Frank Gehry. It’s a really beautiful building to check out (especially if the kids are tuckered out and asleep in strollers after the park!)
These are the gardens near the Louvre and they have trampolines. One entry of the gardens is the Place de Concorde which also has a big ferris wheel most of the year, making for great views of the city.
Paris has done a fantastic job of planting little parks all over the city with jungle gyms and such for kids from 2-8 years old. It’s hard to walk for very long without finding one.
I’m sure people will disagree with me but I don’t really find Paris to be that kid-friendly when it comes to eating out. I also don’t really enjoy eating out with Grady since after 20 minutes, she’s ready to run around. However, there are a few spots that are more “kid-friendly.”
This spot has high chairs and a bathroom with a changing table (not very common!) and the food is excellent. They have a variety of salads, a plat du jour and soup and juices. It’s a great spot for afternoon tea and cake as well. Check out the concept store upstairs filled with a variety of curated household items and clothes.
Le Bal Café
One of the best brunches in the city, this cafe is in the 17th arrondissement and while they don’t have high chairs or changing tables, they don’t turn their noses up when you walk in with a stroller. The food is excellent: try the English-style breakfast or homemade muesli with seasonal fruit.
Rose Bakery at Le Bon Marché
This is the bigger post of the well-known Rose Bakery in the Left Bank department store. It’s a pretty space with big windows and the food is healthy and tasty. There is also a great kids section an escalator ride away. The Left Bank also has a lot of kids stores for clothing and toys.
Thank you Kristen for sharing with all of us! If you want to read more about Kristen’s adventures in Paris you can find her at her over at The Kale Project or read her adorable memoir about bringing Kale to France in her book, Bonjour Kale. So proud of you, my friend!
Now who wants to go to Paris with me???