Yesterday, le French boss said to me, "I have a secret."
"Is it a good one or a bad one?" I asked.
"You're fired... No, I joke!" he said, throwing his head back in laughter. "No, it's to tell you that I too am going to have a baby!"
After a quick recovery from the somewhat unfunny joke, I congratulated him and we started talking about just how many people are having babies right now.
Remember playing that car game "punch-buggy" where you get to hit a sibling everytime you see a Volkswagon Beetle? You can play the same game in the streets of my town with pregnant women. Waiting in line at the ATM yesterday, I saw five pass by in a one minute period. And that's not even counting myself.
Friends are pregnant. Colleagues are pregnant. The owner of our boulangerie is expecting. She's always been a lovely woman, but has that extra little glow now that she has a bun in the oven. (ha!)
And who can blame us? Do you know how nice it is to have a baby in France? Right off the bat, there's the maternity leave: six weeks paid leave before the birth, ten weeks paid leave after (at 100% your regular salary in some cases). When I told my obstetrician that I commute an hour by train he said, "Oh, you get a congé pathologique
then, of course." This translates to 15 extra days. There's also a congé parentale
, which is a six-month leave of absence. It's unpaid, but your employer is required by law to have your job waiting for you when you get back. I've even heard of the same thing for a leave up to three years. No wonder employers are so cautious about hiring married women who have no children. Congé
that. Did I mention my husband gets a 2 week paid paternity leave?
My medical visits and labwork aren't totally free, but they're pretty affordable. However, our birth preparation sessions are reimbursed by the same source who reimburses the 20 standard medical checkups for baby until he (she?) is six years old- securité sociale
. And depending on your salary, you get an allowance right after the birth to help support baby financially. And then if it's baby #2, you get about 150€ (about $211) every month, no matter how high or low your income is. And you guessed it, an even higher allowance if it's baby #3. Though I must ask the question if it makes sense for a government in debt to pay that sum to families who are raking in 30,000€ a month on their own. I guess the equality
part of liberté, égalité, fraternité
is at play there.
My husband and I were discussing this with a friend last night at a local restaurant having its weekly salsa night. I hadn't been lately due to my "extra girth" and was happy to see our friend, the salsa instructor, to whom I excused my absence.
"I understand," he said. "My girlfriend isn't hasn't been coming, either. She's pregnant, too!"