If you recently became a mom or dad and you want to start working again as a mom or you want some free time, what are the possibilities of daycare in Antwerp/Flanders? In my experience, it’s very hard to find a good and affordable place for your child.
Many mothers in Flanders need to start working again full time when their baby is only 3 months old, as maternity leave only lasts 3 months in Belgium.
Group daycare (groepsopvang) is often mentioned as a possibility, but if you can, avoid group daycare!
The State-funded childcare and family care organization, Kind & Gezin, allows one person to take care of up to 9 babies. Yes, nine little babies, with only one carer. Because of high demand and low supply, daycare centers often push this to the limit. As a result, carers do not take the time – and can’t make time – for personal care and attention for your baby individually. Time is precious to carers, so if your baby doesn’t drink his/her milk fast enough, too bad, he/she won’t have enough food. If your baby has trouble falling asleep or wants a little attention, there is no time to help him feel more comfortable. Toddlers can manage more on their own, as they are more autonomous, but for newborns daycare with up to 8 other newborns can lead to neglect of their personal wellbeing. At that point, the only thing carers have time to do is changing diapers and trying to feed the babies.
My son went to daycare 3 days a week as from 6 months old. The first months of daycare, however, he was constantly sick with high temperature (almost certainly germs caught at daycare), so we cared for him at home – before sending him to daycare healthy and seeing him fall sick again a day or two later. According to the carers, though, most parents just send their child to daycare and don’t mention that he/she is sick; instead, they cover it up by giving the child painkillers or paracetamol to reduce the fever and hide the high temperature. In other words, expect your child to be sick – very often – if you send him/her to daycare in Belgium.
Our experience was a real nightmare, but we had no choice as there aren’t a lot of possibilities for public daycare that are affordable. You can find places for public daycare on the following website: http://kinderopvang.digipolisweb.be/node/90756 – as you can see, there aren’t a lot of places, and certainly not part time!
Another possibility is daycare at a person’s home (gezinsopvang). The individual carer can also care for up to 9 children, but most try to have a mix of older children and babies to ensure that they can give more personal attention to the child who needs it. Individual carers are advantageous in terms of personal attention, but also more expensive, and the city of Antwerp doesn’t reimburse the extra cost that you have to pay. This makes it less of a possibility for people who can’t afford to pay the extra amount.
If you need occasional babysitting then I can certainly recommend the babysitting services organized by the ‘Gezinsbond’ (family association, https://www.kinderoppasdienst.be): they provide babysitting services for 4 Euro per hour (+ 1.5 Euro fee per babysitting), and the babysitter we have is delightful and friendly. (The people who babysit actually do this as volunteers for the Gezinsbond.)
If you need occasional babysitting, be aware that a lot of teenagers and young adults think that babysitting is just watching television while a baby sleeps, as one babysit once told me when I asked her to feed my son and give him a bath – apparently, feeding and a bath was a lot of work and she preferred to only come in the evening when she could put (and leave) him in his bed. I lost confidence in teenage babysitters then and there.
Because of all these difficulties, we have started looking for a private carer, but this is very expensive compared to Belgian wages. We hope that we have found someone who can help – time will tell.
If you are experiencing the same issues or other issues as a young mother, join my new group : Mothers of young children Antwerp.
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