Chat With A Baby Concierge
I am preggers. And I don’t love being pregnant as you know. Navigating pregnancy and a baby on foreign soil is a huge stress and anxiety for me.
I moved to Paris 4.5 years ago and got knocked up 10 months later. That wasn’t quite enough time for me to figure out “the system” and perfect my language skills, but that was how it had to be. (I had fibroids in all the wrong places and my doctor recommended I get cracking on baby-making to avoid potential fertility problems. But I will share more about that another day.)
When I found out I was pregnant the insurance company and the French family admin sent me a giant packet with a list of all the things I needed to do and
the benefits available. I took one look through it and started crying! My French was not at a level where I could comfortably read everything and understand what needed to be done. I felt totally and hopelessly lost.
In France you need to register at a hospital or private maternity clinic as soon as you hit 12 weeks or you might not get a spot. (I mean of course you won’t have to deliver your baby under the Pont Alexandre III but it might not be at a hospital you and your family are comfortable with.) How does one choose the right hospital? How was I to get recommendations from friends when I only knew two women with babies that I met on blind friend dates and wasn’t even sure if they liked me. (Finding friends when you start over in a foreign country is also another post to come.)
I couldn’t read all the important info on the hospital websites. You also need to sign up for a place at a crèche or halte garderie (fancy cheap daycare system in France) when the baby is still in your belly. And really even then you are only getting put on a waitlist because there are so many people looking for a spot. I quickly learned that following the checklist on American sites like Baby Center can get you in trouble because things work a bit different here.
A long intro to basically share how complex it can be to have a baby in France when you aren’t fluent in the language or the system. I wish that I had had more help navigating the system with my first baby. This time, a few months ago during my first trimester, I discovered Bébé Concierge and I nearly did a Flintstone kick with excitement! Here was an affordable service to answer all my silly questions and to make sure I know what needs to be done and when!
I booked a general session (60€ for one hour) with Florence Arwani, the founder of Bébé Concierge. She busted out a heap of handy charts and I finally learned how my social insurance and mutual fund work together for my benefits, all the amazing FREE services that I missed out on first time around that are available to me after my 6th month of pregnancy (I plan to book that expensive dentist appt the very day I hit 6 months ), and Florence gave me a curated list of activities and instructors in my neighborhood. The best gift was a massive personalized excel sheet of every day of my pregnancy and all the appointments to be made, tests to take, forms to turn in, etc…
I was so happy with my session that I wanted to know more about Bebe Concierge to share with other moms.
What led you to launch Bébe Concierge?
Bébé Concierge is simply born from my experience as a mom. I would have loved to find an agency such as Bébé Concierge during and after my pregnancy. I am autonomous and independent, I like to do things myself, but I completely underestimated the “workload” and the time spent to learn, compare products and consumers’ opinions, to decide on the final choice. I would have liked to discuss with an expert advisor in this field to avoid buying unnecessary things, even worst in triple! ( I equipped my home and two grandparents’ homes, as it was the first grandchild on both sides). I also regret having discovered “too late” that haptonomy (an holistic way to bond with a baby and to prepare childbirth) existed, and I should have enrolled my son much earlier to avoid the waiting list for babies swimming courses in Paris. Then I shared my experience with friends and realised they were facing the same problems and experienced the same gap between what they thought and the reality of being pregnant and a parent in Paris.
How would you describe a baby concierge?
Bébé Concierge is a baby planner agency. Our mission is to support parents-to-be and new parents and walk them through each stage. When we say parents, we really mean mum AND dad! We focus on pregnancy to prepare for the baby’s arrival, birth to welcome the baby, and early childhood (0-3 years old).
When parents come to you what type of questions can you answer for them or problems can you solve?
We break our services into four categories. First there is childcare solutions. There are various options available to parents such as nursery assistants, nannies, babysitters, collective daycares, and private nurseries. We present parents with all their options, examine the cost differences, and research any financial aids that are available to them. If parents choose to put their children in a crèche, we can advise on how best to navigate this process and find an available spot. A popular service we offer is searching for the perfect nanny. That means we take care of the screening process (interviews and reference checks) and present families with a few options that best suit their needs. And then of course we help them with all the necessary paperwork involved in this process.
The second category is organization and administration which is usually a nightmare for parents. We can help parents get organized by providing to-do lists so they know when all medical appointments need to be made and necessary admin papers need to be filed so that nothing is forgotten. We also help organize and plan the fun stuff such as special events (baby showers, christenings, birthdays) and family-friendly travel suggestions.
Our third category is general advice for prenatal and postnatal issues. There is no limit to what advice we can provide and issues we look into. For example: nutritional advice to follow, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, best baby and toddler equipment, and baby-proofing the home. We can do an audit of the home to help suggest ways to make the space safer for small children.
And finally concierge services. If moms are looking for the best maternity hospital, pediatrician, midwife, or any birth-related professional, we share specially selected contacts to meet each person’s needs.
That sounds like a lot of great services. Is there one specific thing expat women in particular come to see you for?
The French admin system is quite complicated (even for French natives such as myself) and as expats often don’t understand French fluently, they mainly ask Bébé Concierge for administrative assistance. I explain and guide them through every step. I want to help parents avoid spending too much time stressing over admin issues. I imagine they have better ways to spend their time like enjoying life with their new baby!
What in general is your most popular service or issue you help solve for both French and expat women?
The most popular service is childcare assistance. It is the number one concern of mums. Finding a solution (maybe not even the right solution for you) in Paris takes an average 40 working hours. So to avoid the stress and spending so much time, most parents ask for the “Nounou & Co” formula. (Click here for more details on this service.)
Yes I know too well how time-consuming figuring out childcare and school for kids is. It can be a nightmare! But it seems you found some time to launch a second business recently. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yes, I launched Créaniv to help parents organise birthday parties for 1 to 10 year-old kids. Again as a mum, I know how stressful it can be to organize a party with little ones jumping up and down at your home, prepare food, decorations, and find activities to keep kids entertained. Parents can delegate all of this to me. They tell me what they want and what their child likes, I manage everything in advance and provide them a 100% personalised birthday with nothing to worry about.
How in the world do you manage motherhood and being an entrepreneur with two businesses? You have two young children also.
It is not easy every day, to be honest, juggling between professional and personal life. But I have created my dream job, so it’s more a passion. Also my children inspire me for my business, so it is a win-win.
Do you think being pregnant and motherhood is more complicated here? For example admin, childcare issues, and maternity signups in comparison to other countries.
Yes in Paris or big cities, it is more complicated for three reasons. First of all, the lack of childcare solutions versus the total population. So as for any market, when demand is stronger than resources, the situation is tense and prices high. Second of all, the employment rate for women is higher than in the provinces. Women here are always running; they lack time and live a more stressful life. Women need more support, solutions to save time and feel peace of mind, and somebody to delegate time-consuming tasks. And finally, people move to big cities like Paris for work but their families usually live far away and they can’t count on them for easy or quick backup solutions, like asking their parents to look after the kids.
I know all about having family far away. Would love if my brother could babysit from time to time! What can we expect on the horizon for Bébé Concierge?
We will continue thinking about the parents first, because a happy baby comes from happy parents. My motto is simple: “Helped parents = happy parents = happy baby”.
I lived abroad for two years in England, so I know how it feels to be an expat. I will probably focus more and more on the expat community who I think deserve more help and reassurance than the rest of us.
Visit Bébé Concierge to book a session
Featured photo via Mothermag, Image of Florence by Ajiri Aki
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