Hello Expat Families! Find out about activities for kids in Graz!

Will blog for comments

Last week’s “Quick Tip: Be the Perfect Guest” has inspired me to write this post. It’s about a subject that has been on my mind for long and I finally managed to hit “publish”.

For those who haven’t read the Quick Tip, this is about comment moderation on blogs and some tactics on how to engage with your readers and promote thoughtful conversation. The article really made me laugh as it approaches the most common maleure suffered by many of us poor bloggers: when ONLY your MOTHER writes comments to your posts! Yep, I too know this problem and although I appreciate ALL comments, I sometimes wish there was more conversation going on besides “Oh dear, I didn’t know you felt that way! But tell me, are you coming home for Christmas?”. This said, I suppose many other bloggers know what I mean…

Most of the times after I hit “publish”, I am fully aware that I am doing it for myself. I started blogging because I have always loved reading and writing. I studied to become a teacher of foreign languages and I am addicted to blog reading. So my primary need for food for thought is already pleased just by reading stuff like “Freshly Pressed” and many other great blogs. I love it, it’s my thing, let it go. Even if it keeps me awake at night when I should be getting more sleep.

But the truth is, bloggers HEART comments! We do! Reading your comments is one of the highlights of the day 🙂 It’s like an additional bonus to all the rewards of blogging and what it does to you on the psychological level. It’s the cream on top of your cupcake. It’s the flowers on your birthday. It’s the smile on a stranger’s face when you walk past them on the street. So YES, I will blog for comments and I am not afraid to say so. 🙂

By the way, congratulations to Michelle W. who wrote the Quick Tip and was rewarded with 170 great comments! Some more creative than others like “Great post, I agree!” (just kidding) but ALL sent on one common ground:

WE ALL BLOG FOR COMMENTS.

Thanks mom for all the previous comments and thanks Pilar who always visits me and offers me kind comments! All others must be just voices in my head…

33%

This post may sound a hint too critical, I am sorry for that in advance.

In Graz there is a number of early education centres such as nurseries and kindergardens. For more details, the curious reader is invited to see the post “Preschool Education in Graz”. The government guarantees that ALL children in Graz are provided with daycare, i.e. as long as both parents work and thus need this support from the state. This need is in ALL cases catered for. So they say on the media.
 
Well, the small print is:
“The goal is to provide daycare to 33% of all children below the age of 3 as set by the EU”.
 
This raises a number of questions, which need to be carefully considered and which are directly related to socio-political systems. First of all, in Austria there is a maximum maternity leave of 3 years. Aha, so you don’t have to go to work for 3 years?? In theory yes, that’s true. Whether that is the best solution for both mother and child, and on the other hand to society in general, is another question.
 
What are these 3 years based on? What are the beliefs and convictions behind them? One could say…
a. “It’s for the children’s sake because dueing the first 3 years they are best taken care of by their mother as says developmental psychology”
b. “It’s for economic reasons because other people are employed during your maternity leave and create new jobs”
c “It’s a pure patriarchal system embracing the women’s role to be at home and not working”
 
Where I actually believe in the validity of argument “a”, I still find it difficult to grasp why this system is designed to enable families to dedicate themselves to having kids, while on the other hand we all know that the labor market is not waiting for us women for 3 years. Besides, this is not a compulsory maternity leave. You could legally even go back to work after 2 months. Not that I stand for that but legally it’s a possibility.
 
So what about the women who decide to have a family and still get back on the professional track after 1-2 years? What about them? Oh, they are probably the mothers to 33% of the kids in Graz, I see… Being one of those mothers I can only report what a difficult endeavor it was getting a place for my son in a nursery. And you have to face so many compromises:
 
1. you are not able to choose the best institution for your kid. You are possibly given a place somewhere and you MUST be really grateful for it.
2. when you go back to work, you’re back for real. You can work part-time but what about the times your child gets sick? Who will look after him/her? Not to mention awful situations like the Summer holidays that will force you to find a “solution” for your kid for up to entire 7 weeks while you still have to go to work. That solution could mean you hire a babysitter, if you can afford it, or your toddler is placed in another nursery for that period where he is looked after by complete strangers.
3. once you were generously given a place you are not supposed to get involved in any pedagogical discussions, let alone complain about anything because nursery and kindergarden teachers have a much harder life than you do* and BE REALISTIC – you are in no position to be picky…
 
All in all, this is reality in early education. I have to be fair though and say I’m fully aware that there are much worse realities and at least we know our children are staying in daycare centres with all necessary infrastructure, food and a warm bed. Most teachers are very committed. The teacher-student ratio at nursery level is actually very good – groups with up to 12 kids are entitled to up to 5 teachers depending on the kids’ age. That is really good.
 
However, by the time your child hits 3 you are forced to deal with much higher challenges like finding a kindergarden in Graz which:
a. is open beyond 1.30pm
b. allows a nap time
c. has more than 2 teachers for 26 children (this one being an illusion as it turns out)
 
In the end, you need to make your choices as you believe them to be the best for your child. Compromising is probably something you need to adapt to.

*Refer to the study by the Karl Franzens University “Wissen, was los ist”!
http://www.graz.at/cms/dokumente/10023271_394423/14245642/Wissen%20was%20los%20ist_Endversion%20Studie%20Wustmann%20Dez%2010.pdf
 

Find out why Vienna is ahead of the game with nursery places:
http://www.austriantimes.at/news/Education/2012-08-01/43280/Vienna_ahead_of_the_game_with_nursery_places/a>s

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Every little bit hurts

Children face countless moments of pain, frustration and anger. This sounds dramatic but it is a completely normal thing and it is part of growing and becoming a social being. They suffer when we have them vaccinated, they experience frustration for not being able of doing things they want without your help, they get angry when stopped by intrinsic barriers imposed to all of us, not only as children but our whole lives actually.

As a mother (probably as a father too but maybe in a different intensity?) you suffer with them EVERYTIME. If you could, you would make the world a better place for your kid and well, for all children too. You would move mountains and raise bridges where needed for your child to get where he/she wants. You would protect him from getting sick, being disappointed and heartbroken. As a mother I personally developped a much more critical view on many societal issues because I see the child’s perspective. When you go to the doctor you cry with your baby as he experiences the pain of getting an important vaccine and you know, there’s just no way you can explain WHY you didn’t safeguard him from feeling that pain, so you feel guilty inside, even if you believe that it was important for him and society that he got the vaccine.

If you could, you would give him all he longs for and when you are the one with the power to decide he’s not getting something, even if it’s good for shaping his personality, you still feel you said “no” but you wanted to say YES. I have met a mother of multiples (2 boys and 1girl) and she once confessed to me “I wish I didn’t have to say NO all the time, I don’t want to but I must!”. I saw it in her eyes how she struggled with this duality we have inside of us. This saying NO although you’d much rather say yes.

And even if you are fully aware that life is hard and you should not create an artificial world around your baby, otherwise he will not be fit to survive, you still hurt everytime your child hurts. Everytime.

I wish myself and all other parents the strength to stay calm and the inner ability to be strong and to stand mighty as a rock when all you feel is like crying together with your baby. Empathy is vital for their development so lets not be cold and heartless, but let the Universe give us mothers and fathers the strength to be their rock when their feelings hit them as a high wave.

When mommy can’t, MAMA does!

Due to the question raised by Pilar to Graz for Kids, I decided to write a short information on flexible, short-time children care services in Graz. As some expats only pass through Graz and stay here only for short periods, it gets difficult for their kids to be integrated in the regular preschool system, which is rather conservative from an organisational viewpoint.

To be more precise, the application process for preschool (nursery and kindergarden) goes like this:
a. at the beginning of each year, around January or February, preschools organise so called open days and all families are welcome to get to know the institution and the staff
b. in March there is an enrollment phase
c. around June you get to know if you got a lucky draw (well based on specific criteria, such as being a resident) and then your offspring would start in September.

For those staying only for short periods it gets more difficult, especially if you are a non permanent resident…

However, there is a childcare care from the Karl Franzens University of Graz, which was initially founded to support university staff needing punctual child care. This is open to everybody and it is called MAMA. It stands for “Mit allen Menschen Arbeiten”, i.e. “To work with everybody”.

At MAMA they take kids from 0-6 years old.

It’s a drop-off group, the child stays there without the parents.

It’s closed on weekends and public holidays.

You need to book in advance!

You can choose the number of hours for your kid’s care between 8:00 and 18:00.

Costs: 59,00€ for 10 hours or on an hourly basis (as per 2012).

According to their website all teachers have been trained to work with children, so they are kindergarden teachers.

Their website is http://www.mama.co.at but unfortunately it’s only in German.

I’ll keep you updated on further services of this nature!

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A thought on raising multicultural kids

“We want to raise our children so that they can take a sense of pleasure in both their own heritage and the diversity of others” by Mister Rogers.

Seen on Multicultural Kids

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Are you in a parenting rabbit hole?

This week I read a hilarious post on a very original blog called “Liquorstore Bear”… I’m not sure if I should tell you this but the name is about a bear with a drinking problem. But it’s so funny and actually pretty normal too, so do have a look at: www.liquorstorebear.com

The post is about parents who disappear down a rabbit’s hole, which is a very good metaphor to describe my own social life since I became a mom… Here’s how it goes:

You don’t call your friends anymore and they don’t call you either because they either have their own offspring to drive them nuts OR they don’t have kids and are too busy going shopping, brunching, partying and sleeping until noon on Sundays, which is FOR US parents the ideal time to go out of the house and try to mingle with others. 

You don’t call anybody because you are too tired and you absolutely don’t feel like having small talk. If you do, you start to stray and to mentally write your next post for your blog.

You don’t go out at night because even if you have a babysitter, you’re just not in the mood for socializing anymore… you know you must get up early the next day and your mind is filled with so much stuff that you wouldn’t be able to concentrate and carry out decent conversation anyway…

You feel outdated and have no idea about all the new bars, drinks and cool phrases hip people are saying.

And the worst: deep down you don’t even want to go because (here comes the awful truth) you fear not having enough conversation which is NOT about kids… ouch, I said it and it hearts my own ears! 😉

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy Part II

Happy for having a friend

Although I am not using the new & cool gallery here, I just felt like I hap to post this very recent photo of my son, who was so happy to be playing with his friend. A real boy’s friendship, I can tell you that. It is heart warming to see them together and to awe at children’s ability to deal with whatever comes their way. They even negotiate about who gets Lightening MacQueen 😉

 


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