Mother’s day in the Netherlands
No, I’m not a mom. Not yet, but then I’m like so many other women in their early 30s with no children, hearing the quiet tick-tock of that biological clock in the background of my life. Before I know it, the alarm will sound at the age of 35 and from then, I’ll henceforth be known as an elderly primigravida in medical circles, a.k.a. an old first-timer mom. So, why an article about Mother’s day in the Netherlands?
So why this odd ode to non- but potential-future-moms? It’s Mother’s Day in the Netherlands and I have the reproductive potential to be a mom, so why not still celebrate that anyway? More specifically, why would I want to have a hypothetical child in the Netherlands as an expat? Here are a few reasons why:
1. As we already know, Dutch kids and Dutch moms are the happiest. That’s promising for both me and my kid(s) — and by proxy, my husband, who would be surrounded by me and a possible horde of little gremlins. Even though our kid would be a transplanted Canadian-American kid raised in the Netherlands, for the rest of this post, I’ll refer to them as a Dutch kid.
2. My Dutch kid would be raised to be independent. They learn to speak up and speak frankly. They learn about reproductive health early (one must only watch the “Lentekriebels” episode from De Luizenmoeder to get a hilarious perspective of the debate about teaching kids sexual health), which really should not be as controversial an issue to cover as parts of my home country sometimes makes it out to be.
Also, they can bicycle around on their own when they’re old enough so that I wouldn’t have to play the American soccer mom role. (Although I do secretly look forward to cycling in a bakfiets with a kid, or maybe a few pet bunnies if no kids, in cargo.) The list could go on.
3. My Dutch kid would learn a gazillion languages. Okay, well not that many. There are more than 7,000 living languages in the world, with 23 of them accounting for more than half of the world’s population, so maybe they’d learn about three of them (English, Dutch, and maybe French, my husband’s mother tongue). Given the geography of Maastricht, closely neighboring Wallonian Belgium, it’s not hard. Some parents who live south of Maastricht even choose to send their kids to Belgian schools across the border.
Besides, for Europeans, multilingualism is standard in many places, especially for younger generations; as an adult, it seems like learning a new language is approached as just another set of job skills to develop. While unlikely, said Dutch kid might also learn a bit of Mestreechs or some other Limburgish dialect. Did I mention that knowing more than one language can increase cognitive flexibility and reserve? It is even associated with differences in brain structure as an adult. Brainiac child with all-natural, organically-cultivated and enhanced IQ and EQ? Why not?
4. My Dutch kid would be able to get a college degree without accruing as high of student loan debt upon graduation that they would if I were to raise them in the US (average of $30,100 in 2015). Add on a master’s or doctoral degree and that debt can balloon to more than $250,000. With tuition on the order of a bit more than €2,000 euros annually, versus tens of thousands of US dollars per year, my plan for saving tuition money to pay for their higher education is therefore greatly simplified — and doesn’t have to start preconception.
Naturally, the trade-off is that I’m paying higher income tax than I would have, but that’s another story. I could also do what some Dutch parents (and American parents) do and let them figure it out themselves: take some loans (average of €14,000 in 2017), get a job — all just a day in the young adulthood Dutchie life here in the NL.
5. My Dutch kid would probably be able to be treated with some of the earlier-generation antibiotics for treating infections. Why, you ask? Dutch doctors are notoriously stingy on prescribing antibiotics, prescribing the least antibiotics of all countries of the European Union. As a result, the Netherlands has nearly the lowest rate of antimicrobial consumption in the world (second to Chile as of 2014) and, consequently, the lowest rates of antibiotic resistance.
Got a sniffling kid? Bring on the paracetamol and reserve the big guns for the situations when they actually would need them. By the way, before their 18th birthday, there is no premium to pay for that sniffling kid to have standard health insurance and also dental care.
6. As a follow-up to #5, my Dutch kid would grow up tough-as-nails. A Dutchie friend recently told me she got a nasty gash on her leg during a Spartan race, the kind with obstacle courses and lots of mud, which required a visit to spoedeisende hulp (SEH, or the emergency room) for some stitches. And like it was no big deal at all, she got the stitches with zero anesthetic. Okay, so don’t quote me on this — in America, I would get nailed for child neglect or abuse for letting my kid get stitches without any anesthetic, plus I would be a hypocrite myself and ask for the lidocaine, please — but wow. I was definitely shocked and mildly impressed.
#7 Health care in the Netherlands
7. Finally, let’s say in seeking older first-timer pregnancy status, I encounter fertility problems. Thankfully, I would not need to shell out thousands of dollars for fertility care and treatment (I quoted a US figure ranging from $1,182 to $61,377 previously). Fertility treatments are part of the Dutch standard health insurance package, with some eigen risico or co-payment needed, which is far less than in the US.
When the time comes for maternity care, midwifery services, and then popping that baby out of the womb and into the world (birth care), these are also part of the standard insurance package. Good for me and for my Dutch kid, especially if kid is a daughter. (She would also get contraceptives covered by her Dutch health insurance until she has her own baby.)
So, Happy 1st Mother’s Day to-be to me and fellow 30-something-year-old childless expat women — for when, in the future, you might birth a Dutch-born kid who is happier, more independent, smarter, more tough and more insured against a lot of health issues, than from our origin countries.
Will you be celebrating Mother’s day in the Netherlands? Why do you want to have a child here? Let us know in the comments all about your Mother’s day in the Netherlands!