Parenthood in the Netherlands: advantages and challenges

Being a parent is no piece of cake, no matter where you are from. However, the way you choose to take on this great journey can vary depending on the culture and country where you grew up.

As an expat, here are some advantages and shortcomings I have encountered when it comes to raising a little one (or little ones) in the Netherlands:

Freedom of space

There is so much space for a child to run around, play, cycle… you name it! The Dutch urban landscape comes with multiple playground options and open spaces in general. There is even a good chance you live close to a forest, you are just left hoping for some decent weather.

It is super cute to watch entire families on their bikes just enjoying a nice Saturday morning. I feel that my little dude is truly privileged for being able to experience all this and I am very grateful. This country is, without a doubt, a great place for a kid to grow up.

Child safety in the Netherlands

The first time that I saw Dutch mother on her bicycle with one toddler on the backseat and a little baby on the front one (and no helmets) I have to be honest, I freaked out!

I understand that cycling culture is deeply rooted in this land but I feared this was taking things a little too far. Not long after, I learned how to spot the expat parents — the ones that put helmets on their children — clearly. This is not a judgement, just pure old fashioned culture shock, I guess.

Photo-of-child-on-bike-with-parent
Not many people cycle with a helmet in the Netherlands! Image: Magdalena Laas Photography/Supplied

To this day, I cannot bring myself to hop on a bike with my son. There… I said it, not even a bakfiets (mom bike) will convince me to do so.

Attentiveness

Ok guys, work with me. I come from Mexico, a Latin American country where family culture can be quite overwhelming; by this I mean SUPER overprotective and, at times, overbearing (I feel like you are sensing the pattern here).

While this all derives from love, it can also result in being too apprehensive when it comes to watching your child having fun and the craziness that discovering the world brings with it (going down the slide headfirst comes to mind).

Dutch mothers and fathers on the other hand, can be found casually strolling through the park with coffee in hand, chatting away their morning with other parents; or maybe sitting on a bench without a care in the world, and their children you might wonder?

Probably tripping over a ball, another child, or landing on his/her butt after trying to climb the swings. At first, I have to admit I was not getting it at all, and then time made me realise that perhaps this is just their way of raising strong individuals.

I admit I could stress a lot less over this matter, but how about we all just meet in a happy middle ground?

Daycare in the Netherlands

Let’s see, this is a touchy subject. While I 100% love the daycare my son goes to, I feel like the Dutch system does not cater for all kinds of lifestyles, circumstances and scenarios.

For instance, the childcare allowance “kinderopvangtoeslag is wonderful, for those that meet the requirements. If you find yourself with a freelance writer job for other countries (*cough*) or you happen to be employed by a company within thee European Union and stationed here, but not directly in a Dutch company, well… you do not qualify for said benefit.

Daycare in the Netherlands can be quite expensive. Image: qiangxuer/Pixabay

As a result, you will have to break the bank in order to pay for daycare. No wonder it is uncommon for a child to attend five days a week.

READ MORE| Dutch primary schools and childcare to reopen on February 8, cabinet decides

However, once you can get past the fact that the monthly invoice is as much as rent, there are many upsides. For example, the teaching methodology (usually some sort of Montessori/Reggio Emilia/Waldorf fusion), the healthy organic food (mostly vegetarian, Yei!), music class, yoga class, and so on, makes me almost forget how much money we could be saving (ouch!)

The Dutch work life balance

Having said this, it is also remarkable how a normal workweek in the Netherlands can look like 20/24/32 hours and it is not frowned upon at all. Even better, it is perfectly normal for men to do the same and work four days a week leaving space for “papadag” (daddy day).

This obviously means much healthier work life balance, and therefore, more quality time with your tiny human.

Like everything in life, being a parent in the Netherlands has its pros and cons; it is up to each person to decide how to handle the challenge.

How do you feel about parenting in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below! 

FeatureImage: Kate Emslie/Unsplash

Laila Robles Martínez
Laila is a journalist born and raised in Mexico City, and has lived in Canada (a semester in high school counts, right?), Spain (where she met the love of her life and completed her Master’s Degree in Humanities) and most recently, The Netherlands. She has great passion for exploring new cultures, mothering her beautiful two-year-old son, tasting all kinds of vegan treats and, of course, writing.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Hi!

    Please fact check about childcare allowance:
    “Do you live in the Netherlands and work in an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland? In that case, the same conditions apply to you and your allowance partner as to people who work in the Netherlands.”

    • Hi Alina! In our specific case, we were told we didn’t qualify, but I will make sure to look further into it. Thanks for your input 🙂

  2. I have never cycled with my children on my bike. The thought of it just made my stomach turn. I totally empathise with you on that aspect of Dutch life.

  3. I can totally relate when you say being overprotective towards children, this concerns me a little bit, because I don’t want my child to struggle to fit in with his Dutch friends and also I don’t want my child get hurt in any way. Especially when it comes to boy-girl relationship. If I keep my culture as it is and be the protective dad, maybe my child faces problems. And if I pretend like a Dutch parent this time I’ll not be comfortable with this.
    Dank je wel for the article, it ‘s good.

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