Motherhood in the Netherlands can be quite different from what you would anticipate. Here are some things you can expect if you’re a parent in the Netherlands who isn’t Dutch.
I always knew that I wanted to be a mother and last year at the age of 32, I was blessed with my son, Louie. He is already almost 15 months old and motherhood has certainly been a wild ride! Especially, since I am raising my child in a country that I didn’t grow up in myself (I’m from Australia).
The thought of becoming a mother filled me with all sorts of emotions. This in combination of becoming a mum in a place with a different language, culture and lots of unknown was intimidating for me. However, since becoming a mummy, I can say that I am very happy to be raising my child in the Netherlands!
Motherhood in the Netherlands: advantages and challenges
With the help of some other international mothers living in the Netherlands and my own personal experience, I have put together a list of the advantages and challenges of being a mum in the Netherlands. I am happy to report that there are far more advantages than challenges!
Advantage #1: Post Maternity Care (KRAAMZORG)
What is this? It is something international mothers who have given birth in the Netherlands are completely amazed by and grateful for. It is an incredible service that shows the Netherlands is forward-thinking in terms of supporting new parents.
After birth, a type of nurse comes to your house and offers you all the help and support you need (for up to seven days). This was brilliant for me as a first-time mother who had no idea what I was doing. When I brought my bundle of joy home, I had all the care, advice and help around the house that I needed.
I delivered my son through c-section, so after my first major operation, I appreciated this help so much. It meant my husband and I could enjoy the first days with our baby boy, no worries. My first days of becoming a mother, I felt nothing but kindness, support and love.
Advantage #2: a strong sense of community
Many other international mothers I have spoken to, said this was a big reason why they were happy to be a mother in the Netherlands. They felt like it was a safe and friendly place to raise their children. It is not a problem to let your children ride their bikes in the neighbourhood as it feels safe.
There is a big feeling of support from neighbours, which is important to me. My neighbourhood is filled with swings and many other things to do with my son, which makes me glad I live here. Even though I am not in my home country, I know my son is surrounded by a good strong and safe community.
Challenge #1: ‘Boven Woning ’ and my big pram
This is my silly rant, but it has proven to be a challenge for me, many times! I live in ‘boven woning’ (living above ground floor) and when I open my front door, I am confronted with steep stairs. I would say these stairs are ‘typical’ Dutch and you will come across them all the time in the Netherlands.
When I became pregnant, I read that choosing your pram is an important part of the process of having a baby. Therefore, I decided to buy a pram, that was beautiful, but quite large and not so practical! Trying to get my huge good-looking pram up and down these stairs while keeping my baby entertained has been quite challenging for me (yes, this is completely my fault!).
Advantage #3: Discovering local playgrounds (speeltuins)
I did not know speeltuins existed in my neighbourhood before I had a baby because they are often so hidden, but they are amazing! In your neighbourhood you can find sometimes just a small entryway but if you walk through you can discover an amazing playground for kids. It’s like rediscovering your neighbourhood with fresh eyes.
On warm days, you may find your local playground has water fun (a shallow pool with a water sprinkler). I love to hang out at my local speeltuins and often have play-dates with other mums. I am lucky enough to have three speeltuins nearby my house. There are also many other places which have animals, veggie gardens for kids and so much more to do. Do you know where the speeltuins are in your neighbourhood?
Advantage #4: The Netherlands is baby friendly
By this I mean, I feel like I can bring my baby wherever I go! That means most cafés, bars and restaurants have no problem if you bring your baby along. In many bars, you will find cats and of course you can bring your dog, the same goes for your baby, they are more than welcome!
If you look around the terrace next time you are there, you may notice the parade of prams that surrounds you and so many babies to adore! I recently attended a child friendly festival, it was fantastic! I love that just because I had a baby, I don’t feel like I must hide inside my house.
Advantage #6: Bilingualism
A question that I have been asked frequently since having a baby in the Netherlands is “what language to do you speak to your child?” It is a good question because, I am an Australian living in the Netherlands and my husband is Dutch. Even though the Dutch are advanced in learning English at a young age, around 10 years old at school, I wanted my son to start learning Dutch and English from birth.
Therefore, I speak English to my son and my husband speaks Dutch. Outside of the home, my son attends bilingual daycare (Dutch/English). Louie is registered in a bilingual school which he will start at age 4. I love that my son has the advantage of learning both our (mother tongue) languages from such an early age.
Advantage #7: Upgrading your bike
Pre-baby, I owned a classic granny bike (oma fiets). After my son was a few months old I could bike with him in a carrier which was so handy. Since my son became 8 months old, I purchased a mummy bike (mama fiets). This is equipped with a baby seat at the front and my son absolutely loves it! There is nothing more fun than biking with my son in the fresh air and hearing him chuckle.
Before I became pregnant, I saw those strong Dutch mothers riding their stylish cargo bike (bakfiets) and I wanted one. I have a bakfiets now, which really does take skill to ride! My situation in the Netherlands means that I do not need a car. My bikes together with public transport takes us everywhere we need to go, even with a baby!
Advantage #8: flexibility with working
I have a wonderful situation which means I can work part-time (two days per week). This is something I feel is not frowned upon in the Netherlands. My husband works one day per week from home. This means he has more precious time with our son.
In the Netherlands, there is something called ‘papa dag’ (daddy day). This is a fixed day off during the week when fathers can look after their child. This helps give flexibility and options when it comes to work and our child. This is important to me as a mother.
The Dutch government is also helpful in terms of daycare subsidy. This means if you want to work, you can afford to send your child to daycare — without breaking the bank! Obviously, all family situations are different, and some may argue they don’t have flexibility. However, the Netherlands has options which are advanced in comparison to other countries.
Challenge #9: Missing my Mum
By far the most challenging thing for me being a mum in the Netherlands is missing my own mum. I miss her help, support and presence. Of course, technology is amazing, and we have fantastic contact, but she is still so far away. Those moments I need her the most is challenging — especially being a new mum.
So, there are some advantages and challenges I have experienced since becoming a mother in the Netherlands. I love being a mummy and I am glad I get to do it in the Netherlands. If you are thinking about having children in Holland and you aren’t Dutch, keep calm. It’s a great place to experience motherhood!
Are there any other positives or negatives to being a parent in Holland? Let us know in the comments! And don’t forget to join our Facebook group!
Feature Image: Vanessa Hope van Engelen/Supplied
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2018, and was fully updated in October 2020 for your reading pleasure.