Choosing to raise a family in the Netherlands

I moved to Amsterdam full time when I was 7 months pregnant. I have to confess, my attitude to becoming a pregnant expat was rather blasé. "It'll be fine," I told anyone who asked if I was coming "home" to have the baby. Which is not to say I was underprepared, my husband and I had attended an information talk on Having a Baby in the Netherlands so we had the basics down.

I had chosen a fantastic midwifery practice who were endlessly supportive and spoke better English than I did. We had even researched schools and bought a bakfiets so we could transport our new bundle of joy Dutch style. Truly integrated.

Naturally, the decision to have and raise a child way from your home support network is not one that should ever be taken lightly. Especially, as was the case for me, if you haven't really recreated a support network in your new country.

Learning the ropes
Between learning a new system of giving birth, which varies from country to country no matter where you are, to making sure my family and friends overseas stayed involved in our changing lives we certainly encountered some challenges.

Sometimes I wondered if it wouldn't have been easier to take the home route. Especially when things started to go wrong with my pregnancy.

Home for us now though was the Netherlands and we had made a choice to raise our family here. A choice that I believe was, and still is, the right one for our family. The Netherlands offers exceptional pre and post pregnancy care. With a comprehensive midwife system and the provision of a maternity nurse (kraamzorg) in the week after you give birth, you are well supported by the system.

Far from its somewhat outdated reputation as the place where women have to give birth at home with no pain relief available to them I have found the Netherlands to be a country which is increasingly more focused on supporting a woman's choice in the birth she wants (something highlighted recently at the inaugural Human Rights in Childbirth conference held in The Hague). Whilst it is true that improvements could be made in the birth system, being part of the parenting community here has shown me that real efforts are being made to address those concerns.

The statistics say so too
I believe the Netherlands is a wonderful place to raise a family and it would appear that various recent studies also back my claim. The Netherlands produces some of the happiest children in the world as well as an infrastructure which supports mothers so well it is rated as the 10th best place in the world to be a mother. 

When you add to that the recent placement of Amsterdam as the second best city in the world then you can see why raising a family here is a great choice.

With the Dutch focus on work to live rather than live to work you have more time to spend as a family. An emphasis on outdoors and cultural activities means there is always something to do and ways to get involved with your community. Access to subsidised international schooling and high quality local Dutch schooling also makes the Netherlands highly attractive to non-Dutch families.

Raising a family in the Netherlands is a rich and rewarding experience, one I am glad we said yes to.

How you can prepare to raise a family in the Netherlands
 Choose a supportive midwife practice for your pregnancy.

 Start to build your support network where you live. Meet other mothers and fathers to be who will be raising children at the same time as you. Reach out to local parenting communities and find out what activities will be available for you and your baby after you give birth.

 Choose a school which you believe will support you as a family as you integrate into the culture.

 Think about how you will continue to involve your family and friends in your child's life as they grow.

 Be involved!

Emmy McCarthy is a serial expat and the director of Stichting Amsterdam Mamas, a not-for-profit organisation providing information and support to English speaking parents.

Emmy  McCarthy


Emmy McCarthy

Emmy is the founder and director of Amsterdam Mamas, a not-for-profit organisation providing support and information for English speaking parents in the Amsterdam region and across the Netherlands. From...

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