Bye Bye daycare
When we first found out we might be moving to Germany, munchkin had just turned 2 and he was still in full time daycare and I worked 44 hours/week. Shortly after getting the posting message, I quit my job and gave the daycare 3 weeks notice (as per policy). Him and I were not home together very much before the actual move; visiting family in Nova Scotia, our House hunting trip and my sisters wedding, all in 3 months. I say this because I never really got the hang of stay-at-home-mom before moving to a foreign country.
We choose this house because it was close the U-bahn – the major public transport system that will take us anywhere in the city, and to the train hub. It was also close to other local amenities like a large grocery store, hospital, pharmacy, our bank and post office – we get a lot of deliveries.
After a few weeks, I realized that the parks were always empty and I was getting strange looks when I took my son on my errands, be it the groceries or the mall. I started to ask around. I know children exist in Germany, I just couldn’t find any. Surely they did not give birth to school-age children.
Turns out, there is a federal mandate for free preschool to all children 3 years until school age. Because there are only so many spots at these preschools – kita – many enrolled their children before this age and just paid for it. These programs also worked as daycare for when the parents went back to work. As I am trying to research the different Kita’s in my neighborhood and trying to find him a spot, I learned that English is not an official language in this country. I do not know German and they are not required to know English. Duisburg is not a very popular city for Expats and so the hiring practices of the local businesses reflect this fact. I am only able to find a dentist and pediatrician in Dusseldorf and was lucky to have an English speaking OBGYN at the hospital across the street. This made communicating with Kita’s very difficult.
The Americans and fellow Canadians have all told me to visit in person and basically bother them until they give my son a spot. I tried this once; without daycare, munchkin came with me and he ran off with a playgroup. They didn’t mind while I was busy talking to them, but when it was time to leave, the scene he made was rather loud and intrusive. I will not be trying that again. So I tried just emailing them. I wrote everything in English, then used google translate to make it all German, and I included both languages in the email. They must think it is spam because of the 10 emails I sent, I received 2 response and it was not the answer I was looking for. They have a spot, Aug 2016 – that’s when he starts kindergarten at the local Private School. Dusseldorf also has a website called “Kita Navigator”. This is where you place your information and selection which schools you want to register with and presto, you are on the waiting list. This is a much better system than harassing each individual school – some of which do not appear in Google search. And in case you were wondering, it may be a federal mandate but it is administered by the city and therefore a Duisburg citizen can not attend a Dusseldorf Kita, even if a spot is available.
After a year of calling and emailing and being hung up on because they don’t speak English, we still don’t have spot for the little man. We have decided that are going to fork up the cash and send him to private school a year early. They do not have bursaries available at his age group and mostly apply to siblings of children in older grades, so we will not be getting any assistance in that respect.
This is just a very long way of saying, RESEARCH before picking a city. We are not allowed to move; we signed a 4 year lease on behalf of the Canadian government. While this house and neighborhood are amazing, there is something to be said for your child’s sanity and social development. The family that helped us move were not aware of this Kita system until after we moved in, and because they live in Dusseldorf, it was much easier for them to find a place for their little girl.