Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Mother in France is Moving....

No I'm not moving from France or even moving from our current home, this is a cyber move to a new website.

I haven't blogged for a while, but I have been busy behind the scenes - life is never dull for a Mother in France.  We've had Christmas Festivities, New Years Eve Parties and 50th Birthday surprises (for hubby not me yet thank goodness).  My first two books on Moving Abroad and Raising Kids Abroad are nearing completion and I've been working on the new website, and here it is:


The new website (www.nikkimcarthur.com) is focusing on Life in France and my books.  I'll be copying over the most relevant posts fom this site and sorting them into Categories to make it more accessible, as well as adding lots of new topics over the coming months.  Please do add my new website to your reading list, like my facebook page (which is unchanged), follow me on Twitter @amotherinfrance or subscribe to my newsletter if you want to continue following my posts.

Once the transition if complete, I intend to keep this blog running and add posts that don't really fit in my new France focused site.  Maybe I'll change the name and call it Random thoughts from a Mother in France - what do you think?

Thank you for all the lovely comments and support over the the past few years and I very much hope you'll continue following me and join me over at my new website too.

bientôt!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Tribute to an Amazing Woman


Sometimes people say they are amazed at what I manage to do and they wonder how I cope.  I do have a very busy life, as I illustrate in this post A day in the life of a Mother in France.  However, I have the privilege of largely choosing the life I lead.  It’s stressful at times, sometimes I moan, occasionally I feel like I can’t take any more, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  A conversation I had recently really brought this home to me and reminded me just how lucky I am.

I was chatting to a couple of friends, the conversation went something like this:

Me: “Oh my god, I’ve just been so busy running around organising everything for Christmas.  My house is a mess, I’m so behind with the housework and no one can find any socks!”
Friend 1: “Oh I know, there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.  I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done and I’m away next week.”
Friend 2: “I’m the same, I have piles of washing that need sorting and the house is in chaos . I haven’t even started Christmas shopping yet and can you believe there’s only two weeks to go!”

I’m sure many of you can relate to this as women the world over are running around like headless chickens trying to create the perfect Christmas for their families (just like the ad on TV).  But, although we were making the same noises, there were some big differences in the circumstances of the friends I was talking with.  Friend number 1 and I have fairly similar lives in that we both have children at school and we both work and are involved with lots of different activities.  We were running ourselves ragged because that is what we had chosen to do.  We set ourselves impossible tasks of trying to make everything perfect when we could probably cut out quite a few things and make life easier for ourselves.  Friend number 2 however, had recently come out of hospital, where she’d been for two weeks with her nine year old son who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis.  This is not a life she has chosen for herself, it’s just what has been dealt to her.  The previous day she’d spent the afternoon helping out at a local event raising money for the ‘Telethon’, a big charity event here in France and on this particular day she was helping out at the Christmas Fayre I had organised to raise funds for CF.  Here we were moaning about how little time we have to do the things we have chosen to do, but for friend number 2, there is no choice.  She has to cope with what life throws at her, try and put on a brave face and hold it all together for her family.  She battles on despite having to cope with more than most of us can ever imagine.

I really don’t know how friend number two copes with all that she has to and what is even more incredible is how she is always helping others without question or fanfare.  She even feels guilty if her own circumstances dictate that she can't help someone in need.  Now there is an amazing woman who has no idea just how special she is.

Next time you find yourself stressing about all you have to cope with, spare a thought for those who don’t have a choice. You can find out more about what it’s like coping with a child with CF in this post CF, How would you cope? written by another strong young women, my cousin Jess

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Water - Are we all getting enough?


I was googling “Water” a few months back, looking for the recommended daily amount.  I was aware that I’m probably not drinking enough and wanted to know the facts on what I should be drinking and the benefits etc.  But, instead of finding the information I was looking for, I got side tracked (as you do when surfing the internet).  I came across FRANK Water.  This is a small charity raising money to fund projects which help install water systems in some of the worlds poorest communities.   Communities where just to get clean water is a constant daily struggle.  I discovered some alarming facts:

Some of the nasties lurking in the only water millions of people have access to


Water, such a vital basic human need, we can’t survive without it and yet, did you know that more than 1 in 6 people worldwide don’t have access to the recommended daily amount of of clean water.

Yes, that's right, 1 in 6

Nearly 17% of the worlds population!

Surely in these modern times while the Western World wastes so much water (and money) it’s totally unacceptable to have 1 sixth of the worlds population without access to the recommended amount of clean water.

 WATER    A vital, basic human need.

3.575 Million people die each year of water related diseases!

More than 4,000 children die EVERY DAY from a lack of clean drinking water.

Here am I, worried about whether I’m drinking enough water to keep me in tip top condition, when across the other side of the world people are dieing from lack of access to clean water.  What a mixed up world we live in.

We often take for granted how lucky we are.  How lucky we are to be born in a part of the world where all the basic necessities are readily available. Next time you turn on the tap and fill the kettle, spare a thought for the millions of women and children who have to spend several hours a day walking to the closest clean water point.  Half of their day is taken up doing something that takes us seconds.  It just doesn’t seem right.

You may not have a lot to give, but every little helps

  • £10 can fund the training of a community member so they can maintain and operate the clean water project.
  • £50 can fund an awareness campaign about clean, safe water, engaging and involving the community
  • £100 can fund the Ultra Violet filter which ensures viral contaminants are removed before reaching the taps.
  • £200 can fund the sand and carbon filters used to remove the larger particles and ensure the water is safe.

I was really impressed with the projects Frank Water have funded and the difference they are making to so many peoples lives. You can find out more about Frank Water and the work they are doing here.  I would dearly love to go there and volunteer to help make a difference, but that’s just not viable for me in my current stage of life.  I have children of my own who need me, so that will have to wait.  For now, all I can do is help raise funds and generate awareness.  Over the next year I’ve set myself a target to raise 1000 euros – not a lot in the scale of things I know, but if I can raise more, with your help, I will. 

The first fund raising event I’m planning is on Saturday 24th November. I’m organising a Vide Grenier (the french equivalent to a boot fair or table top sale) at our Garden Centre in Boulogne sur Gesse.  All the proceeds from the tables and the sale of homemade cakes and refreshments are being donated to Frank Water.  If you live in the area and are able to come along, please do, or if you have any items you’d like to donate or can make cakes – any help will be gratefully received  Further details can be found here.  If you are unable to come, then you can always make a donation to my “Just Giving” Page which goes directly to Frank Water.

So please, contribute what you can to help me reach my target and be part of the solution!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Post About Gardening at Last!

It's strange, but despite the fact that I’m co-owner of a Garden Centre and Landscaping business and have been working with my husband in our various horticultural enterprises over the past 25 years, not one of my blog posts have ever been about gardening.  The fact is, I’ve always considered Gary to be the Horticultural expert – I’m the one behind the scenes, doing the admin, promoting, accounts, making tea (oh no sorry, that’s Gary...)  So when Janine Marsh from The Good Life France contacted me and asked me if I’d mind writing an article on British V French Garden Styles I panicked (just a bit).  “Yes I’d be happy to write the article” I said, then thought “What on earth am I going write?”.

Anyway, I started writing and it didn’t take long before I realised that actually I knew much more than I thought I did.  I could have written loads – in fact the first draft was double the size of the finished article.  It made me realise just how much we’ve learnt since moving here and are still learning.  I’m thinking I’ve got more than enough material  for another book (especially if I can get Gary on board– what that man doesn’t know about horticulture isn’t worth knowing!).  I just have to finish the four books that are in progress at the moment – they won’t be long now, promise! 

You can have a read of the article by clicking here and have a look round the site while you’re there – they’ve got lots of really useful information.

Friday, August 3, 2012

French Children Don't Talk Back!

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the behavior of French children compared to British. It's apparent when living here that French children are better behaved. They are more obedient, polite and respectful than the British youth. I’ve often marveled when seeing groups of young children out on a school trip. They all line up neatly, do as they’re told and often have far fewer adults supervising them than they would in the UK. I’ve been wondering why this is and examining my own parenting skills to see what we can learn from the French. There is no doubt you can always spot the British children in the supermarket (mine included). They’ll be the ones running about shouting and whining, while the French children hold onto the trolley and follow their mother around the shop like little ducklings. And if any of the ducklings stray, one stern look or sharp word from their mother and they stop what their doing immediately, eyes down and mouth shut.  There's none of that oh so familiar back chat "Oh but Muuummmm, why can't I have that....?"

So why are French Children better behaved? I've noticed that French parents are much stricter from an early age. Sit in any pediatricians’ waiting room (I've sat in many) and you will see toddlers being severely reprimanded for what seems to be very minor, normal toddler behavior (by British standards). I suppose it makes sense that if you nip any devient behviour in the bud, before it has time to develop, this will produce a better behaved child.

This form of strict, zero tolerance parenting makes for an easier life for the adults, but I wonder how good this is for the children in the long run.  The lives of French children are controlled, structured and organized. They’re told what to do and when to do it and generally they dutifully obey. Their holidays are filled with organized trips and educational ones. The school life is very structured too and lessons quite rigid without much opportunity to make decisions for themselves.  As a result, French students are not as adventurous or independent as their British equivalents. Gap years between School and Uni are unheard of. Maybe this is just because it’s not fashionable to do this in France, but I wonder if it is more down to a lack of independence of the students and an unwillingness to let go by the parents. We have many 16-18 year old French students come to stay with us to learn English. Whenever asked why they have chosen to stay in France to study English rather than go to England, it’s always because they (and their parents) are afraid of travelling abroad and prefer to stay in France.

French children seem to mature later than the British. Our ten year old tends to have more in common with children several years older than him. Our older sons have observed that many of their fellow students are immature and find it difficult to interact with adults.  I think that because French parents are stricter, the parent/child relationship is more pronounced. This makes it easier to control them when they are younger, but the parents and the children find it difficult to know when and how to move into a more adult/adult relationship.

Many French, when attending University or Higher Education are more likely to choose a University close to home, which is not the case in the UK. They seem less willing to branch out and seek new opportunities. Is this down to a restrictive upbringing resulting in lack of independence? My husband would argue that it’s because there is more of a community spirit here, young adults are happy where they live and so less likely to feel the need to escape and move away. Whereas in the UK, community spirit is largely dead, no one feels particularly tied or rooted to the place they grew up and therefore can’t wait to get away. I’m not sure which is true – perhaps it’s a bit of both!

Looking at some of the behavior of youths in Britain, I suppose you could say the British have a lot to learn from the French. Maybe we do let our children get away with too much when they're little, making a rod for our own backs as they get older. I sometimes feel like a terrible mother when my willful four year old makes a scene in the supermarket, but then my husband will point out how often we receive praise for what lovely children we have. Having such large age gaps between them, we have the rare advantage of seeing whether our parenting methods have worked (or not) as our eldest two sons have now reached adulthood. Our children may be challenging to control when they are young, but so far, they mature into independent thinking, confident, polite and respectful adults and that’s all that any parent can ask. I think we’ll stick with our own formula, as it seems to work well in the long run.

If you live or have lived abroad, what do you think about the differences in parenting between your home country and your new one and have you adopted any new parenting methods as a result?

Please add your related posts below:

Monday, July 23, 2012

My Corner of France

I've talked a lot about different aspects of living in France, education, having babies, bringing up children, family life etc, but I've never actually blogged about what it's physically like here.  What are our surroundings, the countryside, the towns etc.  So, I thought it was about time I remedied that.

So, where do we live in France exactly?


We live in the Midi-Pyrenees which is in the South West corner of France.  An aptly named Region because it's situated in the middle section of the Pyrenee mountains which separate France from Spain.  We are within a one hour drive to the Pyrenees, which means that you are never far from a fantastic view of the mountains, making it a very beautiful place to live.  
A local view of the Pyrenees


We are situated midway between the Atlantic and Mediterannean coast, both being about a 2 1/2 hour drive, so we can always spend a day on the beach either sundbathing on the Med or surfing on the Atlantic.

The moutains look great at any time of year, but especially in the winter when skiing or toboganing make a great day out and there are many reasonably pistes to choose from.  


My youngest Luc, enjoying some winter fun in the mountains
The region the Midi-Pyrenees is split into several Departments (like Counties), we live in Haute-Garonne which has the Department Captial Toulouse as it's main city.  Toulouse is known as the Pink City due to its attractive pink brick built architecture.  It's a great city, not too big, only an hours drive from our house and our two youngest children were born there.  Nice if you need a city fix, but the real appeal of living here is the peaceful countryside.  
Place Wilson in Toulouse

We live in a tiny village and like many other villages it has no shops, only a mairie (Mayors Office), church and village hall.  Despite it's size, it has a really great community spirit and lots of functions throughout the year (The French Rural Village "En Fete").  It's strange how some of the smallest communities have very big and elaborate Mairies.
The Mairie of a local village with 128 inhabitants!

It is very rural - lots of fields of corn, wheat and what is particularly notable here is the fields and fields of sunflowers in July.
Sunflowers with the mountains in the background, taken from the field next to our house

It's a very green area, despite the hot summers as we have many rivers and lakes with water coming directly from the mountains.
The River Save

We live in a watermill, so we are surrounded by water with a canal running directly through our house, a river running along the edge of our property and a lake, not forgetting the several hidden waterfalls - it really is a magical place to live!  

Our Lake


Although we are very rural, I don't consider our position to be remote.  We're 2 minutes from a main road (with lines down the middle!) and only 10 minutes drive to the nearest town with doctors, supermarkets, chemists, schools etc.
Our "main" road, lined with trees.


The houses are really attractive around here.  There are many old farm houses and tumble down barns and outbuildings which add to the rural charm.  There aren't many new buildings and most new build houses either tend to be made to look old or have a villa like design.
A veiw from one of our upstairs windows

We have many leisure lakes nearby, often with beaches.  They are fantastic places to visit with kids because they also have grassy shady areas, toilets and other facilities (inflatables, waterslides, lifeguards etc).
Leisure Lake at Saraman
Just 10 minutes away is the beautiful Gorges de la Save, which is a little known beauty spot where the kids enjoy playing in the river.
Gorges de la Save

There are some great markets nearby - the biggest being Samatan which is famous for its fois gras and is always bussling and full of wonderful stalls.
Spice stall at Samatan Market
The roads are really quiet as it's quite sparcely populated.  We're 30 minutes from the nearest motorway (A64).  It's very hilly with lots of little winding country lanes.  I love just taking a different route sometimes when I'm not in a rush and discovering tiny hamlets and beautiful views I never knew existed.
A lane, not far from our house
I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse of where I live.  It's good to sometimes take a step back from minutities of day to day living and appreciate what's around us.  I love where we live, it's a beautiful corner of France and I feel very lucky to have found it.

But shhhh, don't tell anyone will you!

I'd love to hear about where you live, if you have any related blog posts please add them to the linky below.



Thursday, June 28, 2012

Moving for Good


People move abroad for lots of reasons – work, love, necessity, choice.  I hadn’t really thought much about it before, but we fall into the last category.   It was Vicki at www.vegemitevix.com who highlighted this difference in a recent interview with me.  Vicki is from New Zealand and writes about her life as an Expat living in the UK.  She’s currently running a series of guest post/interviews from other Expats living in different countries giving their “Moving Stories” – here’s mine Moving Stories - 10 Moving for Good Have a look at the others – it’s interesting all the different reasons for moving and ways of coping as a result.  

We chose to move abroad in search of a better life for our growing family and the decision was not taken lightly.  It’s something we planned for many years and when we moved, we intended the move to be for good.  I wonder if the decision of “Moving for Good” has actually affected how well we have adapted and coped with the move.  Maybe it’s given us an advantage in that we didn’t have any feelings of resentment from the start (as you may have if you’ve moved for work, a partner or because you had to for some reason).  Have we tried harder to make it work?   Does choosing to live in France mean we are more likely to choose to live there forever?  

Over at Windmill Feilds on her Expat Blog Hop, Rosalind is discussing the question “Will you, Could you, Do you want to stay where you are forever?”, so I thought it might be interesting to join in.  

Will I Stay in France forever?
Forever is a long time.  I don’t know if I will stay in France forever, there’s a big world out there and I’ve seen hardly any of it.  For the foreseeable future I’m here.  The children are settled and my youngest is only four, so I’m likely to at least see her through school before making the decision to maybe move on.  But you never know...

Can I stay in France forever?
Yes I think I could stay in France forever.  There are things that frustrate me about living here, but I am generally happy and I think the good things outweigh the bad.  

Do I want to stay in France forever?
No, I don’t think so.  As I said before, there’s so many other countries to explore.  I could see us retiring and having a home in France and a home somewhere hotter where we can go in the winter.  I think it very much depends on where my children settle.  It’s likely that at least some of them will settle in France and then I will probably want to be around to help them out when they need us.  If none of our children settle here then I doubt we would feel the need to have a house here in the future, but who knows....

So, are we more likely to live in France forever because we chose to live here?  Possibly, but I think the answer, for us at least, lies in the fact that we chose to Move Abroad for good, rather than Move to France for good.  France was not our first choice, Greece was and it was only because of schooling difficulties for our children that we changed our mind.  So maybe in our case we should change the questions to Will I, Can I, Do I want to stay abroad forever?  The answer to all those questions is categorically yes....probably!