I gave birth in Germany and in the Netherlands and, in comparison, I liked the German maternity system better. Here’s why.
Yes, in the Netherlands you can have your baby at home or in the hospital. But in Germany you have a choice that was even more important to me: between a doctor and a midwife.
Both are covered by insurance and both have slightly different ways of working, doctors providing more medical care and midwives offering more alternative options. That way, everyone can choose what they really want and even mix it up by visiting both care providers.
2. Insurance and maternity leave
Speaking of insurance, it’s obligatory in Germany. Even when I was a student, I paid a not-so-small amount for my insurance and when I became pregnant, it paid back and then some. I’ve never seen any invoices. It was all handled between the hospital and the insurance company.
3. Fabulous medical care
I felt very safe with my German doctor and was always treated with respect. No one ignored me when I called the clinic with belly aches and was scared I’d lose the baby (as contrast, the Dutch midwives were always telling me whatever I had was normal). He always made time to see me and did the necessary checks. Oh, and the hospital had great food.
A midwife measures a pregnant woman's waist. Photo: DPA
4. Courses of all kinds
I was surprised by the huge amount of available courses, both before and after birth. We attended a weekend-long birth preparation class (Geburtsvorbereitungskurs), and after my daughter was born I could have picked from PEKiP (parent-children groups), Rückbildungsgymnastik, or baby swimming, had I stayed in Germany.
5. No pressure
In Germany, there was also very little pressure for me to give birth in a certain way. The important part was to get the baby out healthy (not an easy feat given that my daughter was big and turned the wrong way), and keep me well, too.
I missed this approach when I moved to the Netherlands where there was only the right and correct way to give birth: naturally, and even better at home.
6. Outdoor culture
This is actually what Germany has in common with the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries: the belief that being outside is nothing but good for kids. And if the kid gets a cold, well, you should have dressed her better.
There are also playgrounds everywhere, often packed with kids.
7. Kindergeld and maternity leave
When you become a mother in Germany, you get money just for that. And you get paid that money right up until your child turns 18 years old, and when said child is a student, until they’re as old as 25.
After birth, I would have had parental leave of 14 months in total, which I could have split up with my husband (up to two months each). This leave is paid, by the way.
8. Toys and books
I am very fascinated by the quality and inventiveness of German toys and books. They’re especially made for sparking the imagination and vocal skills. My favorite ones are the so-called “Wimmelbücher” with few or no words but lots of images, allowing parents to explain what a zoo or a park looks like, or what animals can be found there.
I also found German toys to generally be of great quality, often made of natural materials like wood.
9. Daycares and kindergartens
My German husband’s brother lives in Berlin and what they pay for daycare is only a fraction of our childcare costs here in the Netherlands. The amount you pay depends on your income: the poorer you are, the less you pay.
Moreover, each child older than three years old has a guaranteed spot at the Kindergarten where they stay until they go to school. Children of working mothers also have a guaranteed spot at daycare from 1 year of age.
10. No helicoptering
While Germans take parenting very seriously (as my husband put it, “since having kids is a choice, you’d better do it right,”) they don’t hover over their children. On the contrary, after a long period of heavily authoritarian parenting, the tide has changed towards a more child-centred approach. This doesn’t mean doing everything for your children: Germans generally value independence and self-reliance.
Olga Mecking is a writer who lives in the Netherlands with her German husband. Her blog, The European Mama, is all about living abroad, travel, parenting and food. When not writing or thinking about writing, Mecking can be found reading books, drinking tea, and reading some more.
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