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Having a Baby in Spain - Part 6 - Freetime

By Jo Green - Mon 24th Aug 2009

When you have a baby in Spain it seems that your social life takes a completely different path than it would if you were in the same situation in the UK. Our friends in the UK have the Luxury of the various family friendly pubs to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon in, kids and all,and a number of parks to spend the (admittedly short)summer afternoons in. Weekend evenings generally seem to be spent by calling in one of the Grandparents to Baby-sit for a couple of hours of well deserved R&R. Winter months seem to involve numerous trips to the various local play gyms or maybe an afternoon at a zoo or some other local attraction.

When we first moved to Spain this wasn't even a consideration, as it was a couple of years before I even gave birth, and as such we only had ourselves and our own free time to think about. We spent our free afternoons either on the beach or around the pool if it was hot, gardening or shopping if it was cooler. Evenings were either spent at one of the local bars, a restaurant by the beach or maybe some party being held locally.

After our daughter came along we had to re-consider everything. With us not having Grandparents or Aunties & Uncles in Spain we essentially had to have her with us at all times and if we ventured out for an afternoon or even for an evening, we had to do so on her terms.

It is definitely easier to socialize during the summer months. The fact that it is so hot during the day means that babies tend to sleep longer during the afternoon – often going for a nap after lunch and not waking up until maybe 6 ish, and as so it is not unusual to see young toddlers being taken into restaurants in the late evening. Most of our friends in the UK are used to putting their baby to sleep in the very early evening and it probably seems strange to them when they hear of us coming back from a local bar at 10ish on a Friday evening - even hearing of us coming back from a bar with our daughter probably sounds strange !

Because most Spaniards prefer to live in the Town as opposed to on an urbanization or in the Campo, they naturally don't have a lot of outside living space, and as such many Bars and Restaurants are situated close to Children's play areas or something similar. So in the Summer months it is the norm for families to sit for few hours with a glass of wine whilst the toddlers are kept occupied on the swings.

It gets much more difficult during the winter months. Fortunately the winter months are quite short, but this also means that there are very few places who make provision for keeping a toddler occupied . At one stage my partner and I thought we had found a niche in the market to consider opening a play gym, but in reality it would only ever be used 3 or 4 months a year until the beaches or playgrounds could be used again when the warmer weather came.

Anybody reading the multitude of well-meaning ex-pat guides will know that there are hundreds of “Mother and Toddler“ groups up and down the Costas that claim to help new Mums with support and advise, help them make friends , help them with the language, and so on. Unfortunately they all assume that the majority of Mothers do not work as none of them seem to be at weekends or outside working Hours (Remember that many babies are not put to bed until much later in the evening). I might even suggest that my Partner took our daughter to one of these Mother & Toddler groups but assures me that he would probably stand out and made to feel as welcome as a pork chop in a synagogue.

Despite my partner putting forward a strong case for hibernation, it seems that if you have a young family, that the winter months in spain are something that just have to be endured.

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