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Irish artist Natalie Forrester in The Irish Times, speaks about her experience of the excellent childcare in Hungary

Natalie Forrester, The Irish Times, childcare in Hungary


As a mother, I made a very difficult decision to raise my child here in Hungary. Taking him from his birthplace, and loving Irish grandmother was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. We came here initially for me to get help with my (what we now know is) early menopause. The longer we stayed, I felt my severe symptoms decrease in this beautiful rural, leafy setting where my husband’s family home is. As we flirted with the idea of staying, my sister-in-law told me about state-ran childcare. That was the final straw. 

I wept. I wept in gratitude. I wept for the past 2 years of childcare struggles in Ireland. I wept about how unfair it was for my hardworking friends and peers at home.

Óvoda here is for all 3-6 year old children (paid maternity leave is 2 years, plus a 3rd for a little less). Parents drop their kids off at our local Óvoda from 7am and pick them up as late as 6:30pm, although most parents do 8-4pm (that’s the 9-5 here). The kids have cosy, cute classrooms, cloakrooms and tiny bathrooms.

They do arts and crafts, sing, learn rhymes, plant flowers, play with oodles of toys and have a large school yard filled with swings, slides, wooden climbing frames and sandpits shaded by huge oak trees. Wolfie loves it so much we have to drag him out! (Not literally 🤣). It's free, you only need to pay approx €30 a month towards their breakfast, lunch and 2 snacks. it’s mind-boggling for me, standard for them.

The women (ovineni) who teach the kids are incredible. They are kind, ever-professional, keep us up-to-date on a private fb group, and will always have a piece of my heart.❤️ I am forever grateful to them for making my son feel at home in his other home country.

It’s not that money is the main issue here, it just takes it out of the equation, so we could both pursue our dream careers without compromise. We have time to self-renovate a traditional cottage around the corner, spend time together as a family cycling in nature to the local playgrounds, cafés, thermal spa and waterpark and road trip through Europe, enjoying the sunshine as we go.
The main thing is accessibility. We didn’t have to beg for a spot, we weren’t put on a waiting list, we were welcomed with open arms. I can not convey how deep my gratitude runs, and how I wish for this for my friends at home.

I want to make it clear that this is not a new initiative, my husband and his sisters went to an almost identical Óvoda in the 70s, except now it’s a boutique hotel. That’s another day’s story!

Thank you to Jennifer O'Connell and The Irish Times for including us, and shedding a light on real stories.