When life coach and “Mama Motivator” Kelly Pietrangeli from www.myprojectme.com told me she was leaving Madrid after several happy years here as an expat Mum, my first reaction was to lament how much she would miss our wonderful lifestyle here. In true Kelly style she immediately turned this around, saying that instead of missing Madrid she was going to concentrate on remembering all the things she had to be grateful for about living in Madrid. This led me to contemplate – what is it that expat Mums most appreciate about life in Madrid?
It is true that becoming an expat Mum changes your perspective of Madrid. Having children integrates you into the community in a unique way as doors open, attitudes change and a family-friendly city reveals itself. This is a city where children are never considered a nuisance; in fact they are cherished (look out for old ladies giving your children sweets in the street!). Yet Madrid also works for so many families on practical levels that are essential for busy parents.
Looking after the little ones
Although childminders are scarce and difficult to find, the back-to-work mentality of Spanish mums means that excellent nursery schools and childcare options are available from the moment your child turns 3 months old. Many nursery schools have bilingual staff and actively encourage a multilingual environment. Flexible hours aren’t as ubiquitous as you would hope, but there are some excellent part time/ flexi time options like those offered by English Escape on calle Alcalá 70 (pop in to find out more).
Furthermore there are plenty of playgroups run by expat parents where you can sit around chatting in English and discussing the idiosyncrasies of parenting in Spain whilst your children run around immersed in multilingual child’s play. Dotted all over the city and run on different days, it is hard not to find one that suits.
Staying fit & healthy is easy in this surprisingly green city which is surrounded by a beautiful mountain range with areas of outstanding natural beauty. Cycle paths criss-cross the city and there are plenty of bicycle hire and drop points so that you can visit the glorious parks, markets, museums and art galleries on wheels.
Escaping out of the city to explore the great outdoors is made easy by a council run rental pay-per-kilometre car service that facilitates day trips off the beaten track. There are plenty of family-friendly walking routes and English speaking guides to help you discover this region which is rich in beauty and magnificence. Madrid takes hiking seriously, with routes meticulously signposted and friendly locals always at hand to point you in the right direction.
Eating healthily is never easier than in Madrid, which receives some of the best and freshest produce that Spain has to offer. Greengrocers, fishmongers and butcher across the city provide a wide range of variety of seasonal and regional produce … along with advice on how to prepare it!
If you need to visit a doctor, your children are seen by proactive specialist pediatricians at local health centres – rather than a general practitioner – until they are 14 years old (18 if they have a special medical condition). Regular check ups are programmed and a rigorous opt-in vaccination program is in place.
Education & Learning
Choosing the right school is always an exciting time. As expat Mums often seek schools that teach English from an early age and Madrid offers so many options, there is literally a school for every taste. There are state schools that run local education authority bilingual programs as well as bilingual faith and non-faith voluntary aided (concertado) schools. There are state, private or concertado schools that follow a Spanish curriculum but nevertheless offer a couple of hours of English a week. There is a French Lycée. There are also Montessori, German, Swiss, Dutch, American and British international schools.
Having fun – with and without kids
Being able to relax in an English-speaking environment, with or without your children, is something all expat Mums enjoy. With playgroups & storytelling for younger children, theatre workshops, arts & crafts, dance & music, robotics, cinema, Scouts, football and rugby for older children, Madrid’s incredible range of afterschool & weekend activities in English rivals those offered in any city in the UK or US!
For nights out in Madrid, English speaking adults are spoilt for choice. Stand up comedy, quiz nights, cinemas all over the city showing English language films as well as native English speaking theatre companies, the choice really is ours.
Having a practical lifestyle
Getting down to basics, many expat Mums feel grateful for those simple factors that make life easier. Madrid is a capital city that is affordable: the cost of housing, public transport, food and leisure is moderate. No matter which neighbourhood you live in, there is a convenience store that is open all hours of the day and night. Not to mention that Madrid’s sunny and dry climate makes laundry, potty training and the inevitable daily pilgrimage to a playground a breeze!
Professional opportunities abound
There are a wide range of job offers in Madrid for native English speakers (not just your bulk-standard TEFL jobs that all English-speakers are offered whenever they move to Spain) – although having knowledge of Spanish helps break into the dynamic and diverse job market. Furthermore there are networking opportunities galore in Madrid, especially for women. There are groups that support entrepreneurs, others that provide skills exchanges or find internships and others that are all about balancing work and life as an expat based in Madrid.
With Barajas airport connecting us to major cities around the world and Atocha train station serving the whole of Spain as well as Portugal and France, travelling with kids is stress-free. Over time it becomes very clear just how convenient Madrid is to live in.
Congratulations Madrid on being so family-friendly! If only the nearest beach wasn’t 500km away…