Thursday, September 24

Adaptation in Kita / Czas adaptacji w żłobku

Since over a month Nila is going to Kita (technically speaking it's Krippe, a kindergarten for smaller kids, aged 1-3). It's been challenging (mostly for me), but in the end I must say that the process went pretty smooth.

Whole kindergarten idea was very emotional for me. A lot of questions were bouncing in my head all the time - "Is it ok that I leave her for such a long time? Will she miss me so much it will cause too much stress and damage her relation with me?"

I tried to battle these emotional chaos in my head and even treated it with a big dose of good ol' science - I spend few evenings doing a lot of research about whether non-parental daycare is bad for children (or good), from Jesper Juul views on the topic (in German), Psychology Today research till Harvard research and it turns out that... there are no concluding findings in this topic. It's just too complicated, too many variables are influencing "the outcome" (meaning successfulness of your kid) that the only true compass is parental intuition and observing your kid. So you just have to go with the flow, be careful observer and trust your intuition. Mine was telling me: Nila is a social animal, she's gonna love it.

Even though keeping Nila with me at home is tempting, our society isn't built in favour of such a model - some people just have to work (like me). Even if I wouldn't not have to work for financial reasons, I would want to have a work just for myself and be able to broaden a bit my scope of topics - other than just what Nila did today. Simply - staying at home would be frustrating for me in a long run.

Adaptation phase (Eingewöhnungszeit)

If you have received your Kita-Gutschein and were successfully accepted by the Kita you chose, next step is an adaptation phase. Kids has to get used to new environment, new friends and the caregiver. We were told that it can take from 3 up to 6 weeks, and in our case 3 weeks were enough. We started our adaptation phase (Eingewöhnungszeit) at the beginning of August when Nila was 12 months old.
Usually Kita's start their year on 1 September.

First week - getting to know Kita

Our little Kita was having last moment of holidays, so there was just one group of 4 kids aged around 2 years old and two experienced caregivers. First week was just for getting to know the place, the caregivers and other kids, without us leaving the room. We were asked to come everyday at 10 am and sit quietly in the corner while Nila was exploring. At this stage it was perfectly easy - Nila was open, running, laughing and playing with other kids. We were asked not to play with her nor to respond to much to her need of our attention (here was the moment when caregivers were supposed to take over - if she fell and needed help to get up or if she was taking a toy from other kid). We were just to observe and simply be there.

After 3 days of initial "success" our caregiver suggested that we should try to leave the room for 10 minutes. So on the 4th day, after 15 minutes spent in the room I was supposed to leave when Nila was not watching. It worked out, but after a moment she started to cry like crazy - this "Moooommmyy, I am dyyyying" kind of cry that breaks every mother's heart in 2 kilometers radius. The caregiver went out after the longest one minute in my life and give Nila back to me. This little munchkin was all red, scared to death and of course I shed a tear with her. The caregivers were understanding and said it was all normal and nothing to worry about. We got back to the room and Nila continued playing for the next 45 minutes while I was sitting quietly in the corner (but in my head I just gave myself "worst mother award").

5 day was the hardest of all and the story repeated. Nila had a total meltdown and I had to go back after 3 minutes to the room. This time she didn't want to let me go at all - she just spend next 45 minutes sitting on me and hugging. My "worst mother award" just developed into "child-abusive asshole mother" type. I was scattered to pieces and promised myself that I will never-ever go here back again.

Fortunately there are usually two parents raising a kid. Nico was trying to calm me down the whole evening and said that we can keep her home if I really want to, but maybe we should give it a try a bit longer. I agreed but with one reservation - I will not be the one bringing Nila to Kita, but him. As you may suppose, this was a game changer.

Second week - getting used to be alone

Here the story brightens up and you may expect the happy ending soon. Nico bringing Nila to Kita was the best idea to make the whole process easy for all of us. I believe that she was feeling my tension, my doubts and my stress - and it was really not helping her adaptation to new place and people. Nico is usually quite laid back and relaxed - Nila took it as a green light and relaxed as well.

During second week we were asked to bring Nila at 9 am and go out of the room initially for 30 minutes, what expanded to 2 hours 30 minutes at the end of the week. What I know from Nico's story Nila was initially crying for 15-30 second when he was leaving, but then she was playing happily and forgot about all the drama. This was the moment we got to the point when our caregiver said "Let's try to make a nap in Kita next week" and I just burst in laugh - "Haha, yeah right, let's see how you're gonna make THAT happen" I thought...

Third week - napping at Kita

I was completely sure that sleeping at Kita will just not work. Why should it? She always (really always) falls asleep for her midday nap on my breast. No boobie, no sleep. No mommy, no sleep. Easy equation. But we had to try to stick to the adaptation phase plan - we were asked to bring Nila as usual at 9 am (she could come at 8 am to have breakfast but we preferred to stay home and eat all together, otherwise I would have to prepare something, pack it in a box and she would be eating with other kids at Kita) and to pick her up at 2 pm. I was so curious how it's gonna go (predicting major failure).
And of course.... (drumroll) - SHE SLEPT! Nico came to pick her up, but she was still calmly sleeping in her bed. I hope no sleeping pills where involved there. ;) But seriously, she slept and the caregivers said that there was no problem. She ate two portions of her Mittagessen (lunch) and passed out shortly after while carried to her bed.

All that gave me a big confidence and a big relief. Nila was more "flexible" to new things coming in her life than I though. It was also easy also thanks to our experienced and well trained staff at Kita.

Fourth week - full adaptation 

After we had achieved all we needed in our adaptation phase plan, we were a bit surprised that Nila was transferred from her group (along with Paul, another 13 month old boy that started adaptation with her) to a new one where two new kids aged around Nila and Paul were just about to start the whole process. I was a bit sad that the friendship that formed in the previous group were about to be broken, but fortunately kids are not locked in separate rooms all the time and play together in the playground and sometimes running freely in between the rooms of Kita, what allows them not to be bored even for a moment.

The whole process of adaptation was a lot easier for Nila than it was to me. I believe that all mothers (or sometimes dads as well) need adaptation phase more than the kid. It's first major change in family's life, especially if it's your first child and you didn't go through it with other kids.

Nila is safe, happy and entertained while we are allowed to work and make other "adult" things like vacuuming the floors, making shopping, cooking without having a 10 kilo toddler on your hip or just drink a coffee while it's still warm. She learned so much during these last weeks - she eats alone with the spoon (at least something is ending up in her mouth!), she dances in funny way - with two fingers up pointing the sky, definitely a style of dance copied from an older girl ;)

Our daily schedule in Kita looks like that:

7:00 beginning of the day at Kita
8:30 Breakfast (brought by kids)
9:00 Playtime (indoor or in the playground)
11:15 Lunch (cooked in Kita)
12:00 - 14:00 Nap time
14:30 Afternoon snack (brought by kids)
14:45 - 17:00 Playtime (indoor on in the playground)

Thursday, September 17

Kita-Gutschein in Berlin // Kita-Gutschein w Berlinie

Kita-Gutschein in Berlin

To be able to take a spot in one of 1800 Berlin's Kitas you need to obtain a Kita-Gutschein - a 'voucher' from Jugendamt. It is Jugendamt who decides for how many hours your kid is allowed to be in Kita, how much you will be paying for the care and from when you can take the spot. All that is of course based on your needs and the documents you submit.

How long can a kid stay in Kita?

You are allowed to three different vouchers:

  • 4-5 hours per day (Halbtags Platz) that is granted to all families having a child over 1 year old, regardless of the fact wheter they work or not, 
  • 5-7 hours per day, 7-9h per day (Ganztags Platz), 
  • or more than 9 hours a day.

How to apply for longer hours Gutschein?

If you do not work you are entitled to Halbtags Platz from age 1 year old up to 3. A 3 year old can be send to Kita for 7 hours. Although, if you have a good reason why your 1 year old must stay in Kita longer you can get a Ganztags Platz or more. A good reason is for example: a freelance job, employment, language course, studies, etc. To prove your situation you must submit a document, for example letter from your company stating which hours you work, confirmation of course enrollment.

When to apply for Kita-Gutschein?

You can apply as early as 9 months before the desired begin of your child starting Kita and at least 2 months before. If cannot be done before the birth though.

Where to apply for Kita-Gutschein?

Your Kita-Gutschein will be issued by Jugendamt of the district you and your child is registered.
You can go there (or to your Bürgeramt) in person and pick up all the forms, or you can print them out at home from here:

I did my Kita-Gutschein online here: (once you fill in all the forms you have to print all out, attach all the documents like income statement and employment letter and send it through post - don't forget to register your letter!)

What documents are needed for Kita-Gutschein?

You will need to prepare:
  • filled form for Kita-Gutschein (download here
  • personal ID or passport copy of both parents
  • Anmeldung of both parents
  • birth certificate of a child (translated to German if not issued in Germany)
  • allowance to proceed with Kita-Gutschein from one parent if one does not have full parental rights 
  • proof of working situation (letter of employment or internship, confirmation of studies or language course enrollment, letter from accountant stating that you are a freelancer or other document proving your working status or letter from JobCenter or Agentur für Arbeit)
  • proof of income (a document confirming your incomes from the year before the birth of your child
Full list of documents allowed can be find here: in section "Nachweise über die Einkommenssituation")

    How long does it take to get Kita-Gutschein?

    From around 6 up to 8 weeks in more difficult cases, although I received mine after just 2 weeks.

    [below text in Polish]

    Friday, May 29

    How to successfuly get a place in Kita in Berlin? // Jak dostać miejsce w Kita w Berlinie?

    Some say (including ladies from Jugendamt) that if you hadn't register your kid in a kindergarten before you even think about getting pregnant, there is no chance you will get a spot. That is a half true - meaning that it is surely not easy, but not impossible, you just have to know HOW. There are several things that might ease it up. I will try to explain you how to get a spot in Berlin's Kita based on my personal experience. The rest depends on luck so... may the odds be ever in your favor!

    First, a word about the childcare system in Berlin. Kita (an abbreviation from Kindertagesstätte - literally "children's day site") is an education system usually divided into three stages -

    • Krippe (nursery, crèche) for toddlers (age up to 3 years), 
    • Kindergarten (commonly named Kita) for children who are older than three years and before school and 
    • Hort / Schulhort for kids attending school.

    Public or private Kita?

    Kita's in Berlin divide into:

    • public ones, managed by the city (Kindergaerten City)
    • managed by churches and associations (like Evangelic and Catholic churches, Diakoniewerk Simeon)
    • managed by charity organisations (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz, Caritas)
    • managed independent organisations (like Arbeitwohlfart - AWO)
    • managed by professional companies, having GmbH (Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung) after their name
    • and privately owned by group of parents (Eltern-Initiativ-Kindertagesstätten - EKT)

    How to find Kitas around me?

    Beside talking a walk around your home and looking for places that looks like Kita,
    you can use several online directories that lists Kitas in Berlin. 

    Here are city-owned Kitas:

    Here are all the Kitas together, both of the directories allows you to search through the district, post code etc. 
    Kitas in Berlin:

    You can also contact your advisor Jugendamt (usually the one who visited you right after the birth).

    Some Familienzentrums all over Berlin also has their own Kita's, like "tam - Interkulturelles Familienzentrum" in Kreuzberg.

    Beginning of the year

    Kitas usually start their year in August, sometimes in September. That doesn't mean that you cannot start Kita at any other period - if Kita's still have free places in group you can basically start at any given date.

    Sign up period usually starts at the beginning of the year in January.

    Be prepared for the accommodation period (Eingewöhnungszeit) that lasts from 4 up to 6 weeks  for Krippe and from 3 days up to 3 weeks for Kita and requires one of the parent to come with kid everyday so plan accordingly.


    Krippe (0-3 yo) is partially subsidised by the city of Berlin, thus you will have to pay a bit depending on your income, but it is usually somewhere around 50-200€. Additionally you will have to pay 23€ for food. Kindergarten (3-6 yo) is supposed to be fully financed by the state, so here only 23€ costs will occur. If you don't want to send your kid to city-owned public Kita you can choose from bilingual, private Kita, Eltern-Initiative-Kita (parents initiative) or different religious Kitas - the costs there are up to the owners and they might ask for additional money (Bio-Food, swimming classes, music, etc).

    How does the process of placing a child in Kita look like?

    You can approach Kita spot searching in many ways, but basically in the first place you need to find a Kita you like, you get their initial willingness to take your kid, then you obtain the Kita-Gutschein from your Jugendamt and after that you are ready to sign a contract with the chosen Kita.
    Although from my experience though it is not the recipe for a successful Kita spot search. I explain that at the end of the article. But first - the basics.

    Waiting lists (Warteliste)

    Each Kindergarten that will want to quickly get rid of you will offer a place on the waiting list (Warteliste). It sounds nice, some kids might find a place in other Kitas and you will be granted a spot, you think. Ekhym, wrong. The whole idea is great, but in reality it does not really work properly. People sign up to dozens of Kitas and trust me that no one keeps track of it - neither parents nor the Kitas. I have around 60 different Kitas around my place and I think I put the name of Nila on each one of them as early as in December 2014. Twice after a month, just to be sure.  Till now I haven't heard from a n y of them. What to do then?

    Follow up!

    Follow up like a pro sales person. Send an email (you can find a template in last section of this article) or register to online Warteliste, then call after some time (a week or two for example) to ask if they received it. If someone did answer the phone, ask if they have a spot or not. You can also ask about their Sprechzeiten (a time during which Kita allows 'guests' on premises and deals mostly with parents looking for perfect Kita) if not listed online. If they don't have a spot and tells you to call next year - don't be devastated. Call/email them next month to ask if "just by accident" they don't have a free spot. It worked for me - I was denied 3 times a place in one Kita that magically found a spot for me at the end. Do you wonder what was this miraculous potion? It's called Ganztagsplatz Kita-Gutschein.

    All about Kita-Gutschein and how to apply for it you can find in separate post here:

    How does the successful process of placing a child in Kita look like?

    I am sure you can get a spot in a traditional way of doing things, but I tried this way and I failed 3 times during 2 months of a search. ("Trying" means sending out emails, calling and visiting Kitas in search of a free spot - all I got in return was an empty laugh and an offer to put my baby on the waiting list - and only if I was lucky. Don't go this road I would say, it's a waste of time for you and for them.) 
    This is what granted me 5 free spots in Kitas around me in 3 days, including a spot in a cute little Kita that said 3 times "nein" to my previous emails. Maybe I was just having the most lucky day in my life, or maybe the formula worked - you can check on your own and share your experience in comments section below!

    1. Choose the time you want to send your kid to Kita / or have to get back to work / or start finally learning German, etc.

    2. Apply for a Kita-Gutschein as soon as it is possible. (if you chose to start Kita on 1 August 2015, then you can apply for Kita-Gutschein in December 2014, latest May/June 2015). Here is how to do it.

    3. Apply for Ganztagsplatz Gutschein, even if you don't plan to leave your little one for 9 hours a day in Kita. Kitas are businesses like any other, and the longer your child is allowed to spend in Kita the more money they earn. The longer the hours of childcare granted, the higher chances that your child will be "the chosen one". How to apply for longer hours read above in "Kita-Gutschein" section.

    4. Prepare emails and send them to the Kita's you like. This is where whole trick is in my opinion. You have to prepare it carefully, asking just "Do you have free spots in your Kita" won't work, promise. Been there, done that.

    Make sure you write in German saying not only that you are looking for a spot in their Kita and that you have a Ganztagsplatz Gutschein already granted but also write a bit about your kid, make it personal and nice and... attach a cute picture. (Yes, I know it looks like a job interview and it's ridiculous, but hey, you wanna have that spot or not?)

    Here is the template of my email if you want to use it. Just for God's sake, treat it as an inspiration or at least please modify it a bit before sending it out. (Email provided by one and only Mama w podróży)

    "Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren, 

    Zurzeit suche ich einen Kitaplatz für (name, surname, date of birth) ab (exact date or month and a year) an. 

    Ich bin im Besitz eines gültigen Kita-Gutschein (Ganztags Platz) ab (date from which the Gutschein allows your kid to start Kita)

    (Name of your kid) ist sehr freundlich und lächelnd Kind. (Add more personal information about your kid, what does she or he likes, is he social or shy, etc)

    Wir sprechen kein Deutsch zu Hause und Sprachintegration ist sehr wichtig für uns. (If you are an expat family not speaking German at home please state it in the email! It gives additional "points" sometimes!) 

    Bitte informieren Sie mich darüber, wenn Sie einen Platz zur Verfügung haben.
    Wenn Sie kein Platz für uns haben, kann ich mich in der Warteliste anmelden? 

    Ich wäre Ihnen äußerst Dankbar. 

    Herzliche Grüße,
    (Your name and surname)
    +49 put your telephone number !
    and address where you live
    10000 Berlin" 

    (if there is no email address you have to call and say all that in German, or ask about their email address.)

    You should receive a phone-call next day in the morning with an invitation for a meeting (or at least an email answer).

    Take a look at Kita on that meeting, ask all the questions that comes to your mind and most important - take a look at kids. Are they happily playing with each other? Do you feel any tension?

    After making a decision you can sign an official contract with Kita and shake hands with the principal.

    A "welcome pack" from city Kita we received after signing a contract

    If you think that something is missing or you have a question - feel free to ask in comments section! Good luck!

    [below text in Polish]

    Friday, February 13

    Matki-Ekspatki: 7 zaskakujących rzeczy w macierzyństwie w Bułgarii

    Ta historia dźwięczała mi w sercu przez dłuższy czas. Piękna i poruszająca opowieść o niezłomnej kobiecie, a nawet dwóch! Malwinę poznałam wirtualnie przez Klub Polki na Obczyźnie i od samego początku śledzę jej bloga "Tymczasem w Bułgarii" z ogromnym zaciekawieniem.

    Uwielbiam słowiańskie klimaty, a tym bardziej te południowe. Ciekawostki, które przytoczyła Malwina były dla mnie bardzo zaskakujące, aż chciałoby się jeszcze pociągnąć Malwinę za język i przy dobrej herbacie i jednym z jej fenomenalnych wypieków wypytać o więcej.

    Macierzyństwo Malwiny jest od początku wyjątkowe, choć rozpoczęło się od ogromnego wyzwania. Nasza bohaterka jest n a p r a w d ę Bohaterką. Przez największe "B". Z resztą - przeczytajcie sami.

    Na razie tekst jest tylko w języku polskim, ale jak tylko będę mieć chwilę to usiądę do tłumaczenia na angielski. Jestem właśnie jedną nogą spakowana na krótki wyjazd do Polski i poza klasycznym Reisefieber cały czas jest jeszcze coś do załatwienia co nie może poczekać. Jak na złość!

    Zdjęcie wykorzystane do stworzenia grafiki "7 zaskakujących rzeczy w macierzyństwie w Bułgarii" wykonane w bułgarskim Pirin 2004 roku, autorstwa Donalda Judge, na licencji Creative Commons. 

    Moje macierzyństwo nie tak miało wyglądać. Miałam być niezależna. Miałam tylko z mężem dzielić opiekę nad noworodkiem. Miałam w głowie zakodowane, że wszystko będę umiała robić sama, na wszystko znajdę siły i sobie poradzę. Nie poradziłam sobie sama. Nie miałam sił. Tydzień po przedwczesnym porodzie okazało się, że choruję na raka jajnika. Wiadomość ta spadła na mnie i na mojego męża jak grom z jasnego nieba.

    Friday, February 6

    Polish expat-moms: 14 surprising facts about raising a kid in Italy // Matki-ekspatki: 14 zaskakujących rzeczy w macierzyństwie we Włoszech

    (kliknij, aby przejść do tekstu w języku polskim)

    I have been thinking about creating a series about raising a kid in foreign countries since a longer while. I love all these surprising facts and different approaches to motherhood, birth, pregnancy and raising a child outside of my homeland - Poland. There will be a special post about how it is in Poland nowadays since for some of you, English speakers, that might be a curiosity as well. The idea is to showcase motherhood approaches or just bunch of funny facts written by Polish women who lives abroad.

    Disqus for The Moon Mom