Motherhood

13 Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

13 Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

13 Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

Today, for our Motherhood Around the World series, we’re chatting with Anna Babics, who was born and raised in Budapest. She now lives there with her husband László and their two children — Róza and Lőrinc. Here, she talks about her country’s three-year maternity leave, the joy of thermal baths and the #1 conversation starter in public…

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

Anna’s background: Anna met her husband László at a university meeting in Budapest. “The talk was really boring, so I was just looking around, and I noticed he was looking at me, smiling back,” she laughed. For work, the couple then moved to Scotland and Italy, before returning back to Budapest. Anna was a teacher for five years until their first baby, Róza, was born, and then became a freelance copywriter. Her husband works for Forbes Hungary. They welcomed a son, Lőrinc, last year.

Budapest combines two formerly separate cities — Buda and Pest — on opposite sides of the Danube River. Pest has a rich architectural heritage with palaces, museums and a very busy city center. “I go there when I want to feel the city’s energy,” says Anna. Buda, where the family lives, is very green, with small shops and cozy cafés. “Our neighborhood feels like the best of both worlds — the rolling countryside and a taste of city life.”

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

“Newborn Lőrinc in the background — time for Róza to learn to be bored.”

On shared labor rooms: We had both our children in Budapest. When you’re pregnant here, you typically choose a state hospital near you, and then choose a doctor from there. All the doctors seem to provide a good level of care, but the hospital buildings differ in size and quality.

When you arrive at the hospital, you stay in a room called vajúdó, where six women have contractions in six beds, very close to each other. Sometimes the women chat between contractions! My first labor was very long, so I was sitting on a hospital bed and trying to read The Girl on the Train. The other women in the room were already further along in their labors, and in deeper pain than I was, and I remember putting down the book and thinking what was happening in the room was already enough to handle!

In Budapest, you typically stay in the hospital for three days with a newborn. Again, the hospital determines how much privacy you have. You might be in a room with four or six other women. During the first night, doctors ask you to leave the baby with the nurses. My doula told me, ‘Labor was hard work and the next 20 years will be tough, too. Have a nice sleep tonight, Mama.’

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

The bedroom that the kids and parents share.

On an extended maternity leave: In Hungary, depending on the mother’s field of work and how long she was at her job before having a baby, she can stay at home on a paid maternity leave for up to three years. During the first two years, she receives part of her previous salary. In the third year, only a small amount of assistance is provided — one couldn’t live off this alone, so not everyone takes it. After those three years, the mother’s last work place has to offer the position she left before giving birth. There is a debate if this system should be modernized, but it was a luxury for our family. I heard my children’s first words and taught them how to walk. But there were long winter days when I wished I had my office job! You can start to feel isolated. It’s easy to lose friends because of your differences in lifestyles.

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

On a close community: In the countryside, and sometimes in the big cities, too, there is a tradition called komatál, or a friends’ potluck. For the first few weeks with a newborn, relatives and friends organize meals for the family every day. I remember when Róza was born, I came home from the hospital and my brother’s wife put a tower of pancakes and homemade strawberry jam in our fridge. After breastfeeding that night, I had never felt so hungry. I ate a bunch of pancakes and felt really grateful.

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

On strong folk traditions: In Hungary, our folk songs are beautiful, rich and full of humor and sadness. There is a lovely thing called Ringató here, where, once a week, you attend sessions in a community room where mothers and fathers sit in a circle on the floor with babies on their laps, and sing together. You meet a lot of new parents in your neighborhood. The belief is that you help foster emotional intelligence and brain development by singing these folk songs to your baby.

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

On respecting your elders: Old women are the top of the hierarchy in our society, and no etiquette rule controls them when they want to wear their heart on their sleeves. When traveling on a bus or tram, kids have to stand up and offer their seat when an older person comes, otherwise they get *the look*. ‘Don’t they have shoes, honey?’ Is a sentence I hear every summer day when I let my kids run barefoot in the park. When you’re with your baby, on the metro or in a pharmacy, they tell you how to raise your child. ‘Only breastfeed,’ or ‘Give them formula, it won’t hurt.’ Also, my favorite, ‘Was the second baby planned? Only two years difference!’ In Hungary, there’s never a sentence that starts with, ‘In my opinion…’

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

Printed stroller signs at the tram stops indicate wider doors.

On conversation starters: Children here are very much loved. When you have kids in Hungary, that’s like wearing a sign that says, ‘I am ready for a conversation anytime, just talk to me.’ People will tell you their whole birth stories on the metro! The public transportation system is kid-friendly, too. If you have a stroller, you can follow signs at tram stops that show you where to stand to enter the wider doors. And every third bus has a lower floor designed for mothers and kids, so no one has to lift a stroller.

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

Gellért Hill slide park.

On the low birth rate: The Hungarian population is declining, and most families have one or two children. Statistics say many parents wish for a third, but they don’t feel that it’s financially or emotionally possible. Most people we know work long hours and often have a second job. Many careers, even traditionally well-paid ones in other countries, have a low salary. To help with population growth, the government has been trying more and more to support families in different ways. Hungarian families now get 10 million Forints [about $36,000 in the U.S.] for buying a home when they have three children, or promise to have a third baby within 10 years. Also, mothers with a small baby pay half price on public transport, and when you have three kids, school meals and books are free. There’s also a foundation called Three Princes and Three Princesses. It’s named this because in Hungarian folk stories, three is always a lucky number and the third prince or princess is often the king’s favorite and the hero of the story. The foundation presents lectures and creates clubs to support families who want to have a third baby.

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

“Grandparents and Róza being loved, loved, loved.”

On extra help: Grandmothers and grandfathers are important in Hungarian culture because of parents’ long work hours, and many kids go to their grandparents’ after school for the afternoon. Kids will often spend weeks of summer break at their grandparents’, too. My parents live a few blocks away from us, and are adored by their gang of grandchildren. Some Saturdays, they take my kids to the park or zoo and leave my husband and me in the house alone. For 20 minutes we just lay on the bed and enjoy the silence. Last weekend when the kids were away for the afternoon, I went to the kitchen and made myself a snack. I looked at my plate and realized I made baby food for myself! I was laughing so hard. That’s why you need some relaxation sometimes!

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

On homemade food: The first food for our babies was an apple smoothie, and then you cook and cook and cook your whole life for them. Even university students go home at the weekends to pick up six meals for the next week, prepared by their moms! (The roles here are still quite traditional — women are expected to fully care for the kids and run the household — although our generation is becoming more equal.) Classic Hungarian cuisine is heavy — lots of potato-based meals with sausages and onion. But my generation cooks more vegetable-based cuisines. Our family makes főzelék, a thick, creamy vegetable dish. People also love rustic bread here; for many families, breakfast and dinner centers around a sandwich or slice of bread with cheese, salami, tomatoes and paprika. My nation also has a sweet tooth, and, to me, the peak is homemade fruit jam. Last week I bought 26 pounds of peaches and I didn’t go to sleep until I turned it into lovely, creamy lekvár that we’ll open on a gloomy January morning so it will taste like summer.

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

On a love of water: We have lots of open-air swimming pools in Budapest. My favorite thermal bath is Gellért spa, where there are hot springs for adults and a huge outdoor swimming pool for kids. It was built in Art Nouveau style and has some artificial waves in the outdoor swimming area for five minutes every hour, so you feel like you’re swimming in the ocean. Hungarian kids typically learn to swim around the age of four or five, and swimming is part of the weekly school curriculum.

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

On a difficult language: Hungarian language is one of the hardest languages because of its strict grammar and difficult pronunciations — we have seven pairs of long and short vowels! So, school kids here are required to learn at least one foreign language, like English, and to choose another one, typically German, French, Spanish or Russian. During secondary school I was learning English, German, Spanish and Latin. We cannot wait for others to learn Hungarian, we have to learn their language first! Many teenagers go to work as an au pair in England, France or the U.S. for a year to better learn the language.

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

On name days: In the calendar, we have first names attached to every day of the year (for example, Anna is July 26th), and you celebrate with flowers and cake. It’s like a second birthday but because everybody knows your name, you get even more fanfare. For example, a traditional Hungarian name is Erzsébet, so if a school teacher is called Erzsébet, ALL her students will bring her flowers on November 19th, her name day.

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

Near Lake Balaton.

On the Hungarian countryside: Tour guides often say that Budapest is the heart of Europe, and it really is. We are in a lucky position — cities like London, Rome, Barcelona, Paris, Vienna, Prague, Copenhagen or Amsterdam are all within a cheap two- or three-hour flight. To keep things slow with the children, we usually just enjoy the beautiful Hungarian countryside, though. We rent a tiny cabin at Lake Balaton for the summer. There is no running water and the house is very simple, but my kids enjoy this freedom so much. There I feel at home and fuel myself with clean air, wildflowers and long walks.

Surprising Things About Parenting in Hungary

Thank you so much, Anna!

P.S. The full Motherhood Around the World series, including Thailand, Sweden and Iceland.

(Family photos of Anna by Norbert Juhász Photography, and others courtesy of Anna. Second photo from top by Jovana Rikalo/Stocksy. Metro, market and street photo from We Love Budapest Instagram. Cake and jam photo by Beatriz Opitz. Slide photo by Csudai-Sándor for We Love Budapest. Pool photo by Max Rosero. Window flower photo by Cloé Blot. Wildflower photo by Tibor. Bench photo by Yuliia.)

  1. Nuriya says...

    reading this I find so many similarities to my home country, Kazakhstan :)

  2. Hannah Avery says...

    I very much enjoyed this post!

  3. ALLISON says...

    I’m the third child in my family and I loved reading about the government’s initiatives to support families who have a third child. Hooray for third babies!

  4. Nóra says...

    Hi there!
    my family is from Hungary as well and I was reading the story about Hungary with a smile on my face. I’m so grateful that throughout this blog so many readers were introduced by this special country.
    We live in one of the biggest (and one of the most beautiful) hungarian town called Szeged and actually there are so many similarities in our life style and this written story. When we had kids we lived in a very small town and even though we aren’t (weren’t) rich we could afford the 3 year maternity leave, we could attend the Ringató sessions and so on. Of cours there are so many stories and family traditions in not even country but even in one town but Anna perfectly sums up the typical family traditions and lifestyles introducing our beautiful hungarian culture of raising kids. Xoxo, Nóra

  5. Kimmy E says...

    As an American raised in Budapest for 12 years, I loved this so much! All of the comments about the Hungarian cuisine especially made me miss home! Lekvár forever!

  6. Steph says...

    Just love this series! Find myself relating to so much about motherhood/parenthood, while also learning new things about different countries and cultures.

  7. Kellie says...

    Could that little girl be any more adorable? And I love mom’s beautiful curls. Lovely family. ❤️

  8. Katya says...

    What a lovely read. I have to ask about your plates – I have exactly the same set in my apartment in Istanbul! Where are they from?

  9. Cindy Tas says...

    Love this! I’m an American married to a Hungarian man I met while teaching and living in Budapest 2012-2015. We now live with our daughter in Dubai but miss Budapest daily! We will be in Hungary next week and can not wait to be back!

  10. Lizzie says...

    I was fascinated by the idea of incentives to have three kids. I have two kids now and would like to have a third, but I’ve been surprised by how many people have advised me to consider having two or four kids, but not three. Their rationale is that one kid will be left out or that the middle child will suffer in that role, so its refreshing to hear discussion of three kids as an ideal. I know plenty of happy people who grew up with two siblings, so never put a ton of stock in that advice, but still interesting to see having three children (or more) celebrated in this way.

  11. Catherine says...

    Can this series please become a book? I’d love to gift it to other moms! (And get one for myself!)

    • Lizzie says...

      Such a great idea! It reminds me of the Anna Quindlen essay “Goodbye Dr. Spock” in which she writes, “Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay.” This series is a wonderful reminder of the many different ways to raise children. A book would be a perfect gift to parents to illustrate Anna’s truth.

  12. Janell I. says...

    The comments on this have been so interesting to read! Here in America we tend to be super envious of countries that have extended maternity leave. While I certainly think America needs to do better for parents, I never really thought about the social stigma or financial/political challenges that could come with/from extended maternity. I guess it just goes to show, there is no easy answer and the grass is not always greener. But still, we need to do better.

  13. Roberta Wilkinson says...

    I grow up in Hungary, in a small town named Kaposvar which is about 3 hours South of Budapest. Pretty close to Lake Balaton. I moved to the States before I had my kids so I didn’t get a chance to take advantage of the 3 years of maternity leave and the benefits they offer. I know the amount is not that much but its a lot more than here. I wish the States would be more family oriented and help parents to be able to stay home with their kids even if that’s just for 1 year. The first year is so important in a child’s life and the parent’s life. I haven’t been in a Hungarian hospital in a very long time but I remember that is a huge difference between the hospitals here and there but we are also paying a lot more for the hospital bills here than over there. I miss a lot of things from my home country. A lot of the traditions. One is celebrating name days :). My name is not a traditional Hungarian name ( My mom loved this Italian song back in the 70’s called ” Roberta” so she named me after that) so my name was not on the calendar for many years. Now it is on May 13th which is our Anniversary too :) There are a lot of other things I miss, mostly is not having family close by. My kids’ only get to see their grandparents once every other year and that makes me very sad. I really believe, grandparents are so important in the children’s lives. It would be great for them to spend more time together and would be a great support for us as well. It would be nice to be able to go out, or stay home alone and just relax a little bit and not having to find and pay somebody else to watch our kids. I know sometimes friends can help too but they have their own family and it’s not the same as grandma and grandpa :)
    We love to open our home to old and new friends and yes, we can start talking to anyone and ready to tell our life story anytime :)

  14. Kat says...

    I loved this one. I think these are such lovely snippets of everyday life in a country I sometimes don’t know much about. Thank you.

  15. Alex says...

    I’m so interested in hearing how other countries/cultures deal with parental leave from work. Of course there are pros for longer leave periods and partial or full pay, but as small business owner I can’t help but think – how do small businesses handle it?

    I am a mother of a toddler and pregnant with my second and I co-own a very small business (two partners on the brink of hiring our first employee). We are in the process of writing up our formal employee handbook/contract and I’m sort of stumped at how to handle parental leave. As a mother, and frankly a decent person, I know how valuable parental leave is for families and I truly want to support my team, but as a business owner in a country that doesn’t help out – how do we possibly cover someone’s extended time off?? (NY State is finally stepping up with the NYPFL, but its still only 8 weeks in 2018 which is NOT enough…)

    COJ team – I’d LOVE to hear thoughts/strategies on parental leave from the business owners’ point of view.

    • J.T. says...

      I live in Hungary, benefitted from maternity leave and to the best of my knowledge, the amount you receive for the first to years is a percentage of your declared taxed income from the previous years, but it is paid by the government (social insurance fund) not but your employer. I might be mistaken as I am a public servant, but that was how I understood it.

  16. Eva says...

    Happy nostalgia for this Hungarian-born gal. I’ve spent nearly my whole life in the States, but spent many summers in Budapest and at Balaton. Craving another trip soon. Thanks for this!

  17. Nina says...

    I love learning about the country as well as the ways they interact. I had no idea Budapest was two cities…anyone else? Makes me want to go and check it out.

  18. I love her sense of humor peppering the whole post!!! And happy birthday!!! (Soon)

  19. Claire says...

    I absolutely loved this! Especially the comment about the community singing of folk songs to new babies/toddlers. What a rich tradition, I would love to start this in my community!

  20. Love the fact about name days in Hungary!

    • Alexandra S. says...

      This is a tradition in many European countries. In Greece for example where I live, a name day is such an important day in a person’s life that some employers offer the day off with full payment benefits. The reason behind it is that you’ll spend the day answering phone calls non stop (it is very rude not to call your friends and relatives on their name day to wish them many happy returns) so you had better do it without annoying your colleagues. Also name day celebrations are huge, bigger than birthdays

    • Anamaria says...

      They are the feast days of the saints! Today is the feast of Joaquin and Anne, the parents of Mary. Go to almost any Catholic Church near the new year to get a free calendar with the saints’ feast days on them.

      We celebrate them in my family too- so happy feast day from another Ana (spelled the Spanish way).

  21. Shani says...

    Love this! Seeing what parenting in different countries looks like, from the POV of moms’ who grew up in that culture is pretty cool. Especially as a mom to a one-year old who doesn’t live in America :) More please!

  22. Greta says...

    Anna’s hair is just fabulous in these pictures. I would love to see Beauty Around The World posts so I could learn her secret for those beautiful frizz-free waves.

    • Asri says...

      Great suggestion!

    • Keagan says...

      Hear, hear Greta! What a lovely idea.

  23. Julie says...

    How had I never heard of name days before? Very interesting! (Canadian here!)

    • Alex says...

      Wait you don’t have those? I had no idea….lol

  24. Emma says...

    Is it typical for kids and parents to share bedrooms? Or do they just happen to live in a one bedroom apartment?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      they live in a one-bedroom for financial reasons. thank you!

    • Callie says...

      My boyfriend in Polish and many of his friends back in Poland do this too. Most of them cannot afford more than a one bedroom apartment so they make it work. I was so surprised when I learned that was the reality of most young families there! And it makes me want to ask a million questions, but mostly- How do they have sex! Quietly? When the kid isn’t home? I never had the courage to ask.

    • Alex says...

      To Callie: usually in the kitchen or in the bathroom ;) :D

    • Aidel.K says...

      I would think that with housing costs what they are in Manhattan, for instance, this wouldn’t be so surprising. There are many expensive cities around the world where people make compromises so they can live there. Conversely, there are many more people around the world who would consider a 1-bedroom apartment the height of luxury.

  25. Alexis says...

    This was one of my favorites! I love the open air pools and the idea of the friends potluck.
    If you ever want to do one about parenting in Botswana, I can put you in touch with a couple.

  26. Maggie says...

    Love this one! I just wanted to point out that even moms who work when their kids are babies teach them to walk and hear their first words!! (Which is not to say that we shouldn’t have longer leave – I just don’t like the notion that working moms aren’t raising or enjoying their babes)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh definitely! i agree — and i think anna agrees, too.

  27. Lana says...

    Loved this!

  28. Becky says...

    I am Hungarian through my maternal grandfather. I never met anyone else who was Hungarian! I loved this post because I never heard anything about Hungary growing up. Side note, I really need to send in my ancestry DNA test because I so curious not only about my Hungarian roots but also Russian (??) and Lithuanian. My grandparents never really talked about where their parents came from. Hopefully it fills in some clues!

  29. Nigerian Girl says...

    Three-year maternity leave?! I’m sold. Beautiful country, gorgeous family. You really should do a post on “13 Surprising Things About Parenting in Nigeria”. I have no doubt most of us will be pleasantly surprised.

    • Misha says...

      I am full support of that post!

  30. Gabriela says...

    I have the exact same set of plates… bought them from Hungary just before immigrating to Canada, 21 years ago. They are my everyday reminder of my begginings, the joy and the pain of living in a new country. Everything in this article made me homesick and reminded me of my upbringing. Thank you for such a beautiful post!

  31. Aysegul says...

    Like many others, I just love love love these series. I feel like I am being introduced to many new friends around the globe. Love the new parameters too as long as they allow us to hear more and more stories:)

  32. Ivana says...

    Adore Budapest and Hungarians!!

  33. VVercsi says...

    I was so so happy to see this article when I opened your blog this morning. I’m Hungarian, living in Budapest with my british husband. It was such a nice way to introduce our life here and I laughed a lot reading all the comments about our food “főzelék”.
    If you are interested I can help and suggest recepies – the Hungarian way. There is a whole culture about főzelék here, we even have “főzelék-bars” dedicated to this dish, where you can eat only: (surprise ;-) ) főzelék!!!
    There are all kinds of this dish, mainly we make it one key vegetable and we serve it with a “feltét” which means topping. It can be a fried sausage, hardboiled egg, fried meat ball (yes, we fry everything in oil) haha. So it’s actually very interesting we are really peculiarabout how we eat our főzelék :-)

  34. Hannah says...

    This was great! Don’t know where to begin, so I’ll start with name days – mine is on July 26th, too! Not everybody celebrates it in Germany – it’s partly a regional, partly a religious thing here – but my family does. :)
    On languages: I learned German (native language), English, Spanisch and Latin in school, too. No Hungarian, though.
    A couple of years ago I did a trip to Vienna and Budapest and loved both cities (and the cake) – and I’ll definitely go back some time.

  35. Zsuzsa says...

    Just a few notes from a hungarian mother.
    Thus family is beautiful, but they live in the wealthiest part of Hungary, Buda, so they are not lile 90%of is, hungarian families.
    Public transport is awful here with children all in all.
    Ringató is trendy but is not everywhere and a little expensive.
    Yes, you get paid in thise 3 years, and yes in the firs 2 years you get your salaries 70%,but maximum approx. 600 USD Even if your salalry was a million.
    The government 10+10 million is not a gift, you have to pay it back to the bank. And only richer families can it.

    • Timea says...

      Thank you for clearing this up! All of this sounded much more positive than it actually is. I am Hungarian myself and except if you are upper class, life is pretty difficult with two kids, let alone three. Most people I know work at least 2 jobs. Still, I was happy to read about my country here!

    • lesley says...

      but she does say that life is very hard with three kids and that’s why most people don’t have a third and that many people work long hours and 2 jobs. she showed the story of her life there with tis pros and cons, the cons including how women are expected to run the household and raise the children, people spend long hours at the office…….

    • Anna B. says...

      Hi Zsuzsa! I agree that the whole picture is somewhere between what you say and I said in this interview. Just to make it clear about the personal part: we are not a rich family but yes, we are lucky to live in a beautiful part of the city. We are working really hard for our living, as a schoolteacher I worked 50 hours per week for years and my husband is a journalist who works in the evenings, so many times I am alone with my kids for the whole day and evenings. We live in a one-bedroom flat, so the parents’ bed and the kids’ cribs are all in one room. I am the kind of person who is very positive and enjoys being grateful for all the little joys of life, like a walk in beautiful nature, cooking peach jam for my family or a good playground.
      As I see it, this series is always about one family and their perspective and though I enjoyed all the articles about the countries, I never thought I get the whole story, only some personal notes. For me, all things you mentioned, like the level public transport, the 10+10millions or Ringató are very helpful and I am happy to live in a country where all this is possible. Unfortunately, in all the countries of the world, different families live at different standards and I just wish all kids around the globe would have nutritious meals, nice clothes and happy songs around them.

    • Sasha L says...

      I just want to say I appreciate Anna’s kind and thoughtful response so much. Thank you!

    • Josephine says...

      I would love to see a post about a family in Pest! And it would be great to highlight some lower income families too. All stories are important and there is much to be learned from folks in small towns on small budgets too! This has been a really great series, Joanna + team.
      Thank you for these details Zsuzsa!

  36. Cristiana says...

    This was great! Thank you for your story, Anna, and thank you Jo for this series. I am from Romania and I found this to be very similar to our culture surrounding children and babies. And I have the same plates as in your “home cooked” photo! :)

    • Fran says...

      My parents-in-law in India also have these plates. My father -on-law was shocked when I showed him the photos—his personal memories are so linked to these plates that he was shocked to imagine anyone else had these.

  37. SR says...

    The child’s eyes are bluer than the ocean :heart:

  38. Adored reading this whole post…but the last line was my favourite:

    “To keep things slow with the children, we usually just enjoy the beautiful Hungarian countryside, though. We rent a tiny cabin at Lake Balaton for the summer. There is no running water and the house is very simple, but my kids enjoy this freedom so much. There I feel at home and fuel myself with clean air, wildflowers and long walks.” Ahh.

  39. Sara says...

    I love this series!!

  40. Rajini says...

    Oh my goodness. I have never fallen in love with a city just by reading an article but that’s what has happened here! You made me want to book a flight out there and meet you and enjoy your wonderful city. Absolutely beautiful!

  41. Emily says...

    My dad is Hungarian, born in Budapest. I feel that I was raised in a very Hungarian way, although in America. So many things mentioned here made me feel homesick and happy all at once.

  42. Katherine says...

    So awesome to read a motherhood around the world from a native of her own country, love this

  43. Rena says...

    Most things are very similar to how things are in my home country – Bulgaria. We also have name days and three years of maternity leave, but the last 2 years are minimally paid. Daycares are so inexpensive – 40 USD a month. Many moms stay at home while their kids are at daycare :)

    • Alex says...

      Ha, I thought the same – I’m from Slovakia. Only our maternity leave is paid better only for the first seven months – then you get only circa 200€ a month. Most women stay at home anyway for the whole three years but all of the financial responsibility is upon the man’s shoulders until she starts to work again. Needles to say, the pay gap is huge here :( . This fact really fuels the strong sense of patriarchy in our country. But I appreciate the maternity leave tradition anyway, I just can’t image putting my daughter in a day care anytime sooner than three years old…

  44. Akc says...

    What beautiful photos– such gorgeous children! Thank you so much for sharing about a place and culture I know little about. I love Anna’s descriptions.

  45. Sarah says...

    Name days sound like such a lovely tradition! Budapest sounds so nice, I’ve just told my husband we have to vacation there soon.

  46. Sara says...

    My favorite yet! So interesting!

  47. Lulu says...

    How lovely. One of my favourites yet! I want some peach lekvar too. :-)

  48. Trish O says...

    Very interesting. Lovely family. I so enjoy this glimpse of the world.

    Note to Cup of Jo….wonder if you would include a family that has older kids. Teens in the mix. So interested to see how they navigate alcohol law differences, if they feel the country regards teens as adults or still children (I would say in the US, we see them still very much as children), driving, voting or a political say, sex, education, media consumption, social media, jobs, freedom from the parents….anyway, I think the teen years are as pivotal to a child’s development as the baby/toddler years. Would love to see how other countries approach this and how it differs from what the US is doing.

    • Shelby says...

      Yes!

    • oh this would be so cool! I’d love to read a post like this too! As a third culture kid who spent my high school years in Germany, I always envied my German/European friends when it came to topics like sex, drinking, and freedom from the parents. My parents still raised my brother and me in a very American way (no wine at dinner, no sex til marriage [or so they hoped…], not as much freedom as my friends, definitely no opposite-sex sleepovers). But my friends who did it approached it all in such a mature way. And their conversations with their parents were so grown-up and respectful. I know that isn’t the case for EVERY EU teenager, obviously, and my friends were all attending international schools, so it was a small segment of the population… but still.

    • nellie says...

      I love this idea! Would make for very interesting reading.

    • Lindsay says...

      Great idea! Would like to have the perspectives of parents of older kids.

    • Sara says...

      I’ve been thinking this for ages! I’d love to hear from people with older kids as I’ve found that parenting grows increasingly more complex as children grow

    • Katherine says...

      Great idea, I would love to know! I feel like the topic of teenagers is worthy of its own series!

    • Kate says...

      Such a great suggestion. As a mom of two teens, I would love to read about parenting teens in other countries. And more articles about parenting teens in general!

  49. Amber Grady says...

    Today I learned about Name Days! What a neat concept. The closest name to mine on Hungary’s name calendar seems to be a man’s name. Bummer. :(

    I LOVE this series!

    • Santa says...

      We have name days in Latvia too, you can celebrate the 22nd May – it it the name day for Emily and also all the names not included in the calendar 😉

    • Jenny says...

      I was wondering what one did if their name wasn’t in the calendar! (Or if maybe new names were added regularly). Thanks Santa! Such a sweet thing to celebrate<3

    • Alex says...

      Jenny: here in Slovakia, we have a so-called extended calendar that includes all kinds of unusual names, where there are circa 5 names for each day – for example Isolda (my daughter) has a name day in March.

    • Tara says...

      I agree it would be nice to have more articles on teens. I feel like there’s a bigger focus on younger children.

  50. Petya says...

    …and then you cook and cook and cook your whole life for them

    Anna–this made me laugh out loud!! I am Bulgarian and we’re the same!! Plus the name days, the learning multiple languages right away, and the grandparents, our national treasure!!
    I have lived abroad for over 25 years now and these are some of the things I love and miss!!

    • Kasia says...

      Oh, and Polish tradition is very much the same! There’s even a saying that goes: “Polak – Węgier, dwa bratanki” (in free translation: “Pole and Hungarian are brothers” :)

  51. K says...

    Love this! Maybe for an upcoming food series, you could offer the best dishes from other countries. For instance, I can google főzelék, but I’d love a local’s recipe. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      ooh what a great idea, k! thank you!

    • Elise says...

      that’s a great idea! i just googled főzelék but wasn’t sure which recipe :)

    • Cindy says...

      Yes!! Desperate for that peach jam / lekvar recipe! ;)

    • Jenna says...

      love this idea!

      saw a reference some where to a “welsh cake” this weekend.
      had never heard of such a thing. now have all the ingredients to attempt to make welsh cakes this week!

    • VVercsi says...

      Főzelék is a term for the type of dish – we make all kinds of főzelék. I would say it’s close an Indian dahl or vegetable curry.
      You can make tipically the following főzelék:
      – greenpea főzelék
      – bean főzelék
      – lentil főzelék
      – tomato-cabbage főzelék
      etc etc It’s a very Hungarian dish and everyone loves it here – my British husband inlcuded :)
      You eat főzelék with bread and usually with one kind of “topping”: hard boiled eggs, sunny-side-up, sausage, meatballs.

    • Melinda says...

      A Hungarian girl living in Germany over here. ;-) I LOVE my moms apricot lekvár. Each time I visit my parents in Budapest, I have to plan the contents of my suitcase carefully. You can take only 20 kg on the plane and there absolutely must be place for a jar or two of apricot lekvár and Hungarian red wine on the way back! lol I would love to share my moms recipe with you. : ) It´s actually fairly simple, but you need really REALLY sweet apricots and just a little sugar. I can eat my moms sweet-sour, runny apricot marmelade with a spoon right out of the jar! It´s also marvelous with fresh warm home made donuts called fánk! : D

    • Dee says...

      Jenna you are in for a treat -welsh cakes are delicious! (UK welsh cake lover here!)

    • Alice says...

      Jenna, welsh cakes are the BEST! You’re in for such a treat :) My welsh grandmother made the most amazing ones, but I sadly never got her recipe. They’re just so brilliant though- if it wasn’t a million degrees in London, I’d be making some this week now!

  52. Maria says...

    Many countries in face low birth rates, many of them compensate this on an economic level with migration. In the Hungarian case it is – as in many Eastern European countries – even more a problem because many people leave their countries to study or work somewhere else and the Hungarian government leads a strict anti-migration policy in a very chauvinistic way. For the Hungarian Prime Minister, raising the birth rate is part of his goal to maintain “ethnic homogeneity”. I know, it might not be relevant for people who benefit from the political measures, but in the end the road from awarding childbirth to restricting reproductive rights is a very short one. I am a long time COJ-reader and enjoy all of your lifestyle topics. I know that nobody wants to read, talk and think about politics all the time. Here I just felt that there is a dark background to a supposed feel-good-picture that was worth mentioning.

    • Anne says...

      That’s so interesting to know, Maria! Thanks for sharing, I’m going to read up more on this topic

    • Sasha L says...

      Maria, I appreciate this added insight. I always want a fuller picture. Politics is just power, and it underlies everything, might as well openly discuss it imho.

    • Milou says...

      Thank you for giving some background and being respectful. As others have also commented, I enjoy and learn so much from this site. I think Joanna and her team are brilliant and I love the community.

    • Kristi says...

      I was born in the US but my parents immigrated from Hungary almost four decades ago. Most of my older relatives are still in Hungary, however I can tell you that my cousins have left the country long before the more recent anti-migration events we read in the news. They left Hungary simply because there was not a lot of options for work that could pay the bills. It’s worth considering Hungary’s history and how long people have been leaving before assuming it is in light of recent political events. I believe it simply comes down to finding work to support your family.

    • M says...

      Maria thanks for bringing up something that I was thinking as I was reading! Yes many countries do face declining birth rates…financial incentives to encourage couples to reproduce are just one way to help counter this. While this approach may seem a great and supportive thing there IS an underlying uneasiness to it. You’d rather shut down your borders to people (including many young people) who are in desperate need of a safe harbour and concentrate your resources on increasing the birth rates of a selective few. When the migrant crisis was raging across Europe a few years ago (and frankly continues to do so) Hungary was one of most outspoken countries to say no to welcoming these people to their country…even though it has a declining birth rate.

      Hungary is by no means the only country to do this but something to think about when we consider who is deemed as “appropriate” to populate a country vs. those that are deemed undesirable.

    • Michelle says...

      This is some really helpful context, thank you.

      It seems dangerous, though, to claim that the “road from rewarding childbirth to restricting reproductive rights is a very short one.” There is no reason that road has to be short. My worry is that slippery slope reasoning like this could be deployed as a specter to hold back much-needed reforms on issues like paid parental leave in the US & elsewhere.

    • Courtney says...

      I appreciate this so much, in conjunction with Anna’s context! It’s so deeply meaningful to hear personal experiences and fun cultural tidbits along with more background and thought. I know that family stories are nice, but every time I read one, I am thinking, “What about the kids with no family, waiting to be adopted,” and the part immigrants play in any country’s culture is infinitely interesting to me. I think that the Motherhood series is beautiful and insightful and real, and giving a bit of context makes it all the richer:

    • Ker says...

      Thank you for this comment Maria. I think about this a lot when countries lament low birth rates and propose interventions to raise them. In addition to the two excellent points you raised (the slippery slope from rewarding childbirth to restricting reproductive rights and the xenophobia/racism underlying a desire to increase the country’s ‘native’ population) there’s the unquestioned assumption that our planet can continue to be habitable with ongoing population growth. An overall stagnation or decrease in the number of people on earth will certainly wreak havoc on the current capitalist system but may save the planet for future generations.

    • Ali says...

      Maria, I was just thinking as I read this, “Gosh there’s so many refugees who would love to call Hungary home”. Such a pity they are desperate to grow their population and yet so so anti-immigration. Their loss. This country is still on my bucket list though :-)

    • Victoria says...

      I read the comments for these insights. Thank you for sharing!

    • Bettina says...

      Thank you for bringing this up – I was disappointed there was not the slightest mention of politics in this article. Hungary is fast becoming, or is already, an authoritarian state.

  53. Sasha L says...

    I adore learning about the tradition of a singing circle to sing folk song to children.
    I loved everything about this post, from Anna’s amazing curls and adorable children to hearing about summers at a cabin with wildflowers. Thank you so much for sharing!

  54. Sasha L says...

    I wonder if Anna could say more about maternity care? As a doula I’m so curious.
    1. Do partners accompany mothers in labor? I was picturing a room full of birthing women, but wondered if dads were there too?
    2. Is it common to have a doula, and are they provided by the hospital or hired privately?
    3. Are there midwives? Home births?
    4. Is drug free birth common? Do many women prefer medication and/or medical intervention for their birth?

    Thank you if you get a moment to answer! What a wonderful treat on a Monday to read such a delightful look at mothering in Hungary.

    • Tatiana says...

      Hi, i will let Anna answer for Hungary. I live in Slovakia, neighbouring country to Hungary, quite similar culturally.
      The shared “waiting rooms” for mothers in labour are also a thing in Slovak hospitals. Dads are forbidden to enter, they have to wait outside before being called for the pushing phase.
      Births are often medicalized (inductions, pitocin, few mothers labour without epidural, the episiotomy rate is very high – up to 90% in some hospitals, the ceasarian rate is 30%). Women are not allowed to choose any position they like for the pushing phase, they have to lie on their backs or be in a semi-reclined position. Few women hire doulas (there are no doulas provoded by hospitals. Midwives are technically allowed to assist non-complicated births but in reality all births are managed by doctors (mostly old white men). Water births are non-existent, home births rare. More and more women travel small Austrian or Czech hospitals just across the border to give birth.

    • Sasha L says...

      Tatiana, thank you for sharing about Slovakia. Maternity doesn’t sound very enlightened there 😥

      Women everywhere deserve real choices, compassionate care and for the sacred act of birth to be respected and revered. They deserve good medical care and the right to refuse things they don’t wish to happen to their bodies. They deserve accurate information about risks and benefits to make their own informed choices. We lack these things in many cases in the US as well.

    • Zsuzsa says...

      1. Yes.
      2. No, it is private.
      3. Yes. Yes.
      4. It depends on the mom and the doctor.

    • Szilvia says...

      Hi! i just gave birth in a Hungarian hospital, so some first-hand information: I was alone in a ‘vajúdó/szülőszoba’=labor room with my husband, who could be by my side during the whole time. Drugs for pain were a possibility and not a must, same for interventions, only when needed. I had a lovely midwife, who helped me a lot. My doctor was also around, but rather in the background. So I had a very positive experience I thought worth mentioning. However, I don’t want to deny that unfortunately many women still have labors similar to the Slovakian ones described in the comments. That approach needs to be reconsidered and I see some light at the end of the tunnel.

    • Alex says...

      Hello Tatiana! Fellow Slovak here :)
      Cupofjo is my favourite blog ever and I love that it’s being read all around the world ! Such a great opportunity to talk to women from so many different cultures and social backgrounds.

    • Bori says...

      Hi Sasha! i’m from Hungary, and have to kids,so I can answer.
      1. Usually yes. I had my husband with me, from start to finish both times
      2. Doulas hired privatley, you have a midwife from the hospital, and can have other birthing companion too, of course

      3. Yes, and yes. But homebirth was not allowed until a couple of years ago.

      4. Many women prefers natural birth, and it’ s getting more common. But we still have a quite high cesarian rate. Maybe close to US statistics.

    • Sasha L says...

      Szilvia, thank you for sharing! Those choices sound wonderful, I’m so glad you had them. It’s heartening to hear someone happy about her good care.

  55. I love this series, always gives me an insight into what it would be like to relocate and start a family.

    Keep them coming!
    Leslie

  56. Amber J says...

    I love this!!! Thank you for sharing this series! Love love love love love it.

  57. Mafdalena says...

    I grew up in Prague, thou living in the us now. There are a lot of similarities, like the name day, or the respect for elders. Such a fun read.

  58. The maternity leave is such a double-edged sword. I live in France where it’s quite generous. However, women end up discriminated against–if you’re of a certain age, it’s assumed you will start a family and will take leave, and nobody will hire you. Obviously the way to change this is to get men to take as much leave as women.

    • Veronica says...

      I had heard this about France! I think it’s interesting how a government policy doesn’t necessarily change social thought and convention. Do you think that the fact that, on the surface, France has a policy intended to be liberal and help mothers is backfiring? Do you think that overall women are still being helped by the policy?

    • Laura says...

      A friend who had a baby in Sweden also said that if you DIDN’T take the full maternity leave, there was a lot of stigma–like you were a bad mother or didn’t really care about your children. So there’s still a lot of work to do as far as gender equality…

    • Maria Kieferova says...

      Slovakia is very similar. Women rarely get promoted because companies would have to save their spot for three years and pay them during the maternity leave. This is especially difficult for small businesses. Furthermore, not taking the full three years off is frowned upon, further worsening women’s career prospects.

    • Alison says...

      It’s very similar in Austria, where I’ve lived for 18 years (I’m American so I have very mixed feelings about maternity leave). People think that having one to two years of maternity leave is a fantastic thing, but underneath it all, I personally feel that it keeps women “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen”. I have seen firsthand that companies hesitate to hire (or promote) women who are anywhere from their early 20’s to late 30’s, so I always wonder how exactly that’s allowing women to move up in the world. And not all women have children or want children (such as myself), but no one will believe you even if you insist, so getting ahead in your career is even more challenging than it might be in other countries where maternity leave is shorter or where paternity leave is supported more strongly, as I believe it is in parts of Scandinavia. Having lived for so many years in Austria, I feel the attitude here is still very old-fashioned regarding parental roles and the role of women in the workplace, to the detriment of women.

    • Mama in Germany says...

      It’s similar in Germany and I get mega-frustrated that people don’t see both sides of the picture! Such a double-edged sword- long maternity leaves directly correlate to low rates of women in management and general gender inequality in the workplace. Also the pay is much less than a typical maternity leave in the US (if you have one). If you live in an expensive city, it may be almost impossible to take the entire time for financial reasons (also years 2 and 3 are not paid). The only solution I see is for the amount of pay to go up (perhaps based on local cost of living calculations rather than a national flag rate) and for more men to take leave as well and remove the stigma.

  59. Ilona says...

    Fascinating stuff! Lots of similarities with Poland, I think, particularly name days being a really big deal. I visited Budapest twenty years ago and loved it. There was a little railway staffed entirely by children (teenagers rather than toddlers), I wonder if it still exists?

    • Kay says...

      Ilona, I visited Budapest in June last year and the railway you mention was still going strong – what a fun idea! :)

    • xdittax says...

      Yes :) It’s so heart-warming to know that it’s such a lovely memory for you.

  60. Michelle says...

    I’d be interested to hear how paid maternity leave works with the birth of further children. Does three years start again if you have a second in the three years you are off then a further three years with a third etc eg potentially 8/9 years maternity leave or more!?
    I’m in the U.K. and currently enjoying a years partially paid maternity leave and there is a strong (unspoken) pressure to not be pregnant again when returning to work to ensure that you work for sometime before any potential further period of maternity leave.

    • Miruska says...

      I think in Canada, where we have 12 months mat leave, you have to be back working for certain number of months before you qualify again. It’s like unemployment benefits where you qualify for unemployment support if you lose your job only after certain number of months of full-time employement.

    • Zsuzsa says...

      Yes, it starts again.
      I am hungarian, currently n maternity leave and pregnant with my second son.

    • Katherine says...

      I think in the UK it is fine to get pregnant again quite quickly if you want to, but it does tend to affect the amount of money you receive on maternity leave-think you have to be working again a certain number of months to receive full amount. You receive the same amount of leave when you go on maternity again, but it may be at a lower rate of pay if you were not back at work for that long. Plus, lots of mums often go back to work part time rather than full time after having children, so they will be on lower rates of pay due to this also. It would be interesting to know how the three years situation works, because I think quite a few mums have their kids within 3 years of each other if they want more than one and can get pregnant/afford it etc.

  61. Mara says...

    Gosh I love this series so much and it’s one of the highlights of my summer that it’s back!! For the past couple years I’ve toyed with the idea of moving to Europe (I’m a dual American and EU citizen) but frankly am nervous how family back at home would react! My and my husband’s families are all local, so let’s just say that people are quite used to us living close by. At least my husband is open to relocating! We don’t have plans for children, but even still, I love reading these posts and daydreaming about what it could be like to live in Europe.

  62. Maria says...

    I absolutely love this series! Being a parent to two children I’m often curious about mothering in other countries. The cities chosen are all so unique in their way, I’m often surprised and curious about what I read. The stories are also very idyllic, I wonder if the parents ever spoke about the one challenging aspect?

  63. Veronica says...

    I’m very interested by how they are considering “modernizing” the maternity leave policy. As an American preparing to go on maternity leave in October (17 weeks full pay and I feel lucky), I honestly don’t know how I would feel about two or more years of maternity leave. Your “same position” is guaranteed when you come back, but if that were the policy for me right now, it would mean that I would lose out on that time and experience. My company tends to move people to new roles after two or three years, so I would come back to an office full of new faces and my new peers would all be younger than I.
    I would be curious to see how similar policies (I know the “same position” rule is fairly common in Europe) would work in the US. Are there enough industries where coming back to the same position after a year or more wouldn’t still put the individual at a huge disadvantage, career wise?

    • Jeannie says...

      Yes, I am curious about this as well! Even taking a year off sounds daunting. I can’t imagine returning to the office having missed an entire year’s worth of projects and experience. I work in tech, so things do move quickly. I’d also be curious about women who are in medicine or University tenure tracks since that is already such a long process without adding a year or two for leave (or maybe it is a totally different system?). I have also heard that countries with long maternity leaves can have few childcare options for women who do return earlier, but perhaps that is anecdotal.

      Okay, that being said I do want to make clear that women should get SOMETHING in the USA. I went back to work after 12 weeks and I think closer to 5 or 6 months would have been way nicer (if paid!!). And same for my husband!

    • Nicole says...

      Canadian maternity leave is a year, and I didn’t feel like I was at a disadvantage in leaving (I work in education, so maybe it’s a little different?). I do have a handful of friends in different fields who maybe felt that way, but the solution was just that they would take what they felt their career could handle (six months, nine months?) and then their partner took the rest since you can split the year between two people.

    • Anne says...

      I don’t speak from personal experience, but I’ve heard that in some European countries like France, there is a lot less job mobility. When someone has a job, they tend to stay there for a very long time, and it is difficult for companies to fire them (or, I assume, move them around). Maybe this is similar in Hungary?

    • Sasha L says...

      I think the solution is paid shared leave. If women AND men both took leave, then so many would take leave over the course of their careers that any one individual wouldn’t face a negative effect. I’d be curious to hear from others if they think this solution would work. I would propose six months each to start.

    • Veronica says...

      Jeannie, I was on a panel at my alma mater talking to students about women in STEM fields and I was the only non-professor; the one tenured professor with children said having two (with minimal maternity leave since she was in the US) put her back by three years for tenure, so I would be very curious to see if it were better or worse in places where maternity leave is guaranteed and longer. My husband and I also have the option of transferring abroad with our company, hopefully in the next couple of years, and I wonder about going to a country with strongly institutionalized maternity leave and childcare. Denmark could be a possibility, but I don’t think the company is required to give me Danish maternity leave since I am not Danish, but I am under the impression I would have a hard time finding a day care facility if I went back to work several months before most Danish mothers do.
      Interestingly enough, my HR representative told me that six month leaves are the norm for women in the US in my company, but that would mean that most women are taking 9 weeks unpaid. Maybe I’m overthinking things, but I can’t imagine the added stress of money above taking care of an infant. I did the math, and it’s definitely more expensive for me to take unpaid leave than to pay for those extra months of childcare.

    • Brynja says...

      I live in Iceland where parents have 9 months paid leave they split between them (and you can add a final 3 months unpaid to make it a full year if you want). Parental leave is on a flexible schedule though, meaning you can take your leave any time within the first two years of the child’s life. It means that usually each parent will take an initial alternating few months off, but then work more flexibly (2 weeks on, 2 weeks off) over a longer period of time. I know a lot of parents who decide to go back to school for a higher degree during pregnancy so they can use some of that flexible time to study and write a thesis as a way to give them a new skill when they return to work (it doesn’t hurt that education and maternity care are all free). But I also think the attitude towards work is just a little less intense than the US, where work is such a huge part of a person’s identity and people are solely responsible for building their professional security through staying active and current in their career.

    • Inge says...

      After 14 weeks I returned to office full time. I had 1 week before birth. My colleagues took over my job temporarily. Here in Belgium, most people have the same job for a couple of years so your job stays available. Sometimes they hire someone temporarily.

      I agree with Jeannie: I thought 14 weeks was a little fast to return to work. 4,5 to 5 months would be perfect in my opinion.

      That said: I love Budapest!! I visited a few years back in February when there was heavy snowfall. We went to Gellert and the Szechenyi baths, which are partially outside. It was amazing, although it was freezing! Also very nice opera building.

    • seams says...

      Well, yes, technically you haven’t made any progress during the year you haven’t worked, so it’s as if time had stopped and then resumed when you come back. But if the company moves the people so often it wouldn’t be long until you move to the next position. Besides, your colleagues would be only a year or two younger than you are, that’s not a huge difference.

    • Jennifer says...

      Concerning your question about maternity leave in Academia: In Germany, female scientists tend to have children only once the are tenured, because it would be a huge disadvantage to take one year of maternity leave while working towards tenure. In other fields, the disadvantages are smaller – but still long maternity leaves are one reason for our Gender Pay Gap. It is possible in Germany to split the leave between both partners but few men take more than 2 months yet – unfortunately traditional gender roles are difficult to overcome.

    • Katy says...

      I am in Canada as well where a year is standard. I absolutely feel that although unspoken / subtle there are “consequences” of taking time off, in terms of promotions / development opportunities etc. Plus as soon as you have one kid, people assume that you will be leaving for another year. You really have to fight against the assumption that a new Mom wouldn’t want to take on new projects, be considered for promotion etc. (My baby is turning 1 so it is all fresh)

      I came back early (8 months) and my husband took 6 weeks leave as well. I felt very strongly that we should share it and the bond that my husband and son have definitely benefited from the time together.

      Unfortunately, I expect he will also face some consequences because it is so rare that men take leave, even though it is legally protected. Nothing that that can be proven (eg when he is up for promotion in December they can’t legally say he was passed over because he took leave – but he may still be passed over even though he was ranked top last year).

      Finally – I also felt judged for coming back early! (You can’t win).

      Would be interested in hearing others experiences.

    • Seafinch says...

      I am a federal government lawyer in Canada and have taken three one year mat leaves and an extra year of leave without pay to accompany my husband on a posting. My case is a bit extreme but I am in the same job, making the same money, on the same track (this last part is strictly formulaic because I am in the army) and any disadvantage is notional. It is probably there, I am definitely on the mommy track but that is also my choice. I could easily combat that assumption but I choose not to. Loads of men in my work place take leave and both of my in-laws were top federal government managers who encouraged their staff (men and women) to take all to which they were entitled and considered it a cost of doing business without any repercussions.

    • Katy says...

      Seafinch – that is so great to hear

  64. Annalee says...

    I have never wanted to visit a country more than I do after reading this lovely article. Well done COJ!

    • Ismah says...

      Same here! I’m already looking for flights…

  65. Laura says...

    This might be my favourite of the series! Thanks for sharing, Anna :)

  66. Courtney says...

    This was such a treat to read! Thank you. Keep up this series, please :) I also loved the recent one in France.

  67. Erin says...

    I’m also so curious and fascinated by paid maternity leave in other countries. One question that I have is, what does this usually look like within the office? For a long maternity leave, they face to offer you the same position, but what do they do in the meantime? Do they hire someone to replace you? Does everyone else in the office just pick up more work?, Etc. would love if anyone has insight into this! It would be so great if the U.S. had something similar!

    • Sarah says...

      In the UK they usually hire someone on a fixed contract to cover maternity leave :)

      Sarah x

    • Elle says...

      At least in Sweden (where parental leave is 480 days) your work usually gets someone to cover for you. Which is usually a great opportunity for someone else. They tend to start before you leave so you can train them.

    • Lisa says...

      In Sweden, where you also have long parental leave (both parents!), the most common solution is that the company will hire someone on a fixed contract. I got a job in an office where the contract was 13months = the woman I was replacing took 12 months maternity leave and I started a month before she left to make sure I was up and running by the time I was left in charge. In some cases where you can not just replace the person, the colleagues might take over some tasks, while others are delegated to someone new. As it’s very common, and both men and women take long parental leave, it’s just something every company is prepared for and accepts.

    • Anni says...

      In Germany the company will hire someone to replace the new mommy until she comes back :)
      We are allowed to take 3 years of maternity leave altogether. (One year you can take as late as before the child turns 8)

    • Cece says...

      Hi Erin! In the UK most women take a year (with the last three months unpaid) plus any annual leave they might have accrued, and it’s actually very simple. The company will just advertise a fixed term maternity cover post – stating in the ad that’s what it’s for. So when I had my daughter I actually returned after 10 months off, and had a handover period with the woman who was covering for me.

      Of course sometimes they’ll be offered permanent positions within the company, and sometimes companies will promote an internal candidate temporarily. It’s great experience to get a taste of a more senior role and see where it’s a good fit, and it helps bulk out your cv (resume) for future applications.

    • Heather says...

      In Canada our maternity (and paternity!) leave is up to 18 months. Most companies will hire a temporary employee to cover for you during your “maternity leave”, and your job is also required to be held by your employer by law.

    • Margi says...

      Hi, I’m from Slovakia (Hungary’s neighbour:) ) living in France. And exactly, actually they usually hire someone to replace you ( the end of the contract is given) or others pick up more work – share the job of the woman leaving for a maternity leave, it depends on the job.
      In Slovakia a maternity leave lasts 6 months and then up to 3 years you can take an additional ”parental leave” when just a small assistace is paid, anyway 80% or women do take their 3 years. In France it’s not the case.

    • Agnes says...

      In Canada, it’s usually same as the UK – someone comes in on a fixed contract for the duration of your time away. I agree it’s a good chance for people to get on the ladder – I started on a different career path by getting to cover someone’s mat leave!

    • Lara says...

      The answers really illustrate true parental leave–when the employer not only “gives” you leave, but expends resources to cover your position. In the U.S., when we do have parental leave (or, as it is more often, when the parent uses disability leave + all their vacation time), employers expect the existing team to redistribute the employee’s work–so the coworkers shoulder the burden, not the employer. Parental leave isn’t just about the individual employee, but employers taking full responsibility for covering the position for the duration of the leave. This is key for preventing the stress and resentment that may perpetuate further discrimination against women in the workplace (and dissuade men from taking parental leave).

    • Christine says...

      I’m super curious what happens when you work in a really competitive field like law or consulting or finance. It’s not always possible to just hire someone on a temporary basis and then what happens to them once you’re back at work? My job has a 16 week fully paid maternity leave and I thought that was generous (I extended it by two weeks using saved up vacation time). But even that short amount of time undoubtedly set me back in my career in finance.

    • Emily L says...

      I find maternity (and paternity) leave in other countries so fascinating and it makes me realize just how behind we are in the US. I work for a small company, under 30 people, and I get no paid maternity leave and do not have an option for short-term disability. Since my company is under 50 people, even FMLA technically doesn’t apply. I have to rely on the fact that I work for a very family-oriented company and that my job will still be here after 6/8/12 weeks. I am already planning and saving for maternity leave (not yet pregnant) since I will get no payment while I am off other than whatever vacation time I am able to save. This is very common with most of my friends that I have talked with.

    • Alisa says...

      To be honest, covering maternity leaves early in my career totally helped me advance professionally. I live in Canada, where it’s 12-18 months of mat leave, so generally offices will hire someone on a temporary or fixed contract to cover. My first three professional positions were to cover leaves; it helped me get into an organization, learn a job and then I was able to move to another position, covering another leave, and so on. I learned so many things, worked with and for some very awesome people and was able to advance pretty quickly.

  68. 3 year maternity leave! It sounds like a dream but so interesting how she found it lonely after a while and missed the office at times. Totally true how our friendships can fade or crumble when our attention is needed elsewhere. I love this series!!

  69. Kat Simonyi says...

    I loved this! I love this whole serious but the perspective shifts of those native to the country talking about raising children there is really lovely. My husband’s family is from Hungary and we’ve traveled there once – the outdoor pool/spa experience was definitely my favorite as well! The pictures were a lovely reminder of the trip and country. xx

  70. Eve says...

    Beautiful family! I find name days so interesting because it makes me wonder if nontraditional names are even allowed. Can you select a name that doesn’t have a name day?

    And we could talk forever about this line: “It’s easy to lose friends because of your differences in lifestyles.” I’m debating having a second kid and feel like if I did, I’d have to essentially say goodbye to a handful of my friends for about 3 years while I hunker down through chaos.

    • Szilvia says...

      About namesdays: the country has an official list of both male and female names and you can only use those names. The list is rather long, but if you want a name that’s not on it, you can apply to a dedicated committee and they decide whether the name can be used. Of course if either of the parents is not Hungarian, they can pick whatever name they like.

    • Ari says...

      In France, at least, name days are based around the Catholic saints, and obviously a LOT of people have those names. But otherwise, you just celebrate on the day with the names etymologically closest to yours! I used to know a Carlos who celebrated on St. Charles Day, the Yoanns and the Johanns celebrate St. Jean, etc. I also suspect there’s a certain degree of fudging going on as well ;)

  71. Sally says...

    This is not a comment related to the above post, but rather a suggestion for a future “Motherhood” post. I read a statistic that a quarter to a third of American families are blended. As a mom and stepmom, I would love for there to be more articles dedicated to the subject of blended families.

    • Jill says...

      Same! We share my stepson 50/50 with his mom, and she also provides childcare for our 5 year old. I love all the motherhood posts but would be really interested in one about a blended family :)

  72. Lena says...

    Community singing with your baby? That sounds beyond lovely. And I love the name day tradition (also found in a few other countries). Thank you for sharing, Anna!

    That’s it, I must go to Hungary!

  73. I loved this! One of my favorites. Now I want to visit Budapest!

  74. Julia says...

    You are writing that parents even get financial support by “promising” to have a third child. Naturally this makes me curious to know what happens if they cannot keep this promise? Do they have to pay all the money back?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      we wondered the same thing!!! i assume it’s worth it to the government even to get that promise/likelihood.

    • Szilvia says...

      Yes, that’s how it works. This system is new though, so I believe there’s no legal precedent yet.

    • J says...

      Yes, they have to pay all the money back!
      Also the process to be able to take the money is long and strict. There are many rules you need to comply (e.g. you can’t sell your house for some time and you have to live there, you can’t rent it out, you can not buy a used house only a newly built one etc.)
      This possibility was made not only to support families but also to boost the construction business – which happened but the prices also grew! So families with 2 or less children are not winners in this situation. But still it is a great help for many families!

  75. Kristina says...

    I loved this post! I really liked hearing from someone local to the country and understanding more of their cultural values and practices, especially without the lens of an ex pat. The concept of celebrating name day is so sweet and charming. What a fun tradition! And I can identify with making baby food for myself. I’m so used to cutting up everything so small that sometimes I look at my lunch and see that I’ve nearly minced it ha!

    Thank you for sharing, Anna : )

  76. KS says...

    Oh I love this! When I was in music school I had two Hungarian professors who taught us so many folk songs as a method of ear training – that is teaching us how to read and sing music without having to play it on a piano or other instrument first. Actually, a very traditional method of music teaching (the Kodaly method) is Hungarian. If you were taught music in a rigorous school you may have learned quite a few Hungarian melodies because of this – Kodaly is a very common way to teach young children in the US.

  77. Lesley says...

    I love her humor! Thank you for this profile.

  78. Such a sweet write up and who knew Buda and Pest were two different cities!? Thanks for all the info! The kids are adorable.

    LOVED that the old women are at the top :)

  79. Claire says...

    Gosh, Budapest is so beautiful! And that swimming pool! Wonderful description of life there too- the challenges and charms. The respect for older generations that is part of their culture is refreshing too- so much kinder and more dignified.

  80. Her story about making baby food for herself made me laugh. Once when my first was a baby, I had been up with her all night and I was making a bowl of cereal for myself and I turned to my husband with teary eyes and said “I want blueberries, but I don’t have the energy to cut them all in half.” He just looked at me with confusion and said “you don’t have to cut them up for adults.” Ha! Her comment about sending the baby away the first night hit home too. When I had my first she spent the night in the nursery (not that I really slept because they kept bringing her in to breastfeed). I thought it was kind of sad…until I had two more babies who roomed in when they were born. It was wonderful to have them close, but so exhausting! It has often left me wondering if “baby friendly” policies are mama friendly, and as we say in Texas…if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

    Thank you again for sharing these stories. It feels so good to identify with someone half a world away and remember that despite our cultural differences, we are all the same.

    • Katha says...

      Interesting perspective on sending the baby away for the first night.
      I guess as always there is no right way as every mother‘s needs and feelings are very different.

      For me that would be an absolute no go. It makes me shudder to think about it.
      But I never found the first few nights to be exhausting.

    • Dee says...

      Haha I can identify with this comment. I made my husband a brown bagged lunch and when he opened it at work the sandwich was cut into tiny fingers!

    • Anne says...

      Hahhahaha laughing so hard at the blueberry story

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so hilarious, mel! laughing so much.

    • Rae says...

      The blueberries & @Dee’s finger sandwich story! I am laughing so hard. So many reasons to read CoJ comments : )

    • Sarah says...

      I was so exhausted after my second baby, I came down with a chest infection and she was not a sleepy newborn. She was unsettled and mucous-y and squawking for all three nights in hospital. It isn’t usual for babies to not be in with Mum, here in Australia, so I felt too ashamed to ask, but one night nurse made me feel so comfortable and cared for I nearly cried when she offered to take my beautiful (squirmy) bundle for a few hours so I could rest. I still remember her so fondly, and I was so appreciative that I could rest easy knowing she had my girl taken care of. So often as Mums we put ourselves last. The time after birthing our babies we should be taken care of and waited on hand and foot, not made to prove ourselves. We are enough, asking for help should never be shameful.

    • Sasha L says...

      I love this whole comment thread, so funny. But Sarah’s comment…. You have me in tears Sarah. Your words perfectly encompass what mamas need. ❤️❤️❤️

    • My third baby was very mucous-y and even stopped breathing on the first night when the nurse was trying to clear her airways – SO TERRIFYING. When the nurse offered to take her to the nursery for the rest of the night where someone could keep her in constant observation, I was so relieved. My husband and I were desperately tired and desperately worried about our baby, but having her in the nursery for one night was such a relief.

      It’s hard to imagine what sanity-savers you will need when you become a mother!

  81. Carly says...

    So interesting! I kind of used to ignore this series (I am 19 after all;), but the past two posts have been amazing and I love learning about what growing up in other cultures is like. xx

  82. I’m curious about one thing — what does she mean regarding the debate over “modernizing” the current maternal leave policy? Hopefully they don’t mean giving it up entirely? :-/

    • Zsuzsa says...

      No. But maybe adding some pazernity leave or more money more daycare etc.

  83. Alex says...

    My grandmother is Hungarian (although she has lived most of her life in the US) and that comment about old people in Hungary speaking their minds made me laugh so hard because that is exactly how she is!

  84. KimG says...

    This was magic. A lot of my ancestry on both sides is from Hungary and I’ve never been.

    Todays daytime fantasy is about claiming citizenship! Thank you!

  85. katie says...

    Oh my gosh, yes to thermal baths! When honeymooning in the Azores, we picked our lodging solely based on access to the thermal pools and it was delightful.

  86. Noelle says...

    Lovely – thanks for sharing. I studied in Budapest in college and would love to go back. Such a lovely city! I remember visiting many of the places she mentioned.

  87. Sam says...

    It’s interesting to read about a country with very traditional gender norms for women, but with support for that role through a long (paid!) maternity leave, accommodations on public transit, etc. America, please take note! I can’t even find a damn changing table most places I go after my 8 week maternity leave.

    I love this series and don’t care if it was written by an American or not. I like getting a peek into someone else’s life and a tiny taste of their routine/schedule/culture.

  88. Ana says...

    I loved learning about name day! What a fun tradition.

  89. I just love the idea of name days. Maybe it appeals to me so much because my name is still fairly uncommon in Canada! I never could find personalized name items as a kid, and it never comes up on my local café’s, “If your name is _____, your coffee is on us!” sign.

    • Alexandra says...

      I believe to remember from my childhood in Germany that name days are based on the feast days of Catholic saints. So, if you are named after a saint, you get lucky to have your name day on that saint’s feast day. My grandma’s name was Barbara, and her name day was December 4, as that was St. Barbara’s feast day.

    • Zsuzsa says...

      In Hungary, Zara’nameday is on the29th of July, so this sunday:-D

  90. ellen says...

    I thought the whole thing about Motherhood Around The World was that you were limiting it to American mothers living abroad. This was great, but I’m wondering if you changed the parameters?

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Ellen! Thanks so much for writing — we opened it up to parents who grew up in the country and are now raising their own children there! We appreciate you reading :)