Hi Anne, welcome to the village! Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you originally from and what brought you to Brussels?
Anne: I’m a chatty redhead who loves cats, thrifting, a good outfit and the summertime. I live with my husband Thomas, cats Behemoth and Moutarde and little Amélie in an Art Nouveau house in Schaarbeek. My husband is an art historian among many other things so art is important in our life.
Thomas and I are, funny enough, both from Limburg, the east of Flanders, but we didn’t meet there. We grew up 5km but also 5 years apart. I knew who he was from our college years in Leuven, but we never met there either. We met in Brussels at a reception and it’s what bound me to Brussels. He already lived here, I worked for the Flemish Parliament at the time and hung out after work a lot.
The vibe and buzz of the city attracted me. I was bored of university-oriented Leuven and in Brussels a whole world opened to me with so many different communities. I’m a city girl. I need the hustle and bustle to feel alive.
You recently started working for a very parent-oriented company, Mic Mac Minuscule … for those who don’t know the concept, can you explain it to us?
Mic Mac Minuscule is all about creating second-hand birth lists/registries to measure. We want to offer future parents an alternative to expensive and wasteful birth lists by offering honest, parent-to-parent advice.
We source all the products you need for your baby second-hand or from a sustainable, social economy. This way parents who might not have the time or energy to prepare for their baby by buying things second-hand still have a more affordable and durable alternative. Even if they don’t want a registry for friends or family, but just want to get ready for their baby to arrive.
“People love to give an actual gift, so why not let them know they can help you with something you actually need and want.”
The company was founded by Jona and Gert, a couple in Gent who were frustrated there was no sustainable alternative to the baby products market unless you would do everything yourself. Now we are a network of 25 people making sure parents can prepare for their baby worry-free, sustainably, and with a very clear idea what they will spend.
This sounds like such a win-win, both for parents and the planet! So what does the process look like concretely when a future parent contacts you to handle their birth list?
Parents typically reach out around the beginning of the second trimester, when they’re starting to share the news that they’re expecting. The first step is a phone call where I explain our concept and manage expectations. We’re not a webshop, we’re a very personal service, so it’s important that interested parents know exactly what we will help them with. We want to make sure there’s a good fit with the parents we take care of.
Parents might have different motivations, whether that be sustainability or budget, and that’s totally fine. But if you need your baby products to follow the latest trends or be in certain fashionable colours, you might get disappointed since we’re talking about the second-hand market here.
After this phone call, we plan a meeting to craft the birth list together. I usually visit the future parents in their home so I really get to know them well and I can make some notes on their style, taste and living situation. For me this personal contact is crucial – I’ll be taking care of a big part of their baby preparation so building trust is important.
“A registry with us is the preparation for your baby, not just a wishlist of gifts and gadgets.”
During the meeting we go over topics like sleeping, travelling, etc. and I advise the kind of items every family typically needs. Not everyone is the same and every registry is different. We’re not a one size fits all, but a personalised service.
A week or so after the meeting we sign the offer and close the list. The parents only need to pay a 30% deposit up front. And at that point, I start looking! Depending on when we have the meeting, I generally have around three to four months to complete the list, since the aim is for the parents to come pick everything up around four weeks before the estimated due date – this way they can fully indulge in nesting and their mind is clear for the mental part of the preparation.
For a list that will be shared with family and friends, I put it online when the baby is born, and people can buy gifts via the couple’s dedicated Mic Mac Minuscule webshop page. Three months after the birth, the final invoice is made.
The concept of a baby registry, or birth list, is pretty common in Belgium. Do you find that it’s less well known in other cultures?
It’s really a Belgian thing, it seems. We cater to couples of mixed cultures and I always have to explain. No it’s not considered rude to ask for a specific gift or money when you get married or have a baby here 😉 Better than ending up with a lot of tiny, useless or ugly gifts if you say nothing!
People love to give an actual gift, so why not let them know they can help you with something you actually need and want.
Our registry, in that way, is not just a registry. It’s a collection of the essential products you actually need. We do have fun toys, some luxuries and ‘gadgets’. But we never push it on people. It’s my job as a mom to give my advice, and to share opinions and what I’ve heard. Not everything works for everyone. So a registry with us is the preparation for your baby, not just a wishlist of gifts and gadgets.
How did you discover Mic Mac Minuscule yourself for the first time? Was it as a client? And what made you want to join the team?
Friends of mine had their registry with Mic Mac and I loved the idea. So I knew the concept, when a year later I was considering a career move and a sweet friend of mine saw their job opening.
I immediately applied both as team member and a client, as I was pregnant with Amélie. I felt like it was a great opportunity to have the experience as a customer as well, since I would only start four months after she was born.
Honestly every aspect of the job description spoke to me. I love thrifting, helping people to get on the right track, the sustainability, the variety of tasks.
What do you enjoy most about working for Mic Mac Minuscule? And what does a typical day look like?
Oh dear, I fear there’s no typical day at all. Honestly, I’m bouncing around all day. Picking up a baby item, answering emails from both colleagues, customers and parents selling their baby stuff, unwrapping my packages I had mailed, matching the right item with the right parent, checking tons of lists (especially the list with items I have still to find!), checking if there’s a flea market that weekend, putting flyers to get some brand awareness, setting up my photo studio to have nice product photos for a list, doing a load of laundry.
What I love is that it’s such a diverse job. I enjoy scouting the flea markets the most. I can get high on doing a good deal and finding something in a specific style I know the parents would love. That makes a good day for me!
Parents – especially first-time parents – can often find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer choice of ‘must-have’ items. How do you feel about how parents are marketed to?
Have you been to a baby supermarket? It’s crazy! Very overstimulating. And so many choices!!! I feel the emphasis of the sales is too much on fear. Like, “If you don’t buy this product, you’re not a good parent”, or “If you don’t buy this, you’re baby’s not safe”.
It’s not always obvious, but it’s there and I don’t like it.
Of course we’re a commercial enterprise as well. This job puts bread on the table, but not at the cost of unnecessary stuff or because parents feel pressured. I think it’s much more interesting to find out during our meeting what kind of parents they hope to be and how they envision certain situations.
In this way I also educate a bit, for example, on newborn sleep. No, the hypergadget electrical swaying crib probably won’t make your baby sleep better. No, the baby monitor measuring the baby’s breath and heart beat is not the only way to keep your baby safe. I always refer parents to a midwife to have them explore life with a baby with realistic expectations.
What are some of the baby items that have changed your life, and that you would recommend to any new parent?. What are some of the ones they can definitely avoid? And what are the ‘nice to have’ but really not necessary?
The co-sleeper! What a great invention. I learned a lot about safe sleeping together and there are many ways, but I just loved this. Breastfeeding at night was so easy. We were close together, but I still felt comfortable. It might not be for every parent, but it’s an item on most of my lists.
And a good carrier! Just keep these little babes close to you and you’ll be fine (and handsfree!).
Muslin cloths too, of course! The item you’ve never heard of until you become a parents and you have dozens for every burp and spill. I have them all over my house!
When it comes to things to avoid, all technological inventions playing on your fears (which are so strong and real when the baby is born) are just not necessary, unless recommended medically.
Nice to haves? Hmm, a family fix. It’s an isofix for a (maxi-cosi) car seat. It means you can just ‘click in’ your car seat instead of wrestling with the belt every time you get the baby in the car. Is it necessary or safer? No. Is it easy? Yes. That’s what I say to the parents when we come to this item and it’s always instantly clear if people want this or not.
The parents you meet are on such an exciting journey. What was your own pregnancy and birth experience like? You saw the amazing Zwanger in Brussel midwives … what made you decide to go to midwife-led care rather than the more classic gynaecologist-led care?
My Brussels-based girlfriends with children were all looked after by Zwanger In Brussel (ZIB) and so it seemed, all of Facebook! I didn’t necessarily overthink this decision, it just seemed odd you wouldn’t be looked after by a midwife. It’s only later I realised it’s not common in Belgium at all. But I’m a big believer that this first-line personal care is what we need and especially in such a transformative time as pregnancy and birth.
“What struck me the most was the kicking in of the instinct, powered up by the hormones. I was a raging lioness these first weeks watching over my baby.”
I had met Elke and the other lovely midwifes from ZIB during my first pregnancy – I had a pregnancy loss early on and I couldn’t have been better cared for. This experience created a strong bond and a lot of trust for both me and Thomas. After Thomas, Elke was the first to know I was pregnant the second time, the day of the test 😊
I had a very smooth and uncomplicated pregnancy. I actually felt better than I ever did before. I’m an anxious person, but in this pregnancy I felt so confident and relaxed that everything would be fine. It was a lovely experience. I had my ultrasounds etc. with my gynaecologist Dr. Van Nuland whom I adore, but I loved the personal follow-up by ZIB. It goes so far beyond the medical field. They are the guides in the path of pregnancy and becoming parents. It’s hard to describe how much I learned from them, how they comforted me and empowered me. Their birth preparation course – I followed the hypnobirthing one – was so interesting. I never felt more prepared for anything.
Starting from week 35 though, unfortunately I started feeling bad, and was soon diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. What follows I will share another time in my birth story, because it was a lot!
But Dr. Van Nuland delivered our baby Amélie via c-section with Elke by my side holding me while my husband had to watch from a distance. She took pictures of the birth that I still cherish. It was because of their excellent care that Amélie’s birth, even though it didn’t go as planned AT ALL, was still a beautiful experience.
Has becoming a mother been a bigger change than you expected? Or were your expectations realistic? What about your partner?
It has. What struck me the most was the kicking in of the instinct, powered up by the hormones. I was a raging lioness these first weeks watching over my baby. The instinct is still very, very powerful. I think it’s one of these things that is hard to explain unless you feel it yourself. The responsibility and the love is so overwhelming. I didn’t realise it would be this ‘big’.
I think my expectations about parenthood were quite realistic. My husband thought we still would keep more of our personal time, but after 14 months that has adjusted. What I find the hardest is having to adapt my schedule and my flow to my daughter. It’s hard not to work and live according to my own rhythm, but rather according to someone else’s. And not just someone else, someone who’s fully dependent on me. It’s hard, but it’s nice as well 😊
How do you manage to stay zen as a parent? What are your top tips for balancing work and family?
I don’t! Where are the people who have it all together? I’m still struggling finding a balance between this busy job, taking care of and spending quality time with Amélie. And don’t forget those partners 😊 and a household, social life, self care. It’s not easy. I try to schedule time for family time, date nights, some moments just for myself. In order to do that I have to learn to say: good is good enough or I’ll do it tomorrow, first I need to fill this cup. I guess it’s an ongoing juggle for everyone.
Thank God I have a good village. The grandparents help us so much in so many ways. We have lovely friends close by who jump in when necessary, be it with babysitting, a meal, helping me clean up my stock or taking me out for a walk. It takes a village to raise a child 😉
Want to know more about Mic Mac Minuscule? And maybe even have Anne guide you through the process and get you ready to welcome your baby in a practical, eco-conscious and budget-friendly way?
Then reach out to her on email@example.com
You can also read lots more on the Mic Mac Minuscule website:
https://www.micmacminuscule.be/en/ (or see a translated version of the NL or FR versions for much more info!)