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Working Mothers in Germany

Why the Working Mother Is So Rare in Germany

Germany strikes me as a modern country with progressive attitudes towards the environment and sexuality, so I was shocked to read working mothers are still a rare breed. Why so scarce? The country's half-day school system makes women feel they must choose between careers and kids.

Now more and more schools are beginning to offer after-school programs and all-day classes, but women who have signed up their kids have been criticized, even ostracized, for the choice. One woman was yelled at by another mother while another was called Rabenmutter (raven mother) after the black bird who pushes her chicks out of the nest. If you can't take care of your children, the thinking goes, you shouldn't have them.

It sounds archaic and crazy, but it quickly made sense when I learned this: all-day school and daycare are synonymous with communism. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the female employment rate was 90 percent in East Germany and 55 percent in the West. Women were expected to work, sometimes physically demanding jobs, in the East and often put their children in daycare as early as possible.


But in a country with one of the lowest birth rates — 1.38 children per woman — and a labor shortage looming, Germans are starting to come around. A few years ago, all-day school was impossible to talk about and now it's just a matter of implementing well. “This is a taboo," said German labor minister Ursula von der Leyen, "we just can’t afford anymore."

Source: Flickr User Pensiero

Join The Conversation
totygoliguez totygoliguez 7 years
Spacekatalag , just because your are a mom doesn't mean you cannot work. Some women work because it is important to them. My mom worked full-time, and I never felt neglected. My sister-in-law works, and her baby is the happiest baby I have ever seen. It takes a tool on you when you don't have the support of your partner. You can be a career-woman and still be a good mother. My mom was a great mother and a career- woman. It is not about the quantity it is about the quality. You learn to appreciate your mom more and she appreciates the time she has with you more. Just because you are a mother doesn't mean that your seek to exist and that you have to relinquish your dreams. Society needs to be more maternal.
jkat jkat 7 years
That is totally on my "to order" list for amazon. I saw an article on it a couple of weeks ago and was thinking of making that my book club pick!
runningesq runningesq 7 years
My parents had kind of a similar situation, jkat. While my Dad didn't have a stroke (and it's good to hear he's making progress - so scary!), his business went totally belly up - completely bankrupt. Things were REALLY tight, but if my mom didn't work (she was/ is a school teacher) I have no idea how they'd pay the mortgage and feed two small children. Her paycheck was the only one coming in for a while. Like you, jkat, I never felt neglected by my mom (or either of my parents!). She wasn't a room mom and I don't think she ever made my Halloween costumes from scratch, but she gave me and my sister a very positive role model. If something - god forbid - happened to my husband and he was unable to work, things would be very tight, but we could live off of my paycheck. I highly recommend the book (I think I've mentioned it here): "The Feminie Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?" -- which examines the trend of "opting out" and how dangerous it can be financially.
jkat jkat 7 years
runningesq, I swear we a lot in common! I am attorney as well, and spent most of my weekends at swim meets (my parents were always volunteering despite their full time jobs). I paid for law school myself though ;-). Darn loans! My mother was the bread winner in our family, and thank goodness. My dad had a devasting stroke last January. He is finally starting to make progres, but is completely unable to work. If he was the bread winner, or my mom had no career of her own, my parents would be bankrupt living off of public aid. My mom is struggling to pay his bills (despite medical insurance) on her single (fairly substantial) income. She has a career she loves and has passed her drive down to both her daughters. I never felt neglected by her, and at a very young age appreciated her sacrifice, her dediciation to something for herself, and her dedication to her family. I feel privileged to have come from a family where both of my parents provided for us in every way they could. I never felt bad my mom couldn't be a "room mom" for our grade school parties or a field trip chaperone (my dad did that one ;-). It is definitely NOT a perfect situation for women in America, but at least there is some semblance of choice.
lawchick lawchick 7 years
I totally agree with Running. Both my parents worked full-time, but they were sufficiently involved in my life. It's a good thing my mom had a career when my dad left her after 26 years. My relationship with my husband is good, but I'm not naive. Of the tons of people getting divorced every day, I bet none of them expected their marriage would fail. Also, every single one of my friends who has kids (which is many of my friends at age 31) works. They appear to be balancing things beautifully, and while a significant number of my friends are already divorced at this age, none of the ones who got divorced had kids. I'm not sure if I'd like staying home with any future kids or not. One of my friends who stayed home for 6 months was miserable, even though it's what she always thought she wanted. It doesn't matter for me, though, because I am by far the breadwinner in my house and there is no option not to work, kids or not. It is possible my husband could stay home with the kids, but he probably won't - neither of us think daycare is evil.
runningesq runningesq 7 years
SKG: I don't have children, but wouldn't many moms like it best if they could stay home with their kids? I I wouldn't. I love my job and wouldn't choose to leave it, even if we could afford it. Both of my parents worked full time and I didn't feel neglected -- my mom volunteered at swim meets, my dad helped me out with science fair projects -- and because of their incomes, they put me through undergrad AND law school. I think it's ridiculous that many women rely on their husbands for financial support when the divorce rate is so high. Alimony and child support only go so far.
Blackwood Blackwood 7 years
Here in my country all schools are half-day schools... the concept of putting your child away from home for the whole day seems kind of cruel to me, unless it's the child's decision, of course. Most mothers do work here, so it's not a matter of convinience, I think it's because we assume that being a kid means having free time to play games and enjoy, something you won't have again once you grow up. I agree wtih the whole "if you can't bear spending time with your own child or take care of him, then please don't procreate" thing, but I don't believe putting your child in an all-day school means that you don't love or care for him. Some mothers do it because they think that's the best for them,
katiedid0985 katiedid0985 7 years
How does this work from a school standpoint? How do they have enough classroom time to fit everything in? I'm assuming at some time kids do go to school all day (I don't imagine high schoolers have only half-day school). I understand this when kids are little, but seems weird for an extended period.
starbucks2 starbucks2 7 years
Hey anonymous, so because you heard different from one source, this whole thing is bs? Let me tell you, unfortunately it's not. School is out by 1pm, childcare after that and before the age of 6 is almost unavailable. There are really not a lot of SAHM's, but most of them work part time and as cashiers, not executives! Being a mom is not a good idea if you're planning on having a carreer in Germany. Oh and I know what I'm talking about, I'm German and welcomed a baby girl last year.
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