“A wonderful gift”
Taking care of the children? Working part-time or from home? Parents explain how they balance their family and working lives.
Germany does a lot for parents. Pregnant women cannot be fired from their jobs. For six weeks before giving birth, and for at least eight weeks after, women do not have to work – but still get paid.
The parental allowance that was introduced in 2007 is designed to compensate for the shortfall in earnings that parents experience when they look after their children or work part-time. The allowance is paid for twelve to 14 months, though it can also be halved and drawn for twice that long. For up to three years, parents have the right to return to their old job - in some cases they are entitled to work part-time.
Clare, a 41-year-old translator from Frankfurt, made use of this right and returned to her old job – on a part-time basis – after three years of maternity leave. Partly due to the travelling the role would have entailed, she gave up the position as team leader that she had previously held, though she did not find that difficult, she says. “Being a mother has changed my focus.” It was important for her to be able to work only mornings, and mainly from home, so as to spend more time with her daughter. After a year back at work, Clare had another child. She now plans to spend another three years at home with her son.
Clare describes her maternity leave as “a wonderful gift”. She takes her children to many different groups, and does voluntary work, for example giving German lessons to refugees.
Martin, a self-employed IT expert from Fürth, wants to devote his time entirely to his two daughters. When the 39-year-old became a father for the first time five years ago, he took on the role of house husband while his wife worked full time.
One man among many mothers
Martin explains that he himself never had any problem with the reversal of roles, though he did find it a bit “curious” that he was usually the only man at the playground. The other mothers were interested to hear the male perspective for a change, however. "We arranged play dates at the playground and had a great time", Martin recalls. To make sure his daughter didn't get bored, he took her to a different playground each day.
When his wife would come home from work in the afternoon, Martin had the chance to “switch off and do a bit of gaming” before preparing dinner. Once his daughter had settled down at nursery, he began working flexible part-time hours again. With their second child, his wife is taking two years of maternity leave before Martin then takes over again.