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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Mommy Wars in Germany

So yeah, the thing I've been saying I would write about. An annoying, yet unavoidable and ubiquitous problem. Especially because everyone's all wringing their hands about Germany's falling fertility rates. Well, duh. But then there was an article in Time (the European version), and then Landismom mentioned it, and thus I was reminded of the irksome thing I'd been taking for granted.

The Situation With Women is just part of the daily reality around here, and we all accept it because we have no choice: we have kids, therefore we don't have jobs, aside from selling Avon or Tupperware or something, and this is true throughout Germany. It's not just the second-shift situation that so many American women face, where they have to work so much harder than men. There is so much prejudice here that we don't even have the opportunity to work harder. Employers aren't willing to work around mothers' schedules, which are impossible anyway. Aside from the vast number of arbitrary holidays, kids get out of school at 11 in first grade, at 1 in fifth grade, and they can't legally be home alone until they're 12. That's right. You have a kid, you are basically banned from working for twelve. Years.

Companies have to provide maternity benefits for female employees. They don't have to hire women, though, and many choose not to for just that reason. This is legal here. Many aren't even willing to hire childless women because who knows? She might get pregnant.

And this is what really bugs me, and what isn't being said aloud. Women in Germany, much more than in the States, have to choose between motherhood and a career, yes. But very often that choice is not even in our hands. To choose motherhood, you have to find a man who is willing to support you and some kids. To choose a career, you have to find someone (usually a man) who is willing to hire you. There are fewer and fewer of both kinds of men around, so even women who want to play that game are caught in a double-bind.

So now a government study (referenced here) has come out that says German women are lazy. Apparently we spend less time doing housework than any other women in Europe. Oh cool, that's just what we needed, a rousing game of blame-the-victim.

Yeah, we don't do a lot of housework. We spend a lot of time on leisure activities because we're just killing time. We could be working at job-jobs, you know, outside the house. We're just waiting for someone to give us a chance.

... crickets chirping ...

Hellooooo?

7 comments:

cmhl said...

wow. I had no idea that it was like that there..

what is the rationale behind having hte kids get out of school at different times? it seems that that would be a logistical nightmare for the parents!

do they have after-school care, if there IS a working mother?

Anonymous said...

Add this to your list of Why It's Better to Be Canadian:
50 weeks of paid maternity/parental leave.
That's right, no one goes back to work for a year after having a baby. Or if you want, Mom can take the 15 weeks of maternity leave, and Mom and Dad can divide up the 35 weeks of parental leave however they like. I started my mat leave 6 weeks before my due date, but many women work right up until they pop so that they get the full 50 weeks to hang out with the baby. We pay a crapload of taxes in Canada, and this is one of the benefits. When you work, you pay Employment Insurance premiums, and when you have a kid, they give it back to you, at the rate of 55% of your wages, based on your last 6 months of work. AND, employers must give you some sort of job (similar but not exactly the same job) when you come back to work. AND I just found out, if you have a benefits package through your work, they can't cut you off while you are on maternity leave (yay - I can still go to the dentist!). Of course, I work in a very much female dominated field, so getting hired in the first place wasn't a problem, I think in other realms the getting hired part is much harder. It makes me sad to read the pregnancy/baby books from the States, because they all talk about "getting ready to go back to work" 6 weeks postpartum - YUCK!

Good luck with it alala, it sounds Majorly Sucky.
Belly Melly

L said...

I also had no idea it was like this in Germany. I think, having lived in the US my entire life, I take for granted the simple things such as being able to have a flexible work schedule with kids. Posts like this remind me that the world has still a long way to go before men and women are treated equal or even close.

KimberlyDi said...

That totally sucks! Barbaric. Wow. The US isn't looking so bad now.

landismom said...

Thanks for the more on-the-ground version of this. I thought the Times story was interesting, but it's more real to see it from the viewpoint of a woman living in the country.

Chicka said...

Yeah, I don't clean nearly enough either. Who knows - maybe I'm German after all. *snort*

Seriously considering moving to Canada. It's just a hop, skip and a border jump.

~d (tilde) said...

interested in cmhl's questions...I mean: what if you find yourself single or a widow, too...then what are your options?