Motherhood in Germany

Sometimes you learn things that make you realise how ignorant you were. I really didn’t know much about gender roles in Germany until J-Bro sent me an article a few days ago. I kind of assumed Germany would be really good on gender equality, support for working mothers, etc. Not like Sweden or Finland, but certainly at least as good as the UK and probably better. How wrong I was:

Manuela Maier was branded a bad mother. A Rabenmutter, or raven mother, after the black bird that pushes chicks out of the nest. She was ostracized by other mothers, berated by neighbors and family, and screamed at in a local store.
Her crime? Signing up her 9-year-old son when the local primary school first offered lunch and afternoon classes last autumn — and returning to work.

Not quite believing what I was reading (most schools in Germany end before lunch; West German wives needed their husbands’ permission to work until 1977; only 3% of 3 year olds have nursery places in the former West Germany), I checked with a German woman I know. She told me it was all true, and that well-educated urban people in their 20s tell her with some regularity that she should conceal her intellect so as not to put the menfolk off.

I’m learning too many depressing new things this week. (Thanks, J-Bro and T!)

6 thoughts on “Motherhood in Germany

  1. Still, it has to be said that Bavaria is not (like the rest) Germany. Being considered a “Rabenmutter” is far more likely in Bavaria (esp. rural areas) than in, say, Berlin or other eastern and northern areas. I don’t find it likely in Berlin someone calling a woman a “ravenmother” because she takes her child to an all day school (as the woman in the article did). If she is lucky enough to get a space for her child in an all day school, that is..

  2. Very interesting how different parts of the world “handle” the same life experiences so differently. It’s great to think so highly of parenthood, but to berate a parent (calling her “raven mother”) is uncalled for, in my opinion. Everyone’s family life is different, maybe that mom’s family needed the money – of course we don’t know that, but we should all be free to do what is best for our individual family.

  3. My first son was born while I was living in Germany and this was not at all my experience. Two of the couple I knew with kids actually split childcare. They were able to do this because Germany actually has parental leave – not maternity leave – which is subsidized with federal money.

  4. I think since 2007 you receive parental money for around 14 months (something like 67 % of your netto income) in Germany, where these 14 months cannot be taken by one person, but max 12 months. So there is some motivation for the partner to take 2 months off work. According to newspaper articles on this topic every 6th father took parental leave (2008, including those who only take the two months, it seems).
    It is probably sending a positive signal towards equal parental responsibilities, but if the current generation of young parents is not inclined to pick up on it, things will change only at a slow rate.

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