career and children

guenzel at guenzel at
Wed Jun 5 09:46:22 EST 1996

On 29 May 1996 07:39:37 GMT, Sabine Dippel wrote:

>Though Germany has a very generous maternity leave - sorry if I don't get
>the times right, but I think it's 6 weeks before the child's birth and 6 weeks
>after (fully paid)

6 weeks before and 8 weeks after

>, after that you get 600 DM (approx. 400 dollars) a month 
>(if your husband doesn't earn too much) for half a year (maybe even longer,
>I'm not sure of this). All in all, you can take up to 3 years off, and you 
>still get your job back after this time.

This leave, of course, is optional. If you take it you are guaranteed 
to get an "equivalent" job in your company (not the job you had).

After these comments, I'll try to give you my (very personal) opinion on 
the situation in Germany:

To my experience, there are great differences between the different 
universities. My daughter (Carolin, just 4 now) was born in Konstanz, a 
few weeks after I finished my PhD. There it seemed to be very unusual for 
undergrads/PhD-students to be married & have children.

To illustrate this, I first have to explain a few things about the German 
As in French you have two ways of addressing other persons (engl.: "you"): 
persons you are familiar with you would address with "Du" (together with 
the first name), while strangers would be addressed with "Sie" (plus Ms or 
Mr ...). At schools and universities, however, students would always use 
"Du" to other students, even if they don't know each other.
I remember that I felt extremely uncomfortable, when I took my daughter up 
to the university and all for a sudden the students started to call me 
"Sie". For them it seemed impossible that a student could have a child!

During the first few months I only had a part time contract, because my 
boss there thought (and still thinks) a woman with child would not be 
able to handle a full time job. As I am single and have to support both 
me and my daughter by myself I couldn't afford to live on a part time 
job and (as I wanted to leave that lab anyway) I applied for jobs at other 
universities. As I was then still breast-feeding my daughter, I had to 
take her (+ a baby-sitter) with me for my interviews. This of course 
limited the number of interviews I got, on the other hand it had the 
advantage, that the Profs who did invite me also accepted the fact that I 
did have a child. I ended up in Duesseldorf with a boss who is extremely 
supportive and a completely different environment: here, quite a few of 
even undergrad students do have children and nobody stares if you push a 
buggy across the campus.

The disadvantage is that Duesseldorf is more than 650 km from my parents 
and that day-care facilities for very young children are very rare here. 
Fortunately I found a women who has two kids of her own and was willing to 
take on another one (or sometimes two) during the day. It is rather 
expensive, but single parents can get some finacial support from the local 
authorities (depending on their wages).

Since last summer Carolin is in "Kindergarten" during the morning. At 
lunchtime she is "collected" by her day-care (still the same woman), where 
she spends the afternoon ("Kindergarten" opening ours are rather ridiculous
for working parents: 7.30 am -12.30 pm and 2 pm - 4 pm).

What I found most difficult was to organize my experiments in a way that I 
can leave the lab more or less at the same time every day. I try to fully 
concentrate on Carolin when I come home. Yet, I often do have to take some 
work home which I do when Carolin is asleep and of course there is all the 
washing, shopping, ...(which I usually do during the weekend).

Another thing which I find hard to cope with is that I feel rather isolated
socially. I cannot easily go out with people from the lab in the evening, 
and most of my neighbours are very "traditional" families, where, of 
course, the women stay at home and don't really understand that I would 
"not even" want to give up my work if I were married.

In the meantime I know several women who work in the lab and have kids. 
However, all except one are at about the same level as I am (no tenure..). 
Personally, I only know one female Professor with (3) children, however, 
her husband gave up his job to look after the children (the other female 
Professors I know are either single or don't have children). I wonder what 
will happen during the next 10 years or so, to all the "mummies in 
science" I know at the moment. Will they drop out are continue their 
career? (And, what will happen to me??)

Actually I would be very interested in getting in touch with other 
(single?) mums in science, to talk about experiences, etc.

Bye for now

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