Woman in a gilded Cage

Now this was an unusual take on the debate of working women. “Stop the government from forcing our women to abandon their children during the first three years of their childhood by making them go back to work.” Huh, are these people in Germany?

In Germany you can receive up to three years financial government support if you decide to stay home with your Baby during its first three years of life. Parents (yes, even the guys) are encouraged to take time out with their kids, if they want to. Your Employer, although not paying you wages during this time, cannot fire you. Your job should be waiting for you when you get back.

On the other hand many families that need to and want to return to work lament the lack of adequate facilities for their youngest and many and expensive solutions are being offered my companies themselves to allow family life and a career to be possible for both men and women. It´s generally accepted that employees, that are well-trained and gifted, should be given many incentives to return and stay with their companies as long as possible.

That is what is happening and then this leaflet? Government forcing women back to work? Maybe I should mention that this leaflet found its way into my mailbox during the current election campaign and is a political flyer distributed by those who should not be named, but must, the NPD. They are what remains of a once massive movement that promised “The Third Reich” and ended in Tears for the whole world.

Oh, them.

And it is interesting that the statement apparently is made by one of their female representatives. (Imagine steam coming out of my ears at this point.)

The fact is that german Government likes the women to stay at home at the hearth and have done many things to ensure that they stay where she could not be a competitor for precious jobs. After WWII she was. Men were being wasted in the war, but the “home front” needed to keep on working, so women had taken  over the jobs that had been dominated by men until then. Ironic that the war did so much for women´s lib. But this had not been the plan and the backlash came during the Fifties for many women and not only the German ones.

My italian grandmother, who had organized food where there was none, in “Rome Open City” and was twenty during the twenties, found herself reprimanded when her knee showed under her dress. It was unsuitable that she should run her own business, as this somehow implied that her husband was not able to provide enough for the family.

The truth of course was a little more complicated. Men, returning from war hardships, needed jobs. So women were told to go home. The fact that they had proven they were not the weaker gender after all, was suddenly irrelevant.

Germany gilded the cage in the course of the years. Elterngeld, Kindergeld – money paid out by the State to Stay-at-home-Mums made it financially viable to live off one income only and have children. That women were giving up careers, higher incomes and in the long run higher pensions was partially compensated with tax exemptions for families and recognition of family time as payment into your pension scheme. All seemed well and dandy.

But the truth is a lot of Women like working, if they can establish their own career. The truth is a lot of Women are better Mums if they can. The truth is Women always have worked and Women deserve to have the choice where they work, at home or outside of the home. Oh yes, I have met  “The Mum” too. Great ladies that educate and nourish their kids, plunge themselves into school commitees and find total fulfillment in making a home. They are happy with their choice. But too often I have met women who were trying to live that ideal and found that it worked for them as little as it does for most men.

They pick at the lock of the gilded cage.

I have met ladies in other countries that reacted enthousiastically to the news of Elterngeld and Kindergeld. WOW, they said. It would be nice to take break, but if they had to choose, they declared they´d rather have the career.

That´s a difficult choice for a woman in Germany, even today. With all these financial incentives to stay at home who wouldn´t. It must be a Rabenmutter, that doesn´t really care about her kids. Why did she have them in the first place?! She should be worried about her bedsheets coming out of wash in the brightest of bright whites rather than establishing a career. Who cares for her personal fulfillment other than that of being a mother! Yikes…

Guilt can be quite unsubtle. It´s purpose less so.

Indeed a lot of women put off having children or decide not to have them, when they want a career. They choose university courses that suit their future family plans and not their personal talents. So much that the lack of women in the engineering and science fields has been noted and of the women that do study in these subjects, the numbers that actually go on to work in these fields is sad. I realized how used to this concept I was, when I was surprised how many young french female engineers I met in an international environment. Why was I surprised they were Engineers?

I come from a family that moved several times and I have three siblings. My mum stayed at home most of the time, but I know she would have liked to work outside of the house more. She had a great time when she did and worked for interesting people. I know she liked that learning never stopped, even though she had to leave school early due to financial considerations. Maybe if we had stayed in London, where all-day schools are in place, she could have returned to work. But we came to Germany and my parents decided we should attend local schools so we could integrate into our environment. But schools run only half-days and hours were and still are irregular and my Mum paid the price of the Stay-at-home Mum, as so many women still do. Unless you are so strapped for cash, that there is no other option than making your kids a Schlüsselkind (child that carried his house keys with him, comes home to empty house and makes his own lunch), mothers opt to be at home whenever their child returns from school.

Would you risk being called a Rabenmutter?



Rabenmutter – Apparently the Raven gets a bad reputation for neglecting its chicks from some bible passages. They are wrong. Ravens do not neglect their chicks.

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