Tuesday, January 19, 2010


While taking a short mental break from research in the British Library, I ran across a couple of interesting articles at the New York Times.

One is on changes in family life and motherhood in Germany as more women enter the labour market.

This is hardly a new topic, of course, but there are elements in the article that touch upon what I've found to be a distinctive mixture of modernity and traditionalism in my adopted homeland.

Much of it focuses on Bavaria, where these tendencies are, in my experience, more marked than usual.

As is kind of summed up in this passage:

Even five years ago, all-day schooling in Neuötting seemed unthinkable, Mayor Peter Haugeneder said. There is a crucifix in his office, in every classroom of the Max Fellermeier school and even in the Spanish-themed restaurant run by the gay butcher.

Also related in some way is an article on the increasing tendency for men to marry women who earn more and are better educated than they are.

There are, apparently, men who have a problem with this, causing some frustration in the world of dating.

Ms. Zielinski, the fashion stylist, said her best friend, a man, told her once: “ ‘You are confident, have good credit, own your own business, travel around the world and are self-sufficient. What man is going to want you?’ He laughed, but I found that pretty depressing.”

If true, it is.


Ario said...

I indeed doubt that is true for the majority.

But I do think the big issue remains childcare for working parents, more in the West than in the East. That will determine whether all this talk of female advancement and changing attitudes is just hot air (or Germany just reaching the bare minimum that is already attained in other Western countries) or actually has a practical effect.

I woke up to a newsreport on dradio highlighting the discrepancies here (if I heard rightly Niedersachsen's nurseries would only cover 5% of the working population, whereas in Saxony-Anhalt parents have a Recht auf einen Kindergartenplatz). The stereotype over here in the East is that Wessis still cling to the ideal of the three Ks for women, which in practice means that plenty of well-educated women while away more time than necessary at home with the young offspring.

(Personally I don't think either child or mother benefits from that arrangement. Children who stay at home for longer seem in my experience further behind (less social, less agile, less articulate etc) than children who go to nursery/kindergarten from the age of one.)

But what with the current state of finances of many communities I am doubtful whether the planned expansion of Kindergartenplätze will take place. Given the importance of early childhood development for future educational achievements that would be just another example of the current coalition getting its priorities completely backwards.

Anyway, I'm grumping. I hope you are well!

John Carter Wood said...

Hi Ario! Nice to hear from you.

And thanks for your insights. For us, the childcare issue has no personal relevance. I am struck, however, by the frequency with which I hear or read the comment in (I guess mainly western) Germany that sending children to nurseries or pre-school is going to cause some kind of developmental hindrance for them.

And also by the extent to which this question of nursery care is turned into a moral one about being a good or bad parent (usually mother, i.e., the whole 'Rabenmutter' theme).

I mean, I grew up in a rather 'traditional' kind of situation (after marriage, my mother never worked outside of the home), but that was also partly because my parents were of an older generation.

I liked it just fine, and I think my mother was satisfied with it, although toward the end of her life, she looked back with some regret that women didn't have as many chances 'in my day'. (And--although she'd never have called herself a 'feminist'--she expressed no small amount of frustration with young women who didn't want to take advantage of all the freedoms they had gained since she was a girl in the 1930s, and who only thought of their lives in terms of family.)

I remember the discussion about 'latchkey kids' was very present in the 1970s and early 80s, but I had loads of friends whose parents both worked without it ever seeming to affect them negatively.

Take care and thanks for writing.