Portrait 01

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"The most beautiful time is when the five of us are together. That beats everything."
© eveleen007 - stock.adobe.com
© eveleen007 - stock.adobe.com

The portrayed scientists have been working in the same department of a research institute for 10 years. Both are research associates and deputy group leaders. Today married, they first met during their studies. Nineteen months ago, they became parents of triplets. They organize the everyday family life on an equal footing and split all tasks half-half among themselves.

What were your first thoughts when you found out you were expecting triplets?

Female Scientist: At first, I laughed so much. I am a triplet myself and my family had always prophesied this to me for fun. A little later, however, there was a moment where I was frightened. I knew that triplets were definitely born earlier. My mother already managed it and that was 30 years ago. Already at that time, everything went well and today the medicine is clearly more advanced. I was very happy from the beginning.

Male Scientist: First, you don’t really realize what it means to get three at once. I was very happy and thought “wow”. I was not frightened because I did not think about the risks. In the course of the pregnancy, it became more and more real. The pregnancy was an exhausting time. My wife had many doctor’s appointments due to the triplet pregnancy and was released from work very early while I was keeping on working normally.

What ideas and plans did you have to reconcile family and career?

Female Scientist: I had hoped to have time for the children as well as for the work. I wanted to continue my work to an extent that would allow me to continue working as much as possible as before in terms of responsibilities and project tasks. On the other hand, the children should definitely not miss out.

Male Scientist: I definitely wanted to reduce my working time to have time for the children.

How did you coordinate the reconciliation of family and career? Where you on the same page from the start?

Male Scientist: That was quite uncomplicated. I wanted to take the father role and not a traditional division of roles. I would have also stayed at home for half a year, but we had no idea how the breastfeeding of three children would work and so we decided against it.

Female Scientist: We agreed from the outset. If it had only been one child, we would have shared even more. Then I would have gone back to work in the first year and my husband would have also stayed home for a few months in the first year. We wanted to split this. It was always important to my husband that he could contribute a lot. To me, it was important that I am not only a mom but can also continue my work.

How did your supervisor and colleagues react to your plans?

Female Scientist: Our superior was happy for and with us. To stay a year home as a mother is nowadays somehow standard and everyone is expecting it that way. That is why it was not a big surprise that I did that too. We have always tried to communicate early and transparently so that our supervisor could plan well.

Male Scientist: We discussed our plans with our supervisor. He has a child himself and thus he fully sympathized with us. Our colleagues have also reacted well and glad. Nevertheless, we have also communicated that we will be available at all times.

Before you became parents, you both worked full time. How do you work today?

Female Scientist: I was at home for a year on parental leave. After that, I started work again with 30 hours a week. At the same time, my husband has reduced his working hours to 30 hours per week for four months. After the four months, we both increased to 35 hours per week. For two months now, we have been doing this and testing to see if this works for us.

Male Scientist: In the first month following the birth, the children were still in the hospital with my wife. Although I could not help so much, I still worked less to be able to be there. In the second and third month, I took parental leave and vacation and stayed at home.

How did you organize the care of the children?

Female Scientist: Our limit was a third-party care at the earliest after one year and then at most 7.5 hours a day. We were able to realize that: the children are cared for in the daycare for 7.5 hours, 5 days a week. One of us leaves the house at 7 am so he or she is at work at 8 am. The other one takes the children to the daycare and is at work at about 9 am. The one who started earlier will pick up the children at 3:15 p.m. We take turns every day – so that each has an afternoon with the children at home. For important meetings or business trips, we exchange the days.

In case of sickness, the one who would have had the shorter day anyway because he or she would have picked up the children stays at home. If one has an important appointment, then the other stays at home. If the children are sick for several days, we take turns.

For further support, we still have my mother-in-law. She is really worth a mint. She lives next door and helps every morning to get the children ready for the daycare. We get up at 6 o’clock and leave the house at 7:30 am. It’s a challenge to prepare three children and two adults for the day and to have breakfast in 1.5 hours. Without the help of my mother-in-law, we would have to reduce our working hours.

Male Scientist: And the great-grandma of the children is also there and helps every day. For example, she reads a book with one child while the other two are getting dressed. This is a highlight for the great-grandma and for the children as well. Sometimes the grandparents are also available as babysitters and take a day off for that. Then there is my sister still living with my parents next door. All family members can easily put the children to bed because the children know them all so well.

How do you organize the everyday family life?

Female Scientist: We take turns in having the Friday off. We use the day for housekeeping, for shopping and for the precooking for the weekend.

Male Scientist: By now, the free Friday is not so popular anymore because there is a lot to do that day. The one who has the day off is then also responsible for dropping and picking up the children. We communicate a lot for the everyday organization. Usually, we use the weekend to talk through the next week. In addition, we have a common calendar that helps immensely.

What does your working environment say about your working model?

Female Scienist: The project partners and customers are mostly surprised that we are working so much or that we are already working again. There were no negative reactions.

Male Scienist: Many people understand our situation because they also have children. We are also available at any time and sometimes take work home. The work is very important to us and our colleagues and customers know that.

How satisfied are you with how the reconciliation of work and family works for you?

Female Scientist: I am pretty satisfied. So far, it works well with the 35 hours per week. Unfortunately, I recently had many business trips. I was gone about two to three times a month overnight and then had additional one-day trips. I am happy when I get home, but also when I leave for work.

Male Scientist: The variety is valuable. I would not like to only work and come home at 7 p.m., but I would also not want to step back from work permanently and be responsible for the children alone. I have strongly reduced my business trips and only travel if it is necessary. Right now, it is more important for my wife to travel because of projects. If she is on a business trip, I will take and pick up the kids. However, the most beautiful time is when the five of us are together. That beats everything!

This is usually between 6 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. during the week, and then everyone is in a high spirit. Right now, I am very happy as it is, but I consider reducing my working time some more in the future.

Female Scientist: Due to the more limited working hours, such things as a coffee with colleagues unfortunately cease. The time we have for the children we only focus on the children. We enjoy the time with the children consciously and when we work from home, then only when the children are in bed.

Who or what helps you the most to reconcile your work and private life and which benefits does your institute offer you for this reconciliation?

Female Scientist: Three things are indispensable for us: First, the family support. Without this support, we would not be able to work to that extent. Second, the flexibility, the working time regulation, and that we can organize our work ourselves. Third that we both work at the same institute. I have heard from the experiences of acquaintances that in other companies they may not be so happy when fathers go on parental leave. Here, it was never an issue that my husband should not take parental leave.

Male Scientist: It helps us a lot that we both work in the same group and have overlapping activities. So we know about each other’s work. The uncomplicated arrangement with our common superiors also helps immensely. That simplifies to make our everyday work more flexible. It would all be much more complicated and would require so much more organization if we had different employers.

Which changes at your institute would allow you an even better reconciliation of private life and work?

Female Scientist: At our institute, each of us has at most four days per month in flextime. It would be great if more such days a month were available, as other institutes of our research organization already have. That is whining at a high level. Moreover, it should become more normal to work from different places. The current culture of presence is often no longer necessary.

Male Scientist: A kindergarten directly on campus would be great. Moreover, a shorter core working time (currently 9 am to 4 pm) would be great because then you could also pick up the children as a full-time employee

What advice would you give to other parents?

Female Scientist: Follow your own wishes, ideas, and not those of society. Pay attention to you and the children, to your feeling as a family and not to the opinion of the neighbors.

Male Scientist: Do not let the expectations of the environment influence you. We both saw the kindergarten as an opportunity. That is exactly what I would advise others. Our children like to go to the daycare and they are very well balanced by it. You should always listen to your own feelings. If you do not feel good, then you have to change something.

Role Models

Individual paths for the reconciliation of private and working life

Pictures © eveleen007 - stock.adobe.com

  • "The both of us didn't want the traditional family model."

    The portrayed female scientist started 10 years ago with a PhD scholarship at her institute.
    Six years ago, she was hired as a research associate. She has been deputy head of department
    for four years. Her husband works in the same department. Together they have a daughter in
    toddler age and a son in infancy. Currently, both work 40 percent to look after their
    son at home.

    Read on.
    Portrait 09
  • "Special is that you have responsibility around the clock.
    At the office, you are responsible for the employees and at home,
    you are responsible for your child."

    The portrayed female scientist has been working at her institute for 10 years.
    After the birth of her daughter, the female scientist went for parental leave
    for one year. Shortly after she returned to her old position, the management of
    a department was offered to her. She has been in charge of the department for
    one and a half years now and her daughter is three years old.

    Read on.

    Portrait 08
  • "A tandem only works with good coordination and absolute confidence."

    The portrayed female scientist A and the portrayed female scientist B jointly
    lead a department. Both work part time. Female Scientist A has a doctorate.
    She has been working at her research institute for almost 15 years. She is
    married and has a daughter and a son in primary school age.
    Female Scientist B started working as a research assistant for the research
    institute alongside her studies 8 years ago. She has been a research
    associate for 2 years.

    Read on.

    Portrait 07
  • "Although we work so much,
    we spend a lot of beautiful time with our children."

    The portrayed female scientist has been working at her Institute for more than
    20 years. She began her career as a research assistant. For the last seven years,
    she has been working as a department manager and recently became a professor at
    university. In favor of this new task, she has given up the management of the
    department, but she continues to work for her research institute. She is married,
    has a daughter with Down syndrome and a son.

    Read on.

    Portrait 06
  • "Role models were very important to me."

    The portrayed female scientist has been working at her research institute for
    10 years. The portrayed scientist has a doctorate and is a group leader at a university.
    Both are married and have a 14 months old son, whom they look after together.

    Read on.

    Portrait 05
  • "There is nothing special about taking on a leadership function
    and working part-time."

    The portrayed female scientist has been working at her institute for almost 20 years.
    Almost a year after she took over the leadership of a group, her son was born.
    Her son is now four years old. The female scientist is still a group leader and works
    part-time to be able to spend time with her son.

    Read on.

    Portrait 04
  • "A Dad home alone with a baby is really recommendable."

    The portrayed scientists both work at the same research institute. They are married
    and have two daughters, which are in kindergarten and elementary school age.
    The scientist has been at the Institute for seven years. When she started working
    for the institute, her first daughter was five months old and because of that,
    her father cared for her until her first birthday. The male scientist has a PhD and
    has been working at the Institute for two years.

    Read on.
    Portrait 03
  • "Instead of two bosses the employees now have two contact persons."

    The portrayed female Scientist and the portrayed male scientist lead a department
    of their research Institute jointly. The Institute has several locations. The two
    portrayed scientists work at a location that is rural without connection to an
    university town. The female scientist has a PhD and has been working for the
    institute for almost 10 years. She is married. The male scientist has a diploma
    and has been at the Institute for almost 20 years. He is married and has two
    children in primary school age. His wife works part-time at the same institute.

    Read on.
    Portrait 02
  • "The most beautiful time is when the five of us are together.
    That beats everything."

    The portrayed scientists have been working in the same department of a research
    institute for 10 years. Both are research associates and deputy group leaders.
    Today married, they first met during their studies. Nineteen months ago, they became
    parents of triplets. They organize the everyday family life on an equal footing and
    split all tasks half-half among themselves.

    Read on.
    Portrait 01