Portrait 03

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"A Dad home alone with a baby is really recommendable.“
© eveleen007 - stock.adobe.com
© eveleen007 - stock.adobe.com

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 female 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.

Question to the Female Scientist: You started working at your institute shortly after the birth of your first daughter. How did it come about and how did you organize the care of your daughter?

Female Scientist: Before our first child was born, I worked as a PhD student at a university. The change of my personal objective had several reasons. My professor at the time got a reputation in another city and my PhD topic was not quite right for me. Besides, I always wanted to have children as early as possible and found that I was actually already quite late then. For me, it was just the right moment for a child.

After the birth, I started to reorient professionally. When I read the job vacancy, I knew this place would fit perfectly with me. In the interview, I said at the very end that I am still on parental leave and have a five-month-old daughter. Already then, the plan was set that my husband would take over the further care of our daughter.

Male Scientist: At this time, I also worked at the university. Originally, it was planned that I would go on parental leave from the sixth or seventh month of our daughter’s life. Because of the job offer for my wife, I wanted to take parental leave in the short term from the fifth month. I explained the situation to my professor and it was not a problem for him. It was really easier than I thought. The project I worked on was extended in a cost-neutral manner. I stayed at home for six months and when our daughter was a year, I worked full time again.

Female Scientist: At the beginning of my employment, I worked full time for four months and I was then able to take three months of parental leave again. It was really great that my group leader was so flexible. After that, I worked full time again.

How did you split the care of your second daughter?

Male Scientist: We made it a little different with our second daughter. My wife was 14 months at home and I stayed home two times each three months. At that time, I finished my dissertation and used the parental leave for that. During the first three months, I was still employed at the university. Immediately afterward I switched to a small consulting company. There I had another three months of parental leave later.

Female Scientist: The dissertation is, so to speak, our third child (laughs). After the 14 months of parental leave, I worked for about four months 75 percent and then following full-time again. I discussed with my group leader how to plan my re-entry and he fully supported me. With flexibility and mutual agreement, we have always been able to find solutions that fit both my working group and me. If, for example, one of the children is sick and I have something important to work on at the same time, I can do it from home. At some point, I asked if I could get a laptop for it. From then on, the organization became even simpler and more flexible.

When they turned one year, the children came to the daycare center, which is close to the institute. One of us takes the children and the other picks them up. This way one can start early and the other can work longer.

Question to the Female Scientist: How did you manage the early reentry after the birth of your first daughter? Did you have role models?

Female Scientist: For me, the early reentry was just right. With our second child, the 14 months of parental leave have been a bit long towards the end. I felt not challenged enough intellectually. When I was working at the university, my professor set an example for early re-entry. I never doubted that it could work.

Question to the Male Scientist: Were you concerned about going to parental time as a man?

Female Scientist: We would explicitly like to advertise it. A father home alone with a baby is highly recommended. After the first few weeks, my husband realized that he had really little time for the household. I think he could only experience this because he was home alone with the child. This helped our partnership and mutual appreciation tremendously.

Male Scientist: For me, the sole parental leave was also important in view of the tighter relationship that I could build with my child. My skills in dealing with our child have been strengthened and I can act as an equal father – not only on parental leave but also in the future.

Question to the Male Scientist: How did you experience your parental leave?

Male Scientist: That was a nice and much diversified time. I had no real idea what I would do in my parents’ time before. I was able to read a lot during this time because the little girl slept a lot. We went for walks a lot. Of course, you always have to react spontaneously to the needs of such a small child. I also attended a parent-child course with my daughter. In the beginning, it was funny to be the only man, especially because at the beginning the course was very adapted to the needs of mothers. I didn’t know anything about that. However, when the children grew older and were able to move more, there were also other topics of discussion. That was fun. I also used my parents’ time to think about my future: What do I do when I come back? How to proceed with the dissertation?

Question to the Female Scientist: You were breastfeeding despite the fact that you went back to work. How did you organize this?

Female Scientist: In the beginning, I pumped milk for the next day at noon and in the afternoon. The German Maternity Protection Act grants any breastfeeding mother the right to breastfeed or to pump during the working hours. My daughter did not get baby food at the time I started working again. My husband introduced the baby food slowly when our daughter was big enough for it. By the baby food at noon, I reduced the breastfeeding or the pumping.

What ideas and plans did you have to reconcile family and career when you learned that you are becoming a parent?

Male Scientist: For today’s time we are relatively young parents, however, compared to our own parents we are late parents. It was clear to us that we approach career and family planning at the same time. So the four of us are constantly developing.

Female Scientist: For me, it was never a question of whether children and career planning work together. I knew it would work. Perhaps this is also due to our own upbringing. Our parents have always worked both.

How did you reconcile family and career? Did you agree from the start?

Female Scientist: Basically, we agreed. I actually wanted to have children even earlier. My husband said that I should work for at least a year. Looking back, that was right that way. If you want to reconcile child and work, then it is better to have some experience and an idea of how the working life is. From my own experience, I can say that I was able to enjoy the time as a mother more when I knew where I wanted to go.

How did your colleagues react to how you reconcile family and work?

Male Scientist: That was quite diverse. Many young colleagues had not yet interest in starting a family. A few colleagues thought it is great that I took over the parental leave, others were skeptical. Since I was the only man in the parent-child course, I noticed that many mothers have reservations about a man alone taking care of his child.

Female Scientist: People often asked, “How could you leave your child alone at five months?” I did not leave my child alone! It was with his father. I am in favor of equal rights for mother and father. It’s nicer for the child and gives the woman more freedom for her own career. Unfortunately, however, there are also mothers who do not give the fathers any freedom and do not trust them with this task. That is sad.

Male Scientist: Of course, there are also men who are only focused on their career and do not want to contribute so much to childcare. In addition, there are families in which the financial situation does not allow it. There is no general rule to that.

How do you organize the care of your children nowadays?

Female Scientist: We continue to apply our rule “one brings the other picks up”. Our oldest daughter is now in the first grade. That is why we currently have two contact points – school and kindergarten. That makes things a little more time-consuming. We want the children to be happy. We have great luck with our afternoon care. The elementary school and the afternoon care match perfectly and there are fixed caregivers. The afternoon care is great, we are hardly missed.

Male Scientist: On the contrary, if we come too early to pick them up, that is not desired either. Our daughter is very happy to be there. If she wants to be picked up sooner, we’ll get her. Then we continue work in the evening or the next day. The children should not feel that they must stay in the care facilities. The younger one is still in the full-day kindergarten and starts school next year. We do not exploit the care times completely. Not later than 5:30 pm, we all want to be home together.

Can you rely on grandparents or friends in case of an emergency?

Female Scientist: Not in acute cases, as the grandparents themselves are still working and they live in another city. However, on holidays, the children visit grandma and grandpa regularly.

Male Scientist: When one of the children is sick, one of us stays at home.

Female Scientist: We will then come to an agreement for whom it just fits better. We actually often alternate daily. We always try to remain open and flexible for solutions. Luckily, we have this opportunity here at the institute. We ourselves are responsible for our work and when we do it.

How high is your travel activity and how do you organize the care then?

Female Scientist: Who enters the calendar first is allowed to go (laughs). The other then takes care of the children alone. I am currently working on an EU project. This means that I have about three to five several-day business trips a year. In addition, there are a few business trips without overnight stays. That way it is within limits.

Male Scientist: I currently have few business trips. This can change depending on the project situation.

How do you split the organization of the daily life?

Female Scientist: In the household, we both do the same. However, we have support from a domestic help. My first boss advised me to do this. We are buying time this way. Without this support, we used the Saturday mainly for the household. The weekend is the free time we want to spend with our children. When the children get older, we have to, of course, make clear to them that it cannot be taken for granted that someone comes to clean.

How does your superior support you?

Female Scientist: My direct manager gives me maximum freedom. He is quite composed and trusts me. I am responsible for my duties.

Male Scientist: That is similar for me. Even when a child is sick, there is no discussion. If necessary, urgent things are done from home.

Which framework conditions of your Institute contribute to the reconciliation of family and work?

Female Scientist: An understanding boss and predictable tasks enable us to reconcile work and family life. The flextime is also very important. We have a relatively narrow core time of the day, from 9 a.m. to 14:30 p.m. Most of the meetings take place in this period. We also use the parent-child office in the house regularly. The kids keep asking when we are going to do it again. Tomorrow, for example, the daycare is closed, so the little one comes along.

What does your working environment say about your working model? Do you get feedback?

Male Scientist: I don’t shout from the rooftops about my family and I do not have many conversations about my family. That is a normal thing for me.

Female Scientist: With me, colleagues have always been seeking the conversation. I want to exemplify that family is fun and that one can solve everything with organization or flexibility.

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

Female Scientist: I am very satisfied. One should just make courageous plans, seek the conversation with superiors, express ideas and usually a way is found. I think it’s a pity that the home office is here rather seen negatively. I would like to work from home one day a week. Because of a multi-person office, I can work more quietly and more focused at home. For some tasks, I simply move forward faster that way. In addition, without the driving time, you can recharge your own battery despite work.

Who or what helps you the most to reconcile work and private life?

Male Scientist: That we agree is what helps us the most. We talk and plan a lot with each other and compromise.

Female Scientist: We are a great team.

What would you advise other parents?

Male Scientist: Dare, seek a supportive environment and achieve your goals.

Female Scientist: Do not have too many doubts, because there are always ways and means.

What would you do differently in retrospect?

Female Scientist: It would have been nice for our second daughter if my husband could also have stayed with her alone at home. Overall, we are four happy people and that is our goal.

What do you wish for the future?

Male Scientist: I wish that it stays as it is and that the children do not notice the stress of daily life.

Female Scientist: I agree with that! For our society, I wish that people would not brag about joint “journeys at parental leave”, which are certainly great and strengthen the bond with the child. Superiors and colleagues would certainly be more positive about fathers at parental leave if they don’t think it’s about holidays, but if the father instead actually stays at home. In my opinion, the law should also be modified on this matter. Paid parental leave can stay – but only one at a time!

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