Portrait 05

Home/Portrait 05
"Role models were very important to me."
© eveleen007 - stock.adobe.com
© eveleen007 - stock.adobe.com

The portrayed female scientist has been working at her research institute for 10 years. The portrayed male 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.

When did you start working again after the birth and how many hours? How does your working model look currently?

Female Scientist: We both worked full-time before our son was born. In the early days after the birth I did not work and my husband worked 30 hours. From the fifth to the seventh month of my son’s life, my husband was at home on parental leave. When our son was seven months old, I got back in with 15 hours a week and my husband took care of him on those two days.

Male Scientist: Currently, we both work 25 hours a week for five days each. My wife starts at 7:30 in the morning. She comes home for lunch and then takes over the care. After lunch, I leave for work. Two days a week, I work longer in the evening. Otherwise, I would always just come home the time our son is going to bed. I would disturb him every time and he would not find rest. So far we have planned the first 1.5 years. We’ll have to see how it goes afterward. Our son will probably be cared for by one of the baby minders of the institute where my wife works.

What ideas and plans did you have for reconciling work and family life when you learned that you were becoming parents?

Female Scientist: According to the motto “we can handle it”, we were problem-solving oriented. Maybe I have imagined it easier because of the role models that existed at the institute. These role models went back to work quickly after birth and they handled it well.

Male Scientist: It was clear to me from the start that my wife is not a woman who will stay home with the child for three years. We talked a lot about how we imagine the childcare and then we quickly were on the same page. I had colleagues who had reduced the working time for their children. For most, however, the woman has stayed home to look after the children.

How did your superiors respond to your plans?

Female Scientist: My supervisor was very happy that I had a concrete plan and gladly agreed to .

Male Scientist: In my case the application for a reduction of hours is independent of the direct supervisor. Nevertheless, it makes sense to coordinate with the supervisor. I was pleasantly surprised that there was so little resistance to our rather unusual model.

How did your colleagues react?

Female Scientist: My colleagues are relaxed regarding this.

Male Scientist: My colleagues had to adjust a bit. In particular, they had to get used to the fact that I’m no longer there at all times.

How satisfied are you with your working model?

Male Scientist: It was easier for me when I had the clear distinction between childcare and working days. At the moment, I live with my son in a completely different world in the mornings than in the afternoon at work. But the really big advantage is that I’m back at work every day and that way I also notice everything that happens.

How high is your travel activity?

Female Scientist: I only had day trips so far. I am the Equal Opportunities Officer (EOO) at my institute. At the last meeting of the EOOs I thought about taking my son and my husband to take care of him. Eventually, it was too stressful for my son and I did not go there. We´ll see how it goes with the next meeting.

Male Scientist: Two weeks after the birth, I had to go on a business trip. And I am on longer business trips now and then. But I have aimed at reducing my trips and sometimes a colleague can take on a trip. Each of my business trips currently means that my wife has to take a vacation.

What role does your partner play in organizing everyday life?

Female Scientist: We have a common calendar, in which we enter all appointments. In addition, we coordinate well.

Male Scientist: We split the household. I cook lunch and my wife cleans up the kitchen afterward. Cooking with a child is sometimes quite a challenge.

Did you have concerns about working part-time as a man?

Male Scientist: I had no concerns, but was curious to see how it practically works with the work process. I think concerns did not really arise because of the academic environment. That might be different if you work in a company and colleagues put pressure on you.

How did your environment react to your childcare model? Did you, as a caring father, struggle with prejudices?

Male Scientist: Our parents have first stopped short… My parents had very traditional roles. My father worked and my mother took care of us children. Our parents were very interested in how this is done today. Just as they were interested in why we carry our child. In the toddler group, many were very surprised that we split the care and both work.

Did you have a role model? Are you a role model for others?

Female Scientist: One female colleague was clearly a role model for me. In addition, we have friends, where the woman had the re-entry directly after maternity protection. These role models were very important to me. That way I knew it was going to work and it could work with breastfeeding.

Male Scientist: I had colleagues that reduced their working hours. That´s why I knew that it was possible.

Female Scientist: Friends often tell us that they think our model is great and that they would like to do it the same way. However, I have to clearly say that the basic framework conditions are just ideal for us. Our workplaces are very close from our home so that we can reach everything by bike quickly. The grandparents also live within a short distance. These have offered their help, but so far, we have not had to make use of that because of work-related reasons.

What is quite different than you imagined?

Male Scientist:  A lot is very different. I did not expect it to be so hard to master everyday life at home. My work also demands me, but in comparison, working for me is actually rather relaxing. I had heard from several colleagues before that they like to be at work because they simply have their rest for once. I could not understand that at the time, but now I understand them. It’s not as if I’m not having fun with my son’s care. I actually think it´s very nice. Nevertheless, it is also very tiring.

And what I didn’t take into consideration before is that you plan to do so much, set yourself goals, and then you get almost nothing done. I didn’t know that side of me before and was getting really restless. This was especially the case in the two months of full-time parental leave. Many people told me before to not take on too much. So I only had small plans. Then also even the little things did not work out. I was disappointed. That was the biggest transition for me.

How does your employer or your supervisor support you and how do your colleagues support you?

Female Scientist: My superior supports me very well. He immediately accepted my plan for the re-entry and the working hours. Flexible working time models exist at my institute. You just need to know what you want and then show initiative and address the responsible people, because not all information is available on the intranet. By having three children, our female administration manager is also familiar with the problem of reconciliation in a leadership position. She is always willing to listen to concerns. Unlike originally planned, I wanted to work longer for only 15 hours to then increase to 25 hours a bit later. I decided this on short notice, but that was no problem at all.

In addition, there are some helpful offers at our institute, such as a contract with two day-care parents, a vegetable purchasing service, a family service and a parent-child office. To have children and thus having different needs, for example in terms of working time, is considered normal at our institute.

Male Scientist: We used the parent-child office a lot. When our son was still being breastfed, I always came here at lunchtime. Then the three of us had the lunch break together in the parent-child office.

What does your working environment say about your working model? Do you tell project partners or customers about your working model?

Female Scientist: I just say that I work only in the morning because I’m working in part-time. That’s the same thing with others. It may also happen that you have a conference call while watching the child. Then of course, people hear the child. This happened to my husband a few times now.

Male Scientist: Most of the time he slept but sometimes he was awake. My project partners told me afterward at a meeting that they found it very funny. One of the project partners already has older children, he then remembered earlier days. Overall, the reactions are positive. If it is organizationally important that the project partners know about my child, for example because of my working time, then I say it, but otherwise not. I am not aware of a situation in which that was perceived negative.

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

Female Scientist: It’s certainly challenging, but you win something from both sides. You can enjoy the work and you can enjoy the time together with your child.

Male Scientist: One cannot cherish the illusion that everything goes on as before. To me that was clear from the outset. Compared to others, we live in paradise with our working conditions and the opportunity to work part-time. I see that with other parents that I met through the crawler group. Many are surprised about our possibilities in terms of work design and acceptance.

Female Scientist: For others, already part-time was unimaginable, because the company did not accept it.

Male Scientist: There is also short-term care at my university. I could leave our son there when I have a meeting. But this is not relevant for us. Our son needs a relatively long time until he gets used to other people, that’s why we rather handle this differently. Nevertheless, the possibility exists and if required it is reassuring to know that there are such possibilities.

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

Female Scientist: We both help each other. In addition, we are lucky that it also works so well logistically.

Male Scientist: We have short commutes, otherwise, that would not work. Our part-time is the central element. Acquaintances of ours wanted a similar model as we did. Then the employer did not approve the part-time. The woman then stayed at home fully. This is very fragile. If one factor does not fit, it´s very quickly back to the traditional roles, because this is organizationally the easiest.

What are the biggest challenges for you in everyday life?

Female Scientist: The biggest challenge is that everything goes well at home – nothing spectacular.

Male Scientist: The biggest challenge is that the daily life works well. We simply have to keep on through this care-intensive time, and then it will be more relaxed. The challenge is not to be overwhelmed in the long term. One often has the feeling to achieve nothing and is only busy making everyday life work. But, that’s not true, you’re still bringing up a child.

What advice do you give to other mothers and fathers?

Female Scientist: There is so much more possible when it comes to reconciliation than you might think.

Male Scientist: Do not have so many expectations. It will be very different from what you initially imagined. Of course, it is good to have a rough plan, but you should not be too set on this.

What would you do differently retrospectively?

Male Scientist: I would probably not plan anything for the parental leave, but take things as they come.

Female Scientist: It would have been nice if my husband had reduced his working time a little more in the beginning.

Male Scientist: Right. Looking back, I could have been more courageous. Our idea was that I would reduce my working hours as much as possible in organizational terms. However, I didn’t dare to concede more.

What do you wish for the future?

Female Scientist: That everything stays as it is. That everyone stays healthy.

Male Scientist: I hope that different ways of reconciling will become more natural in society. This does not mean that everyone has to work part-time. With friends of ours, the woman stayed three years at home and found this wonderful. But she had to fight with a lot of housewife prejudices.

Female Scientist: A fellow student of mine who graduated shortly after me, 2009, has taken care of his children until now because his wife was self-employed. I wish for more flexibility in the models and in the heads.

What would help you to better reconcile your private and professional life?

Female Scientist: For us, the reconciliation absolutely works. The question is rather, how others can use it as well.

Male Scientist: The question is also, whether others have the courage to use it. One side is that there are measures and the other side is that there are people to exemplify, how they can be used. I have the impression that we are quite exotic with our model.

What could your employer change to make it easier for you to reconcile private and professional life (even more)?

Female Scientist: Because of the structure of my research organization with completely different institutes that is difficult to say. But based on our location, transparency could improve. I would like it to be well known to everyone what exists and what is possible. That’s also what I like to work on in my position as the equal opportunity officer.

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