Portrait 09

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''We both didn't want the traditional family model.''
© eveleen007 - stock.adobe.com
© eveleen007 - stock.adobe.com

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.

Currently, you both work 40 percent. Did you do that after the birth of your daughter as well?

Female Scientist: Yes. Before the children were born, my husband and I had full-time positions. For both our daughter and our son, we now use the ElterngeldPlus and really appreciate the opportunities that it offers. With both children, my husband and I have reduced to 40 percent after maternity protection. That means my husband and I are going to work alternately on a daily basis. After our daughter started with the daycare at the age of 14 months, we were both able to work full-time again. Because it worked very well the first time, we have been doing it the same way since the birth of our son. This time, however, we may also want to use the four partner months of the ElterngeldPlus, in which we will both work 25-30 hours per week. We then plan to both work 80 to 100 percent, when the small one is about 1.5 years old.

How did you come to an agreement with your husband about the reconciliation of family and career?

Female Scientist: We both did not want the “traditional model”, where only the mother stays at home. However, I also did not want the “classic inverted model”, where only the father stays at home. We both wanted to have kids. We both wanted to be with the kids, and we both like to work. With our half-in-half split we have exactly what we wanted. Of course, the coordination effort for this split model is very large. Especially since we have two children we noticed that in particular. However, with children it is a bit chaotic in any case.

Luckily, through our job and the law, we have this freedom. I think it is very good that there are subsidies such as the Elterngeld in Germany, but I also find it very, very complicated. When calculating ElterngeldPlus/Elterngeld-Alternatives, I sometimes thought that you almost had to have a PhD to calculate the different possibilities.

How did your supervisor react to your plans?

Female Scientist: My supervisor reacted warmly to the news of the offspring; also the second time, but there initially more cautious. I understand that because it means more coordination for all sides. All in all, he really reacted very well and was completely open to our working model.

To make a good collaboration possible, both my supervisor and I try to be flexible. If, for example, customer appointments are scheduled on my day off, I try to make that possible and comply with my employer. On the other hand, if necessary, I can sometimes pick up my daughter from the daycare center earlier, or even bring one child to the institute.

How did your employees react? How do they cope with your working model?

Female Scientist: My employees have reacted very positively. I only got congratulations from them. They largely get along well with the working model. However, when my “institute days” are postponed by customer appointments, it is sometimes confusing for the employees. Part-time almost always requires more coordination.

Overall, many young parents take parental leave, and there are many fathers who take more than the usual two months. Many handle it that way that each parent has half a year on parental leave. Our model with us both working in part-time directly after maternity leave is still relatively unusual.

How well is your leadership role compatible with working part-time?

Female Scientist: As deputy head of department, I support the head of department, and I am something like a mediator between the head of department and the scientific staff. (The department consists of about 15 scientists and seven doctoral students). That means that I have to make strategic and organizational decisions, often in relation to the actual project process.

I think that works well with the part-time. Organizational things can be dealt with well by phone or by email. If I, for example, get a request from a customer on one of my days off, then I can also forward this to the right person from home or answer it quickly. But my place of work is at the institute. Conference calls, for example, I don’t like to do from home, where I have to take care for the children at the same time.

How do your employees get along with you only working two days?

Female Scientist: Especially the scientists are not constantly dependent on decisions of mine. They work independently on their projects. It is therefore rarely the case that decisions have to be made within one day, if that is the case, I check my emails twice a day on my days off and respond when something urgent arises.

What is special about a leadership function, if you have children?

Female Scientist: Of course you have more professional responsibility in a leadership position and you cannot just sit back – but you don’t do that anyway as a good employee. And one thing is probably clear, even if you are the boss of the world: When the child falls from the tree, then you leave everything and take care of your child.

How did you organize the care of your children?

Female Scientist: Our daughter goes to a kindergarten and has a full-time place there. In our kindergarten this means that she can be looked after from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. We usually bring her at 8:30 and pick her up at 15:30. This is the normal framework for the kindergarten children. One thing is, how long the daycare is open, the other thing is, how long the other children are there. If everyone was picked up at 2 pm, one would probably have a guilty conscience.

Our son is currently still at home and is being looked after alternately by my husband and me. That means that we often bring our daughter later to the daycare (currently as late as 9:30).

For emergencies, we have my in-laws about 45 minutes away. For example, we fell back on them for the birth of our second child. We also have friends who could jump in. But that is rare because of the work. Our employer is flexible enough that we have always been able to resolve it. For example, in the case of our daughter’s illness, when we still worked full-time before the birth of our son, we used the parent-child office at the institute or used home office. One or two times we used a children sick day.

How high is your travel activity and how do you organize it?

Female Scientist: Currently, I do not have many business trips. In the first six months after the birth of my son, I requested that I do not have to travel overnight. The first overnight business trip is now scheduled for next month. Overall, we try not to go on a business trip at the same time, so that there is always one there that can look after the children. We only had a joint business trip twice before and both times we were able to organize it with the opening hours of the childcare facility.

How do you share the organization of everyday life?

Female Scientist: My husband and I are on the same page which makes it a lot easier. I do more of the organizational things, but in sum we both probably do the same.

Which conditions of your institute contribute to your reconciliation of family and work?

Female Scientist: The existing part-time opportunities contribute to that enormously. I know people who work in companies where an 80 percent job is considered impossible.

What do your customers say about your working model?

Female Scientist: I don’t explain my working time model to every customer. It always depends on the intensity of the contact with the customer and how I asses the reaction. Of course, it is most pleasant if you can handle it openly. I have e.g. a customer who knows that I’m working part-time for child care. I told him he could call me anytime and if it is not a good moment, I would just reach back later. This works well, also because he has small children himself. However, there are certainly customers that react tensely to child noise in the background. In that case, I try to avoid that.

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

Female Scientist: I am satisfied. It’s exhausting, but that it would probably also without a job. Appointments on child care days are exhausting, but in this case it is clearly an advantage that my husband and I work in the same department. We then bring the little one to work with us and the other then takes care in the office.

What advice do you give to other parents?

Female Scientist: Coordinate with your partner, talk about what you want and see what suits both. Do not think too conservative. You get a lot done if you just try it.

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

Female Scientist: Germany could become even more flexible. I have a friend in Sweden. I learned from her that in Germany, in contrast to Sweden, there are still relatively fixed working hours and a lot of core working time. I think it would be good if more people bring their children to work. This makes more visible that children are a factor that matters. It should not have to be hidden that you also take care of your children.

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