Friday, May 18, 2007

The Mother-Trap

Being a woman in Germany is a "no-win" situation: If you have no children, then you're an egoist who is refusing to do her duty as a woman; if you have children and stay at home, one half of the people will say you're lazy, and if you have children and work, you're a bad mother for the other half of the people. So whatever you do, you will loose.

But even if you manage to get around this problem - and there's hardly a way to do so -, you're not out of trouble. The number of children is very important, too. One child isn't enough - after all the German populace is shrinking and two children from every woman are necessary to keep the numbers stable. But a woman with four or more children is considered "asozial" (a word which doesn't exist in the English language, at least not with the same meaning). It means she is considered to behave anti socially - in Germany most people understand it like this: she only has that many children because of the money she get for them and because she doesn't want to, she will not bring them up the right way and so on. Just imagine everything bad that can be said about a child's upbringing and you get the meaning of this word. So you may only have two or three children.

Our numbers are dwindling and instead of changing the politics, so that women can be more certain about their future while having children at the same time, the politicians cement in the old-fashioned picture of the full-time housewife with her two or three children. There's loads of single moms in Germany, but there aren't enough places in kindergarten around (and forget about a place to put you child in when it's younger than three). There's loads of mothers who simply have to work, because otherwise the family can't survive, but they don't have place to put their children in and they get a bad conscience because they're 'bad mothers', leaving the care of their children to strangers (as if a woman would not know the workers at the kindergarten she takes her child to). And there's highly qualified women staying at home, simply because society frowns on them keeping their job, until it's too late for them to return to it - just because they've been out of it for too long.

Politic doesn't necessarily change society, but politics create a base on which society can be changed. If politics give women the chance to prove that being a mother and having a job work together, then maybe women in Germany will have more children - which would benefit society and politics.