Work Life Balance

Mommy Guilt Prevents Majority Of German Mothers From Going Back To Work

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Germany may have a strong record with bouncing back from wars and keeping their economy together, but even they can’t handle the colossal issue of keeping women with children in the workforce. The New York Times reveals that only 14% of women with one child return to the workforce, while only 6% of mothers with two children do. While you can certainly critique the boys’ club at work and the anti-family workplace policies that we’re familiar with in the United States, women themselves are also partially to blame for this one.

The Times reports that German woman generally fall into two distinct, hardly ever intertwining camps: mothers and employees. The country has floated several approaches to make work available to mothers, but the largest factor remains mother guilt. Apparently, many German woman can’t escape the cultural taboo of working once children have arrived. Despite improvements on parental leave and extended school hours for children, mother guilt has German ladies in a stronghold:

“We are still very far from a situation where it’s as normal for women as for men to want both a career and family — even among young women,” said Angelika Dammann, the first and only female board member at software giant SAP. “When you have children, you’re expected to stay home for a significant period; otherwise you are considered a bad mother.”

For the few women who have pushed ahead in their careers despite babies, they have nationally-imposed quotas to thank. But the cultural judgement German women feel at leaving the home proves to be the biggest and most complex barrier to overcome. The fear of appearing like a “bad mother” may be rooted in a traditional interpretation of gender roles, but its presence in the minds of contemporary German mommies indicates that its a modern problem.