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Job and family: what can my child take?

Charms like in the open-plan office

Liam and Marvin are still eating, Paula gets dry pants. A few children brush their teeth, others look at books in the reading corner, line up dinosaurs to the caravan or stack paper cups on top of each other in the workroom. The hustle and bustle of a Hamburg daycare center, just over 60 children, 22 of whom are not yet three, open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. And there are children who are there just as long: ten hours, every day. "This is more than we adults work," says Nicole Kursawe, director of the facility and educator for 24 years. "And it is even more difficult for children here than for us. There are so many stimuli that they are always tense, as in the open-plan office." If the teacher feels that one of her protégés is getting too much, she speaks to the parents about it. "Of course I don't want to make anyone feel guilty," she says and then: "Or maybe I do. I think it's hard what the children sometimes have to do."

Stable parameters – what do children need?

"What is good for the child – this question is neglected in almost all relevant areas and also in the discussion about the compatibility of work and family," says Sabine Andresen, professor at the University of Frankfurt with a focus on childhood and family research. But this does not apply directly to the parents: "Of course mothers and fathers want their child to always be as good as possible. But the framework conditions often force them to hide the child's perspective to a certain extent."

But how exactly does it look like? Our view of what children need is usually rather obscured by ideas and expectations of how childhood, motherhood and family life are supposed to be at best. Fortunately, there are studies that have dealt objectively with the topic. For example, the one with almost 4,000 school-age children from Dresden University Hospital. "After that, those who used to be cared for outside the home are psychologically healthier," says Professor Veit Roessler, head of child and adolescent psychiatry there: "Free exchange with peers is an essential development factor – and it takes place differently than it did before in large families and the street as a playground for everyone, took place today mainly in institutions such as day care centers, schools or after-school care centers. "

But isn't there too much after all? "If things go badly in care, the longer the child is there, the greater the risk of negative consequences," said Veit Roessner. "But if it feels good, you can't say it would be better if it was picked up after four instead of eight hours." In principle, the psychiatrist has nothing against 24-hour day care centers. Provided that they do not demand too much flexibility from children, for example because they are looked after from morning to afternoon, sometimes into the evening and sometimes overnight: "The younger the children, the more parents should make sure that as many parameters as possible are stable and are understandable and predictable for the child. "

Parents must not cheat on their children

Fabienne Becker-Stoll, director of the State Institute for Early Education in Munich, gives clearer guidelines – for example, if possible, no day care center in the first year of life – and both experts agree: how much care is tolerated by whom and when, differs from child to child and also in phases, if, for example, changes such as a change of school or the separation of parents are pending But Fabienne Becker-Stoll also says: "The problem is not that both parents work a lot, but when the child cannot rely on them." So if the father promises to be there on the daughter's birthday and then go on a business trip. Or the mother missed the performance of her son at school because the meeting spontaneously takes longer. "This breach of trust really hurts the child's soul. Perhaps we adults can imagine it in a similar way to cheating."

At the same time, Fabienne Becker-Stoll advises in everyday life that parents and children enjoy without pressure to perform, for example by not rushing to music school in the afternoon, but letting the child determine what their father or mother will do for half an hour before going to sleep snuggles or cooks with older children: "If you can reliably create these islands of happiness, children will not miss out on the job either." And the psychologist adds: "There are so many ways to combine work and family well. We should finally get away from what we Germans like to do, namely the" all or nothing "question."

That would be another obstacle on the way to a good life and work model: our guilty conscience. Developmental psychologist Becker-Stoll also has a French passport and knows: "The question of what the parents do with the children is never asked in France. On the other hand, we take full responsibility for ensuring that a child becomes something with them Parents seen or more precisely with the mother. And she can actually only do it wrong. " The pressure to justify yourself becomes a constant companion – and not just for mothers full-time. "It is important that we finally let go of this traditional, completely problematic notion of motherhood and respect whatever parents choose when it comes to work," says Andresen. "And we have to finally stop pretending that compatibility is a private matter." Can't find a daycare center (or no good one)? Do you have working hours outside of nine to five? Do you have children who need special attention? Bad luck. Then the mother has to cut back on her job or stay at home right away. In the past (at least in West Germany) it was mostly no different.

Find individual solutions

"I find it problematic that emancipation and the participation of women are played out against the good care of children and adolescents," says Sabine Andresen. In Scandinavia, on the other hand, compatibility is seen more from a gender perspective, so that both parents can take care of themselves and achieve themselves in their job. "I also hope for our country that, based on the ideal of gender, we can also achieve intergenerational justice," said the family researcher. "We finally need a strong political signal: The questions of what families need so that parents can work and develop, what children need and what the relationship with the couple are, not social, but individual tasks." Until then, parents will still be asked to find their own solutions – and to stand by them. A challenge that the majority obviously masters quite well: According to studies, most children are very satisfied with their parents.

When Nicole Kursawe appeals to mothers and fathers about their child's exhaustion, they are often grateful after the initial shock. And then think about what can be changed: sometimes no afternoon program, bring it later or pick it up earlier – even if it's only once a week – or just take a day off with mother or father. "Small changes are often enough to make the child feel better, because that is how they notice that they are being seen," says the teacher. After all, this is the signal: Yes, I work and my job is important to me – but you are more important to me.

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