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In: Germany

February 7, 2013

Money Doesn’t Make Babies

Being a mom in the US and having had to deal with an inferior governmental support system to raise my kids, a current debate in Germany has caught my attention. What can the government do to turn the declining birth rate around that is threatening to lead to a collapse of the social system and lack of qualified workers in the future?

Over the past years the German government has shifted more and more tax money into making having kids affordable. Let’s start with maternity benefits.
There is a freaking designated law protecting mothers!
  • They are not allowed to work 6 weeks before estimated due date until 8 weeks after birth.
  • During that time they are being compensated for their income loss at 100% of their net-salary.
  • They have the right to leave their job for up to 3 years with the guarantee to be able to go back to the same job afterwards.
  • They have the right to be able to work part time during the first three years of their child.
  • Pregnant women are forbidden from working jobs that could harm the baby or mother and the employer has to give them a different task for the duration of pregnancy. During this time they also cannot be laid off or fired.

Beyond that, the so-called “Parent Money” is paid to parents for up to 14 months after the birth of a child as a compensation for lost income if one parent is staying home and caring for the child. It is generally 65% of your net-income. Then there is also the “Children Money”: In Germany every family gets 184 Euro ($246) per child per month until the child starts to have an income or turns 25. No conditions or income limitations tied to it.

Daycare and preschool are heavily subsidized, or even free in some communities.
But apparently all that massive spending is not working. It might make parenthood more affordable and easy on the parents that have kids anyway, but the money does not magically make people reproduce.
“Money doesn’t make babies” was a headline in the German news that caught my eye and made me start to think about what a government could do to convince me to have another child. To be clear – I am done with having kids. The certainty of this decision rose from 99% right after Felix birth to 100% as of right now. Having done the first two kids completely without any financial support from the government, you would think that money could make a difference to me. What if I had an extra $500 a month? Or $1000 or $2000? I would probably find a thousand other ways to spend that money on my existing family rather than on a new baby. Felix could go to daycare so that Linc and his parents get more work done. Milo could do more extracurricular classes. We could start saving for their college funds, etc., etc. In short – the government couldn’t pay me enough money without going broke to get me to make another baby.
So now the German politicians and anybody else involved in the debate are looking into other ways to facilitate reproduction, particularly among young and educated citizens. The compatibility of raising kids with having a career is being brought up a lot. Childcare options need to me more widely available, work hours more flexible, pay rates and employment opportunities equal between mothers and child-less people.
Well, Germany, I can give you that perspective as somebody who is working with a highly progressive company in a very flexible job that allows me to raise children while having a perfectly fulfilling career: It doesn’t make me want to have another baby either. Babies make the same job exponentially harder, regardless of how flexible it is. Sleep deprivation, distraction by sick children or other parental concerns, make it really hard to focus sometimes and you have to push yourself way harder to get the same results as back in the days when you were well rested and all that mattered was yourself and your own pleasure. Maybe if I had the right to be able to work part time, it would make life with children and career easier. But I still wouldn’t have another baby because of it.
In my eyes what it all boils down to is that a government can do whatever they want and it won’t change people’s attitude towards having children or how many they want to have. Some people want 3-4 kids and they will do it regardless of any circumstances. Some people want only 1 or 2 kids, and nothing can change their mind. The reality is that more and more people move over to the 1-2 kids spectrum, rather than pursuing the big family model.
Without quoting any studies or other scientific backup I’m gonna go ahead and use my own opinion to explain this phenomenon. Young people today want to fulfill themselves. As freely and long as possible. We have an abundance of different career paths, opportunities for great life experiences, travel, etc. We delay having children as long as possible.
What if being a mother is part of your need to fulfill yourself? Then you have satisfied that longing after one child. Maybe, only maybe, you will have a second baby to give your first child the opportunity to experience siblinghood. But anything beyond that would restrict your and your family’s opportunities unnecessarily. Everything would get more expensive, traveling and luxuries not longer affordable in the extend that we like, and life just more complicated and restricted. Three kids outnumber the parents. Three is the magic number when everything gets out of balance. When you have fewer hands than kids to handle.
It’s not for me. And nothing can change that.

June 3, 2012

Germany and Back

You would figure that by now we are quite the experts in visiting my hometown Schweinfurt in Germany. Considering that I have spent 2/3 of my life there it should be nothing but a home-run for me. Usually we go there almost every year – although with adding more and more paying customers to the flight bill, we might end up with a more biyearly rhythm in the future.

In a small conservative town like Schweinfurt a lot of things stay the same forever, but apparently I myself change just enough to make every trip different and surprising. Also the contrast between the two countries brings a lot of things into perspective that you don’t realize anymore after living in one of them for a while. Without this trip I would never have known how used I have gotten to having a microwave as standard in every kitchen or being able to grocery-shop late evenings and Sundays. On the other hand I really appreciated how solidly built German houses are. You can totally sneak up on sleeping Milo when there is no floorboard squeaking and the interior walls and doors actually block sounds so well that I was not woken up every morning by a little voice calling “mama”, but was able to sleep in almost every day.

It was pretty great tohave so many people around us who wanted to play with Milo and he really enjoyed all the extra attention. Especially from his uncle Marc. My parents unpacked all our old toys from millions of years ago and even got a sand box just for Milo’s visit. He loved playing in there with his girlfriend Wilma. On other days we took him to the little animal / play park next to our house where he passionately fed the rabbits and pointed out all the baby animals. Milo learned a bunch of new German words like rein (in), raus (out), hoch (up), aussteigen (get out) – but we were unsuccessfull at training him to say cars or water in German.

Overall Linc and I had a lot of free time to ourselves since Milo was so well entertained by others. We attended our friend’s Tim’s wedding without having to worry about getting a tried boy to bed. In the second week we even left Milo for entire 3 days to meet friends in Hamburg and discover a new city.

Jetlag and flight were not too bad by the way. Milo adjusted pretty well within 3 days and even though he did not sleep much during the flights, he stayed calm thanks to many videos and observing the sky. If you don’t care about how many videos your kid watches for one day, any flight is manageable. Although we were lucky to score an extra seat on the way to Germany. Just on the way back it was getting pretty tight with two seats for 3 and a half people.

Somehow this trip back home turned out to be one of the best I have had so far. It was very well balanced with extended family time, friends time, parents only time, and small family time, free time and fun things to do. Surprisingly it was also one of the easiest going back to the US – without the usual homesickness for two weeks. Maybe because I had to go right back to work, and we came back to our own little house, and I now have a small circle of really good friends that I was looking forward to go back to. If only I could do this more often.

See here a photo gallery of our adventures: http://lincnic.com/gallery?album=14&gallery=39

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll skip the caption and get straight to the meat.

June 12, 2009

Extremely awesomes

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We just got the photos from our official wedding photographer Louisa and I love them! They are exactly what I hoped for and more. Now we just have to make a selection out of the 500 pictures and create a nice slideshow. We will probably do that on the plane tomorrow, so that we have something to show when we get back to the USA. We will also post them here on our webpage in the wedding section as soon as possible. When I look at these photos, I still feel like on my wedding day and hope that this feeling never ends. It really turned out as the perfect wedding, I had the best time of my life and everybody had so much fun.

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June 12, 2009

Wrapping up the Trip

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A short update… so I’ve survived the Bachelor party, Wedding ceremony, reception and semi-honeymoon. Everything went very smoothly with the exception of the weather as we had to make a few compromises due to cold and rain. Even though the weather wasn’t cooperative we managed to enjoy ourselves, the wedding ceremony was moved inside and our honeymoon was postponed until summer fully arrives, and we’ll probably just take off for a week and go to some beach somewhere in the US. Unfortunately the weather here in Germany/Europe really decided to be shitty just for the 2 weeks that we are here, because on the day we leave it will be 30C which is upper 80s.

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May 28, 2009

2 Weeks Away

Thats right, two weeks from today I will be 4000 miles away from my office. I’ll be leaving at the 30th of May and will be gone for two weeks. Needless to say I am totally excited. Basically, we’ll arrive the 31st and our upcoming german wedding ceremony will be on June 6th. That will give Nicola 5 days to finalize all the preparations and give me, the super lucky husband (love you babe!) a few days to celebrate in Amsterdam. My immediate family will also travel to Germany for the wedding and I am super excited that they will come and see Schweinfurt, the Bieringers, and for the first time the Dreschers. Its going to be a really nice time. After the wedding, Nicola and I will skirt off to spend 5 days in Crete for our honeymoon. We’re thinking of a 4-star, all-inclusive hotel on the water so that it will give us all the comfort and amenities, while giving us the freedom to roam the island without worrying about finding a meal when we return to the hotel. Overall, the price isn’t all that bad either… including the airfare, it rounds out to about $800 dollars a person. Not too bad.

I just ordered a Lumix LX3 camera that I will be using for the trip and will surely post many pictures of the Amsterdam trip, the wedding, and the honeymoon on the site, not to mention the countless other pictures (and video) that I will be posting to justify the cost of the camera. (The last camera I bought was in college and since I lost it in Vietnam in 2004, I basically stopped taking photos since.) I really regret not photographing the last few years myself because I always found comfort in looking back at all the good times I’d documented. Well all that will change hopefully by next week.