We‘re a family of 4 who live on a microfarm in the northern Black Forest between Karlsruhe and Pforzheim, Germany. We have one cat and at some point we also want to have chickens. We live in an old farmhouse from 1850 or something and it still needs to be renovated extensively. Our property is quite sizeable so we’re able to have a small orchard and some vegetable beds. Most of my time – I’m Christine, by the way – is spent processing our produce. My hubby, Michael, works in QA. I’m a translator but I usually teach English, German and Italian. Our daughter, Caroline, is 9 years old and will be attending the 4th grade from September. Our son, Christopher, is 7 and will be in the 2nd grade. We live in the small town of Dobel on an elevation of 720m. We’re surrounded by forest and meadows. In summer, visitors come here for the fantastic weather and hiking, in winter, for winter sports. We usually get a lot of snow in January and February. Apart from gardening I play table tennis and go hiking and traveling. Hiking and traveling is what we all normally do together throughout the year. In my spare time I write novels and short stories in English under my pseudonym Yolanda King.
What kind of toys do Caroline and Christopher like to play with?
Both of our kids love Lego and Schleich. They play plenty of board and card games or whatever else their imagination creates. They are allowed very little media time, especially when playing with friends, so they’ve got to be creative.
What are the local snacks for kids?
They usually help themselves to the various types of berries that grow in our yard, or veggies like snack tomatoes or sweet peas. I often bake fruit muffins or cake on which they snack in the afternoon. They can help themselves to fruit any time, it’s always available. They sometimes eat yogurt.
Do you cook for children?
I cook every day or every other day and we eat much salad, too. I don’t serve ready-made food except for the occasional pizza when my kids’ friends come after school. Their friends don’t often like my cuisine because they don’t appreciate the veggies I prepare!
How do Caroline and Christopher spend free time?
Our house is full of kids almost every day of the week. Our children normally have someone to play with. In addition, they both play fistball 2x a week and they practice karate. Both do gymnastics as well and Christopher also plays the drums. They also love reading.
Can you explain how maternity leave works? How long is it? Can you get back to work after it without any obstacles?
Maternity leave in Germany is 3 years. Since I’ve always worked freelance, I’m not familiar with how much a woman is entitled to earn during maternity leave. The husband is entitled to 6 months of paternity leave. If he decides to take it, the mom only gets 2 1/2 years of maternity leave. When on paternity leave, the father’s salary is reduced, too. Returning to work is unproblematic. The company you worked for at the beginning of your maternity leave is required by law to reemploy you, paying your former salary again fully.
What are the roles of parents in your country? What duties do belong to mother and to father?
We’re a traditional family in that Michael earns most of the money and I work freelance and earn a pocket money. Otherwise I take care of the kids and the garden. In general, however, from what I can see in most of the other families, both parents work. Generally, I’d say the woman holds a part-time job whereas the man a full-time one. I do the large bulk of the household chores but Michael cleans the kitchen at night, prepares the school lunches and helps me clean the bathroom. He also pitches in with other stuff without complaint whenever needed. Some of my friends tell me that their hubbies expect them to work, deal with the kids and do the chores pretty much alone while they prop up their feet. That doesn’t happen in our house.
Does the country help families with kids?
As far as I know, everyone has to pay for preschool/kindergarden out of their own pocket in Germany. Prices vary considerably from county to county or region to region. Our region, Baden-Württemberg, is very expensive. Living costs in general are very high here. Germany isn’t a very children-friendly country. Politics doesn’t make it easy for families, there’re few federal benefits. Every child is entitled to a certain amount of monthly payment issued by the government, and it’s just been raised recently, but that’s it. Schools – and scholastic materials like books – are free of charge, unless they’re private. The school system has degenerated to a shocking extent since when I attended (senior) high school. The school system is completely obsolete and would require a major overhaul. I won’t go into detail here; it’s a very sore subject with me and I could fill pages making suggestions on how to improve the system, teaching techniques etc. But Germans are so in fear of God knows what that they will allow their fear to stand in the way of change and progress. It’s seriously frustrating.
Do you vaccinate your children? If so, against what? Is it mandatory to vaccinate kids?
Yes. Against pretty much everything the pediatrician suggests. It’s usually very sound advice that is only sensible to follow. Everything else would be absolute folly and a risk to your child’s life. It’s now mandatory to vaccinate against the measles. It wasn’t before but in light of the recent cases of measles… they’ve changed the law.
Is it safe to travel with a child in Germany? What to watch out for? Do you think your country is friendly for families with kids?
It’s totally safe to travel in Germany. I’ve had problems with the elderly when using public transport. I often got shouted at when my kids cried, I was also threatened and insulted. Not everyone will help you lift the stroller on and off the bus or tram. Old people here can be extremely peculiar. Well, I think that restaurants and public services truly make an effort to accommodate families. Most facilities have diaper changing rooms and play areas now and they have special kids’ menus, too. Admission fees are lower for children wherever you go and there’s an abundance of courses and activities for children as well. Back