Reporters on the Job

Working Mothers in Europe: In many European countries, mothers work. But Germany is only beginning to restructure its business, educational, and government institutions to allow mothers to work. The distinction was underscored in a conversation correspondent Isabelle DePommereau had on a beach in Sweden last week.

"A young mother from Gothenburg was nursing her 9-month-old baby. I told her I was visiting from Frankfurt, Germany.

" 'How long can you stay home?' she asked.

"I looked at her, puzzled. Then it hit me. She was asking how long would I stay home caring for my three children before I went back to work," says Isabelle.

"In Sweden, women take it for granted that moms work outside the home. Unlike Germany, there are plenty of child-care possibilities. She said that her husband was around a lot. The government paid the couple a lot of money so that both the mother and the father could stay at home for a while and take care of their babies. She said it was very common in Sweden for fathers to take time off from work to take care of the new babies while the mother went back to work."

In Paris, Isabelle visited some old girlfriends who are now mothers. One, with four children told her that she comes home early, at 4 p.m., two days a week. "Early! I thought. In Germany, if mothers work, they work part-time and they have to be home by 1 p.m. when school gets out," she says.

"One friend, who works in the personnel department of a company, told me that in every job interview, women are asked if they have kids. If so, they are asked about child-care arrangements. German employers want a guarantee that the woman will have their kids taken care of before hiring a mother."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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