Are all humans qualified to be parents?

Why it is so difficult for parents today

It is not easy for young parents these days, says family researcher Hans Bertram, because they often have too little time and too little money. The result is an everyday life in constant stress

GEOkompakt: Professor Bertram, what is the greatest challenge for parents today?

Prof. Hans Bertram: You have to do a lot more than your parents and grandparents. Some of my peers will shake their heads at this statement, but the numbers clearly show it. In the post-war era, men worked an average of 48 hours a week - that was the time a family gave to the world of work. Today, married mothers work 30 hours a week, husbands work an average of 42 hours a week. The parents work together 72 hours a week at work. And since this time is divided between two people, the effort for a family to organize everyday life automatically increases. So it's not surprising that the stress increases.

You often speak of an overwhelmed generation.

By this I mean mainly the 30 to 45 year old men and women. They are overburdened because everything is demanded of them at the same time: They should perform at their best, have a career, start a family and take care of children so that they can start a successful life.

Every third father now takes parental leave - which is a good development. But on average, the male parent stays away from work for just under two months: He just has to stay on the ball professionally. But also be a father as much as possible, show your soft side.

This balancing act between work and family, partnership and leisure time often forces young parents to outsource. But the more you move outside, the more you have to organize this, the effort increases.

Weren't the parents of today's parents, whose job it was to rebuild Germany after the war, just as overwhelmed in their own way?

There was certainly a lot to do at the time. But people had a clear idea of ​​the framework in which work and family life unfolded. A symbol for this are, for example, old S-Bahn plans in Berlin, which illustrate the clear structure with which everyday life in industrial society was permeated. Six o'clock morning shift, eight o'clock authorities, schools and shops, one or two o'clock school end, noon shift, 4 o'clock closing time of authorities and offices, 6 o'clock closing time and late shift. This simple and omnipresent rhythm of life, which one lived in Berlin as well as in Dortmund, has been lost today. The timing, the rhythms have become more complex and, for the individual, much more complex.

A lot has to be done almost at the same time.

Exactly. This fact leads to a permanent feeling of lack of time and excessive demands.

The stress of work - i.e. deadlines, meetings, evaluations - and the stress of the family - for example: sibling screams, sleepless nights, pouting attacks - alternate without a break.

The time from 30 for women and men is characterized by a myriad of tasks. Even more: Even after their training, the young people should remain as flexible and mobile as possible, go abroad, accept fixed-term contracts, work on projects. And all of this is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile with the decision to have children and the care for children.

The result is that the family life style is becoming less and less common - and not necessarily because young people consciously decide against family: but because they may simply miss the moment.

But is the compatibility of work and family really a problem for current generations - didn't previous generations also struggle with it?

One of the most important points is that training takes much longer today. In my age group, eight percent have graduated from high school, today it is well over 40 percent. Many of them then go to college. And correspondingly later, many women and men find decent, well-paid jobs.

Most couples do not ask themselves the question of children until they are 30 years old or later. The previous generation of parents started much earlier, at their early twenties, and by their mid-thirties they often had the family founding phase behind them.

Especially with highly qualified women and men, raising children and important career steps often coincide today. With their parents, these two phases were shifted more strongly - and the double burden was shorter.

Those who leave the job for a longer period of time can reduce the burden.

Many shy away from this risk. Look: the doors of my generation were wide open, anyone who had studied and wanted to move on just had to go through these doors. It's very different today. Qualification is no longer a guarantee of a long-term, secure job.

In addition, in many highly qualified professions, the idea prevails: If I haven't been on the ball for two years, my career is over.

The consequence is that children are increasingly disappearing from educational settings of all things. Already today around 50 percent of all academics who work in a university or scientific environment remain childless. In the media sector it is even 60 percent.

Does money also play a role?

Naturally. In the 1970s, half of the German workforce was still working in the industrial sector. Some of the highest incomes were achieved by those who had completed their apprenticeship and after some time were working as skilled workers, i.e. at a comparatively young age. Often you could keep your income well throughout your life.

This has changed within just one generation: The classic career occupations that one takes today require a long start-up phase with the promise of having a high income one day.

As a young person you earn comparatively little. Suddenly you are faced with the problem that, of all times, money is extremely tight at the time when you may decide to have children.

In addition: Mothers who leave working life beyond what is legally guaranteed often have a very low lifelong income. Especially if they get divorced and bear the burden of single parenting, they are at risk of falling into old-age poverty.

Many would like to have a longer family phase. To concentrate on looking after the children and at home for a few years - especially since upbringing has become much more demanding than it used to be.

Why is that?

Since almost every second child achieves the general university entrance qualification today, much more work, time and effort goes into promoting education. After all, today parents are expected to support their children in school, to enable them to have music lessons, sport and much more. The social pressure that this puts on mothers and fathers is enormous. And across Europe it can be shown that parents now invest more time in their children than their parents' generation did. They tend to save time for themselves, sleep less, eat faster so that their children have more leisure time.

This is an abridged version. The detailed interview with Prof. Dr. You can read Hans Bertram in GEOkompakt - The power of the family.