Does having children mean giving up your career?
When a couple has children, the dynamic within the couple changes and the distribution of roles shifts. Even if both of them work, one parents is typically the main one responsible for the childcare. “Our counselling sessions show that this continues to be primarily the women. They have to pull back while their partners can keep on going with their careers,” reports Holger Eich. “This often leads to mothers being permanently frustrated.”
One suggestion the professional has is to think about how you will divide the time as parents during pregnancy. It’s not just about childcare, you also need to think about the father bonding with the child and time as a couple. “The parental leave that is commonly provided is not enough – only from around 8 to 9 months does bonding start. This means fathers should plan in more time for their children over a sustained period.” Spending quality time just the two of you is also important when it comes to being happy as a couple.
If mothers stay at home alone for too long and reduce their group of friends and the hobbies they used to have, the frustration can soon become apparent. Holger Eich says “in the worst case this can manifest as anger and aggression towards the children and the partner.”
It is therefore important to think about ways that each of the parents has enough opportunities to develop as an individual at an early stage. “Before you have your first child, think about the options for you as a couple, for each individual and for further development at work.”
It’s undeniable that happier, more balanced parents are better for children than those who are always at home. According to the expert, you need to bear in mind that it takes a long time for the situation to become established. “Anyone expecting their first child simply doesn’t know what the future holds for them. Take time and try to be sensitive to your partner’s wishes and needs.”
Our interview partner
Holger Eich is a clinical and public health psychologist and works for the Kinderschutzzentrum Wien.
The interview was conducted in November 2022.