Oxford University researcher Laura Langner analysed decades of SOEP data gathered by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), in which households were interviewed on a yearly basis.
She found that four-fifths of mothers returned to work either part-time or full-time, but often not before the children reached their teens. The paper says these findings are surprising given the conservative attitudes towards childcare revealed in another study showing that even in 2002, 51% of West Germans believed that a pre-school child suffered if the mother was employed (Steiber & Haas 2010).
All of the couples studied had a family where the youngest child was no older than 21. The analysis shows that 34% of the women worked at least part-time, 36% worked full-time, and 6.8 % of couples ‘took turns’, with the mother's working hours later overtaking the father's. The study further reveals that of the 36% of parents who re-entered dual full-time employment, one third later reversed this decision. One reason, suggests the paper, could be a lack of full-time childcare or that women brought up in a conservative environment did not want to be labelled as a 'Rabenmutter', meaning a bad or 'raven mother'.