Are there housemen in India?
Klaus Gruber from Bubenreuth near Erlangen does not feel like exotic. Nevertheless, he is one - in the eyes of others. They think it's officially great, but secretly it's funny what he does: take care of the children while his wife makes money.
Klaus Gruber, 40, a tanned, tall guy in cargo pants, has been a househusband since the day his daughter Sophia was born. That was 14 years ago. At that time he was still studying. Today he has to think long and hard about when he felt uncomfortable in the female-dominated world of child-rearing. That was in the crawling group. "There were all women sitting there who puked up on their husbands." He doesn't say it explicitly, but you can guess how much that annoyed him. The mothers in the group would have ensnared him, after all, he was one of the good guys. Then he didn't go there, he says. Then he takes the cheese spaetzle out of the oven for lunch.
Hans-Jürgen Staudt, 51, photographer from Ottobrunn near Munich, has been part-time househusband since spring 2009, when his wife Claudia Stamm became a member of the state parliament. If it can be arranged, he only works in the mornings. The family does have domestic help, but Staudt still has to plan his day carefully.
That doesn't seem difficult for him, it fits his calm, well-considered manner. Before Staudt continues, he takes two-year-old Maya in his arms. The blonde girl hit her back at the table. Staudt gets some comfort chewing gum. "I hug my kids a lot," he says, "maybe I'm more of the female type in that regard." Maybe also when it comes to cooking, because Staudt really enjoys doing that. And apparently good too. In any case, seven-year-old Lina is looking forward to the pancakes.
There are also situations when Staudt senses that he is not the mother. "Lots of women love to do handicrafts with their children ..." He finds handicrafts a disaster. He prefers to go swimming or bolting with his daughters. He says: "I wouldn't want to bend over to something that you might get from your mother sooner."
It is still a rare division of roles that Staudt and Gruber have chosen - but it is growing in importance: In 2007, women in almost every tenth family brought home at least 60 percent of their income. If one includes households with single mothers, women were the main breadwinners in 18 percent of the cases.
This means that their number in West Germany has increased by around half within 15 years, and in East Germany by around a third. This is the result of a study by various universities and institutes that was recently published in parts by the Hans Böckler Foundation.
However, only a few couples voluntarily opted for this model - mostly it was an emergency solution because the man couldn't find a good job.
The father who stays at home and looks after the children, this idea seems so absurd to some sociologists that they do not even ask about it in their studies. "You know next to nothing about househusband", says Peter Döge from the Institute for Application-Oriented Innovation and Future Research (IAIZ) in Berlin. The only thing that sociologists agree on is that most men define themselves less about their family than about their job - and the social and financial power that goes with it.
"Economically, it would be extremely risky for me if my wife left me," says Klaus Gruber. After completing his bank apprenticeship and studying philosophy, he became a full-time householder because after Sophia, Nathan and Fabian were born. His wife found a good job at Siemens. Gruber wanted one of them to stay at home with the children. He is a little surprised that he is the one himself, after all, he always wanted to be independent. Why did he do it anyway? "You have to call it love."
Non-working fathers do not only have to deal with the fact that they have put their own professional ambitions aside and are financially dependent. Even their wives do not always make it easy for them: Often they still want to set the tone in raising their children and in the household.
"The women set the standards, they determine what is considered untidy and what is clean," says Peter Döge from the IAIZ. In addition, the traditional image that a man must have a job is also in the minds of women. Men who demonstrate their care during two months of parental leave would be valued by women. Pure housemen, on the other hand, would find most of them rather unattractive.
Is that so? Is Klaus Gruber less desirable for his wife because he doesn't earn any money but takes care of the children? He looks puzzled. "Let's just call my wife and ask her." Ilknur Gruber is currently sitting with colleagues in a meeting in Calcutta, India. "No," she says on the phone, she sounds astonished. "Well, if he was wearing an apron, then maybe ..."
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