Child & Career: "Anyone who says it's easy is lying."
Child & Career: "Anyone who says it's easy is lying."

Some women just seem to have more power than others. You are professionally successful and still have children. One of them is Katha. We wanted to know from her: How do you manage to reconcile a child and a career?

Child and career - Katha Schinkinger
Child and career - Katha Schinkinger

You have studied or completed your apprenticeship, found a great job and finally made a career. In the late twenties, however, the question arises: Do I want to have children one day? Most women want. But can you even do it? Or does a child automatically mean the end of a career? If you look at women like Katha Schinkinger, hope grows. She has both: child and career. Or rather FOUR children (son 14, twins 10, daughter 1) and a career. On top of that, the 37-year-old has a bombshell and is also involved in the refugee social project "Refugees Welcome to Austria". The woman is perfect! At least that's how it appears on Facebook. How is that possible? Why does Katha get everything under one roof? And why are others overwhelmed with just one child? We asked the Viennese for an interview to reveal her secret of success.

»" My life is far from perfect!"

WOMAN: Katha, you have four children and you successfully run a communications agency. How do you do that?

Katha: Success is a matter of definition. But to get to the point: I always had help. When I had my first son at the age of 23, I studied part-time. My husband at the time and I split our care of the child 50:50. Then the twins came. Looking after three small children without support would have been impossible for me. So we got an au pair who helped us 25 hours a week. And that's the way it is now: I can only go to work because I have a babysitter who helps us with our 1-year-old daughter. It is important that people understand this: I can go to work because we can afford care.

Katha Schinkinger in a talk: Child and career
Katha Schinkinger in a talk: Child and career

WOMAN: How long have you been on maternity leave?

Katha: After the twins, I was at home for 1.5 years. The oldest son was just four years old. There were three small children who had to be looked after. With the little one, who was born last year, I went straight back to the office due to a lack of staff, but then gave up after a few weeks. The babysitter brought the little one to the office for a while, I breastfed her and then went back to work. Somehow it was overwhelming for all of us, so I'm back home. It was the best decision for the whole family. Now my one-year parental leave is over and I am working part-time again.

»Who posts pictures of themselves with dark circles under the eyes, unwashed hair or the mess at home? «

WOMAN: For many young women you are a kind of role model. The woman who has the perfect life with a dream job, dream man and dream children. Please tell us that your life is not perfect.

Katha (laughs): My life is not perfect. No seriously! My life is not perfect at all. Everything you see of me on Facebook might seem perfect, but that's just this bogus social media bubble. Who posts pictures of themselves with dark circles under the eyes, unwashed hair or the mess at home? And believe me, I haven't done any sport in months … I'm glad there is make-up that I can smack on my face to make me look human (laughs).

WOMAN: But you're already well organized, aren't you?

Katha: Sure, we have settled down well BUT it is not true that you can get the household, children and job in order through organization alone. The truth is more complex. My partner and I are privileged because we can afford a nanny. It currently comes for 20 hours a week or more. My husband works more than 50 hours a week and we hardly have any time to ourselves. So anything but perfect!

Katha Schinkinger in a talk: Child and career
Katha Schinkinger in a talk: Child and career

WOMAN: Were there any moments when you regretted having children?

I have never regretted having children. In weak moments, I may also regret our role model. But it was always clear to me that I wanted to have children.

WOMAN: What exactly do you regret about your chosen role model?

Katha: Well, originally my partner also wanted to take parental leave, but that didn't work out. So I stayed at home the entire maternity leave period. In this phase, every woman who is on parental leave is also financially dependent on the partner who goes to work. It's not always easy because you lead two totally different lives. He was outside and had great financial responsibility for his family, while at home I did the main upbringing of the children and the household. That's why I tried to work for a while, despite being an infant.

WOMAN: What do you think of women who return to the office 14 days after giving birth?

Katha: I understand and respect them. We should stop shaming one another. The circumstances are different for each person and it is not our place to judge someone easily. If you have a good network and feel physically well, you can go back to work after two weeks. Personally, I never managed to do that with four children, and I didn't want to.


WOMAN: Do you think this has any effect on the child?

Katha: At least I don't think the child is suffering from it. Questions like "Why is she having a child at all when she goes back to work" are a cheek. Also, I've never seen a man asked that question. Most of the time, this question is only asked to women. This "mother-shaming" probably has to do with our typical distribution of roles. If you look around in Scandinavian countries, it looks very different. It is quite normal there for mothers to go back to work very early. And you shouldn't forget that in some positions it is simply impossible to stay away from the job for months.

WOMAN: When is the perfect time to have kids?

Katha: An insanely difficult question for women these days. But I would answer: There is no such thing. I'm glad that it always worked for me without thinking too much. Once I was 23 and a student, once I was 37, already a mother of three and fully employed and I still don't know the answer …

WOMAN: Have you ever been afraid that the children would prevent you from advancing your career?

Katha: In my early twenties, I actually never asked myself this question. It's different now. With the little one who was born last year, I was already thinking about whether I could combine the baby with a job and a career. But my husband and I are very flexible here because we can divide up our working hours. Normal employees naturally need a lot of understanding from their employers, this applies to both father and mother. If the child is sick, if there is an emergency, you just have to be able to pick up a child spontaneously. In our company, that's not a problem, that's the advantage.

»EVERY mother is overwhelmed. Whether she has one child or four."

WOMAN: Looking back, would you do anything differently?

Katha: That's a good question … Maybe this time I would seek and accept help sooner. Always say “I can do it myself” and you don't have to fight. Whether this is the friend who comes by and you cry at her or if you only have a short phone call, that is often help enough for a mother. It is important to build a network. Discuss with other mothers who will pick up the children or who will look after them. And one thing can be believed me: EVERY mother is overwhelmed. Whether she has one child or four.


WOMAN: What kind of support would you like from the state?

Katha: After the parental leave period, the topic of childcare begins. I know from us and from other families that this topic causes pressure and problems again and again. Why? Because the opening times of the daycare centers are ridiculous. An after-school care center that closes at 5.30 p.m. (and that is at the latest) is out of the question for parents who have to work longer. In addition, it is really difficult to find childcare facilities for children under 3 years of age. As soon as you are pregnant you can start looking and have to register in order to get a place at all. But that's even easier in Vienna than in the country. Basically, I am an advocate of all-day care and school, because that way, more "quality time" stays at home. Then I don't have to study with my children in the evening, but can do things that we enjoy. That would be desirable!

WOMAN: In summary: What framework conditions have to be created so that one can combine child and career?

Katha: First and foremost, it is the financial framework that enables me to have someone look after my child. Be it a kindergarten that is open longer or a nanny who supports me. The network of friends and other parents is also essential. It is important that you never compare yourself to other mothers and allow yourself to be put under pressure. Nobody is perfect. Whoever says it's easy is lying!

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