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„I was able to go to work relaxed”

The University of Bremen is offering free emergency childcare to its staff

Your child is ill but you have an important meeting at work and the grandparents are far away. Since October 2019, the Emergency Mamas (Notfallmamas in German) project has been in place for exactly such cases. The emergency mama or the emergency papa fill in for childcare so that job meetings can be attended. The university is covering the costs. After a break due to corona, the service is now available again.

Your child is ill but you have an impor- tant meeting at work and the grand- parents are far away. Since October 2019, the Emergency Mamas (Notfallmamas in German) project has been in place for exactly such cases. The emergency mama or the emergency papa fill in for childcare so that job meetings can be attended. The university is covering the costs. Sometimes, Alice Lefebvre wishes that her parents were closer. Then they could help with childcare. But the French woman and her partner, who comes from the Netherlands, have to manage the care for their children on their own – alongside their daily jobs. She is a postdoctoral researcher in the field of geosciences at the University of Bremen and he works for a company in Bremen.

Their children, Leon (6), Leila (4), and Mael (3), go to the Entdecker kids Daycare Center on the university campus. “It is very practical that the kids are close to us. I fetch them in the afternoon,” explains the agile 37-year-old. When her daughter Leila was ill for one week, Alice and her partner had to each stay home for two days. Alice thought that she would have to cancel an impor- tant meeting at work.

However, her colleague told her about a new service at the university called Emergency Mamas. “It worked really well. I registered at the university via email and received a quick reply,” explains the scientist. “The next day, the emergency mama arrived and she had arts and crafts things with her, which the children loved. My eldest son was also ill – he had a fever. Both of them had absolutely no problem with staying at home with the emergency grandma, despite not knowing her. They just said ‘Bye Mum’ – it was really quite surprising. I was able to go to work relaxed.”

Often, One Parent Makes Sacrifices in their Job

Mothers and fathers who have to manage their careers and family are familiar with situations in which work and childcare collide. They are part of being a parent but what is it like for their career? Jobs have other rules: A planned meeting does not take ill children into consideration. Often, one parent makes sacrifices in their job. Most of the time it is the parent with the more flexible job.

Those who want to share the care equally are faced with big organizational problems. “It is not easy to combine work and family,” explains Alive Lefebvre. “Especially at the beginning of your career you have to work a lot to achieve something. If you have small children that need their parents, you can no longer apply for certain positions.” Thankfully, everything works out quite well with her partner. They alternate and both of them sometimes have to stay at home. “The one who has the bigger or more important meeting goes to work,” laughs the geologist.

{4 3 Notfallmamans Markus Spiske OO89 95aUC0 Unsplash]
Mothers and fathers who have to combine their career and family know the situations where work and childcare collide. This is where the “Notfallmamas” help.
©Markus Spiske OO89 95aUC0 Unsplash

However, even the best systems reach their limits. Some children’s illnesses last a week or longer and then it is great to have a childcare service. “With Emergency Mamas it is easier if a child is ill for longer. It is not unusual that this might add up to three weeks with three children.” The daycare centers have strict rules: Those who are ill are not allowed to go to the center so that they do not infect other children. Even when the fever or gastrointestinal problems have passed, the children cannot go to the center the next day. However, necessity is the mother of invention.

Sometimes, Alice Lefebvre takes her children into the office. In a drawer in the third story of the geosciences building, she has everything she needs to keep her children busy for one to two hours: toys and colored crayons. There is a cardboard box in the corner. “That is for crafts. My older son loves it.” The younger son sometimes also goes with his mother to the children’s room that is made available by the Faculty of Geosciences in the building. However, visiting mum’s office is the exception. Care at home is better.

„We want to support parents with our offer.”

The service, which has been available at the University of Bremen since October 2019, comes from Hamburg and offers qualified carers. that is important tot the service. There is currently one emergency mama in Bremen who fills in and cares for children if needed. Samira Abdel Wahed is the contact person within the university administration and organizes the childcare. “I often hear in discussions that staff members miss important meetings and must move heaven and earth to find care at short notice. That can be very stressful and that is why we want to support parents with our offer.”

She is convinced by the model, which is currently in its pilot phase, and hopes that as many staff members as possible use it. Those who contact her by 3 p.m. receive an answer on the same day regarding whether childcare on the following day is possible. Emergency Mamas ensures that they can send help for the following day in 95 percent of all cases. Alice Lefebvre recommends the service to everyone who is sometimes in need of a mama or a papa: “It is a great thing. Emergency Mamas helped me immensely in combining work and family.”

Information and Registration

You can register for the following day until 3 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Fill out the form „Anmeldung eines Kinder-Notfallbetreuungsbedarfs“ in German . Send it via email to notfallmamas@uni-bremen.de

Contact: Samira Abdel Wahed, Administrative Unit for Central Administrative Affairs/Organizational Development Phone: +49 421 218-60857

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