Verena Gorges tells us in an interview with Markus Kühn how she masters the balancing act between job and family.
VERENA, THANK YOU FOR TAKING SOME TIME FOR THIS CONVERSATION. I KNOW YOU’RE OFTEN AS BUSY AS A CEO – SO WHAT’S ON YOUR AGENDA FOR TODAY?
Yes, you’re right. Today, I only work in the morning, so I’ll have some time for other chores in the afternoon. Once I get home by about 2 p.m., I’m going to pick up my two sons from their grandparents and do some shopping for supper.
At 3 p.m., I need to see an eye specialist with my younger son. Afterwards, I’m going to take the older one for football training in a neighbouring village. At 6 p.m., I plan to attend the parents’ evening at school. I hope to be back home by about 7 p.m. to prepare supper. Today is a really busy day, so we’re going to have a simple meal. I think Spaghetti Bolognese is what it’ll be. The boys just love it!
YOU HAVE TWO CHILDREN AGED 7 AND 11. YOU WERE IN YOUR LATE 20’S WHEN YOUR FIRST SON WAS BORN – HOW DID THAT FIT INTO YOUR JOB SITUATION AT THE TIME?
After I graduated from high school, I took vocational training as a banker. Upon completion, I studied business administration at Trier University of Applied Sciences. Once I obtained my degree, I started looking for a job in which I’d be able to use both my vocational skills and my academic skills. I quickly found a suitable job in the accounting department of a Luxembourg bank. When my first son was born two years later, I decided that I would stop working full-time. However, I didn’t want to stop working entirely. So, I approached my boss, and we agreed to reduce my working hours.
DID YOU EVER FEAR THAT HAVING CHILDREN COULD MEAN THE END OF YOUR CAREER?
No. I always wanted to have a family. At the same time, however, I never wanted to stop working entirely. So, I had to make sure that my children and my job would be compatible. As some of my friends had succeeded in harmonising their family life with their jobs, I was confident that I’d be able to do so as well.
HOW DID THE BIRTH OF YOUR FIRST SON AFFECT YOUR WORK FOR THE BANK?
The only thing that changed after my first son was born was the number of working hours. In order to be able to spend as much time as possible with my son, I reduced my working hours to 50 percent of a full-time job. My duties did not change. I was still doing the same work in the accounting department.
DID YOUR WORKING STYLE CHANGE AFTER YOU HAD A CHILD?
Not really. The only thing that comes to my mind in this connection is that I’ve become more disciplined when it comes to meeting deadlines. In my life, responsible, realistic organisation is a must.
RIGHT NOW, YOU’RE NO LONGER WITH A BANK, BUT WITH CURE. THE WORK IN AN AGENCY IS NOT ALWAYS A NINE-TO-FIVE JOB. NO MATTER HOW WELL YOU PLAN THINGS, PROJECT WORK AND DEADLINES CAN EASILY THROW A SPANNER IN THE WORKS. DOES THIS TYPE OF AGENCY WORK REALLY SUIT YOUR TIGHT DAILY SCHEDULE?
Actually, it does. My job at CURE aligns well with my way of living. My colleagues know and understand that I often need to leave on time because of the children. When the schedule gets too tight, they are always willing to take over some of my work. I think we’re an outstanding team. Each and every one of us is ready to help. Of course, I’m also eager to support my colleagues, especially on days on which I know that my children are being taken care of and I can be more flexible.
THOUGH TWO THIRDS OF ALL PARENTS PLAN TO SHARE THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES EQUALLY, ONLY 14 PERCENT ACTUALLY MANAGE TO DO SO. HOW DO YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND – WHO ALSO WORKS – SHARE THE LOAD?
Yes, in real life it is rather difficult for the father and mother to share their parental and domestic responsibilities equally. As my husband works full-time and I “only” work part-time, I take over the bulk of the work with the children and the household chores. Usually, I’m the one who takes the boys to the doctor’s, drives them to their hobby locations or monitors their homework, as my husband is not at home in the afternoons. During the week, I do most of the work at home without my husband’s assistance. At the weekend, however, he gladly goes shopping for the week and helps me with various chores at home.
YOUR CHILDREN ARE REGULARLY TAKEN CARE OF OUTSIDE THEIR HOME. WHO TAKES CARE OF THEM, AND WHERE?
When the children go to school in the morning, one of us is still at home. Since it’s not far to school, the children are already back home at about 1 p.m. On the days on which I work – which means twice a week – their grandparents take care of them until I come home. I’m glad that all grandparents live close to us and are able to support us.
SO, YOU’VE OPTED FOR THE “CONVENTIONAL SOLUTION”: HUSBAND WORKS FULL-TIME, WIFE WORKS PART-TIME, GRANDPARENTS REGULARLY LOOK AFTER THE CHILDREN. ACCORDING TO A DGB SURVEY OF 2017 ENTITLED “GUTE ARBEIT” (“GOOD WORK”), ABOUT 30 PERCENT OF WORKING WOMEN OFTEN “STRUGGLE TO RECONCILE THEIR PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES WITH THEIR JOB”. DID YOU OR DO YOU EVER HAVE ANY DOUBTS WHETHER THIS IS REALLY THE BEST SOLUTION FOR THE FAMILY?
The grandparents are happy to regularly have their grandchildren over to their place. For example, they enjoy having lunch with the children. My fixed work schedule makes our cooperation much easier, as I work on the same days every week. On the other hand, I’m grateful that the grandparents don’t mind that at times, I need to work overtime and pick up the children later. About 12 years ago, we decided to buy a home. We knew that a single income wouldn’t be enough. We have no doubts whatsoever about how we balance our career, home and family life.
HOW DO PEOPLE REACT TO HOW YOU HARMONISE YOUR JOB AND FAMILY?
Well, people have different opinions as to whether a mother should work or not. Like us, most parents in my circle of friends and acquaintances have decided for the “conventional solution”. Many are comfortable with the idea of both parents working. Of course, some are critical about this subject. Admittedly, some of the older generation still think that for the children’s welfare, it would be best for the mother not to work, but to concentrate entirely on parenting and household work. But it’s been quite some time since I last heard somebody say so.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT BEING A MOTHER AND WORKING AT THE SAME TIME?
The part-time model gives me enough time for my children while at the same time allowing me to do something I really want to do. Not all of my colleagues at CURE have children, so kids and diapers are not the only thing we talk about in private conversations. As I’m home on most afternoons, I have plenty of opportunity to spend time with my children. For example, we go to the swimming pool or visit friends. Apart from my responsibility as a mother, I also enjoy dealing with other challenging subject areas. Some years ago, I took over some interesting duties for one of our key accounts. Recently, I switched to the Data Intelligence & Reporting unit, where I enjoy the new challenges in the field of data science. I can truly say that I always look forward to my work – and then to going home to my family.