The Game of Life

Dear readers,

Last week I wrote about trying to find creative ways to use up ingredients. As I sat there having just sent off the post, I looked at the half-eaten loaf of bread sitting on our kitchen counter decided to follow my own advice. I looked up a quick recipe for vegan bread pudding and quickly got it started while I waited for our curry to finish cooking. This has never happened before. And I’m pleased to report the dessert was a success (here’s a link to the recipe if you want to try it for yourself—it’s very easy, as bread pudding should be!).

I seem to be on a bit of a baking kick because a couple nights ago I baked cinnamon swirl banana muffins. It was already pretty late when they came out of the oven so I didn’t even have one, but the smell! What a treat. Tom and I went to bed with brown sugar and cinnamon wafting through the apartment.

OK. That’s all I’ll say about food for now. That isn’t the only thing going through my mind these days. Although, I’ve definitely had a surge in appetite these last couple weeks which I can only assume is linked to the muffin growing in my belly ;)

Obligatory food pic. That’s the muffin, although you would be forgiven for thinking it’s the bread pudding!

On Friday, Tom and I took part in an online class called Baby Paperwork 101. It’s a class aimed at explaining to expats all the bureaucracy related to having a baby in Germany. It was recommended by dear friends of ours who had a baby earlier this year and it was definitely worth the 50€ participation fee. It last 2.5 hours which I don’t think is quite enough time to explain the intricacies of Elterngeld (which literally means “parent money”) but we’re definitely more informed now than we were a few days ago.

Listening to all the conditions around the various types of benefits that are up for grabs, I couldn’t help but feel like we were players in a game: every life decision made until now being rewarded or punished according to the rules set out by the German government.

  • You’re married? Great! Give yourself 5 points.

  • You got married in Germany? Even better! Get 2 extra points for not having to chase down paperwork and official translations.

  • You’re employed? Full-time? With a German work contract? For the last 12 months? Ka-ching! Give yourself 10 points. Take 2 points away for every negative answer.

  • You’re publicly insured? Well done, 5 points.

And on it goes…

That isn’t to say that there aren’t ways for parents that don’t meet any of the above criteria to get benefits or that the above is the only winning strategy but you definitely get a strong sense of how the government views things like family and parenthood.

Despite the complexity around the topic, and the list of bureaucratic tasks that Tom and I need to deal with before and after the birth, I feel very lucky to have access to a system where we’re entitled to 14 months of paid parental leave between the two of us—or even longer if we decide to go for a combination of Elterngeld, ElterngeldPlus and Partnerschaftsbonus (yes, it’s pretty damn complicated).

Enough of the food and baby talk. Here’s a quick update on the books I’m reading:

  • I have a few pages left of the Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit. It’s a beautiful book where she weaves her own story of taking care of her mother who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease with many other stories and fairytales. It’s one of those books that at times requires a bit more focus than I normally have right before falling asleep, but it’s worth it.

  • Still reading Nine Lies About Work… Currently on Lie #8 “Work life balance matters most”. I haven’t been in the mood to read work books after work this past week.

  • Next up on the reading list is Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams which won Book of the Year in the British Book Awards in June.

Take care,

Alicia