Bird-mothers Of The Border



The German city of Saarbr├╝cken is separated from the French town of Saarguemines by just 20 kilometres... and a whole host of cultural differences regarding motherhood. On the German side of the border, the term "raven-mother" has long been used to stigmatise mothers who work. On the French side, women risk being perceived as "mother-hens" if they stay at home to look after their children.

Change, however is in the air.

In Germany, demographic angst is forcing policy-makers to embrace new initiatives designed to make it easier for women to combine a family with a career. Suddenly, the country's raven-mothers have found themselves a whole host of high-placed allies who are looking to France's state-funded childcare system for inspiration.

Meanwhile, babies are causing a flap on the other side of the border too - but for very different reasons. There, French feminist thinker Elisabeth Badinter has issued a warning that France's inclement economic climate is leading a new generation of women to reject the uncertainty of the workplace for the security of the home. Mother-hens are on the rise and, according to Badinter, nothing less than France's proud feminist legacy is at stake.

Zoe Williams presents a tale of two cities, and two groups of women revolting against the status-quo. Raven-mother or mother-hen: Which role would you choose?

Producer: Kate Schneider

A Made in Manchester production for BBC Radio 4.