Pregnant Fegebank: “Were surprised by the time”
Katharina Fegebank with her friend, the entrepreneur Mathias Wolff
Photo: Klaus Bodig / HA
Science Senator Katharina Fegebank is expecting twins – and is already making plans for the time after birth.
Hamburg. Even its most beautiful twists and turns are often brought to life without announcement and against every expectation. “We wished for children and are very happy, even if we were surprised by the time,” says Hamburg’s Second Mayor and Senator of Science, Katharina Fegebank (Greens). “I myself had a happy childhood, and it was always clear to me that I would like to have a family myself”. Now the 41-year-old and her partner, the entrepreneur Matthias Wolff, who was one year younger, have two reasons to be happy: Katharina Fegebank is pregnant – with twins. The deadline is December.
Hamburg’s First Mayor Peter Tschentscher (SPD) wished the expectant parents all the best last Thursday in a personal meeting. It was said that he was very happy for both of them. Yesterday he also congratulated via Twitter.
The parents have promised support
Fegebank and Mathias Wolff have known each other for some time through mutual friends. They have been a couple since 2015. Most of the time they live together in Eilbek. “We will now discuss in peace how we are adapting to the new situation,” says Fegebank, who is on holiday on Rügen with her partner. “In any case, we are lucky that our parents want to support us all strongly.
From 2008 to 2015, the political and European scientist was regional chairman of the Greens in Hamburg until she took office in the Red-Green Senate. After former Justice Senator Jana Schiedek (SPD), she is only the second Hamburg Senator to have children in office. “I love my job,” says Fegebank. “I want to work as long as I can.” She has 18 weeks maternity leave, six weeks before the birth, twelve weeks afterwards.
Twin daddy Tjarks speaks up for courage
In theory, Fegebank could also take parental leave after maternity leave – but she probably has no intention of doing so. “After the birth I’ll take a baby break until we’re all used to the new situation,” she says, “but I’m assuming that I’ll be back in spring. Maybe I will be the first second mayor with such small children. But I’m not the first politician and certainly not the first working woman who has to reconcile job and family.”
Fegebank also gets support from her party. “She will reconcile job and children well. I’m sure she will,” Greens Group leader Anjes Tjarks wrote on Facebook. He himself has three children – two of them are twins. Mastering everyday life with two small children is a challenge. “But fortunately we are in a party where you can trust that it will be possible to reconcile politics and family,” wrote Tjarks.
On behalf of Fegebank, State Councillor Eva Gümbel (Greens) will take over the management of the scientific authority. In the Senate, Fegebank will be represented by school senator Ties Rabe (SPD).
Veit returned right after the birth.
Social change in terms of reconciling work and family life has also been affecting top politics for a number of years. “The then 39-year-old gave birth to her son Johann Jacob in 2013 – and just six days later she sat in the office again for the first time, her little son on her lap.
Veit never made much of a fuss about it, after all it was her third child. She didn’t want to set an example by her pragmatic balancing act between the role of mother and the many representative duties of the citizenship president: “There is no right, there is no wrong and there are no role models”, said Veit. “Everyone has to find out for himself what is best for him or her”.
In 2014 it was Jana Schiedek who became the first Hamburg Senator to have a child during her term of office. Only eight weeks later, the then 40-year-old returned to the office, but admitted that she now had to make her working hours more flexible: “The office influences the family, but the family also influences the office,” said Schiedek, stressing: “It was clear to everyone that I would not continue with five evening appointments a week and three weekend appointments a month.
Leonhard renounced mayor’s office
How difficult the balancing act between the role of a young mother and a top political office can still be was shown at the beginning of 2015 when Schiedek decided to take a break from politics. “Another term in the Senate, and my son would have gone to school,” she said later, making clear what the motivation behind this step was: she wanted to spend more time with her child. In 2017, Schiedek reinstated herself as State Councillor of the Cultural Authority one level below the Senatorial Office.
Despite positive changes, the compatibility of job and family is also a sensitive issue for many current members of the Senate. In 2015, for example, Melanie Leonhard (SPD), a member of the parliament, hesitated for a long time to take over the office of Social Senator in view of her one-year-old son. After all, she gave in to the courtship of the then mayor Olaf Scholz (SPD). But at the beginning of 2018, when it came to who could succeed Scholz as mayor, the highly trafficked 40-year-old quickly showed a clear edge – and decided not to do so.
“It wasn’t about the effort,” she clarified later and indicated, that rather the public fixation on the mayor’s office with all the accompanying symptoms had deterred her as a young mother: “My son is still fully dependent on me at the age of three, he can’t go anywhere alone yet – should I accompany him with bodyguards? Nevertheless, Leonhard took over the SPD state presidency from Scholz, an office that is less in focus.
Dressel also gave priority to the family
For similar reasons, the then SPD faction leader Andreas Dressel had also cancelled. He struggled with himself for a long time, “whether I can take this step in a situation with three small children and, above all, really want to,” the 43-year-old later wrote to his party friends and asked them to respect his renunciation. Instead of being mayor, Dressel became finance senator – which again illustrates the difference between a “normal” office in the senate and that of the head of the senate.
But Katharina Fegebank can also see how children and politics can be reconciled from her green party friends: Her Councillor of State Eva Gümbel has five children, as mentioned before, Anjes Tjarks is the head of the parliamentary group, triple dad, Justice Senator Till Steffen has two school-age boys – and clear rules have been laid down in his office as to when he wants and has to be there for his children. This is also generally accepted: “Ten or 15 years ago one would probably have had problems with such an announcement”, Steffen said recently. “But fortunately the standards have shifted.
Fegebank can now set new standards – a second mayor with twins, that’s never happened before.