the old woman and the sea (of paperwork) or, advanced parenting in germany

Every since Baby Pickles arrived I have felt like I’m being buried alive.  Letters, forms, papers, confirmations, more forms, more forms, and more fucking forms.  Welcome to parenthood in Germany.  Not so pleased to meet you, but thanks for the mad cash that you keep telling us we will someday get for working on your shrinking population problem.  (“Problem.”)

I suck at paperwork.  Though I vaguely enjoy filling out forms in a sort of obsessive compulsive way, I have trouble filling them out and getting them to the post office on time because at the end of the day I just don’t care.  Taxes, registering my address, getting visas—how do people manage to give enough fucks to get this shit done before the very last second?  At least some of Pickles’ paperwork will result in money in the bank, but still, paperwork is paperwork is hell, and I always procrastinate getting to the post office for as long as possible, and I am very, very good at forgetting things.

The paperstorm began immediately after Pickles’ was born.  Her birth certificates could be picked up at the Standesamt, we had been told.  We were supposed to pick them up right away, but I could barely walk because I’d just had fucking abdominal surgery you assholes, and duh, we were pretty fucking busy just trying to stay alive those first weeks.  When I finally made it there, they told me that I needed to “order” the birth certificates, and I could pick them up later.  Futile trip to the ugliest building in town!  Thanks Standesamt!

A few weeks later I finally had the honor of taking home a handful of certificates claiming that the Beard and I were, in fact, Pickles’ parents.  (They do this at the hospital in the United States, don’t they?)  A few copies were free, the rest—and you need them for all the other paperwork you are going to have to fill out for your baby and they have to be originals—were ten euros a pop.  Why it costs ten euros to have someone print out and sign a sheet of paper that they were printing a few of at the moment anyway is beyond me.  And the system grinds on. Cha-ching!

Quadruplicates of the birth certificates in hand, we started filling out forms for the health insurance company, which went surprisingly smoothly and resulted in a little pickled insurance card and no further hassles.  Then I filled out the novel of pages of paperwork for her American citizenship, passport, and social security card applications. (None of which we have been able to afford to actually get yet, ho hum.)  The Kindergeld and Elterngeld paperwork, however, (which we really should have filled out months before and sent in the minute Pickles was born, and no I am not kidding) are still coming back to haunt us.

First, let me explain.  Kindergeld is money that the government gives everyone who has a German baby.  So if you have a German baby and live in Germany, you will receive 185 euros per month until said baby is 25 or graduates from college.  After you’ve had a couple kids (each of which will result in an additional 185-euro-per-month check), they raise the bar and you get 205 euros a month and on and on.  Elterngeld is money that the government gives people who are raising German babies so that staying home with a baby is a little less financially daunting.  There is a minimum of 300 euros per month, or you can fill out even more paperwork and get a percent of your previous salary for one year.

These would have been the forms to not procrastinate filling out. Cough cough, shuffle shuffle, blush.  Around month seven I finally got them all in the mail.  Done! I thought.  Soon we’ll have that financial help, I think.  Wohoo! I thought.  And so began the avalanche of letters and further paperwork that I am sitting in as I type this.

We made a few mistakes on the Elterngeld paperwork, only two of which were found initially (another one was found after we sent back the first round of corrections), but at least that only involved a few more checks and a few more signatures.  The Kindergeld people, however, have just written to tell me that I need something called a Haushaltsbescheinigung, aka a paper that has been stamped and signed by the people at the Bürgeramt.  What that means in plain English is that I have to go to an office in Mainz to have a stranger sign a paper saying that, yes, the Beard, Baby Pickles and I all live in the same house.  Couldn’t we just send them one of the other hundreds of pieces of paper we have had to fill out to prove that we live at the same address (which we had to provide for my visa after our marriage)?  Without the extra trip to one of their rings of hell?  Couldn’t the fucking German bureaucrats just pick up the fucking phone and communicate with each other—or better yet, have a computer system do it for them? As usual in my encounters with German public offices, I find myself tearing at my hair.*

The positive side of all this is that we might really be another few days closer to getting our monthly “thank you for breeding” money, which we could really use right now.  I really appreciate that the country tries to support parents, particularly since they changed the laws so that both mamas or papas could apply for Elterngeld for taking on the majority of the kid responsibility.  Still, I do wish it was all a little easier.  If everyone is entitled to Kindergeld, then why don’t they automate the process through the reports of birth, send parents something to sign in confirmation, and cut a bunch of people who are struggling with one of the busiest, most chaotic events in their lives a fucking break from all the forms?  Have you ever tried filling out paperwork with a baby on your lap?  I have.  And while I was annoyed at having to get a new set of forms, I have to admit that I understood why she wanted to rip them all to shreds.

*Yesterday I was informed that the reason that these offices don’t communicate is actually one of data protection.  It is illegal, for example, for the police to just go to all these offices and get all the info they have on you there without your permission.  Good call.  Though in this case I wish I could just sign something allowing them to do it in this situation.

Also: All the paperwork is done and sent in!  Now to wait and see what we’ve fucked up on it this time…

0 Comments on “the old woman and the sea (of paperwork) or, advanced parenting in germany

  1. I totally hear you on this one. My husband spent so much of his “vacation” after the birth running around for days on end trying to get everything taken care of. Forget Elterngeld for us. There are so many catches to it, that it wasn’t worth the hassle. Because we are temporary residents I would have had to go get a job (to turn down in the end) to get the paperwork that we needed so that I could get elterngeld. For my husband it would have been too much of a pay cut, so we wouldn’t have been able to pay the bills. We still haven’t gotten the kindergeld for our last baby, but we heard today that we have all the paperwork taken care of, they are just waiting for something from the city. What a pain in the ass it is though! I hope that you guys have it all behind you soon!

  2. As a U.S. resident, I would fill out forms all day, every day for the rest of my life if it meant I could go to the dentist, doctor, etc. for even a reduced fee. I am uninsured with no end in sight, and one needed procedure could wipe out my savings or see me plunge deep into debt. I have a job but don’t make nearly enough to scrap by. I also make too much to qualify for medicaid, which I understand and accept…. but still. It’s frustrating to have a toothache become a reason to panic over finances.

  3. That all sounds hellish. I’m just like you, I hate paperwork. But what I hate more is phone calls! If I ever have to ring a company or the council I put it off and put it off until they’re ringing me pissed that I haven’t rung them yet. But it’s so hard to make a phone call with a toddler running around!

    I’m having issues at the minute trying to open a bank savings account for Nookie. I filled in the form, took it into the bank with her birth certificate and everything else and figured that would be it. Since then I had to ring them to confirm her name (duh, it was on the form I showed your assistant?!) and copy her birth certificate then get it signed by a professional person (being an ex-nurse has it’s perks), and now they want me to ring them again for some reason. Whoever knew opening a kid’s saving account would be so complicated?!

    Thankfully the UK isn’t so bad with child benefits and things. It’s a pretty straightforward form. But I know what you mean about trying to do it with a baby. It’s a nightmare.

  4. wait wait wait… you get 185 PLUS 300 euros per month? you gotta be f-in kidding me! that’s a shitload of money! once you get the forms filled out, will they backpay for all the months since she was born?

  5. There are a lot of “holy shit!”s running through my head right now, but the biggest one is over the frustration of all the paperwork! The second biggest is “holy shit, you get paid to have a kid???” Now, of course I understand that you’re not really profiting monetarily from having a kid, but what a boon for a frugal household like yours! Having your kid’s expenses [partially] paid?? Amazing!

    I’m also really, REALLY glad that we don’t have the same system in the States (that I know of). I’d love to start getting paid money just to continue NOT being pregnant. Sheesh.

  6. Sherah: Daaamn, what a pain. So are you guys both not German citizens? Because of a number of stupid coincidences I couldn’t have gotten a percent of my old salary, but we just went for the 300 minimum to avoid any extra paperwork crap. At least that way we don’t have to send them pounds of proof of our incomes. Hope it arrives soon!

    Emily: That sounds pretty bleak. The insurance situation in the US is a huge reason that I don’t want to move back.

    RR: I f-in hate phone calls as well! The same thing happens to me all the time! The one nice thing is that the Beard will take care of those for me if I ask. Still, ugh.

    It was pretty complicated for us to open a savings account for her too. I went once by myself, but then they wanted the Beard to be there as well and it was just all sorts of ridiculous shit all over again. Forgot about that particular paperwork gauntlet. Should add it to the list.

    FVM: Yeah, it is a shitload of money. Unbelievable right? The 300 a month will be from months 5-15 of her life I believe, so we’ll get the months back to five (we filed to late to get the rest back, but apparently the Beard can apply to get the other months). The 185 a month I also believe we’ll get back-dated to her birth, though I am uncertain about that as of yet. Might require more paperwork, but it will be worth it. I complain and all, but as I say in the end, I appreciate the support A LOT. Can you even imagine them doing this in America??

    Jill: Haha, it would seem fair to pay folks not to get pregnant. I mean, isn’t there like a population boom happening that is part of the whole environmental mess we’re in?! Anyway, this policy actually goes back to the Third Reich (boo). They were very “we heart families” and wanted Germans producing more Germans. Gross. Anyway, these days it has become a way to try to support families and battle the whole shrinking population thing here, which is going to end up toppling the whole social system if it gets to severe.

    Anyway, yeah the extra cash is awesome, though we’re planning on putting all the Kindergeld into a savings account for Pickles so that later she’ll have a mad chunk of cash to do whatever she’d like. Like put a down payment on a house or something.

  7. Actually, you don’t need to have a German baby. And if you have no job you get the money for not having a job. It’s a pretty sweet deal and open to all residents of Germany, and part of why- although DE is a relatively sexist country- it’s also a great country for families and children and women who need assistance. I’m ok with my tax dollars going to support families that reside here, and to support their kids, and I wish the US would change its tax policies to actually support children rather than just being married.
    The forms aren’t that hard- you will find yourself helping out friends just as we did after we filled ours out. And the payments will be backdated (and paid in a big lump the first time) all the way back to when you first file.

  8. I sympathize! Every year, they send me another couple of forms to make sure that they are not giving out Kindergeld to the undeserving. Every year I have to solemnly swear that, surprise, The Teenager still exists and has turned a year older. Sometimes they ask for the Teenager’s father’s address to make sure HE doesn’t claim any Kindergeld. Alas, The Teenager’s father is extremely hard to track down as he more or less ignores his existence. I have a huge pile of correspondence in which I swear that I will forward the address as soon as I get hold of it and in which the Kindergeld people threaten to keep the Kindergeld unless I hurry up. Why don’t they go and pester The Teenager’s Father, I wonder?

    On another note – I was sent a chain email which I was supposed to send to 8 women who have inspired me. I don’t to chainmails, but to honor the sentiment I thought I’d contact the 8 women in another way (preferably by snail mail).
    So, dear Click Clack Gorilla, you are one of the women who have inspired me. You’ve done so many courageous things (-> moving to Germany, I should think), making your own way, smiling graciously at convention and then doing your own thing.
    Thank you.

    That’s it!


  9. A few weeks later I finally had the honor of taking home a handful of certificates claiming that the Beard and I were, in fact, Pickles’ parents. (They do this at the hospital in the United States, don’t they?)

    Not so much. My son was born in Pennsylvania in 2004, and there was no certificate for me as his parent; my name automatically went onto the birth certificate because the hospital saw the baby emerge from me. Under PA law, if I had a husband, he would be the legal father of my child even if DNA testing proved he was not the biological father. However, because we’re happily unmarried, my partner had to file an affidavit of paternity. It wasn’t too complicated, just a few-page form to fill in and mail. A few weeks later the birth certificate arrived in the mail.

    I recall some other paperwork for Social Security card, and the health insurance was annoying because my employer had just changed to requiring all modifications of one’s benefits to be made on the internal computer network, so I brought my baby to visit my office during my maternity leave and let my co-workers admire him while I filled in the boxes on the computer. Overall I think we had an easier time with paperwork than you’re describing!

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