I don’t want to sleep with my mum friends.
Shh, Don’t Tell! stories are meant to be heard – in the person’s own voice – as well as for the original music. Please click above and listen, if you can! The transcript is also below.
Narrator: Before Florian’s first baby was born, he saw a great ad for a parenting class.
Florian: It was just for dads. It said we have beer, we have chips, you can ask all these questions. And I thought oh that’s pretty cool.
Narrator: But. It was not cool for Florian.
Florian: Basically, I was the only one in the whole group who intended to do paid paternal leave. And they all looked at me like something was wrong.
Narrator: Two years later, Florian has made good friends with lots of moms. But that brought its own problems.
Florian: I don’t want to sleep with my mum friends. None of them. I just don’t.
Narrator: This Shh, Don’t Tell story comes from Kiel, in northern Germany.
Florian: If you live in Berlin, you probably see lots of dads on the weekdays. In the market, at the playground. In Kiel, it’s basically quite traditional and it’s mostly mums. In my case my wife is going to university and she’s doing lots of studies and writing theses and working and meeting and traveling. I’m quite envious sometimes. Like when we have friends from uni over for dinner and they talk about university pretty much all I have to say is oh I changed three nappies today and then she vomited.
My wife completely appreciates what I do and it’s actually interesting to experience this with reverse gender roles. But we’ve had this big fight once where I got really grumpy and really angry and I didn’t really know why and I started being really mean and I found everything terrible and the weather was shit and my wife kept asking me, hey, what’s going on and I couldn’t even say what was going on because I didn’t, I didn’t really really know what was wrong. I just felt bad in a way. And I was crying, like a dad would, and I said to her, I feel like I have lost myself.
The second I had said that, I thought oh, that’s really stupid. That’s really something you would hear in a cheesy movie or something, but my wife looked at me and she said oh I completely get that. I had that when we lived in Berlin and I was unhappy with my job. I completely know that feeling and what can we do about it right now so it will change. And within one second, it all got easier. And we kind of learned from that to figure out a way to make sure that we both find something besides being a parent.
I hang out with lots of moms. It just comes with the job. Usually it’s a bit weird at first because they – most of the times, it’s new. And they’re like – don’t you work? Where’s your wife? And some pretty openly ask if I’m gay and I’m like – uh, would that be easier for you, in a way? Then we start talking, and basically it gets easier and it gets funnier and it gets nicer. And I have a very very lovely mum group. We’re six people – five mums and me – and we meet like twice a week in someone’s yard and we do arts and crafts and make muffins and whatever. And when I pick up my kid from day care at like 1:30 we basically make playdates every day to just not go crazy. To just talk to other parents, which in my case is always mums, and I go to their place, and usually the husband is at work, and we just sit on the couch, have coffee and the kids fight over some toy. And once we have gotten to know each other more and we skip the pretext, everything’s fine and the kid is sleeping perfectly, and we really talk about what’s going on, which is very important, I think, we kind of admit to each other and agree that it’s very exhausting. And then jokingly, this one friend I have, she told me oh, her husband thinks it’s really weird that we hang out so much. He kind of suspected that I wanted to get into her pants.
And I thought uh. It’s really cool that she was being open about that because it’s hilarious in a way, but on the other hand, we haven’t really hung out that much since she told me because now it’s in the room. It’s not that we’re acting on it because we don’t want to, but it’s kind of – it’s a bit weird now.
I very politely laughed a little at first, and then I got really angry because I felt he was suggesting all the wrong things. He was suggesting I use my daughter to get into other mum’s pants, which is quite aggressive and quite – I mean that’s not his place. And then he’s suggesting that I want to fuck around, which I don’t. He’s also suggesting that my marriage is probably not really working because I apparently am looking for other mums to sleep with. And I don’t even know how that would work. I mean our kids are two and a half. We’re very tired, and we couldn’t even, you know, take our eyes off the kids for two minutes. How on earth would we start an affair with the kids in the room? That’s just disgusting. And I don’t even know how that would work. And I’m pretty sure he has not even had all these thoughts and he hasn’t really thought it through. He just feels threatened like oh that guy is spending time with my wife.
That must be dangerous.
I feel like people in the street kind of want to give advice a lot. On many occasions I’ve had lovely old grandmas coming up to me and my daughter and saying oh but that’s not warm enough. Oh you’re crying what did your dad do. On several occasions when I’m tired or cranky, I’m not very nice to those grandmas.
Like we were at the mall the other day in the elevator and this grandma started like patting my kid on the head saying oh but your curls are so cute. And I just started patting her on the head saying oh but your hair is so full for your age.
She was very irritated. And she walked away saying things like oh that’s so rude, that’s so rude. And I thought well maybe it was but you were rude first. And then I had my daughter, she was a couple of months old, very young. I had her in a sling. And it was cold so I had one piece of the cloth over her head and she was just neatly tucked in. And then I had a couple people approach me saying excuse me, does your kid get enough oxygen? And I was like, oh God, I hope so. And I checked, and she was still breathing, and it was, you know, I didn’t wrap her in plastic, it was just in the fabric. And she was safe and nice and warm and all was good. And I said, yeah well thanks for asking, bye. And then a couple of minutes later another grandma or someone in the street came up to me and saying that looks awfully tight. Do you think your kid has enough oxygen? And I started losing it. I was like, why do people think I want to suffocate my child?
When I was asked for the third time that day, I actually told the elderly woman that my kid had died five days ago and my therapist said it was good for me to keep her close to my body for closure. She was so shocked I told her no no no I was just joking. But that didn’t really help. She didn’t appreciate that joke, and she didn’t know my history of having other people on the street asking me the same question. And then she left very disturbed. And I haven’t made that joke again since.
Narrator: And that’s probably good. But it is a scene I love to imagine.
Special thanks to Baby Blues Connection for help with Shh, Don’t Tell! Stories, to Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists fame for our awesome theme and other music and to cellist Collin Oldham for his terrific compositions and scoring.