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  • Rabenmutter [noun] – A lazy, irresponsible RAVEN of a mother

WTF Berlin

Rabenmutter [noun] – A lazy, irresponsible RAVEN of a mother

WTF Berlin returns! Jacinta Nandi is back to explain a German term to outsiders. This time: what's a Rabenmutter?

Photo: IMAGO / Ardea

My friend Karina and I are hungover as hell and decide to pick our kids up from Kita in respective Ubers and take them to the Kino at Johannisthaler Chaussee. I arrive later than Karina and spot her by the entrance, huge Chanel glasses on, smoking away, her daughter wearing one of those cheapo princess dresses from Kik and carrying a massive toy rifle. They look kind of ridiculous together. We buy the kids too much popcorn and gallons of Fanta, and Karina flirts outrageously with the security guard.

“If we run out of popcorn, we can always go back to the popcorn guard,” my son says pragmatically, referring, adorably, to the person behind the snack counter.

“Yes,” I agree. His bucket of popcorn is bigger than him; we’re not running out of popcorn any time soon.

“Is Leo’s dad a good dad?” Karina asks me. I am discovering that she is the sort of person who talks in the cinema, and am glad we’re the only ones in here.

“He’s a great dad!” I say generously, before adding bitchily: “Mind you, I’d make a great dad, too.”

Because let’s face it: it’s not that hard to be a great parent when you’re a man. Even in progressive, feminist Berlin, dads have it so much easier!

Even in oh-so-progressive Berlin, when kids get ill, it’s always the mother who has to take time off work

I remember the first time I got called a Rabenmutter. We’d been at Tropical Islands all day, missed the train back and waited for hours in the cold night air with slightly damp hair. We ended up back in Neukölln at around 22:30. My kid was tired – of course he was! As I carried him up the stairs of the S-Bahn, a granny said to me, “Your kid is really tired. He should be in bed.”

“Yeah, I know,” I answered, almost collapsing under the weight of him.

“I feel sorry for your kid,” she said emphatically. It sounds like even more of a burn in German: “Ihr Kind tut mir leid.”

I nodded angrily, and a nearby guy laughed and told me: “She thinks you’re a Rabenmutter.”

Now, what happens when you’re in that situation as a man? (Preferably their dad, but the truth is, any man will do.) When my brother came to visit recently, we got on the S-Bahn in Pankow at almost midnight. With my son in his arms, another German granny commented: “Looks comfy in daddy’s arms! I wish someone would carry me home!”

Because the truth is, when you’re a man, it all looks so wonderful.

Take an Uber hungover to the cinema? How spontaneous! What a great dad!

Give the kid one of those squidgy fruit pouch things to stop them crying in the U-Bahn? How thoughtful! What a great dad!

Fish-finger sandwich for Abendbrot, anyone? What a healthy nutritious protein-filled snack from a great, great, great dad!

Bring your kid into work with you, let them stay up until midnight watching Tatort for “educational” purposes, “bake” with them using ready-made cake mix or even the totally ready-made croissant dough? What amazingly brilliantly wonderfully fucking GREAT dads you all are!

A Berliner for 22 year, Jacinta Nandi womansplains life in the Haupstadt, one weird German expression at a time. Photo: Linaroosa Viitanen

But the same things done by mothers turn them into  “ravens” – all black feathers, evil eyes and claws, claws, claws. Nothing mammalian about these women. Why are you so hungover in the first place? Do you hate your kid? Those Quetschie pouch thingies cause tooth decay, don’t you know? Fish-finger sandwiches are gross and the protein in the fish does not make up for all those trans fats and if your kid gets Long Covid that will probably be why, by the way. Tatort is traumatising for anyone under the age of 12, and er, by the way, baking with cake mix is not proper baking. You might as well get the words “I WISH I’D HAD AN ABORTION” tattooed onto your forehead.

Berlin looks modern and equal on the surface – especially on Saturday mornings when you’re just as likely to see dads pushing their Kinderwägen through the Biomarkt. But scratch beneath the gleichberechtigte surface and you find that all that glistens is not equal. Even in oh-so-progressive Berlin, when kids get ill, it’s almost always the mother who has to take time off work. It’s the mums, no matter how much they earn or how important their jobs are, who get called by the Kita to come pick the sick kid up. In fact, I even had a friend who got phoned to come and get her oldest when her partner was officially on parental leave. All I can say is: WHAT THE FUCK, BERLIN?

Because the truth is, when you’re a man, it all looks so wonderful.

“There’s a lot of popcorn on the floor,” Karina’s daughter says loudly, after the film ends.

“Don’t look down,” I whisper, imparting very important life advice. “Never look at the floor in the cinema when a film ends.”

Karina asks the security guard for his phone number. He looks kind of horrified, and to be honest, even I’m embarrassed. Sometimes when I hang out with Karina and the kids, I feel like we’re starring in some kind of Berlin expat Absolutely Fabulous prequel or something. But there: that just shows how brainwashed by the German language I’ve become. Were we dads, all of this would be okay. People would praise us to high heaven for our joyful, playful, flexible and above all loving parenting skills – and they would be truly amazed that we always carry a Quetschie pouch for our little ones, no matter how hungover we are!