Why Fonda Tzinelis is an absolute rarity

If one thing is for sure, it’s that Melina Heldman doesn’t do anything like the others. The young woman from Kirschönbach has been running her own painting and plastering business for ten years. You ask “what should I have done?” After the death of her father, the second eldest of her six brothers took over the management of the company. “I’ll try it, I’ll step in,” she said at the time. According to the Central Association of German Professionals, one-fifth of German handicrafts are run by a woman today, and at that time, there were even fewer.

The 35-year-old now employs eight people and does her main work of painting and plastering in the evenings. “It was very stressful,” her husband Fonda Tzenelis recalled at the time. They’ve known each other since they were kids, they’ve been together for 18 years and know what they have in each other. Soon they realized that they wanted children. But at first, the company was Melina Heldman’s top priority. Her husband trained as a cook and works as a factory manager on three shifts at a food manufacturing company. This is the starting point for being different from the others. Because: Melina Heldman and Fonda Tzenelis have swapped roles. He stays at home, and she is the only breadwinner.

This makes it an absolute exception in Germany. According to the 2021 Fathers Report, published by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, in only three percent of married families mothers work alone for alimony.

“It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done.”

Fonda Tzenelis on his role as a stay-at-home dad

Arno’s son is now one year old and the family sun is shining. “It makes it easy for us,” says Heldman. sleep fast Arno yells happily at his father’s arm. You weren’t home long after giving birth. From Friday to Monday she was in the hospital, then returned to the construction sites. Confess with a heavy heart. “It bothered me,” she asks. “I wanted to stay home longer, but what do I do?”

The beginning was particularly difficult. She says she improved after she stopped breastfeeding. “You wouldn’t have worked any other way,” she says, “and it’s tearing you apart.” You can still see just how much in her eyes. She’s the manager, and even if her employees work completely independently, she still has to be present. This dichotomy between being a good boss and being a good mother preoccupies her with more than you admit.

The feeling remains bad

She knows Arno has the best caregivers in his dad, and she knows she’s not a bad mom just because she works full time. But nonetheless. The feeling remains bad. And also because it is still rare for a man to take care of children and family, especially in rural areas.

Arno doesn’t care. Moaning tired. It doesn’t help if Dad jumps across the kitchen with him. Melina Heldman takes the little man and puts him to bed.

“He sleeps faster with Melina,” says Fonda Tzenelis. This is her ritual, her time with Arno. And the time when the 41-year-old comes to rest. “It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done,” he admits. Despite this, he never regretted the decision to stay home. “It’s not just a small family,” he says. “I never thought caring for a child would be so stressful.”

He talks about how he can no longer go to the toilet on his own, about the fact that he sometimes feels lonely and about the frustration of being only at home. “Sometimes the roof falls on my head,” he admits. The hardest thing for him at first was that Arnault no longer himself set his own circadian rhythm. “But I’m no different from a mother,” he says. Now, a year later, he misses his colleagues the most, especially talking to them.

Independence played a major role in the decision

He can easily deal with feedback from the environment. Family and friends saw no problem with his decision. Also in Kirchonbach, Tzinelis is not seen as odd when alone with Arno. “Who knows what goes on behind the scenes,” he says. For both it was “already clear” that he would stay at home. “The company has been around for 95 years and Melina is responsible for her employees,” he says. Sure, his wife’s independence played a big part in the decision, but he would have stayed home if she was working. “He is a social man,” says his wife, looking at him proudly.

Who knows exactly what he wants. At home runs the cohort. “I’m very specific about that,” he says. Especially when it comes to Arno. His wife laughs: “He was very disciplined with the bottle.” It’s not always easy for her to hold back, she just shakes her head when Arno is wearing clothes she would never have collected in this way. Laugh. Like Arno, who actually woke up again after a really short nap. In a few years, according to the plan, Tzinelis wants to take on part of the office work in his wife’s company.

If his father had his way, Arno should not remain an only child for long. Mama Melina is a little more conservative. With that, because she knows things are going well at home. Perhaps, for once, when it comes to family planning, they do it like almost half of all families in Germany: mom, dad and two children.

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