I don’t want to blow my own trumpet here, but I think I am a bit of an expert on this subject. I’ve been an actual single mother and I’ve been „basically“ a single mother too. I think I am really quite qualified to give my opinion here.
The first thing I am going to say is going to make everyone hate me, socialists, feminists, conservatives and sexists alike. Okay but here goes: BEING A SINGLE MUM ISN’T ACTUALLY THAT HARD. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. I know you hate me now, I kind of hate myself for this statement. I know why people act like being a single mother is basically the hardest thing you can do in the world – I get it. It’s the whole society shit – the Kinderfreibetrag type stuff, and the Unterhaltsvorschuss going up so Hartz-IV has to go down, all that kind of spitefully punitive stuff – and then the whole having to work and not having enough childcare stuff – and then the way nothing you ever do is good enough stuff, like if you stay home and live on welfare everyone acts like you are a lazy slut and if you go out to work everyone acts like you are a neglectful mother. At parents‘ evenings, 22 year old Erziehers will lecture you about „structure“ (FUCK OFF) and every time, every single time, every single fucking time you forget to buy milk on the way home from school or kita your kid will have to drink water in the morning. It’s the relentlessness of it. Your body and actual soul stretched so thin you feel like, any second now, you might snap into a thousand pieces. It’s the loneliness of it. I know why people think it’s hard. It’s because it really is almost unbearably hard sometimes.
BUT: it is still better than a) not having a kid at all and b) having a kid with a man who is emotionally and physically abusive. It is also probably just slightly better than having a kid with a man who does absolutely no housework.I know it’s hard. I know how hard it is. But the truth is, it’s NOT actually that hard.
I think single mothers should never compare themselves to those happy couples they see at the Spielplatz, at the Elternabend, at the soft-play. You know those seconds where you watch a couple – maybe the dad is sexy, in an older hipster kind of way, his tummy slightly too fat, a tiny bit of grey in his beard, but his glasses proving that he hasn’t totally noticed yet. He brings his wife/girlfriend a bottle of beer, she says something to him, he says something back to her, and she laughs. Yeah. Don’t compare yourselves to that couple, girls. Compare yourselves to that woman you saw at Tropical Islands one time, and her husband was screaming in her face THIS IS WHY THEY ARE LIKE THIS YOU DUMB CUNT and she wasn’t even offended, her face, empty, her eyes, blank, she was just tired of it, she wasn’t even upset anymore. I always think it is slightly fascist to compare yourself with people in a worse situation than you are – that there but for the grace of God go I stuff always seems to me to be slightly fascist – but if single mothers are going to accept how hard single motherhood is, that is what is going to have to happen.
Now, there’s single mums and single mums of course. There’s single mums who do 50/50 with their ex, and he is really nice, and they live in the same kiez, and they swap days whenever she has work. There’s single mums who do 50/50 with their ex and he’s a cunt. There’s single mums who don’t know who the father of their kid is, and don’t care, and their mother lives in the same block of flats as them, and collects the kids from kita every Thursday and Friday. There’s single mums whose baby-father lives in Israel and their mums are in Spain and they’re in Berlin and they don’t have any money. There are single mums who have nannies and great jobs. There are single mums whose baby-fathers are dicks but they live in Köpenick and their sister lives in Mahlsdorf and their cousin lives in Tempelhof. You get the picture. There’s single mums and there’s single mums of course. I actually think a single mother who lives in the same kiez as, and gets on with, her own, healthy-and-fit-enough-to-babysit mother, is slightly better off than a married woman who is living in Berlin with absolutely no family support whatsoever. But this is just an opinion, and not scientific fact, and I don’t want to downplay how hard raising a child alone is.
It’s hard to raise a child alone. It’s almost unbearably hard sometimes. The washing machine breaks, and you feel suicidal. At parents‘ evening they tell you he needs more structure in his life, but your boss wants you to work late 3 nights a week minimum. On bank holiday weekends, you go to a restaurant and the only words you hear from another adult are „Can you get your kids to be a bit quieter, please? You’re not alone here.“ „Actually,“ you feel like replying, „I am alone here. I am very muchafuckinglone here. This is the only adult conversation I have had all weekend and you don’t need to be quite such a cunt about it.“
But the worst part about being a single mother? The worst part? The very, very, very, absolute, absolutely unbearably worst part? It’s when mums in relationships say to you, either in a very stressed or disgusted voice, or sometimes, in a very light-hearted, jovial voice: „I am basically a single mum at the moment too!“ I don’t know why people say it, but it is really fucking annoying. I guess that’s what it must feel like when you’re disabled and it snows and everyone writes on Facebook ich bin gehbehindert bei diesem Wetter! There’s something so callous about it, something so flippant. Something so indifferent to how hard single parenthood is…It’s so dismissive that it’s cruel.
Because I have been „basically“ a single mum. For the weekend, for the week, even for a month, even, I think, for six weeks at one point. It’s hard, you miss your partner, you get exhausted, you don’t get a break. You feel alone. You feel resentful. You start thinking, God I may as well be a single mother right now. But here’s the thing: IT IS NOT THE SAME. If the washing machine breaks, it’s not the same. You are alone right now, and it’s hard, but you’re not totally alone in the world, and you know it. When I was an actual single mum, surviving on Hartz-IV money and living in a lovely little flat in Friedrichshain, the washing machine broke and I wanted to literally die. When I was basically a single mum, surviving on a bit of pocket money and living in a gorgeously huge but empty flat in Lichtenberg, the washing machine broke (it was the same one, actually, I got a lot of value for money out of that washing machine) and I skyped my partner in Mexico and he said yeah, I’ll transfer you some money. It’s the loneliness that makes parenting solo so tough. The neverending loneliness. And the stigma. All those times you forgot the milk and they had to drink water. All that judgement. And the kinderfreibetrag stuff, too. Stop telling single mothers you’re basically a single mum, too. It’s untrue, unfair – and unhelpful.