It is 6:30 am, I wake the two little ones and listen to whether my teenage girl has managed to get out of bed to the deafening loud sounds of Arianna Grande. In an hour, I must have managed to get a first-grader out of the house, put an easy-going kindergarten child in the car, and at least make myself presentable to start a new day. So far, so good. What am I not doing at this hour? Fill the three bread boxes, discuss whether the big one can go shopping right after school today, quickly sign the classwork, but breakfast on the table. All this is done by my husband Nico, the father of the rascals. Single parents, like every morning, did it all on their own.
Much better things work alone.
In particular, mothers like to tell how well everything works when the father is out of the house and alone with the children. Then nobody rages with the little ones when they are supposed to sleep. Then nobody thoughtlessly smears a Nutella bread because the spinach doesn’t taste good, and nobody says yes to things that would be said no (or vice versa). You rely on yourself, and the children cannot play you off against each other. An advantage, of course. I understand what they all mean. I also know about the phenomenon. But I also know why single parents only smile tiredly at statements like this. Because being a single parent doesn’t mean being alone with the children at times. To be a single parent means being solely responsible every day, every minute, every second, and in all questions. For development, for security, for the atmosphere in the house, just for everything in at least two lives.
What single parents can achieve, I can hardly imagine
Being single parents is like skydiving without a safety umbrella. You are the parachute. Everything depends on you. If you don’t work, it gets ugly. I can only guess how it should feel. I think of you when I go to work while Nico stays at home with a sick child. When everything gets too much, I think of you, and I hand over the wand in the house to Nico just before I lose my nerve. I take my hat off to you internally when we throw a child’s birthday or when there are again three appointments on the calendar at the same time. No, I can’t imagine how you can do it all. You probably have a good network, maybe, but that too needs to be cultivated.
The organization is only half the life.
“Organization is half the life,” my grandfather used to say earlier. And he is undoubtedly right. But what about the other half? The half that you CANNOT organize? These are unplanned incidents, emotional outbursts, moments of being overwhelmed, and above all: decisions. With children, you are always faced with decisions, and often also those that feel important, and some are. When will my child start school? What are my maxims of education? How much television is ok and how long can a 16-year-old go to the party? I discuss all such questions with Nico. You may also discuss them. With your mother, a friend, with whoever. The big difference: In the end, you have to decide alone. Nobody can and will take the responsibility off you. You can’t just divide them by two like me.
Nothing is further from me than pity.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel sorry for you. I know some single parents – not just mothers, but also fathers – who do everyday life on their own. And I know you can use nothing in the world less than pity. Not with you, and (more fatally) not with the children. What does it do? We all have to fight our struggles in life. But what is important to me to say once is All of you who take care of your children alone today and every day: I take my hat off to you! Sometimes it may not feel like what you do day after day is right and sound, and it probably isn’t always. But in any case, you’re teaching your kids a crucial lesson: Whatever it is, you can do it when it matters to you. Maybe not perfect every day, but you can do it.