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A group of mothers are standing in the playground talking: “My husband is going on a business trip next week, so I’ll be a single parent, so to speak.” – “Oh, well then I’m probably a single parent. My husband works so much that all the work with the children is left to me.”

One regularly reads about such playground conversations on Facebook, Instagram and Co. It regularly stirs up spirits. Single parents are outraged by such a statement, women in partners are ashamed of such a statement or they justify themselves because they are really raising the children more or less alone, because the partner is simply never there.

Wikipedia says “A single parent is a person who is raising at least one child under the age of 18 without the help of another adult.” Sounds logical, but unfortunately it isn’t. There are now so many different family models that there are sometimes arguments on social networks as to which of the single parents is the:most single parent. Which basically means who has it the hardest of all. Because that’s what happens a lot in a debate between single parents: you’re outbidding who is really a single parent now, equating to whose life is the hardest, instead of supporting and empowering each other.

There are so many gradations between the classic parents-with-children family and a family with children alone that it is hardly possible to define exactly when you are a single parent and when not. There are newly married parents, single parents who take care of their children without any support, transition models, nest models, fathers and mothers who pay maintenance and those who do not pay, let alone take care of their offspring in any way, and there are Fathers and mothers who prevent contact with the other parent except for child support.

There are so many gray areas that you are considered privileged if, as a single parent, you have child-free every other weekend and your partner pays maintenance. Alternating model parents are not considered single parents, but separate parents, and families in which the partner is never physically present are not even allowed to use the word single parent, but she does exactly that: raise alone. And at the same time, I understand the impotent rage of all parents who do it all on their own and then have to say the funny “I’m practically a single parent” on the playground.

I would be lying if I said I never used “quasi single parent” to describe a situation. At the time, I wasn’t aware at all of what I was saying and, above all, of how political the topic was. So it would be presumptuous to blame other parents for something I’ve already done myself.

But now I’m a lot wiser and in a different situation. I’m not a single parent but I’m separated. interchangeable model. Again, this is far from the same as being a completely single parent, but I understand what it means and why it’s so upsetting.

That means being a single parent. All big decisions rest on two shoulders instead of four. Income deserves a pair of hands. Errands, doctor’s appointments, homework, dinner, lunch boxes, hobbies, cleaning, washing, shopping, organizing meetings, consoling, fighting and making sure that the kids don’t spend the whole day in front of the telly or tablet during the holidays… that takes care of that a person. Twelve weeks of school holidays, a full-time job and always not enough sick days. There’s no one there to quickly get the butter if you’ve forgotten it. Who can step in for a moment if something is wrong. Who cushions existential fears or provides financially. The one who takes responsibility when something goes wrong, who supports or relieves. Single parents usually work full-time and after eight hours at work they still do the household chores in the evening.

Yes, there are parents who are also often on their own, but they have the choice of how to divide jobs, children and household with the other, who works more, who works less. Single parents have no choice. And that’s the really big difference. There is no backup. In the best case, however, a good network that steps in when the butter is gone. But unfortunately not everyone has that either – and of course friends, families and co also have their own lives.

In addition to financial worries, the biggest fear is: “What happens if I get sick, need an operation, break something or just can’t take it anymore?” There are no real breaks, cancellations are not taken into account. The sorrows don’t halve because they can’t be shared. And no mother-child cure or yoga class in the evening will help. It’s a big pressure that single parents have had for years. The mental load is a huge mountain because you just have to think about too much at the same time without being able to take turns.

And what is added and is often forgotten: The arguments and agreements with a person whom, in the worst case, one would like to erase from one’s life because there was psychological violence, physical, because the separation ended in court, because one didn’t end it in one creates a factual level, because pressure is built up through the children, because things are manipulated and exploited, because things cannot be closed completely, because people have been cheated and lied to…

The mother on the playground, whose husband travels so much for work, is very far removed from all of this.

Of course, couples who share the job, make decisions together and also share the hardships of everyday life are then privileged. Nevertheless, of course, there is still that in partnerships, the feeling of being left alone, of being overwhelmed and unfortunately also of violence and dependencies, pressure and abuse. There are just as happy single parents as there are unhappy ones in relationships. Being a parent is not a competition, and neither is being a single parent. But “quasi single parent” isn’t a label that you just stick on for a week, it’s a life.

Nevertheless, instead of silencing each other, we should start asking questions. To pay attention to our words. Be empathetic and stop comparing yourself. Because how bad is it when mom no longer dares to say on the playground how overwhelmed and alone she feels, no matter what family background. And yet we can raise awareness that you are never “virtually a single parent” if your partner is not at home for a few days. We are not competitive athletes, we are parents and we should be committed to what it takes to be healthy, strong and there for our children. And that starts with mutual respect.