How did you become a single mother

Single mom: "There are many benefits to being single mom!"

Journalist Caroline Rosales has written a very personal, clever book about what it's like to be a single parent. Namely strenuous - and sometimes a lot easier.
by Tina Epking (interview)

In keeping with the theme of our meeting in Berlin, she appears with a child in her arms and is slightly rushed. The journalist Caroline Rosales separated from the father of her children at the age of 34, has been a single mother since then - and also extremely annoyed that it always sounds like precariat and misfortune. That's why she wrote "Single Mom", a very entertaining, clever book in which she tells how difficult but also liberating it is to raise her son and daughter alone. With your book you want to give positive proof of the term "single mom". What's the best part about being a single parent?

Caroline Rosales: There are so many advantages to being a single parent. It is much easier to organize everyday life when nobody interferes. I'm the boss, I make the laws, I don't need to coordinate with anyone. I don't have to argue about upbringing, it makes a lot of things easier. There is also less clutter, less laundry, less organization. I don't have to marry either, marriage is work (she laughs).

"For me, the word family is, to a certain extent, an unmatched ideal"

Still, were there moments when you missed life in the classic family constellation?

Naturally. Above all, I really missed the idea of ​​having a family. I still think love and familiarity are important and beautiful. For me, the word "family" is, to a certain extent, an unmatched ideal. However, I am now wondering whether that is even the ideal. I am now designing my life as a single parent differently. In a partnership you live more comfortably and secluded. I am more active in this single mother state. I go out more and take the children with me, I don't try to be alone that much. You can also be lonely in a relationship.

The word "single parent" always sounds somehow radical. In your case, the father of the children is also educating, he is currently on vacation with one of the children ...

This is a laboratory situation right now, the total exception. I am a single parent, even by law. I am registered alone with my children, they see their father every two weeks on the weekend, on the days I work. That is zero free time relief for me. I live with them alone, I organize our everyday life, all appointments, school, kindergarten, piano lessons. There are three of us, there is no father to help. I also don't call him about parenting tips. They like to be with their father, they really look forward to the weekends with him, but it's all about fun. He's very busy, and that's okay too.

"After the breakup, I was terribly afraid of my existence, but I was also liberated"

Was it difficult for you to decide to split up?

Yes very. I was unhappy in the state I was in. I was only at home, not working and taking care of the children. My son didn't go to daycare because I thought it was great to have him with me. But at some point I was so exhausted, there was nothing left of me. It was a giant step for me to go back to work and then I saw that I had to part too. Of course I was scared, I didn't even know what to expect. I had terrible existential fears after the breakup, but I was also liberated.

In what way?

That was a departure, it was bad but also exciting. We went to see friends a lot and did a lot. There were some people who caught me, it released new energies in me. I was always just a mother, suddenly I was a woman and a professional again. Suddenly I found myself in completely different contexts. Of course there was a lot of pressure from all sides, I broke all the rules, you don't part with the father of the very young children.

How did people react?

To this day, they either react with totally exaggerated inadequate sadness or they eye me critically. Often, however, curiosity wins and people are interested. Mothers suddenly invited me to ask me questions, wanted to know how expensive the whole thing is and how I did it. Many are afraid to take the plunge, most try to hold on to their ideal, even if they are unhappy. It's a bit of a betrayal of the troop because I did it differently. You have to pull yourself together as a woman. That's the way it should be.

"During the crisis, things happened that I would not have thought possible before"

You write that it bothered you that people praise you for doing well as a single mother. Why?

Because even positive discrimination remains discrimination. If you tell a single mother that she does it great, it's like telling a Turk who has lived in Germany for 20 years that he speaks good German. You can tell the condescending attitude in the wording.

Did you quickly find your way around in your new role?

Yes, after I learned to accept help - which was very difficult for me - it suddenly went surprisingly well and life had many positive surprises for me. During the crisis, things happened that I would not have thought possible before.

What for example?

I had love stories, got together with friends a lot, I dared more, drank wine with a friend in the beer garden and let the children play. I was surprised how much you can do together with the children. Even when my daughter behaved badly at a business meeting and knocked over her glass of apple spritzer and screamed, I had to laugh about it afterwards. That is life.

When did you start dating again?

Quite fast. At some point I was very selective about a couple of Tinder dates that were really positive. I thought they'd be gone when I said I had two children, but most of them didn't care. It was a very positive experience. Of course, there are also men in online dating who are happy because they think that they finally have a chance, because single parents have to be happy about every bit of sex(she laughs). But that is more of an exception.

You have a new friend. Was he shocked that you had children?

I got to know him through friends, not on Tinder. Incidentally, he told me later that he was a little shocked at first, but not because of the children, but because he knows how bad mothers can be. I also experienced it myself because I dated someone whom I found very exhausting as a father. That made him look terribly unattractive.

"I don't need pity and daddy for my kids"

Does it actually change anything about being a single parent that you have a boyfriend?

No, I always insist that I be a single parent. We don't live together, we are not married. We see each other twice a week and at the weekend when the kids aren't around. He's good to me, but I don't need pity and I don't need daddy for my kids. My friend is responsible for love, not to make everyday life easier for me.

Speaking of everyday life. You write that you stopped apologizing and justifying yourself ...

I don't ask myself many questions. I don't have time to make my children's advent calendar myself, I never go to parents' evenings. That's a motto of mine, just no one else dares. I don't do school work either, I'm a single parent, I can't do that. I always end up paying for my parenting hours. Of course you get bashed for it, but you have to endure it. It's all very different in France, where nobody would ask you to bake a cake for a birthday. Everyone is working there. Apologizing and questioning yourself for everything is a feminine gesture. Men don't do that.

Do you really never have a guilty conscience? How you do that?

Of course, I sometimes feel guilty. For example, when I'm on late shift and haven't seen my children all day. But we mothers all have that.

In your book you tell a lot of personal things from your life. Also from your parents. Was it difficult to write that down?

In part, yes. I cried for four hours after the chapter about my parents' divorce. That was very therapeutic, I guess I had to find out. To recapitulate my own story emotionally, to remember everything that happened, that of course hurts. But I had to go through that because this is an important book, not just for me. The topic of "single parenting" is always brought into the vicinity of incurable diseases, the deficiency is already in the word. It always sounds precarious, like a social flaw, it has a negative connotation - for whatever reason. "Single Mom" ​​is supposed to change that. It is necessary during this time that the whole thing is expressed positively.

Would you say that you are happier as a single parent than you were in your marriage?

Yes, definitely. But I'm not promoting this as a model of life. In the 80s there was the first big wave of divorce. My parents are divorced too. Of course it was sad, my mother used to say that herself, but suddenly she looked much better, she went to work, she was happier and suddenly outgrew herself, a role model. She didn't see it, but I did. I suddenly wanted to be like her. It is not generally better for happiness to be a single parent, but I have accepted for myself that it is also not generally suitable for our generation if we dream of marital happiness forever. Sometimes it's just better to be a single parent than to cling to old ideas that even make you unhappy.

"Single mom. What it really means to be a single parent" by Caroline Rosales was published by Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag in August 2018 and costs 9.99 euros.

Caroline Rosales, born 1982 in Bonn, is the author of several non-fiction books and works as an editor and columnist, writing mainly on cultural and social issues. She lives in Berlin with her two children.