How is the system against single mothers?

What helps single mothers and fathers in the Corona crisis?

The worst part is home schooling. The worksheets from school come by email, after which Ute Durchholz and her son are on their own. Two hours of schoolwork a day are possible until the eight-year-old, who has a numeracy problem, loses motivation. This leaves the mother just as alone as with the question of how she should manage her job in the home office and the household on the side. "As a single parent, it always feels like the duvet is too short," says Durchholz. »Something is always looking out, and that is uncomfortable: If I take care of my son more and reduce the work, I have less money. If I work more and have enough money, I don't have the time for my son. "

In every fifth German family one parent is a single parent, in around 90 percent of cases it is the mothers. And many of them should feel like they are through wood. A qualitative study published in the Journal of Family Issues shows that their situation is no exception: American researchers asked single mothers how they were doing in view of the corona pandemic and the associated restrictions. The scientists compared the answers given by women from one-adult and multi-adult households. While one-adult households only consist of the mother and her children, grandparents also live in multi-adult households, for example. The researchers found that women in one-adult households in particular were stressed by the demands that simultaneously demanded their attention: work and caring for the children.

This article is included in Spectrum - The Week, 01/2021

As a working single parent in North Rhine-Westphalia, Ute Durchholz could have given her son to emergency care a few weeks after the first school closings began in March 2020. But she did without it. And even in the week before Christmas, when parents of first to seventh graders in North Rhine-Westphalia could decide whether to send their child to school or not, Durchholz's son stayed at home. Mainly because both the father, who belongs to the risk group, and the mother were concerned that their child could bring the coronavirus home with them. Durchholz's greatest fear is that they will no longer function. When she gets sick, there is no one to take care of her son. She says she cannot completely rely on the child's father. And there is no such thing as a family network that catches them.

Crisis hotline for single parents

The North Rhine-Westphalia regional association of the Association of Single Mothers and Fathers e. V. (VAMV NRW) set up a corona crisis hotline. Parents can get tips on the legal framework, financial help and psychosocial counseling there. "We have had many, many calls since March," says Nicola Stroop, board member of VAMV NRW.

The compatibility of care and work as well as isolation were often an issue. »What we have noticed is that the personal stress caused by the Corona crisis has increased enormously. The reaction to this is stress. «And when single parents then notice that their usual strategies - for example, including family members in the care - no longer work due to the pandemic, their demands continue to increase. »The corona crisis works like a burning glass. Where there were problems before, things are now even worse. And if things went well, you can get through the crisis to some extent. "

"As a single parent, it feels like the duvet is too short: something is always looking out."
(Ute Durchholz, single mother)

Things went better for Ute Durchholz than for many others: She started the crisis with a full-time job that made her home office possible and brought in enough money. And with the father of the child there is a contact arrangement so that he takes care of the son 30 percent of the time. This gives Durchholz the opportunity to work away what has accumulated in the meantime. What she lacks, however, is someone with whom she can share the demands of everyday life and all of the "mental baggage", as she calls her worries.