Alleinerziehend: Today’s #dailydeutsch

I am exhausted. Again.

A couple of years ago, at an outing with all of the parents at the Kita, one of the dads turned to me and said, “Gosh, raising your kid all alone must be tough.” To this dad, who had never met my ex, I was doing everything by myself, hence his word choice: alleinerziehend. There’s not really another word for a single mom (which is why the English phrase single mom has, to my chagrin, been adopted here in Germany).

On my other side sat another dad, one who also didn’t know my ex but who’d had a kid and then separated from his baby mamma and then continued to raise his kid with her, co-parenting so that both of them had the kid 3-1/2 days each week. And so this dad, based on his own experience, answered for me. “It’s not tough. She’s not alleinerziehend. She’s not doing it all on her own.”

Oh. Um.

Compared to my friend, whose baby daddy lives in LA and doesn’t ever visit or pay child support, he’s right: I am not completely alone. Diva’s dad every so often has picked her up to go have fun in his garden and he pays his laughable minimum according to the Duesseldorfer Tabelle (doesn’t get any more frugal than that, with a maximum per kid payment of 334 Euros if you’re an upper bracket earner). I guess I really haven’t been doing all the work myself.


A kid is around 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And I’m having a hard time believing that I’m not in it alone, as I am currently doing all the housework and getting the finances in order and working and looking for new work and making sure Diva gets all the love and attention she needs while also getting her ready for her future school days, not to mention making sure she is cleaned and bathed and fed and well-slept each night while her dad has, once again, gone off the radar. Since January, he has seen her five times. Five. My lawyer tells me this is not enough. She tells me Diva needs to see her dad more.

You see, Germany has adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and as a result, one of the firm beliefs in German custody laws is that the child needs to have both parents in his or her life. So technically, on a legal level, there should never ever be an alleinerziehend situation. At least not on paper. And if, then only because the kid was placed in severe danger by one of the parents or paternity was absolutely unknown. And so, even when Diva is living with me and spending 24/7 with me, we are technically legally splitting custody 50/50. There is no way around this.


Erziehen is translated as the process of raising a child. Custody is not erziehen; it has nothing to do with instilling morals and values nor on where and how a kid is brought up. So although legal custody is limited to who can decide which school a kid goes to and who can sign her passport application — if there are two names on a birth certificate, both of those signatures have to be present on all official documents — erziehen falls under the everyday nonsense that comes with bringing up a kid and that is not necessarily decided on by a court but by the parents. And unless the parents get along and are willing to do the so-called “Prenzlauer Berg” model in which a kid shifts homes every Sunday, spending one week with mom, the following with dad, the erziehen really is done by the person with whom the kid stays the most.

In our case, me. And so when her dad isn’t around, as has been the case for over a month now, I don’t understand how this cannot be called alleinerziehend. I’m alone. I’m raising her. Five out of 120 days doesn’t feel like 50/50. So how is this not alleinerziehend? Is this a semantic issue or what am I missing (besides sleep)?


7 thoughts on “Alleinerziehend: Today’s #dailydeutsch

  1. bekitschig May 5, 2015 / 3:33 am

    And now I’ve learned a new German word from you! I’ve had no idea about the Prenzlauer Berg Model but thinking about Prenzlberg, it makes perfect sense!

    • Milly May 6, 2015 / 9:38 am

      A lot of words having to do with contemporary parenting stem from Prenzlauer Berg (see the Latte Macciato Mamas and Kollwitz Platz Muttis)

  2. Ralph May 6, 2015 / 2:18 pm

    I don’t know you or your former husband or just exactly what your situation is, but speaking from personal experience, please do all you can to include your former husband in your kid’s life unless, of course, if he could harm her (again, I don’t know him, that’s for you to decide).

    My former wife did all she could to block my visiting rights, and even after I had a court order in hand, she still blocked visits by threatening all kinds of mayhem. So I didn’t see him as regularly as I should have; it was my Solomon’s choice, because I didn’t want to do anything that could harm him.

    He drowned last year in the Ljubljanica river, probably as the result of a misguided psilocybin trip. That might not have happened if we had had a better father-son relationship.

    • Milly May 6, 2015 / 3:32 pm

      Man, Ralph, I’m so so sorry to hear about your son. And surprised that the Jugendamt didn’t get involved in your case. I’m of the Jesper Juul school, as is the Jugendamt, which says we have to acknowledge the necessity of a kid having both parents in its life and try to make that happen as much as possible. Although I think her dad would say he’s the same way, he has a new family that comes first, and is very much of the belief that “it’s his way or the highway,” which means he often makes choices that end up not including Diva… like the current world tour he’s on that’s keeping him from seeing her. Unfortunately, for her sake. I hope, though, for your sake, that you can forgive yourself for what sounds like an awful situation. What a terrible thing to lose a child and even worse to think about what might’ve been had things been different.

  3. Christie (A Sausage Has Two) May 6, 2015 / 4:11 pm

    Yeah, you sound pretty alleinerziehend to me. That sucks. But just so you know, I think you’re f*cking amazing for doing it all on your own. I’ve only ever had the Mini Dietz to myself for a few days at a time, but just those short periods are hardcore. Sending strength from over here.

    • Milly May 8, 2015 / 11:00 pm

      Thanks. I’m not really looking for sympathy but it’s really tiring to deal with assholes who don’t see how not easy it is (i.e., Dad #1 in this story). I think the worst thing about child custody laws here is that it’s acceptable for a dad to never see his kid but he still has a right to decide if/where the kid goes to school, gets treated by doctors or goes to church. Keeping the patriarchy strong!

      • Christie (A Sausage Has Two) May 14, 2015 / 1:56 pm

        Yeah that makes no sense at all. Totally unacceptable.

        And that wasn’t sympathy, it was a high five 😉

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