"What would you do when your son's at home?Your nasty husband has cheated on you and left. Or maybe you're an unwed teenager, and you chose to carry to term, but you had to drop out of school due to your pregnancy, your very traditional parents threw you out onto the streets once your pregnancy started showing, and the baby's father is completely out of the picture. Or maybe your husband died, he was the primary breadwinner, and you've been out of the workforce since you got married. Regardless, you're out of work, you've got a baby to feed and you're one missed rent payment from the street. You realize that the boys at school really liked you. Maybe you could make some quick fast cash waiting tables--in a bikini. Or pole dancing. Or going all the way, if needed. A Single Mom Stripper is a single woman working in any aspect of the sex trade (stripper, porn star/adult model, escort, hooker, masseuse, taxi-dancer, etc.) because she sees it as a practical way to support her child or children. On one hand, this trope can humanize these women and give them a story behind their beauty. But on the other hand, it can imply that a woman who is only in the business due to circumstance is more respectable than one who does it by choice. May be a Hooker with a Heart of Gold. The children might be treated as a Son of a Whore, whether or not actual prostitution is involved. May also be used to give the Disposable Sex Worker a sympathetic backstory. Compare with Justified Criminal.
Crying alone on the bedroom floor
And he's hungry
And the only way to feed him
Is to sleep with a man for a little bit of money?"
Crying alone on the bedroom floor
And he's hungry
And the only way to feed him
Is to sleep with a man for a little bit of money?"
— City High, "What Would You Do?"
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Anime and Manga
- 7 Seeds had Semimaru's mother raising him on her own, while working as a night-worker.
- This trope proves to be a godsend for Yuusaku Godai, the male lead of Maison Ikkoku. The young man manages to graduate from college as a teacher trained in early childhood education and hoping to work in a elementary school, until he's laid off and the only work he can find is a strip joint. After a humiliating period as a street barker, things turn around when one of the dancers, a single mother who couldn't afford daycare, is forced to bring her toddler kids to work. In this situation Godai is ordered to take care of the child safely out of sight in the back, and does so well that the other dancers, predominately single mothers themselves, ask him to take care of their little kids. Pretty soon, Godai is running an excellent daycare centre at the strip joint and is deeply valued by the rest of the staff.
- Yasuko Takasu, Ryuji's mom in Tora Dora isn't a stripper, but using her sex-appeal while waiting tables and entertaining bar patrons is part of her job.
- Mako Nakarai's mother Miho in Bokurano is this. Unusually, she was a prostitute before she had her daughter and switched to "merely" being a bar hostess, but genuinely loves Mako. And said daughter, despite the bullying she gets from her classmates, loves her mother back as well. In both manga and anime, Mako's Famous Last Words before Zearth saps her of her life energy are about how much she loves and thanks her mother.
- Nina from Sweet Guilty Love Bites isn't a stripper, but the hostess job she does to support Ryuna is dependent on her looks, and leads to some awkwardness. Though at the end the single part is not so applicable anymore.
- Reiko from Piano no Mori is a prostitute mother raising her son Kai on her own in the town's Red Light District.
- Dance in the Vampire Bund has Mina temporarily sheltered by one while on the run from her enemies. She repays the favor by willingly surrendering to protect her and her daughter, and brutally slaughtering the pedophile vampire "interested" in little Suzy.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, Yahiko's mother, the wife of a Samurai, turned to prostitution to support herself and Yahiko after her husband was killed in the Japanese Revolution. Unfortunately, this move cost her her life: she contracted syphilis from one of her clients, which eventually killed her.
- Watchmen: In the flashbacks, Rorschach's mother is a single mom prostitute. Perhaps an Inverted Trope, in that she hates him because he inadvertently drives away business. The woman living in the next apartment from him in the present is also a prostitute, but successfully keeps this secret from her children. Though she lies to the news about him trying to rape her, Rorschach doesn't kill or seriously hurt her because her children are present — and also because her efforts to hide what she does from them indicate that, unlike his own mother, she cares enough about her children to protect them from the ugliness of her life.
- In The DCU, Plastic Man's ex Angel. (Also, her son is absolutely not Plas's.)
- Garth Ennis' The Pro is a superhero parody in which a woman in this trope gets given superpowers. She doesn't stop working as a prostitute since she is not a Rich Idiot with No Day Job.
- Despite having been a prostitute long before the birth of her son Pepito, Clara (or Betty, for English speakers) from Clara... de Noche (aka Betty by Night or Betty by the hour) claims that she continues as a hooker to support her son and grant him a decent lifestyle.
- In a brief MAD Magazine comic strip from the late 90's, two teenage boys are looking at internet porn when one asks the other if that's his mom. At first the second boy thinks he's joking until he realizes it is his mom. He runs home and asks her how she could do such a thing, and she nonchalantly replies, "I made enough money in ten minutes to afford one of those Sega Dreamcasts you've been bitching about." His tone quickly changes.
Films — Live-Action
- Dangerous Beauty is about a 16th century woman who becomes a courtesan to support herself and her mother.
- Jasmine from Independence Day. Unlike most examples however, she has no regrets about the work ("It's good money. Besides, my baby's worth it."), she's well on her way to getting out of the "single" part, and the film deserves credit for not making her any less sympathetic.
- Note to cruel kids: Do not tease Michael Myers in the Halloween (2007) remake about how his mom is a pole dancer.
- Demi Moore's character in Striptease, though she starts out not to support her daughter but to get money to appeal the custody decision against her. Bet that really helped her case... Oh, but it did, because Fate moves in mysterious ways here. After a congressman who not only frequents the club, but has arranged for the murder of his political opponents starts to fall for her, he hires her for personal dances. He says too much, she starts to get wise to his shady dealings, then he tries to blackmail her by helping her ex-husband. Consequently, she helps the police expose him by tricking him to confessing on tape, and she not only wins full custody as a result, but her deadbeat ex-husband winds up back in jail .
- "Cassidy", Marisa Tomei's character in The Wrestler.
- Heather Graham's character in The Hangover is both a single mom stripper and a single mom prostitute. She says that she works at a strip club as a way of meeting clients.
Stu: I married a whore!
Alan: How dare you, she's a nice lady!
- One background character in Repo!, based on what she does in her one scene.
I needed an organ transplant desperately
Geneco showed this single mom sympathy
This makeover came for a small added fee
Now I look smashing on live TV!
- Jessica Biel in Powder Blue, playing it so earnestly straight.
- Halley in The Florida Project at first works as a stripper in order to support herself and her young daughter. When she gets fired, she tries to find other means of getting money, eventually having to resort to becoming a prostitute, which ends badly for her and her daughter when word of this gets out.
- In Sands of Iwo Jima, Sgt. Stryker (John Wayne) is disgusted by the prostitute he meets — until he finds out that she has a baby. (It's implied she's in the business to support her son.) Stryker dandles the boy for a while, gives the woman money, and leaves.
- Nasa from Call Her Savage goes out hooking one evening so she can buy her baby medicine. The baby dies in a fire after the girl Nasa asked to look after the baby gets distracted.
- Daka from St. Vincent is a Russian stripper/prostitute who is quite visibly pregnant for most of the film, at one point losing her job at the club because of her belly. It's never quite stated whether or not it's Vince's kid.
- In Ginza Cosmetics, Yukiko was once a higher-class Geisha, until her client knocked her up. Now she is a rather forlorn middle-aged bar girl and prostitute struggling to support her boy.
- Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles: Jeanne is a widow, and a prostitute who receives callers in her apartment during the day while her son is off at school.
- The trope is central to the premise of Striptease, both the Carl Hiaasen book and the movie (see above).
- One of the "actresses" in the The Dresden Files book Blood Rites, most of which happens in and around a porn studio (It Makes Sense in Context) is a single mom trying to feed her kids.
- In Chronicles Of Nick, Cherise Gautier (Nick's mother) had him at fifteen and works as a Bourbon St stripper, but is supposed to be just about the sweetest human being you could ever meet... until she's murdered and left for Nick to find. This doubles as a Berserk Button for Nick; in the spin-off, he gets into fights to protect her honor and part of the reason he is bullied is that he doesn't complain about the dorky shirts she makes him wear.
- The drifting mother in Chapter 8 of The Pale King.
- In Crime and Punishment Sonya becomes a prostitute to feed her brothers and sisters.
- Fantine from Les MisÚrables is fired from her factory job for having a child out of wedlock, which also makes it impossible for her to find any other legitimate employment. Leaving her daughter with the money-grubbing Thénardiers does not help her financial situation, and when she has run out of other things to sell, she resorts to selling her body.
- Tiffy in The Unit worked as a Family-Friendly Stripper after separating from her husband. Unable to find a regular job due to a DUI conviction (she'd taken the rap for the Colonel's wife), she states it's also about keeping her daughters in horse-riding lessons. The bar was shut down after a fire led to the police finding drugs.
- Sharona posed for a Playboy magazine Expy in Monk in the past.
- Miss Pasternak on Two and a Half Men.
- Niki on Heroes. Technically, she's not single, but seeing as her husband escaped from jail and went on the run, she's pretty much on her own when it comes to raising Micah.
- At least one of the strippers in the pilot episode of Millennium.
- Hilda on Ugly Betty once ended up working at a Hooters analogue for this reason.
- It's the back story for Catherine on CSI.
- Cassie on Guiding Light; did this to try to make enough money to get her daughter out of foster care. Cassie was later so Anvilicious about treating her past as an Old Shame you'd think she'd been a prostitute dealing cocaine to school children.
- Bill's mom in Freaks and Geeks used to be this.
- Frederico in Six Feet Under had an affair with a stripper who was a single mom. He didn't really have that much sex with her, as much as he just bought her lots of nice things she never asked for in the first place.
- Starsky & Hutch: One of these is Starsky's love interest of the week in "The Las Vegas Strangler". Surprisingly, she makes it out of the episode alive.
- Lieutenant Matthew Scott from Stargate Universe has an ex who turns out to be this.
- Gillian Darmody on Boardwalk Empire was a Single Mom Stripper in the past, and later becomes a Single Grandma Madam. This comes back to bite her horribly; her control of the whorehouse gradually slips through her fingers as it's taken over by Gyp Rosetti's gang, and Richard, afraid to let Tommy grow up in that environment and convinced that Gillian is not looking after him, fights his way through them and kidnaps Tommy, leaving a trail of dead men behind him. In the ensuing custody dispute, Gillian's unsavoury lifestyle and habitation are major black marks against her.
- A few victim-of-the-weeks in Criminal Minds are these. One uses it to attempt to garner pity (as expected, it doesn't work). And in Rossi's It's Personal case, the eldest of the orphans work as a stripper to help her siblings.
- In the French version of Big Brother, it was revealed in the first season that one of the candidates, Loana, had such a background. She ended up winner of that season.
- In season 3 of Downton Abbey, Isobel Crawley discovers that Ethel Parks has become a prostitute after having had an illegitimate son in the previous season. Truth in Television — this was all too common among disgraced unwed mothers at the time.
- Hung gender-flips this, but otherwise plays it absolutely straight: the main character is behind on his mortgage, and wants to get his kids back from his wife (who also cheated on him)... His only talent is a huge wang, so he decides to try his luck at hooking.
- The Victim of the Week in a Law & Order: SVU episode was working as this to support herself and her stepson, having fled from her abusive husband. Unfortunately, one of the customers at the bar happened to be one of his coworkers...
- The song "Rockabye" by Clean Bandit implies this about the subject of the song, who is going to "do what I got to do" to provide a better life for her young son, and also mentions how she can't find the child's father anywhere. The music video makes the stripping aspect more explicit, with the mother twirling on a stripper pole in a bar in her underwear.
- The Kenny Chesney song "Dancin' for the Groceries" tells of a desperate single mother who resorts to stripping in order to make ends meet.
- The subject of the Funkadelic song "Cosmic Slop".
- Savaged mercilessly in Bloodhound Gang's "A Lap Dance Is So Much Better When the Stripper is Crying"
"I have to admit it was even more of a turn-on
When I found out she was doin' me to buy baby formula."
- Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" is about the daughter of a tent show dancer (not a single mom; papa's a tent-preacher or snake-oil seller and would have protected his daughter if he'd known what was going on, and helps support his grandkid) who becomes a Single Mom dancer herself. Stripping may or may not be involved.
- The Decemberists' "A Cautionary Tale" is about a mother who makes the rounds through the local sailors late at night to support her children, and advises said children to be grateful and eat the "collard greens" she bought with the money.
- Although Paul McCartney apparently intended "Lady Madonna" as a more general ode about working women, the song is often interpreted as being about a prostitute, with the days of the week referring to her regular appointments. "Thursday night your stockings needed mending."
- Metallica's video for "Turn The Page" features a Single Mom Stripper. And it just goes spiraling from there.
- Madonna was one of these in her "Open Your Heart" video; at first, the little boy trying to get in to see her was sort of weird, before you realize it's her son.
- In Juvenile's video for "Rodeo", the camera goes "behind the scenes" at a strip club. The dancers are all sympathetic, facing such issues as overdue bills, jealous boyfriends, schoolwork, breakups, crass treatment from patrons, and all that, but The Show Must Go On. One of the dancers has a baby with her backstage.
- It was implied that Madea (Diary of a Mad Black Woman, etc) might have been a single mom stripper at least once.
- Fantine in Les MisÚrables turns to prostitution in order to raise money for her daughter, Cosette.
- After escaping Vietnam and going to Bangkok, Kim in Miss Saigon works as this in order to support her son.
- Parodied on American Dad!, where Steve distracts some strippers by telling them their kids that they left in their cars has gotten into their stash. Naturally, every one of them runs off.
- On Family Guy, Peter and his friends are trailing Lois to find out why she's acting suspicious, and Quagmire says "Maybe she's a prostitute! But only on the weekends, to pay for her mom's kidney dialysis... like in my fantasy... (awkward pause) You know, let's start again. Hi, I'm Quagmire!"
- Mrs. Muntz, Nelson's mother, from The Simpsons, although she isn't very attractive. One episode featured Nelson's father returning, but he hasn't been mentioned since then and it is implied that the family still consists of Nelson and his mother.
- T-Shirt Hell, purveyor of offensive cotton outerwear, feature a shirt that says "I Support Single Moms" alongside a silhouette rather reminiscent of mudflap girls but dancing around a pole (pictured above).