Tien: Says the woman he left a single mother.
Bulma: Please. I'm rich. It's hardly the same.
In Real Life, being a single mother is not easy. Let's be honest here. Children kind of need a lot of attention. It can be an overwhelming task for two parents, let alone one who also needs to have a day-job just so she can put food on the table.
Because viewing audiences tend not to like being reminded of how tough things can be, TV land has given us the Glamorous Single Mother — a character who juggles children, personal life and work expertly with little trouble or complications. In particularly extreme examples, her life will be indistinguishable from those of similar characters who do not have kids — they'll be little more than an adorable little Plot Device every few episodes.
This trope, coupled with Babies Make Everything Better, can create some dastardly Unfortunate Implications in that they make getting pregnant appear to be a substantially less physically and emotionally draining task than it really is. It's probably not coincidental that this trope almost always involves upper-middle-class women, as opposed to the working poor. Contrast Single Mom Stripper and Struggling Single Mother. See also "Friends" Rent Control.
- Ash Ketchum's mom Delia from Pokémon fits this trope somewhat. While she is a very good mom, Ash left his home at ten to commence his journey as most young men and women around his age do, so compared to many she had a lot less on her work plate. She is always there to welcome him back at the end of a journey.
- Syaoran's mom from Cardcaptor Sakura. Justified because her husband left her a lot of money, social status, and a Big Fancy House when he passed.
- Bulma of Dragon Ball Z was this for a little while, as Vegeta left sometime before Trunks was born and did not particularly care about his son until after the Cell Games. Justified as she is the wealthiest woman in the world due to her family owning Capsule Corporation. The Abridged Series even hung a lampshade on it.
- Lindy Harlaown from Lyrical Nanoha managed to balance having a successful career as a military officer with raising her son by herself after the death of her husband, then went onto adopt a second child with severe emotional scars. None of this is ever shown to be a burden for her, and she is never depicted as anything less than a loving mother for the entire run of the series. Of course, the fact that her son was serving on her ship by the time of their introduction probably helped to reduce the workload.
- Cafe Mama of Tamagotchi runs her own café, is on good terms with her daughter, and has the figure that (in-universe) is identical to models. It's never outright that Cafe Mama and Papapianitchi are divorced, though they do live apart from each other.
- Parodied in a dark way in Ulvesommer where Cecilie is a beautiful single mother who's a Lethal Chef and has a suitcase filled with pictures of her exes, except for her daughter, and the story's heroine, Kim's father. Because 'he left her with a kid' by falling off a mountain and dying. Kim loves climbing like her father, which is expected for her to be sceptical too, but she disapproves of Kim being a Tomboy, even though she almost always travels around with her boyfriends rather than caring for Kim. She finally gets Character Development in the end, Takes A Level In Badass, and becomes a good mother.
- The Perfect Man was mocked for its use of this trope (along with many other things). Jean's predilection of moving to a new state every time a relationship fails would rightly be viewed as a sign of mental illness in nearly any other movie. Here, though, the only apparent consequence of these actions is that her daughter Holly wants to keep her mom from being let down again. How Jean manages to do things like afford a two-bedroom apartment in New York on a baker's salary is...not explained.
- The indie film Tumbleweeds had a similar situation with the single mother, though a little more realistic in tone.
- Dante's Peak: The character of Rachel Wando is not only a single mother, but is in charge of pretty much every single aspect of the titular town's business and politics including being the mayor, running a restaurant, etc. etc.
- Sandy from The Rebound invokes this trope by hiring a nanny so she can work the hours she needs to.
- Casey's mom Joan, from Ice Princess, is a single mother, college professor, and they both live comfortably. Gen and Teddy's mom, Tina, as well.
- Averted with Chris Sanchez in S.W.A.T., who ends up having to be on call during her kid's birthday party (and gets called in, naturally) and complains when three of the other officers on the SWAT Team don't want to go out drinking with her after they pass the SWAT test (although Street takes her up on it):
Sanchez: I got a babysitter for the first time in four months. (Deeks, T.J. and Boxer decline.) You guys suck!
- Natasza in Jasminum is an artist, an alchemist and a mother of a five-year-old (a very self-reliant one, but still). She has no trouble juggling these roles.
- Maggie in Yellowbird. The mother of Max, her oldest son, plus Lisa, Anton, and Gigi, her three younger children. Despite the situation she's in, as well as the challenging task of keeping her triplets safe, Maggie is as positive as can be. The circumstances surrounding the absence of the father of her children are not explained. However, the film makes it quite clear that she and Willy, another flock member, have developed feelings for one another.
- Downplayed and justified in A Simple Favor. Stephanie is a widow who doesn't have a traditional job, and while she's not rich, she has enough to care for herself and her son. However, she admits to Emily that this is only because her late husband had really good life insurance — and that the money will run out in three years. So, she's attempting to turn her vlog into a job in the meantime. By the epilogue, Stephanie has a detective business and a TV show, meaning she and her son definitely don't have to worry about money anymore.
- Deconstructed in Mermaids. Rachel Flax is an attractive single mother of two and is able to financially support both of her daughters despite working low-paying jobs (perhaps justified as the film is set in 1963 and it was easier to support a family on a modest income back then) while also having a healthy sex life. However, she is shown to be a terrible parent. She doesn't cook, feeding Charlotte and Kate nothing but finger foods while treating them more like friends than her children. Rachel's promiscuity has resulted in her and the girls moving dozens of times and Charlotte holds a deep resentment for Rachel, swearing herself to a life of celibacy and dreaming of joining a convent as a way of rebelling against her mother. This all comes back to bite Rachel when Charlotte develops a crush on local handyman Joe and Charlotte doesn't know how to handle it, all culminating with Charlotte getting herself and Kate drunk, giving herself up to Joe and Kate falling into a river and almost drowning.
- Laura in Thirteen Women is a young widow (presumably. Her husband's fate is never mentioned but he is definitely out of the picture) raising her son Booby. However, she lives in a Big Fancy House with servants, and is rich enough not to need to work. And is played by the glamorous Irene Dunne.
- Subverted in the Judge Dee story "The Coffins of the Emperor". The Judge meets a young prostitute raising her infant son (fathered by a soldier) in abject poverty in a garrison town on the northern border of China. She's also disfigured from a badly-healed whip mark (the father of her son was in prison and she tried to break in to see him). Fortunately, the Judge manages to prove the soldier's innocence and send him back to the girl.
- Ascendance of a Bookworm: Back when Myne was a modern-day Japanese woman named Urano who died in her early twenties, her mother raised her alone. Myne makes no mention of financial struggles despite Urano's Bookworm habit and her mother's Fleeting Passionate Hobbies that mostly consisted of crafts. There is mention of her trying to save money at some point, but it's presented of having been yet another hobby rather than a necessity. Lack of difficulty with other aspects of raising a child may be justified in part by Urano's borderline addiction to reading making her fairly easy to keep busy.
- Probably the most famous invocation of this trope is the title character on Murphy Brown. Dan Quayle famously attempted to question the Unfortunate Implications this trope creates - and ended up the target of ridicule (in Real Life and on the show itself) for suggesting that television could influence people like that. Interestingly, Candice Bergen herself thought Quayle had a point.
- Gilmore Girls uses this, but not in the backstory when Lorelai and the infant Rory were taken in by the owner of the Independence Inn, Mia, where Lorelai became a maid. When they first came to Stars Hollow, Lorelai and Rory lived in the inn's potting shed, and it took Lorelai years to work her way up from being one of the maids to being the manager. When the show starts proper, daughter Rory is a teenager and the relatively easy time Lorelei has raising her can be rationalized along those lines. (And of course, Rory was the world's most well-behaved girl to begin with.) It's said by a few people in-series that Lorelai got lucky with Rory, who was never difficult to deal with.
- Lampshaded in an episode where Lorelei is invited to speak at the local highschool's career day about being a successful local business woman. The girls in the class assault her with questions about her infamous teen pregnancy instead of letting her give the speech she prepared. She ends up having to state outright that even though she sometimes wonders how her life could have turned out differently, she would not change what happened even if she could (because she would not trade Rory for anything). She even tries to make it clear that she considers herself very lucky in terms of how things have worked out for her despite her pregnancy preventing her from going to college. Later, the mothers of the girls don't care about the nuance of her response (which hinged on loving her daughter) and ambush her for supposedly "glorifying" teen pregnancy to their daughters. Lorelei doesn't take kindly to the implication that she should have said she regrets her daughter.
- Averted on CSI. Catherine notoriously has trouble balancing finding time for Lindsey with working nights at the crime lab. It is shown that her mother often looks after her daughter when she is at work. Things get better after she's transferred to day shift.
- Mia from Degrassi started out as a subversion of this. Then they had her mom somehow find a way to stay home with the kid while Mia became a model.
- Rachel on Friends is more of a subversion. She is single during her pregnancy and after Emma is born, while maintaining a high-profile job. However, Ross (Emma's father) is a consistent presence throughout it all - even taking off work for a time to help raise her. The trope is even Lampshaded during her baby shower, where Rachel is starting to panic that she won't be able to handle it. Ross points out that she has overcome adversity before, but also has the benefit of him (already an experienced parent). Not to mention she has a very strong support group around her, who all live locally and are happy to help out. In fact, the ever-dependable Monica and Chandler seem to spend more time with Emma than Ross and Rachel do.
- Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife is a high-powered lawyer, often working incredibly long hours. She is still married, but her husband's not there (he's in prison early in the series; later they're separated) so she acts as single mother. On the other hand, her children are teenagers so they're more independent, but the only problems she ever has with them are about them mildly rebelling.
- Mad Men
- Subverted with Joan Harris on who is gorgeous and well-dressed, and as of Season 5, becomes an Ad Agency Partner. But it's shown that she has to depend on her irritating mother for childcare and that she had to make the infamous deal for her and Kevin's livelihood.
- Averted with Peggy Olson, who gains in confidence and workplace prominence throughout the series, but as a trade-off had to give up the child she secretly conceived with the married Pete Campbell for adoption. Though it never seemed to be a terribly difficult choice for her, and only seemed to keep it as long as she did because of her family's Catholic guilt.
- Also played with a bit in season 1 when Betty finds herself momentarily fascinated by a single mom who moves into the neighborhood. A little curious and jealous of the independence she has, but altogether she and the neighborhood collectively blacklist her, and in turn the woman seems to make questionable choices in men without friends to support her.
- Virginia Johnson on Masters of Sex. We don't see her children every episode, especially since both she and Masters conceal considerable portions of their personal lives from each other (he less than she). In season 3 this is deconstructed, with her now-teenage daughter arguing with her and outright calling her a bad mother, claiming that she left the kids to raise themselves while she was focusing on the study.
- Naomi Sandburg in The Sentinel travels constantly all over the world, has nice clothes, etc. in spite of being an ex-flower child with a son whose father she's not sure of (or won't admit). Fanfiction often speculates that she comes from a well-to-do family and has a trust fund.
- Lisa from Supernatural. She also has a ridiculously nice house, even though she doesn't have an especially good job and is raising a kid on her own. It is very possible that she inherited the house since when she had a house party, in which she invited Dean, no parents or other relatives of her were shown. Plus, she once dated Dean, who is very familiar with credit card fraud and might have taught her a trick or two.
- Subverted with Kristin Baxter in Last Man Standing. She is constantly shown to be stressed out and overworked. It's established that the only reason she is able to do it is that her parents and sisters help her.
- The short-lived ABC sitcom On Our Own (not to be confused with the '80s film of the same name) featured this heavily. After their parents died, the oldest brother of seven children takes over as guardian by creating a fictional aunt that he poses as. While occasionally having issues with things like money, he's still able to go to school, work part-time, and take care of his younger brothers and sisters on his own with far more ease than should be possible.
- The Boys (2019): Stillwell's a single mother with an infant son, Teddy, juggling this role without any difficulty alongside her high-powered executive position. It's justified by the presumably very high salary and privilege of her job.
- The Scout's mom in Team Fortress 2. Although she's suggested to be lower-income and live in a rough neighborhood, she's still quite glam-looking.
- This seemed to be justified by having her son and and her boyfriend, the Spy, work as mercenaries for several wealthy international companies, until it was shown that she and Spy apparently kept their finances separate, and Scout spent all of his money on Tom Jones memorabilia, which only turned out to be a wise investment after several years.
- HuniePop has Kyanna Delrio, a glamourous 21-year old mother of one, a hairstylist and an aspiring actress. The development team made a conscious choice to completely gloss over the motherhood aspect of her character because they believed it would be too much of a buzzkill.