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Missing Mom

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"And the good guy doesn't have a mommy, 'cause his mommy died."
Zoe, Baby Blues

Perhaps she died. Perhaps she left and there's bitterness involved. Perhaps she's a Damsel in Distress. Regardless of what happened—and regardless of whether or not the viewers find out what happened — Dad seems to have raised his children on his own.

Missing Moms are considered more unusual than missing fathers, and they are more likely to have their absence explicitly explained (usually with death). This might be because a man can technically leave his baby-mama at any time after knocking her up (or she can leave him), but a woman carrying a child to term, giving birth, and then abandoning them, is rarer. As a result of this, Missing Moms are more likely to be remembered positively than Disappeared Dads (although see First Father Wins): the father will wax poetic about her character and the times they shared, Happier Home Movies will be found throughout the house, and those that knew her will affectionately tell the female (or sometimes male) protagonist "You look so much like your mother." This beatification also paves the way for a Wicked Stepmother if the father remarries — where the new, cruel 'mother' is contrasted with the saintly dead one.


Death by Childbirth is very often the cause of a Missing Mom, as not only does it get the mother out of the way whilst keeping her sympathetic but it adds an extra touch of tragedy to the protagonist's life. By contrast, if the Missing Mom is alive and willingly abandoned her child, she will probably be portrayed as worse than an absentee dadnote .

However, the flip-side is that if both parents are absent, the character is far more likely to be obsessed with his or her lost father. Characters who have lost both parents often do not mention the lost mother at all. Missing Moms in general are likely to get a brief mention as to what happened to them, but are far less likely to turn up again in the story and/or be a driving force behind a hero's adventures.


Unbelievably prevalent in pre 1970s American television, where it was frowned upon to talk about divorce. Most plots to stick to a two-at-a-time one-off character scheme where writers would find it hard to write for both parents and usually limit themselves to the one who is relevant. Such plots generally involve a less-than-ideal parent and a troubled child and the one parent who could solve the conflict is dead or absent, with the mom or dad being the toss-up depending on the gender of the child. Sometimes subverted if the one-off characters actually return and the absent parent does get a chance to drop in, or the Parent with New Paramour trope is invoked to fill the missing piece.

Combine with Disappeared Dad, and you get Parental Abandonment. For the inverse, see Missing Child. If the mother's absence is never explained or even acknowledged, you've got the Ambiguously Absent Parent.


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    Comic Strips 
  • Peppermint Patty from Peanuts is raised only by her father, and it's hinted that her mom is dead. (When Marcie asks her why she can't stay with her mother when her father is out of town, Patty simply says: "I don't have a mother, Marcie!")
  • The children in Baldo are cared for by their father and great-aunt, after having lost their mother in a car accident.
  • Rush's mom in Mallard Fillmore is this, having divorced his dad because he named their son after Rush Limbaugh behind her back.

    Fairy Tales 

  • Two out of four Beatles had this problem. John Lennon's mother more or less abandoned him when he was about five, leaving him to be raised by his aunt; they later reconnected, but when he was seventeen she was hit by a bus. Paul McCartney's mother died of cancer when he was fourteen. "Let It Be" was inspired by Paul's loss ("When I find myself in times of trouble / Mother Mary comes to me"), and "Julia" was inspired by John's (during his solo career, he also wrote "Mother" and "My Mummy's Dead").
  • Madonna's mother died when she was very young. Her song "Promise To Try" from Like A Prayer, which was played during a scene from the documentary film Truth Or Dare, is about her coming to terms with her mother's absence in her life. In the video for "Oh Father", the absence of the mother also affects the father's relationship, resulting in domestic abuse in one scene where the actor playing him roughly scolds the little girl playing the young Madonna for wearing her mother's clothes and jewelry.
  • Sufjan Stevens was a baby when his mother Carrie, who struggled with mental illness and substance abuse problems, walked out on the family. He spent a few summers with her and her second husband, but after that marriage also dissolved, she was rarely in contact and her whereabouts were often unknown. He has quite a few songs, notably "Romulus" and most of the album Carrie & Lowell, that center around her and the pain caused by her absence.

  • Happens to both Trixie and Victoria in the backstory for WHO dunnit. Trixie's mother died giving birth to her, leaving her to be raised by Tex. Victoria's mother died during her youth, and she grew up in a boarding school as a result.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Based on the evidence available, certainly true for Treelo on Bear in the Big Blue House, almost certainly true for all of the other main kid characters on the show. Bear seems to be raising them all and in one episode remembers taking care of Treelo when he was a baby. It is never, ever talked about, though.
  • Parodied by The Muppet Show: Gonzo says that he was born two years after his mother died. No word on whether this is Bizarre Alien Biology or Blatant Lies.

  • In Revolting People Sam Oliphant raised his three children by himself. He seems to have been rather vague as to what happened to their mother, apparently telling Joshua that she was kidnapped by razor-beaked terripins and became Queen of the Sea People. Actually, she's shacked up with a Scotswoman called Agnes.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, while there aren't quite as much missing mothers as there are disappeared dads, the large and varied cast nevertheless leads to a lack of maternal presence for some characters:
    • Ciro's mother was only in his life long enough to give birth to him and his siblings, and hasn't been seen since. Since his father is left very busy with work, Ciro ended up taking over much of the maternal responsibilities around the house.
    • Daigo believes that his birth mother is dead, though it's left ambiguous what actually happened to her. He then poisoned his step-mother to put an end to her abuse.
    • Abby's mother left her and her father after he met with a local politican that caused him to realise things about his sexuality. She's been living with her single father since.
    • While not as explicit as the rest of the characters, Katheryn's mother has noticeably gone without mention, as her father shaped a lot of her personality and she has seven other siblings as part of the family.

  • In the musical version of The Light Princess, Althea, the eponymous princess, and her love interest, Prince Digby, both lose their mothers when they are children. Their very opposite reactions to their grief are what cause most of the conflict in the show.
  • In the Russian theater play An Ordinary Miracle by E. Shwartz, the mother of the heroine (who is a princess) died when said princess was "seven minutes old".
    • Same in Naked King (again the princess) and The Shadow (both the princess and Annunciata).
  • In Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (and thus, in the adaptation My Fair Lady), Elisa has no contact at all with her mother.
  • Shakespeare is full of missing moms: Ophelia and Laertes of Hamlet, Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia of King Lear; and Jessica of The Merchant of Venice all have fathers (Polonius, Lear, and Shylock respectively), but no mention is ever made of their mothers.
    Thy mother was a piece of virtue, and
    She said thou wast my daughter;
  • In the musical Violet, the title character's mother died when she was young.
  • In Wicked, Elphaba's mother dies while giving birth to Elphaba's sister Nessarose. In the book the musical is based on, she STILL dies in childbirth, except it's with Elphie and Nessa's brother Shell.(He didn't make it into the stage adaptation.)
  • In Beetlejuice, the show opens with the funeral of Emily Deetz, and the story largely revolves around Lydia coping with her mother being gone.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Asagao Academy Normal Boots Club, Hana's mother died when she was eight. This deeply affected her father and the family's finances.
  • In CLANNAD, Tomoya Okazaki lost his mother when he was young, and the grief caused his father to become an alcoholic bum in the process.
    • In After Story, the main character works to keep it from repeating with Ushio after getting a wake-up-call. That's because Nagisa, Ushio's mother, died in childbirth.
  • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Sayaka Maizono's mother is said to have died when she was a kid.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry:
    • Rena's mother divorced her father and isn't in their life anymore. Rena resents her mother for abandoning her father to marry another.
    • Rika's mother died years ago. She was murdered.
  • In Katawa Shoujo, a few characters have lost their mothers:
    • Hanako Ikezawa lost her mother in the same fire in which her father was killed and she received her scars, because Mrs. Ikezawa shielded her from the flames at the cost of her own life.
    • Shizune Hakamichi's mother does not appear in game, even when Hisao visits her home on her route, and is generally assumed to be dead.
    • In a milder case, Lilly Satou's mother lives abroad and she's mentioned, but is never seen.
  • Mia and Maya's mother, Misty Fey, in the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games. Disappeared after the DL-6 incident, leaving Maya and Mia alone. She was ultimately killed in the last case of Trials & Tribulations, while trying to protect poor Maya from a trap prepared by Misty's sister, Morgan..
    • Pearl's mother, Morgan, becomes a Missing Mom after being imprisoned in the second case of Justice for All. She's also the mother of Dahlia and Iris.
      • From the same series, although their respective fathers are key characters to the plot and backstory, neither Franziska's nor Edgeworth's mothers are ever even mentioned. The fandom's explanation for this is that they're either dead or were not connected to law.
      • Kay Faraday has a similar problem. After her father is murdered she says she "went to live with her mom's family" in another town, which indicates either a death or a divorce. Someone on the writing staff had serious mom issues.
    • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney also had this, although we didn't even know his mom was missing until it's revealed that she's Lamiroir/Thalassa Gramarye. Trucy's mother Thalassa disappeared, presumed dead, when Trucy was young. Also secretly Lamiroir! Yeah, that's not contrived at all...
    • In Dual Destinies, Jinxie's mother died when she was little, and her daughter explains how the sight of her mother's favorite flower is enough to give her courage. The final case also centers around the death of Athena's mother, Metis Cykes, who was stabbed to death when Athena was a pre-teen...and to spare Athena from being accused of killing her, Simon Blackquill went Taking the Heat for her and spent seven years in prison.
  • In Shining Song Starnova, Idol Singer Nemu’s biological mother died when she was very young, and she knows very little about her beyond what she looked like and the fact that she was an idol. Since her father and adoptive mother refuse to talk about it, Nemu asks her producer to see what he can dig up about her, setting the plot of her route in motion. As it turns out, she’s actually alive… and has spent the last eighteen years in a mental hospital following a psychotic breakdown.
  • In Songs And Flowers, Mrs. Overstreet left town one day, leaving behind her husband and 2-year-old daughter Jazz. This lead to many nasty rumors spreading around their small town about Jazz and her father, which lead to the two becoming outcasts. Her father, however, always assured her that her mother did love them and she had to be out there somewhere. Jazz, tired of hearing it all, decided to devote herself to finding her mother wherever she may be, with the goal of one day becoming a spy or Knowledge Broker. Things take a dark turn when she gets a call from the police that a sixteen-year-old skeleton was found in a nearby forest. One with a locket that has a picture of her and her dad in it.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, the reason no one's seen Battler in such a long time is because he left his family after his mother Asumu died six years ago. Kyrie is his stepmother. Later it turns out that Asumu isn't his biological mother at all. Learning that sends Battler into a Heroic BSoD, and Ange snaps him out of it in a Heroic Sacrifice. In EP8, it's revealed that Battler's real mother is in fact Kyrie.

    Web Animation 
  • Cub's mother in Happy Tree Friends. Some fans speculate that it is her grave Pop and Cub are visiting in "Can't Stop Coffin" (meaning that she is not affected by the Negative Continuity which keeps destroying and resurrecting the other characters in a never-ending cycle). The production team seem divided as to whether she is actually dead, or simply left Pop in disgust at his terrible parenting (ironically abandoning Cub with him).
  • In Red vs. Blue we find out Allison was this to Carolina.
  • RWBY: Yang's biological mother, Raven Branwen, disappeared shortly after Yang was born. Summer Rose stepped in to help Yang's father, adopting Yang as her own and eventually having another daughter, Ruby. Then Summer disappeared as well when Ruby was a toddler. While Summer is presumed dead, Raven is very much alive, but doesn't care enough to return. Her brother, Qrow (who is a much larger presence in the girls' lives) says she has an odd morality. He later confronts Raven that she doesn't seem to care in the slightest what her daughter is going through. Raven retorts that she saved Yang's life once; that's more than she'd give most people.


    Web Original 
  • In Chrono Hustle Jack grew up not knowing who either of his parents are, although he has since learned that his mother was a Greek Goddess, although he still doesn't know her identity. Also no mention is made of Mary's mother, only her father.
  • Cracked examines this in its article "Why Every '80s Sitcom Decided to Kill Off the Mom."
  • Four of the eight main characters in Critical Role lost their mothers at some point in their backstories: Scanlan's mother was killed by goblins when he was young, Vex and Vax's mom died in a dragon attack, and Keyleth's mother vanished while on her druidic quest. In addition, there's been no mention made of Grog's mother, Pike seems to have been raised by her grandfather, and Percy's entire family was murdered several years before he joined the party. Even Trinket lost his mother to poachers before being adopted by Vex. Really, the only member of Vox Machina who doesn't fit this trope to some degree is Tiberius.
  • Daisy Brown 's mother died when Daisy was born. It's one of Alan's favorite things to torment her about, once he learns to talk.
  • One of the ongoing story arcs in Demo Reel is what happened to Donnie's dead mom.
  • Played for horror in the creepypasta "My Fear of Water."
  • Two are known of in Noob:
    • Sparadrap can get quite talkative about his family in the webseries version, which lets us know he has a younger brother who's Ystos in-game, a father and a grandmother. The father is apparently a priest and the novels mention that the brothers were raised by their grandmother, whose surname indicates that she's indeed their paternal grandmother. The mother is simply not mentioned, but volumes are spoken about the extent of her absence when Sparadrap, being a Manchild, calls for his grandmother in moments where I Want My Mommy! would be expected.
    • The woman who was Tenshirock's wife and Judge Dead's mother, whose death is heavily implied to be linked to some mental condition she had. That notably enabled the father among the two to diagnose the same condition in one of his guildmates.
  • Out With Dad: Rose's mother passed away when she was born, due to a sudden heart attack.
  • Both Generator and Heyoka, in the Whateley Universe. Generator's mom died when she was 11, and Generator hasn't physically aged since then.
  • The Cry of Mann: The family's original mother is never mentioned; all that's known is that Courtney is their stepmother.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Missing Mum


Chuckie's Missing Mom

In the finale of the Mother's Day special, Chuckie finally learns about his mother from his widowed father.

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Main / MissingMom