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?"
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. Or you're a single mom, and your Pointy-Haired Boss fired you for a crappy reason (or no reason at all). Regardless, you're out of work, you've got a baby to feed and you're one missed rent payment away from being out on the streets.
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, phone-sex operator, Cam Whore, 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 or a Junkie Parent. 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. Usually results from Struggling Single Mother.
- 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 an 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 Meiji Restoration. 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.
- 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 '90s, 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.
- Downplayed bent or broken, it's the family tree. Esmeralda is a single mother who dances to make money. However, it's just that—dancing, fully clothed, in the streets. It's still somewhat scandalous by 1400s France standards.
- In Four Horsewomen - Family Is Forever, this is Bayley's backstory. Her mother was only a teenager when she had her, then her boyfriend (Bayley's father), a musician, was killed. She took it hard and wound up doing this for a living, as well as getting into drugs & alcohol and having a boyfriend who abused Bayley, which led to her being taken in and adopted by Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. By the time the mother comes back into Bayley's life nine years later, she's cleaned up her act, married a nice guy, found religion and had another daughter.
- Played with in "Batteries", where Ryuuko started off as a stripper but she had her baby, Hoshi, after she took up work as a prostitute. Though, while she was doing sex work to support herself after running away from home, if she had custody of her baby, she most likely would have become this, but getting pregnant again, she opts to leave sex work for a more "honest" job at a laundromat.
- In Secret Sunshine (by the same author), Ryuuko mentions "turning tricks" as something she considered to better support her niece, Kiko.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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 (2014) 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.
- A dancer in the nude stage show in Showgirls has to chase down her son running through the dressing room. This appears to be a frequent occurrence.
- 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.
- Polar: The prostitute Vizla visits in Belarus has a young son to support. When he pays her for spending two days with him in a hotel, which is actually a cover while he's on a job, she's incredibly pissed off for potentially putting both their lives in danger and demands that he break off all contact.
- In Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!, Harley is a single mother who has recently come to town and moved in with her brother and grandmother in an attempt to make a better life for her daughter Jenna. The zombie outbreak occurs on her first night working as a stripper at the Grindhouse.
- In Stag, Serena is a stripper and prostitute (she sleeps with some clients to earn extra cash) who has a 10 year old son Jamie at home. When the men learn of this, they try to use her son as a bargaining chip against her.
- Dancing Aztecs: Jerry's one night stand Myra is a stripper and mentions having a kid whose staying with her mother.
- 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.
- In Crime and Punishment Sonya becomes a prostitute to feed her brothers and sisters.
- Fantine from Les Misérables 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- LT Hawkes spends a night with a prostitute on R&R in Space: Above and Beyond. Halfway through the night, he stumbles into the next room to find a sleeping baby. While the woman was upset that he found the baby's room, earlier she was excited to see he had a stash of painkillers highly addictive for their species.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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...
- In Welcome Back, Kotter "The Return of Hotsy Totsy";(Season 3), Rosalie Totsie has dropped out of Buchanan and works at a night club to support her baby. Kotter and the Sweathogs help her to finish her education at Buchanan so she can improve her job prospects.
- 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.
- 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."
- "What Would You Do?" by City High is about a woman named Lonnie who is a stripper, a prostitute, or possibly both, to support both herself (having run away from home to escape Parental Incest) and her baby, whose father is addicted to drugs and has been in and out of Prison (and out of the picture for a long time). The speaker berates her, and calls "having a child to take care of" and "no regular job" an excuse for not conforming to his idealized image of her from Junior High.
- "Borderline Angel," by country trio Farmer's Daughter, is about a single-mom prostitute who prays to Jesus that she won't need to do this for a living anymore.
- 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 Misérables 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.
- In Madame Butterfly (the inspiration for Miss Saigon), Cio-Cio-San is horrified by the thought of becoming a single mom geisha to support her son if his father never comes back. Though unlike with her modern counterpart Kim, the final tragedy plays out before she can reach that point.
- Ang Huling El Bimbo: Joy is eventually forced into prostitution by Banlaoi, and she continues for her daughter and because he pulls a gun on her when she tries to quit.
- Danika, a minor character from Dominic Deegan. The "single Mom" part actually saves her life, because after Celesto gruesomely murders her client he decides to spare her upon realizing she only has that job to support her daughter.
- 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!"
- The Simpsons :
- Mrs. Muntz, Nelson's mother 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.
- Another episode had his mom getting cast as Lady Macbeth: "I don't have to take off my top... but I do anyway!"
- Played for laughs on South Park with Eric Cartman's single mom Liane who not only has slept (for free) with nearly the entire town but has also worked as a porn model and actress. Eric chooses to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that all this was in her past. For example, in Pinkeye there's a Running Gag in which Stan and Kyle tease Cartman over his mom having appeared in Crack Whore magazine.
Cartman: Knock it off you guys, she said she was young, and needed the money.
Stan: Cartman, those pictures were taken like, last month.
- T-Shirt Hell, purveyor of offensive cotton outerwear, features a shirt that says "I Support Single Moms" alongside a silhouette rather reminiscent of mudflap girls but dancing around a pole.