Follow TV Tropes


Single Parents Are Undesirable

Go To

When a single mom goes out on a date with somebody new,
It always winds up feeling more like a job interview.
My mama used to wonder if she'd ever meet someone
Who wouldn't find out about me and then turn around and run.
Brad Paisley, "He Didn't Have to Be"

Dating as a single parent can be difficult for multitude of reasons. Sometimes your kids reject your partner and sometimes your partner turns out to be a Wicked Step-parent. Other times, just getting a second (or even first) date is hard because people run away after hearing about your kids. They either aren't ready for kids yet or don't want to deal with the baggage of being a step-parent.

This is often Truth in Television, as many single parents can attest, and is especially true for most single parents who are under the age of 30 (Not many teens and twenty-somethings are able or willing to commit to such a big responsibility so early in their lives). As a result, many single parents date other single parents.

Compare to Struggling Single Mother, for when a single parent struggles financially, and Old Maid, which deals with women who can't find a date because of age instead of parenthood. Contrast with Marry the Nanny, in which a person meets their future spouse because of their kids. If finding out that their potential spouse is also a devoted parent makes the person even more interested, the trope may overlap with Single Woman Seeks Good Man.


    open/close all folders 
    Anime and Manga 
  • Ristorante Paradiso: This is why Nicoletta's mother Olga abandoned her because, after her divorce, Olga took up with a guy, Lorenzo, who preferred women that weren't divorcees or divorcees with kids. As you might guess, Nicoletta is still bitter about that, even more because, after all those years, Olga still intended on hiding that fact from Lorenzo. However, by a point, we find out that Lorenzo was able to guess that Nicoletta was Olga's daughter ('ccording to him, they have the same smile) and took the news real well.
  • This seems to be a rather common belief in SPY×FAMILY, as most of Yor's friends and coworkers comment that they wouldn't have married a man who had a child. Yor herself is an aversion as she quickly grows fond of Anya and becomes a Good Stepmother to her (unaware that she's not Loid's biological child).

    Fan Works 
  • A story in the Croft And Son series has this addressed in one of the parts and it's implied that this has happened a lot in the past.
  • In Jerusalem's Let's Play of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, CJ has a one-night stand with Barbara (one of the game's optional girlfriends) to celebrate being a millionaire before learning in the morning that she's a cop. While that doesn't turn him off (on the contrary), learning she has kids is what causes him to run like hell in his Goofy Print Underwear.
    "You ran NAKED through the streets of El Quebrados?" Woozie asked, holding back his laughter.
    "Not naked man," I said, adjusting my hat, "I had my drawers on."
    "Oh, well as long as you didn't look odd," laughed Woozie, and I felt my cheeks burning.
    "Come on, man, a lady cop I can handle, a cop ex I can handle.... but kids? Damn, I'm sorry, I know black men got a reputation of running out on they kids but I don't think it counts if they ain't YOUR kids."
  • In Second Chances (TheNovelArtist), it is remarked that women tend to have second thoughts about flirting with Adrien upon learning he is a single father, and, moreover, actually dedicates a lot of time to his daughter.
  • Frankie from More than My Friend is still in her 20s but has become the guardian of 8-year old Mac after his mother died. One story revolves around Frankie finding it difficult to get a boyfriend because guys balk after hearing about Mac.
  • Delia Ketchum in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines and Orange Rose Gathering, both by the same author, implies this may be the reason why nobody seems interested in dating her.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Aristocats: Subverted; O'Malley is in the middle of flirting with Duchess when her kittens step out of the brush. Initially, he decides to separate from them, but it only takes a few minutes of thought for him to realize he's being a "rat" and come back. From that point on, he takes up the roles of Duchess' boyfriend and the kittens' surrogate father with equal willingness.
  • Suzume: Tamaki is Suzume's aunt, but serves as her mother after taking her in. At one point she laments that no man would be interested in dating a single mother. She is apparently not aware that her co-worker Minoru is smitten with her despite knowing about Suzume.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Averted in About a Boy wherein Will briefly dates a single mom and has a great time, so he invents having a son in order to meet more.
  • As Good as It Gets: Carol is a single mother with a sick child. After bringing home a man, Carol gets pulled away to deal with her son, who gets sick on her shirt. When she returns to her date, he's completely turned off by the whole episode and leaves.
  • In Cyrus, Molly has a lot of trouble dating because her immature 21-year-old son still lives with her, and his considerable issues scare off many of her potential paramours.
  • In The Mighty Ducks, Charlie tells Bombay about how his mother's potential suitors run like hell as soon as they see him.
  • The movie Stepbrothers features a single parent man and a woman who end up meeting, falling in love, and revealing they both have an obnoxious Manchild that has deterred them from finding love for so long because no one wanted to deal with that kind of circumstance. The whole conflict of the movie is about the couple getting married and their respective manchildren butting heads and eventually becoming true brothers.

  • Subverted in the Brother Cadfael story "The Rose Rent", where Niall's daughter Rosalba's acceptance of Judith is what gets her to fall in love with him in a delayed Rescue Romance, Judith being a widow whose only child died young. It helps that Niall is a well-off craftsman whose daughter stays with his sister most days.
    And in a moment, having made up her mind, [Rosalba] smiled, and unmistakably held up her face for the acceptable kiss from an accepted elder.
    She could as well have put her small hand into Judith’s breast and wrung the heart that had starved so many years for just such fruit. Judith stooped to the embrace with tears starting to her eyes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Adam-12 had an episode with three kids abandoned by their mom for this reason, along with Los Angeles having a better system to care for them than their hometown.
    Kid: A lot of guys don't want to date a woman with kids.
    Malloy: A lot of "guys" don't. But a man doesn't mind.
  • Subverted in Charmed (1998). When Piper and Leo are separated during season 6, Piper tries to date but every potential boyfriend runs for the hills immediately after meeting Wyatt, leading her to think this trope is in play. The real reason is that Wyatt is intentionally scaring them off by making his eyes glow while he is looking over Piper's shoulder. Piper doesn't find this out until Wyatt attempts this on Paige's new boyfriend; since he's a witch too he just casually asks if what Wyatt is doing is normal for him.
  • Frasier: Sexpot Roz Doyle has a noticeably harder time attracting men after becoming a single mother in the fifth season.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, this is initially Stella's reasoning for not wanting to date Ted, since she is a single mother who only gets out about one night a month. They end up dating anyway and even get engaged before she leaves him on their wedding day for the father of her daughter.
    • Another example moment in the show is where Barney attempts to woo Anita (played by Jennifer Lopez) who repeatedly rejects him as part of her idea that multiple rejections help empower women against untrustworthy men only looking for sex. Barney replies just saying she had a kid would weed out most dating prospects.
  • iCarly:
    • The episode "iFix a Pop Star" had Spencer dating a woman who turned out to be the mother of Gibby. He can't get over this and the two break up by the end of the episode. Downplayed due to the fact Spencer's issue was with her being Gibby's mother specifically, and not just because she's a single mother.
    • In the pilot of the 2021 sequel series, a woman is hitting on Freddie at Spencer's party, with Freddie telling her that he's not in a good place in life to be dating, which just impresses her more. However, once she finds out he has an adopted stepddaughter and still lives with his mother, she bails.
  • Lampshaded in one Monk episode after Monk ruins one of Sharona's dates by calling the man on some lies, causing him to storm out. Sharona asks him if he thinks she told her date everything potentially off-putting about her, such as the fact that she has a son. Later, in "Mr. Monk and the Paperboy", Randy Disher subverts this by placing an ad in the personals clearly referring to Sharona and saying he's okay with kids.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In the episode "Coal Miner's Slaughter", Jessica finds out during her investigation that local widow Mrs. Harmon was the mistress of the murdered coal magnate. Mrs. Harmon says in her defense that other people who might have helped wouldn't want to deal with her and her son.
  • The Punisher (2017). Lampshaded with Beth when she tells Frank Castle—whom she's invited back to her house for a one night stand—that she has a son. Ironically as Frank's last wife and children were murdered, his reasons for avoiding commitment are entirely different from what she thinks. Even though Frank decides to leave quietly the next day, he runs into her son downstairs and decides to take them both out for breakfast even though Beth gives him the chance to make a discreet exit.
  • Reservation Dogs: In an inversion, Rita Smallhill is seemingly the most desirable single woman on the rez, despite having a teenage son. Said son is even asked if his mom is single by some of the many hopefuls.
  • The made-for-TV movie Small Sacrifices is a dramatization of Diane Downs, a divorcee with three children, who tries to seduce a married man. Though interested, the man won't divorce his wife for Diane. Diane concludes that her three kids are hindering her effort, so she shoots them on a lonely country back road, killing one of them, then blames the killings on a carjacker; the testimony of her surviving daughter seals Diane's fate.
  • The Unicorn has Wade, a single father and owner of a landscaping company, who throws himself at work after the death of a wife a year ago. Some of his friends and family suggest that he should try to date someone in order to improve his lifestyle and get his relationship back on track with his daughters.
  • Voyagers!: Inverted in the pilot. Time-traveling casanova Phineas Bogg ends up stuck with a 1980s orphan, Jeffrey Jones, thanks to an apparent glitch with his omni. While Bogg and actress Mary Murphy (an expy of Mary Pickford) are flirting, she tells him that she thinks it's wonderful how he's stepped up to care for his son after his wife's death. Bogg had not been aware that Jeff had called himself Bogg's son, and he yells at him for potentially jeopardizing his chances with her.

  • This was the initial situation of the song "He Didn't Have to Be" by Brad Paisley, with the narrator, looking back on his childhood, comparing dates that his single mom went on to job interviews before she met the guy who would become his dad, who was the first one who would invite the kid out on the date with her.
  • Hamell On Trial's track "I Hate Your Kid" is all about the travails brought to middle-aged dating by your partners' obnoxious teenagers.

    Video Games 
  • Love & Pies: Upon learning from Amelia's phone call with Eve that the latter is a single mother like the former, Amelia's friend Yuka, who has a crush on Eve, decides to leave them alone.

    Visual Novels 
  • Averted with the protagonist of Daughter for Dessert. Neither Kathy, nor Heidi, nor Lily has a problem with the fact that he is a father (especially shocking with Kathy, who is best friends with his daughter).
  • Probably averted with Melissa in Melody. Her daughter, the title character, to whom she gave birth around age 15, did not stop her from attracting and marrying Arnold.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Referenced in an episode of King of the Hill, where Bill dates an attractive single mother who eventually moves in with him (kids in tow). Dale comments that the reason he's able to get with someone so attractive, smart, and kind is because she has kids, and single mothers are more desperate.
  • Done for a quick joke at the end of a T.U.F.F. Puppy episode. After spending the episode concerned about his mom dating his arch-enemy Snaptrap, Dudley ends up finding out she hit it off with The Chameleon instead. The Chameleon immediately balks on the relationship as soon as he sees Dudley's mom still has kids. The fact that her kid is his enemy seems to be a zero factor in the decision.
  • Averted in The Dragon Prince, with Queen Sarai. King Harrow married her as a widow with a young son from her late first husband. This is never shown to bother the man, who adores his bride with his whole heart and loves his stepson as his own.