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Single Parents Are Undesirable

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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.
— "He Didn't Have to Be", Brad Paisley

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 tell. As a result, many single parents date other single parents.

Compare to Struggling Single Mother, for when a single parent struggles financially, and Christmas Cake, 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.



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     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.

     Fan Works 
  • 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.
  • In the "History of Trunks" special of Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Trunks comes home after trying to fight the androids. His mother Bulma sarcastically asks if Trunks is the one who just opened the door or she should change her online dating profile from "single mother" to just "single" because she'd get a lot more matches that way.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug fic Second Chances by 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.
  • 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.

     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.

     Films — Live Action 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

     Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of iCarly 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • The Punisher (2017). Lampshaded with Beth when she tells Frank, whom she's invited back to her house, 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.

  • Hamell On Trial's track "I Hate Your Kid" is all about the travails brought to middle-aged dating by your partners' obnoxious teenagers.
  • 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.

     Web Video 

     Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.


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