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Struggling Single Mother

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"[My mom] worked odd jobs, took night classes to get her high school diploma, and raised me on her own. She never complained or got mad. Not even once. But I know I wasn't an easy kid."
Percy Jackson, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Alice's life is rough. She hasn't had a break since her boyfriend, Charlie, left her while she was pregnant with their child. Now she has a minimum-wage job as a cashier, with annoying customers and a bossy manager yelling at her left and right. Her home is a tiny apartment where the air conditioning only works half the time. Every month when the bills come, it always seems like she has less than she thought she did. The only thing that makes it all bearable is every evening when she comes home to her son Bob.

This is a common incarnation of the struggling single mother. This trope will usually involve just one child, usually a son. The mother and son usually have a very close relationship, perhaps with occasional bickering. If Mom has multiple kids, it's more likely she'll have a more distant relationship with each, though she'll still try her hardest.

This trope is almost Always Female (at least in fiction), but can occasionally manifest in males.

Oftentimes Truth in Television. See Housewife and Good Parents. For an inversion, see Glamorous Single Mother. May result in Single Mom Stripper.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: When Tohru is forcibly taken back to the other world by her father, Kobayashi suddenly finds herself having to take care of Kanna and do housework on top of her already stressful job as a programmer. The apartment becomes a complete mess and she's shown to be emotionally drained after only a few days.
  • Hana in Wolf Children Ame and Yuki. She falls in love with a mysterious man who is actually a Wolf Man and they have two children who inherited their father's wolf lineage. When the father dies in an accident, Hana is left to take care of the children. The first part of the film shows her struggling to keep her children's wolf lineage a secret from outsiders particularly from the social services. Eventually, she moves to the remote countryside where she manages to make amends for her family and her children are able to roam freely.

     Film — Live-Action 
  • Played with in The Book of Henry: Henry's mother Susan is by-and-large portrayed as a struggling single mother, working at a diner and driving a shabby car. However, she is explicitly doing fine financially and after her son's passing, she learns that he made thousands of dollars in stocks under her name. The struggling single mother aspect seems to be The Artifact, given there had been almost two decades between the script being first written and the film finally being made, with constant rewrites in between.
  • Olivia starts out Boyhood struggling to make ends meet and to balance taking care of her two kids while also working. She goes through a string of bad relationships, but eventually goes back to school and turns her life around.

  • The Camp Half-Blood Series:
    • Percy Jackson and the Olympiansestablishes Sally Jackson as one. The reason she's single is that the father of her child is Poseidon, one of the gods who's specifically forbidden from bearing children. She eventually gets a break when she launches her writing career, remarries, and has another child, Estelle.
    • In the Sequel Series, The Heroes of Olympus, Leo's deceased mother was one of these; she'd spend her days working as a mechanic to support Leo while the latter was growing up.
  • In the Warrior Cats book Firestar's Quest, Clover starts as this, explaining that her mate left her before her kits were born and that it's hard raising them on her own; it's why she's so eager to join the new Clan after Firestar and Scratch save her and her kits from a fox.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Breaking Bad: Near the end of the show, Skyler becomes one of these as her husband is on the run from the law after his drug empire is exposed. She's forced from their home to a small apartment with two children, a disabled teen and a baby. Things are going to improve however as Walt plans a way to ensure his family gets his remaining money in a way that seems legitimate.
  • Gilmore Girls: This is part of Lorelai Gilmore's backstory. In the pilot, she is a manager of the Independence Inn and fairly well-off, but when she left her super-rich parents with a baby at 16, she started to work there as a maid and had to work her way up. She and her daughter Rory lived in the inn's potting shed. When the series starts, Rory is a teen and they have an extremely close bond.
  • In Stranger Things, Joyce Byers. She's divorced and has been working at a convenience store for the past ten years to support her sons Jonathan and Will, who she apparently has healthy relationships with.
  • Played straighter than it actually should have been in season three of Supergirl. Sam might be a single mother, but given that her job was acting CEO of L-Corp, she should have easily had more resources available to help her take care of her daughter, Ruby.

  • "Rockabye" by Clean Bandit is about a single mother trying to make ends meet at a strip club to support her six year old son.


    Video Games 
  • Lorraine of The Park, who is a single mother to her son Callum after the death of her boyfriend during a construction accident. She's spent Callum's entire life struggling both financially and emotionally.

     Visual Novel 

  • Adrian in A&H Club, in the first chapter she and her son Ali are living in her car after being evicted from their apartment, she also mentions she had to keep Ali in a closet because she couldn't afford a crib.

     Western Animation 
  • In Steven Universe, Vidalia is implied to have been one of these when she first gave birth to Sour Cream.
  • In Trollhunters, Jim's mother has been raising him alone since his father left the family. In this case, she doesn't really seem to be struggling to make ends meet, but is nonetheless extremely overworked.