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.
- 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.
- Touched upon in Celadon's New Blossom. Ash's mother Delia had dreams of being a model, but that was pushed aside because her husband abandoned his family when Ash was still a baby. Delia raised Ash on her own, though income wasn't an issue because she owns the only restaurant in their town
- An essential part of Hawks' backstory in Crimson And Emerald. After his mother Kiyome was widowed, she struggled to support her and her son. People didn't want to hire a single mother with a young child and Kiyome struggled to make ends meet. Something which the Heroics Commission make advantage of when they approach Kiyome to obtain the future Hawks.
- After Frankie adopts Mac in the More Than My Friend series, several of the sequels deal with the hardships of raising an eight year old boy (especially when she's still in her twenties), on top of her already stressful job taking care of hundreds of imaginary friends. For example, Frankie has trouble dating because men always dump her after she tells them she's raising a kid.
- Much of the drama in the fic Secret Sunshine comes from this. Though Kiko is her niece, Ryuuko plays this role, her struggles are balancing having to care for Kiko, herself, finances, and doing her job at a daycare, along with having little help, besides checks sent from Satsuki. This is best noted with her weight, as, due to not having much time for herself (between caring for Kiko and job) and not having anything else to do, she just ate and, when funds got low, she practically starved, spending what little she had on Kiko.
- 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.
- A part of Rachel's mother's backstory in Crazy Rich Asians. Her mother immigrated to America after the death of Rachel's father before she was born, and struggled to support her daughter growing up. It's later revealed that Rachel's father is not actually dead, but rather her mother fled to America from her abusive husband after becoming pregnant with another man's child.
- Dancer in the Dark: The protagonist Selma lives alone with her son in a trailer park and puts all her effort into working a sucky job at a factory for his sake, saving money so he can get the treatment that'll stop him from inheriting her progressive blindness.
- In Shazam, Billy Batson's biological mother apparently struggled to raise him, and eventually deliberately abandoned him.
- The Camp Half-Blood Series:
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians establishes 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.
- Family Skeleton Mysteries: As of the start of the series, Georgia and her daughter Madison have moved around to about seven different towns since Madison was born, sometimes in the middle of the school year; Georgia's worked a series of adjunct positions at various colleges, and occasionally SAT Prep classes at high schools, to make a living.
- 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.
- 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.
- Implied with Phoebe's mother Lily in Friends, who "didn't have a lot a money" and according to Phoebe, was a drug dealer.
- 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.
- Teri Scanlon from the Midnight Caller episode "Blood Ties" holds jobs as a secretary and a waitress to support herself and her eleven-year-old son Brian.
- 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.
- Les Misérables: Fantine struggles to earn the money that the Thenardiers demand to care for her daughter, Cosette. Things get even worse after she gets fired, which leads to her selling her necklace and hair, and finally becoming a prostitute. She dies not long after, after Jean Valjean promises to adopt Cosette as his own.
- 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.
- Persona 5 has Hanae Oda, the mother of Shinya Oda. As a result of having a difficult time as a single mother, Hanae has turned into a Jerkass who's willing to push others around in order to get what she wants. Shinya wants his mother to turn away from a path that's harmful to herself and others, which is why he asks the Phantom Thieves to steal her heart late in his confidant. After being defeated, Hanae's Shadow realizes that Shinya is most important to her, and the two gradually start to reconcile.
- Umineko: When They Cry: Rosa is a young woman in the flower of her thirty years, back from a rather troubled childhood and a trauma from which she has never fully recovered, whose life has taken a rather problematic turn since her daughter's father left her 9 years ago while she was still pregnant after they both got into debt with some loans. Despite being the owner of a design company based on selling occidental clothes and accesories, her business does not go as she hopes and struggles to make money to pay off her former partner's debt. In addition her daughter Maria is a rather problematic child and often and willingly Rosa can not not physically and emotionally discharge all the stress accumulated over the years on her when Maria does not obey her.
- 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.
- In Steven Universe, Vidalia is implied to have been one of these when she first gave birth to Sour Cream, as she was shown working at a Soul-Sucking Retail Job when he was little.
- 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.