While reality TV is definitely ripe with single mom representation, representation also expands to scripted shows too. From an ordinary single mom dealing with the realities of a recent divorce and their teenage daughter’s unexpected pregnancy on Reba to Raising Dion, a show about a single mom to a young boy with superpowers, there is no shortage of original and entertaining content about the power of single moms.
10 Reba (2001 – 2007) – 6.6
Reba had an entire theme song about being a strong and devoted single mother, which is just one of the reasons why it’s considered one of the greatest shows in the subgenre. Unlike most single mom shows that pick up after the mom has been divorced or widowed, Reba began in the middle of the drama with her ex-husband.
And yet, Reba tries not to let her relationship with her ex tarnish how she raises her kids. In fact, she encourages them to have a relationship with their father, despite everything they went through and all while putting her kids’ needs above her own.
9 Raising Dion (2019 – 2022)
Netflix has many amazing sci-fi family shows on its streaming service, but one of the best and yet least talked about is Raising Dion. The series centers on Nicole, a single mother trying to investigate her husband’s untimely death while raising their son, who has superpowers.
Like most single mothers in the real world and on television, Nicole has to juggle her time and responsibilities. However, unlike other single moms, Nicole is also dealing with real-world threats and will stop at nothing to keep her son and his superpowers safe and a secret from the rest of the world. Nicole is so serious about her role as Dion’s mother that she learns how to box so she can properly defend them, if and when the government tries to take Dion from her again.
8 Mom (2013 – 2021) – 7.3
Television audiences are rarely graced with mothers who don’t have it all figured out, which is what made the CBS Chuck Lorre sitcom, Mom, so special. Newly sober, Christy is trying to be a good mother for her two children, despite never having a good relationship with her own mother. To make matters worse, Christy’s own mother, also in recovery, has decided to reenter her life.
Mom truly explores the darker side of being a single mother in today’s world, but one that is just as real and valid as the Reba-type single mother. It also proves that sometimes in order to be the best mom, one has to heal themselves, which makes Christy’s journey extra poignant and relevant to many.
7 Julia (1968 – 1971) – 7.6
When Julia began airing in 1968, it made history by marking the first time a show featured a Black American woman in a non-stereotypical role. The sitcom centered on Julia Baker, a widow who is raising her young son in the city while also working as a nurse.
Given that the show ran during the ’60s, it was extremely uncommon for audiences to watch single mothers, let alone single mothers of color. Throughout the series, Julia made it a point to teach her son about traditionally women-centered tasks, like cooking and cleaning. This made her a great mom because she was determined to raise her son in a new way, which was groundbreaking on TV at the time.
6 Good Girls (2018 – 2021) – 7.7
Good Girls is a show that follows three down-on-their-luck friends and mothers who decided to rob a local grocery store in the hopes of finally getting ahead of their debt. While the heist is successful, the women discover that the grocery store was being used a front for a local gang and thus, they have stolen from the gang.
On the surface, Good Girls is a show about crime and drama, but it’s also a show about motherhood and the lengths to which a mother will go to ensure their children are happy. As the only single mom on the show and the youngest, Annie faces some of the most authentic obstacles of parenthood. And yet, despite her terrible finances and new, dangerous life, she is always there for her son, especially during his most emotional moments.
5 Better Things (2016 – 2022) – 7.8
Better Things centers on Sam Fox, a single mother who is trying to raise her three daughters while working in Los Angeles as an actress. The series is based on the creator’s life, Pamela Adlon, who channeled her real life struggles of being a single mom to only daughters into her the lead character of Sam.
Unlike some single mothers who are overly involved in their children’s lives and put their own lives on hold, Sam takes on a more laidback, “cool mom” approach to her parenting. She gives them room to make mistakes but is also there to reprimand them when necessary. Her single-mom parenting approach is very modern and one of the reasons the show was such a hit during its run.
4 Jane The Virgin (2014 – 2019) – 7.9
At its core, Jane The Virgin is a show about three generations of single mothers who are all just trying to live their best lives and raise the best daughters they can. The series begins when Jane is accidentally artificially inseminated during a routine doctor visit and decides to keep the baby, thus thrusting her into a life of motherhood that she wasn’t really prepared for.
What’s so great about the single-mom dynamic in Jane The Virgin is that it proves that no mother, no matter how long they’ve been at the task, knows exactly what to say or do in every situation. It’s reassuring to watch all three women navigate the highs and lows, while always supporting each other.
3 One Day At A Time (2017 – 2020) – 8.1
One Day At A Time is one of Netflix’s best family sitcoms that was cancelled far too early for many. Based on the Norman Leer sitcom of the ’70s, this version of the show centers on Penelope Alvarez, a Cuban-American army veteran who is trying to raise her teenagers while living under the same roof as her eccentric and traditional mother.
Penelope is not only a great single mom, but she’s also a great female role model, showing her daughter and son that it’s okay to struggle sometimes. She also preaches about sex positivity and encourages both of her children to be their authentic selves. She even manages to teach her own single mom a thing or two about the modern world of parenting.
2 Gilmore Girls (2000 – 2007) – 8.2
One of the most best mother-daughter duos on television has to be Lorelie and Rory from the CW drama series Gilmore Girls. The series follows single-mom Lorelai Gilmore as she raises her teenage daughter, Rory, while also running the town’s quaint bed-and-breakfast known as the Dragonfly Inn.
As a young mom, Lorelai treats her daughter more like a friend than a daughter, which leads to an interesting mother-daughter dynamic. Since Rory is all Lorelai has ever had, she approaches single motherhood in a different way that many young single moms might be able to relate to.
1 Big Little Lies (2017 – 2019) – 8.5
When Big Little Lies premiered in 2017, it quickly became one of HBO’s biggest shows at the time. Based on the book of the same name, the drama series centers on the lives of several mothers living in Monterrey, California, who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation/trial.
Unlike most of the mothers who are in relationships of some sort, Jane Chapman is the only one who is doing it on her own. She’s also the group’s youngest mother, which brings about a certain level of criticism from everyone around her. Despite her inexperience, Jane commits herself to being the best mom she can be and always put her son before everyone else — even when it leads her to trouble.
NEXT: Laura Dern & 8 Other Great Actresses Who Have Played Both Good & Bad Mothers