9 Characters who Played Single Moms and the Gifts they Gave Us

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By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

Growing up watching One Day at a Time, the concept of single moms was so foreign to me. I was a in grade school, and never dreamed I’d end up in Anne Romano’s shoes. No, I didn’t date my divorce attorney, and no, I don’t have a building superintendent who’s in love with me, and no, I don’t have two troubled teenage daughters. But, now, all grown up, divorced and a single mom, I totally get her. I feel a great deal of empathy to what she and other single moms have to go through.

What I learned from Anne Romano, and what I think the gift she gave to all of us was a lesson in how to remain tough. She showed us how to be strong, how to keep going, and seriously, how to live one day at a time.

Here are 8 other single mom characters and their gifts to us:

1.    Anne Romano (Bonnie Franklin) One Day At a Time: Her gift: Staying tough.

 2.    J. C. Wiatt (Diane Keaton) Baby Boom. Her gift: How to combine kids and career.

If you’ve never seen this movie, I’d highly suggest it! J.C. Wiatt is someone who went from superstar cut-throat advertising executive to caring, loving, sensitive mom. And in the end, she still ends up having a kick ass career!

 3.    Lynn Sear (Toni Collette) The Sixth Sense. Her gift: the importance of unconditional love.

With a stellar performance by Toni Collette, Lynn Sear has a little boy who sees dead people. There is a scene where he says, “You think I’m a freak, don’t you?” and she replies, “No, I would never think that about you.” That scene gave me the chills and showed how the best mothers love their children solely for who they are.


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 4.    Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum) Shameless. Her gift: Self-sacrifice and loyalty.

Fiona isn’t a single mother. She’s actually the sister of her five siblings, but she does more than any mom I’ve ever seen. This girl is 19 years old (20 in the second season) and beautiful and street smart and she could run away and get a job and start her life. But, she chooses to live her life for her siblings, raising them, cooking and cleaning for them, and trying to be the best caregiver she can. An example of immense selflessness.

 5.    Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) Sex and the City. Her gift: You can still have fun and be a good mom.

When Miranda had a baby, she stayed Miranda. She still went out and had fun, she still lived her life for herself. She didn’t sit and feel sorry for herself because she was up all night for her child (well, maybe she did in one episode) but Miranda showed incredible strength and made us realize that as a mom, you still need fun and girls nights out, and most importantly, BFF’s.

 6.    Alicia Florrek (Julianna Margulies) The Good Wife. Her gift: How to move on.

Talk about getting your life together after your husband cheats on you right and left! Alicia got herself an amazing job, in which she became a partner, and she found love again. Through all of this, there are so many heartfelt scenes of her and her children that display her caring, sensitive, nurturing side.


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 7.    Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) Grey’s Anatomy. Her gift: You can still love your career and love your child.

From the start of the show, Grey’s Anatomy’s Miranda has always been fully committed and then some to her beloved job. Upon having a baby, this doesn’t change, which shows women everywhere that loving your job doesn’t mean you can’t love your child, too.

 8.    Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) Murphy Brown. Her gift: courage and being unashamed of who you are.  

When Murphy Brown became a single mom, it was during a time when it was virtually unheard of to have a child whose father wasn’t your husband. She showed us immense courage, and she showed the world that she wasn’t afraid of what anyone thought of single moms. She did what she thought was right. Loved her for this.


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 9.     Chris Gardner (Will Smith) The Pursuit of Happyness. His gift: ultimate selflessness.

I couldn’t’ resist putting THE BEST single dad I’ve ever seen in this piece. If you haven’t seen this movie, please go get it. Whether you are a single mom, a single dad, or even a parent who is happily married, you will be awed by the road that this man travels to protect his son and provide for him. It’s an endless journey of intense pain and struggling that will bring you to tears and then happy tears. Whenever I start feeling sorry for myself, I always think of Chris Gardner and suddenly everything seems doable. If he can do what HE did, I can certainly get through even my roughest days.

Like this article? Check out “How to Be a Successful Single Mother: Handle It!

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at: DivorcedGirlSmiling.com

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