It’s no secret that being a single mom is one tough gig, and, until recently, it was one we rarely saw portrayed on television. But thanks to the likes of Candice Bergen, Bonnie Franklin and Linda Lavin – all of whom took the spotlight as hard-working single mamas – there are now more single TV moms than ever, making the hardest job in the world look, well, hard, but also highly entertaining. Here are fifteen that we think deserve a round of applause – and a spa day:
Lauren Graham as Lorelei Gilmore in The Gilmore Girls and again as Sara Braverman in Parenthood
Lauren Graham has pulled single mom double duty on primetime for most of this decade, demonstrating the balance between being an independent mom and humbling yourself enough to ask for help from your own parents in the interest of giving your plucky teenagers the moon and stars.
Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers in Buffy, the Vampire Slayer
True, she never snaps to the fact that her daughter is a superhero on her own, but she still gets cool points for accepting Buffy as the chosen one fairly quickly after her daughter spells it out for her. And when some monks add a mystical second daughter to her family unit, she immediately opens her heart to that angsty, whiney pre-teen and brings her up as her own.
Teri Hatcher as Susan Meyer in Desperate Housewives
Sometimes it’s hard to tell on a day-to-day basis whether Susan Meyer or daughter Julie Meyer is the adult in this complicated relationship but watch out for Susan in times of crisis. She has the fierce protectiveness of a lioness!
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Christine Campbell in The New Adventures of Old Christine
It takes great strength of character to remain close friends with an ex, but Christine Campbell wants her son to be able to maintain a good relationship with his dad. She also stretches things economically to send him to private school and takes some lip from the snooty mommies that think they don’t belong.
Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbs in Sex and the City
As a career woman who loved her fabulous single life in Manhattan, Miranda makes a whole lot of personal sacrifices to marry her baby daddy and settle down in a Brooklyn, all to give her little oops the best life she possibly can.
Chandra Wilson as Dr. Miranda Bailey in Grey’s Anatomy
We grieve for Dr. Bailey’s failed marriage, and we applaud her for balancing her newfound single motherhood with a stressful job in a hospital chock-full of drama.
Jennie Garth as Kelly Taylor in 90210
We know from old school 90210 that ten years of teen soap life experience has equipped Kelly Taylor to handle any problems that her Dylan McKay lovechild and her unstable little sister may have while living under her roof. Troubles with the opposite sex? Been there. Fashion faux pas? Done that. Diet pill addiction? Cat fights? Brainwashed by a cult? You name it, this drama queen probably has personal familiarity with it and (hopefully) advice to dish.
Susan Ward as Chloe Kmetko in Make It or Break It
She’s trashy, ditzy, and out of her league in comparison to the other team moms, but she doesn’t care. Chloe Kmetko is committed – in the right way – to getting her elite gymnast of a daughter to the Olympics, making her a role model for athletes and moms alike.
Shailene Woodley as Amy Juergens in The Secret Life of the American Teenager
Getting pregnant at age fifteen was not how she had planned to kick off her freshman year of high school, so kudos to Amy Juergens for continuing to go to class and taking a stab at still being a teenager while remaining dedicated to her very adult role as a single new mom.
Ana Ortiz as Hilda Suarez in Ugly Betty
Hilda’s young son’s passion for fashion has plummeted him to the bottom of the popularity list at school. Nevertheless, Hilda justly encourages her kid to always be true to himself first and foremost, and in that Mama Hen advice, he finds his slice of happiness.
Sara Canning as Jenna Sommers in The Vampire Diaries
Acting as a legal guardian for her orphaned niece and nephew is tough, given that Jenna Sommers isn’t much older than they are. Even so, she embraces the challenge of creating a stable home life for her brood, leaving her precious little time to notice that she is surrounded by vampires.
Tamara Taylor as Dr. Camille Saroyan in Bones
Behind all that intellect and hard science is a warm, mushy heart, which is why Cam takes in a teenaged girl who would otherwise have gone into the system. Saroyan struggles with the newness of parenthood, which is anything but logical, but she perseveres at home in a way that makes her more endearing at work.