Parenting is a challenge for all of us. Add being a single mother to the mix and the task becomes almost insurmountable. Thank goodness we’ve had some good examples along the way on the small screen to remind us of all the joys that single motherhood can bring. For real life accounts on the daily ups and downs of parenting solo, be sure to visit an exciting new addition to the ESSENCE.com site below.
Show: “Julia” Mom: Julia Baker Played by: Diahann Carroll Why We Love Her: In 1968 when this groundbreaking series debuted, Black women were still marching for civil rights. As a hardworking nurse and mom to a young son Corey whose husband died fighting in Vietnam, Julia’s character was refreshing for television. Sassy Single Mom Stance: Quite frankly, Baker was before her time. Raising a Black boy in the 1960’s with no man in the household was no easy feat but she managed to pull it off with grace, dignity and style—all on a humble nurse’s salary.
Show: “The Game” Mom: Tasha Mack Played by: Wendy Raquel Robinson Why We Love Her: In addition to being a doting yet stern mom to her on-screen NFL son Malik Wright, Mack served as his no-nonsense manager. Mack and Wright share a fun yet unique relationship where the lines of parent-child-friend are often crossed. Sassy Single Mom Stance: Mack is still young and keeps her weave tight and her skirts even tighter. While she might be able to recite lyrics from the latest Jay-Z cut with her son Wright, she never lets him forget that she demands—and deserves—his respect.
Show: “Good Times” Mom: Willona Woods Played by: Ja’net DuBois Why We Love Her: Sure, living in a rough and tough Chicago housing project wasn’t always pleasant, but Woods and crew knew how to make lemonade out of lemons. Plus, Woods maintained a hard exterior but she was caring enough to adopt abandoned Penny (played by Janet Jackson) when it was discovered her birth mom was abusing her. Sassy Single Mom Stance: Willingly giving up solo living to raise a needy child is certainly commendable. Doing it in hip hugging jumpsuits and 4-inch platforms is the stuff of legend.
Show: “The Parkers” Mom: Nikki Parker Played by: Mo’Nique Why We Love Her: While holding down a household with her teenage daughter Kimberly by herself, Nikki managed to find time to better herself while attending college as a continuing education student. Sassy Single Mom Stance: Keeping house, setting curfews and writing term papers weren’t the only items on Nikki’s to-do list. She also “heavily” pursued her longtime love interest Professor Oglevee. While her pursuits were usually in vain, we love that she was persistent. And in the end, she married her man!
Show: “All of Us” Mom: Neesee Jesse Played by: LisaRaye Why We Love Her: While her ex-husband creates a life for himself with his new love interest, Neesee balances being a loving mom to their young son Bobby Jr. Sassy Single Mom Stance: Blended families can be challenging (baby mama drama, anyone?) but James usually showed dignity when interacting with her son’s father’s new lady. Even when James crossed the line she always had the well-being of her baby boy at heart.
Show: “Thea” Mom: Thea Turrell Played by: Thea Vidale Why We Love Her: Thea wasn’t looking for handouts as a widowed mom of four. Her spunk while providing for her family by any means necessary was refreshing and we hated to see the show canceled after one season. Sassy Single Mom Stance: We hope Thea’s parenting style of keeping it real with her kids and dishing tough love when necessary rubbed off on other parents. She also remembered she deserved a life too and her quick humor and personality drew many to her.
Show: “Girlfriends” Mom: Mya Wilkes Played by: Golden Brooks Why We Love Her: Mya married her high school sweetheart and was happily raising their son, but the not-so fairytale abruptly ended when her hubby found out about her infidelity. Life happens. Sassy Single Mom Stance: Mya and her longtime love split, and he even had plans to jump the broom with someone else. Albeit brief, she held down raising an adolescent Black boy in southern Los Angeles on her own, but with the help of supportive pals she pulled it off just fine.
Show: “Half & Half” Mom: Phyllis Thorne Played by: Telma Hopkins Why We Love Her: Witnessing your ex-husband and his new family live the good life that you and your daughter could only dream about couldn’t have been easy. Yet Phyllis managed to pull it off and keep us in stitches all the while. Sassy Single Mom Stance: Even though she could barely stand her daughter’s father, she always encouraged her daughter to nurture a strong relationship with him and her half-sister (even if she did her fair share of meddling in the meantime).
Show: “Family Matters” Mom: Thelma Hopkins Played by: Rachel Crawford Why We Love Her: Rachel becomes a widow when her only son is just a baby. She moves in with her sister Harriette and brings along her fun spirit and sweet smile. Sassy Single Mom Stance: Every girl wishes for a cool aunt like Rachel. Her sensible advice made her a favorite confidante of everyone on the show as she raised her son.
Show: “Fresh Prince” Mom: Viola ‘Vy’ Smith Played by: Vernee Watson-Johnson Why We Love Her: Raising a Black son alone in America can have it’s challenges. When life got rough for Vy’s son Will in Philadelphia, she made the tough choice to send him to live with her sister and her family in posh California. Sassy Single Mom Stance: Even hundreds of miles away, Vy kept Will in check, and offered a shoulder for his tears and a cheer for his accomplishments. She also didn’t let the failure of her relationship with Will’s dad jade her on real love.
Show: “Sister, Sister” Mom: Lisa Landry Played by: Jackée Harry Why We Love Her: Long before adopting was the “in” thing to do, Lisa adopted a baby girl and made the sacrifice to move in with a man she didn’t know when they discovered their adopted daughters were separated twins. Sassy Single Mom Stance: Even though Lisa was busy with two teen girls and co-parenting with their dad, she didn’t stop pursuing her dreams in fashion design and finding a love of her own.