Over the last four decades, the number of single moms in the U.S. has increased dramatically -- from 3.5 million in 1970 to a whopping 10 million in 2011. As the number of real-life single moms has skyrocketed, so has the number of single moms portrayed on TV.
Below, we hand-picked seven of our current favorites to show that these days, kick-ass single moms come in all shapes and sizes. Sure, not every one of these ladies is a poster-mama for perfect parenting. But at the end of the day, they always seems to have their kids' best interests at heart -- and what's more admirable than that?
Click through the slideshow to see our top picks and then weigh in with your favorites -- past and present -- in the comments.
Joan Holloway Harris in AMC's "Mad Men"
Joan Holloway Harris -- <a href="http://www.amctv.com/shows/mad-men/cast/joan-harris">office manager-turned-junior partner </a>of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce -- becomes a single mother in Season 5 of the critically acclaimed AMC drama. Joan kicks her husband out of their Manhattan apartment after she discovers that he <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/04/mad-mens-mystery-date.html">voluntarily re-enlisted in the army</a> without consulting her first. We have serious respect for a 1960s woman like Joan who is empowered to <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/04/mad-mens-mystery-date.html">stand up to her husband</a>, even if it means he might leave her. "I'm glad the army makes you feel like a man, because I'm sick of doing it," <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/04/mad-mens-mystery-date.html">she tells him</a>. That's our girl.
Jackie Peyton on Showtime's "Nurse Jackie"
Jackie Peyton -- the titular character of the dramedy "Nurse Jackie" -- plays a no-nonsense emergency room nurse who begins her foray into single motherhood in Season 4 after her husband, Kevin, <a href="http://screencrush.com/nurse-jackie-review-one-armed-jacks/">serves her with divorce papers</a>. In a particularly nurturing moment at the end of the season, Jackie finally answers angsty daughter Grace's pleas to <a href="http://screencrush.com/nurse-jackie-review-handle-your-scandal/">pull her out of the private school</a> she so despises and enroll her in the local New York City public school instead. Go Mom!
Jules Cobb in ABC's "Cougar Town"
When the series began,"Cougar Town's" Jules Cobb -- played by Courteney Cox -- was a recently divorced mother-of-one learning how to be a single parent while navigating the single life, with plenty of hilarious missteps along the way. In this clip, self-proclaimed "cool" mom Jules tries to give her teenage son a safe sex lesson -- a role usually assumed by the father -- It all goes rather unsuccessfully. But hey, we give her an A+ for effort. And yes, we know Jules <a href="http://blog.zap2it.com/frominsidethebox/2012/05/cougar-town-season-3-finale-a-walk-on-the-beach.html">recently married Cul-De-Sac Crew member and neighbor Grayson</a>, but she's so damn lovable, we just had to include her on the list.
Kate Fox in Fox's "Ben and Kate"
Kate Fox -- played by Melanie Griffith's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/12/dakota-johnson-melanie-griffith-kimmel-video_n_1876216.html">daughter Dakota Johnson </a>-- is a young, cautious single mom who decides to let her goofy brother Ben move in with her and her five-year-old daughter Maddie. Kate realizes that her scardey cat tendencies may have rubbed off on her young daughter when one night, <a href="http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2012/10/ben-and-kate-review-emergency-kit-episode-105.html">Maddie gets stuck in the attic</a> and refuses to jump down. When Kate senses Maddie's hesitation, she turns it into a teaching moment, telling her that when you’re surrounded by people you love, sometimes you have to make a leap and hope for the best -- no matter how scary it may be. Aww.
Goldie Clemmons on NBC's "The New Normal"
Midwestern waitress Goldie Clemmons moves from Ohio to California, leaving her deadbeat baby daddy behind in order to give her daughter, Shania, <a href="http://www.nbc.com/the-new-normal/about/bio/cast/georgia-king/586201">a shot at the life she never had</a>. Goldie is consistently supportive of her daughter's quirkiness -- even allowing her to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/11/the-new-normal-episode-2_n_1875238.html" target="_hplink">impersonate Little Edie</a> from the documentary "Grey Gardens."
Sarah Braverman on NBC's "Parenthood"
Lauren Graham -- who once played <a href="http://www.aoltv.com/2010/02/08/lauren-graham-in-parenthood-more-than-lorelai-gilmore-2-0/">beloved single mom</a> Lorelai Gilmore on "Gilmore Girls" -- now portrays single parent Sarah Braverman on "Parenthood." While she may not seem to have it all together on the surface, Sarah is actually a stand-out parent who cares deeply for daughter Amber and son Drew. In the third season, she makes the difficult decision to give her drug addicted ex-husband Seth <a href="http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/episodeguide/parenthood_s3_e06/">an ultimatum</a> -- either he goes to rehab or he stops seeing the kids for good. Although she's not always painted as the most responsible parent, we loved seeing Sarah as a strong woman and sound decision maker.
Pamela on FX's "Louie"
Pamela Adlon plays Louie CK's unrequited love interest on FX's critically acclaimed comedy "Louie." Single dad Louie meets Pamela -- a brassy single mom -- at a PTA meeting at his daughters' school. If one thing is certain, it's that Pamela is an open book. In one episode, after a few glasses of wine, she admits to occasionally getting "bored of being a mom." She may not be taking home the "Mom of the Year" award any time soon, but we appreciate the comic relief Pamela's sardonic take on single parenting provides.
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