Hollywood’s Single Parents: Real or Really Wrong?

Is it just me, or have single moms come into their own in Hollywood – or, dare I say, are in vogue in our celebrity-crazed world?

Solo parenting is nothing new, but being a single mom seems to be one of Tinsel Town’s latest hooks in promoting a star’s career instead of the moral outrage this status may have once invoked. Just in the last few years we’ve seen Sharon Stone, Meg Ryan and Sheryl Crow adopt children without partners – in fact, adopting after the breakups of their well-publicized, long-term relationships. Last year, many cheered when Bridget Moynihan dissed ex-beau Tom Brady for his less than model behavior by giving their son her last name instead of his. And pick up any entertainment magazine and you’re likely to see photos of Kate Hudson out on the town, making divorce look ever-so sexy and fun. If her current popularity is any indication, we’ll be seeing those photos of her long after son Ryder’s hair has reached his toes.

Still not convinced single moms are hot today? Well, turn on the TV on Sunday night to catch a glimpse into the real worlds of Dina Lohan, Kimora Lee Simmons and Denise Richards – all single mamas who seem to be surviving – and perhaps thriving – on the presence of cameras, hair extensions and controversy in their lives.

I began watching the series Denise Richards: It’s Complicated on E! as research for this article. (Yes, really.) I wondered what I, a divorced mother of two living in the suburbs and schlepping through corporate America, could possibly have in common with an actress best known for making out with Neve Campbell in Wild Things and being embroiled in a bitter divorce from one of Hollywood’s most notorious bad boys. The idea that I or any single mom had anything in common with Denise Richards was ridiculous.

Watching the show for the first time, it wasn’t all that complicated to spot the differences between Richards’s reality and mine. I don’t have pet pigs. I don’t wear designer clothes. Playboy hasn’t called lately to ask me to do a pictorial, and I imagine Shape magazine would only consider putting me in a bikini on the cover of their Braille edition. Come to think of it, my last photo shoot was down at the DMV for a new driver’s license.

I also don’t have personal assistants to fetch me coffee, unless you count my six- and eight-year-olds. Even then I have to bribe them with a trip to Target to buy Pokemon cards so they won’t spill anything on the carpet. Speaking of carpets, the last red carpet I walked on was a remnant covered in dried nacho cheese on the floor of the soccer field concession stand.

Suffice it to say, a few minutes into the show I was ready to switch channels. But then I heard Denise joke about trying to break her habit of cussing like a sailor… just like one of my resolutions this year. I watched her banter and bicker with her sister… just like I do with mine. I listened to her describe her hopes of finding someone, someday, who would love and accept her for who she is, knowing who she once was. I saw her thank her friends and family for their support during a difficult time in her life, and heard her speak of no regrets for either marrying or divorcing her husband. I watched the rest of the episode, and then began watching the next one, with a single thought running through my head:

We really do have some things in common.

I’m not here to tell you that Denise Richards and her Sunday night counterparts are today’s typical single mothers – they aren’t. Our situations as single parents are as unique and diverse as we are, and celebrities clearly have opportunities and advantages that are out of reach to most of us. But it struck me that, famous or not, love ‘em or hate ‘em, I can relate to a woman who wants to learn from her past and to keep moving forward, for both her children’s sake and her own.

So where are the celebrity single dads on TV? Say what you will about how Hollywood is shaping our view of single mothers, but producers don’t seem all that interested in portraying single fathers as, well, fathers. Instead, they turn out shows of  single dads hiding behind bandanas and oversized clocks, swapping spit with groupies half their age. It’s enough to make me think Kevin Federline is looking more “real” as a single father every day.