Editor's note: This story was originally published in May 2018.
Who among us hasn’t wished for a mother more like the ones we see on TV?
And moms, who among you hasn’t wished you could be more like them, too? Steady and kind, funny and smart, always ready with the right answer to any problem.
For Mother’s Day, we give you 20 of our favorite TV moms. None of them are perfect, and all of them have some definite flaws, but they are endearing and relatable, and they make us think. Deep down, they are just like real moms — but with better hair and wardrobe.
“The Brandy Bunch”
Carol Brady taught us that there didn’t need to be a difference between the love she had for the children she birthed and the love she had for the children who became hers through marriage. She’s the ultimate stepmom, and she quietly fought the notion of what boys and girls can do in her own house. “Camping is for boys and girls,” she told the kids.
“Leave It to Beaver”
June Cleaver came to represent the bygone era of moms of the 1950s. Moms who always got a piping hot dinner on the table while wearing a dress, heels and pearls. Yet June Cleaver could be no-nonsense, and you definitely knew she cared about both of her boys and even neighbor Eddie Haskell. She was forever saying, “Ward, I’m very worried about the Beaver.”
Roseanne Conner said the things all moms think with plenty of sarcasm thrown in, too. Things like, “Excuse the mess, but we live here.” Roseanne and her husband, Dan, don’t put on any airs. They are real Americans, and they don’t care if you love them or loathe them. The great thing about Roseanne Conner is we’ve gotten to grow up with her family and see them 30 years later, and guess what? They are exactly the same.
Linda Belcher loves her babies intensely. She’s fun, she’s a bit wacky. You just have to love her. And she’s very real, even if she’s a cartoon. She has real quips on parenting, like: “Raising you kids is a two-parent, two-bottles-of-wine-a-night kind of job.”
We’ve been able to watch Rainbow go through many things, including, most recently, postpartum depression and conflict in marriage. She is the rock to the gregarious Dre, and we love how she handles the in-laws and the teenagers, factions that could make any mom lose it. This family feels real because of her. As her husband announces that he’s figured out a way to save Halloween, she says, “Oh, that’s great. I found a way to save a guy that was at the bottom of a pool for 20 minutes, but you go.”
Raising a child with differences makes you resilient. Never has there been an example of this like Maya DiMeo. She’ll pick up the whole family and move if she doesn’t get the services she wants for her kids. As she tells her son Ray, “I’m not going to apologize for taking care of your brother. He got the right mum.”
“The Cosby Show”
The creator aside, this show taught us that women can be both a professional and a mom. They can be smart and sexy. They can be strong and vulnerable. They also can stand up to their husbands in a way that is not passive or offensive. “No, Cliff. You don’t understand, honey. You did not have that child. I had that child. I was the one who was on that table screaming, ‘Take it out!’”
“The Facts of Life”
Yes, Mrs. Garrett isn’t technically a mom to the girls under her care, but she definitely mothered those girls. She played the serious woman to their zany, and she always saw them for who they were, counseled them on all their troubles and delivered consequences with a firm, loving stance. She always knew the right thing to say: “Oh, honey, your decision to stay a kid is the most adult thing you’ve ever done.”
“Everybody Loves Raymond”
Marie Barone firmly believes that a mother’s work is never done, which is why she continues to mother both her adult sons. She mothers with guilt. She mothers with food, which is how she shows love. She is always the serious woman to husband Frank, who always got the best lines. Instead, with Marie, you knew exactly where she stood because she always let you know. As she often says, “I don’t like that.”
“Little House on the Prairie”
Life on the American frontier was hard, yet Ma always kept her children fed and clothed and imparted wisdom that worked for any age, like this gem: “When you love somebody, it’s worth putting your pride behind you.”
Marion Cunningham loved her children and their friends, and she had a special place in her heart for the Fonz. “I hope you weren’t offended when I got a little peeved at you the other day. ... You did a wonderful job, Arthur. Shall we make up?”
Without Marge, this family (and this show) wouldn’t work. While we often forget about her as the rest of the family is going through one round of hijinks after another, she often knows the right thing to say to bring her children back to reality. Sometimes, it’s just a groan or a look, or a sigh that follows, “Oh, Homie.”
“The Addams Family”
Morticia Addams celebrates her family and their uniqueness in fierce ways. She shows love and cleverness and feminism in the 1960s. “I’m just like any modern woman trying to have it all. Loving husband, a family. It’s just ... I wish I had more time to seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade.”
Elyse Keaton had four very different kids, plus a Skippy. Yet she loved every one of them, even Alex, who was a Republican to her former hippie self, and Mallory, who was more interested in clothes and boys than school, something hard to understand as a woman with a career in architecture. She met every kid where they were and tried to help them be better. As she tells Alex, “You’re pushing yourself too hard.”
“I Love Lucy”
Nothing ever went right for Lucy. Somehow she always messed something up, which made her very human. She taught us the importance of moms having friends. She and Ethel were thick as thieves, as seen in this exchange:
Lucy: “I’ll get even with him!”
Ethel: “What are you gonna do?”
Lucy: “I’ll leave him! No. That’s probably what he wants.”
Ethel: “Yeah, stay married with him. That’ll teach him!”
“The Partridge Family”
Shirley Partridge taught us that moms can go on the road with their kids and form a rock band! She was the ultimate stage mom, but not in a creepy way, and with her magical tambourine she allowed her kids to follow their dreams. She also gave us real insight into the struggle of being a single mom: “Let me explain something to you. I’m your mother, and in that way I’ll always belong to all of you. But I’m also a woman. And even with five children whom I love very much, and who I know love me, there are times when I still feel lonely.”
“The Walking Dead”
Michonne as the katana-wielding superheroine of the zombie apocalypse lost her own son, but she took on the role of mother to Rick Grimes’ children. After starting out with so much anger about her own child’s death, she’s become the voice of reason. As she says to Grimes’ son, Carl, “I can’t stop you, but you can’t stop me from helping you.” She’s the epitome of a strong woman making the best of a difficult situation and doing it with love.
“Malcolm in the Middle”
Lois is an every-mom. She’s working a bad job, trying to raise four boys, one of whom is already a delinquent and one of whom is a genius she doesn’t know what to do with. Plus she’s got a husband with some pretty wackadoodle ideas. She always comes back with a good quip: “Once upon a time, there was a little boy that made his mom so crazy she decided to sell him to a circus.”
“Friday Night Lights”
Tami Taylor as the school counselor/principal/football coach’s wife mothered a whole team, really a whole town. There’s a sweetness to her, and a toughness. She’s always the voice of reason and compassion. As she says, “I believe in you with every cell of my being.”
“Game of Thrones”
Motherhood can be elusive. Daenerys loses her unborn baby in the first season of “Game of Thrones,” yet she grows an empire and three dragons. She is the Mother of Dragons and so much more. As she says, “No one will take my dragons.” And yet we now know she is vulnerable.