Television’s mothers have been doling out love and advice for over half a century. They have changed with the times, evolving from housewives who vacuumed in pearls to yuppies who balanced careers and parenting to single parents who struggle to be good role models for their children. Though being a parent is far easier when there are writers to make sure that even the worst problems are resolved by the end of the episode, television’s fictional moms teach plenty of lessons that apply to real life. This Mother’s Day, watch five of our favorite television moms in some of their finest parenting moments.
Donna Stone, “The Donna Reed Show” – Indulge Your Child’s Pop Cultural Whims
Parents today have to deal with their children’s obsession with Justin Bieber, The Jonas Brothers and other tween idols. Is it better to let them spend hours tweeting with other Beliebers or insist that they spend their free time on something more productive? The original television mom, Donna Reed has the answer: let your child’s favorite pop star move in for a week. In the episode “April Fool,” fictional teen idol Buzz Barry ends up staying with the Stones to the delight of Barry-iever Mary (Shelly Fabares). Donna gamely goes along with the plan despite her initial misgivings, and ends up giving her daughter some wonderful memories. The 1959 episode is, in many ways, hilariously retro. Mary persuades her father to get her concert tickets by literally kneeling at his feet and bringing him his slippers. Buzz ends up staying with the family to recuperate from measles. Sweet and innocent Mary makes no attempt to seduce her dream date. But the scene where Barry confides to Donna that he knows that he is his manager’s pawn and his career probably will be shortlived still rings true. The moral: let your kids enjoy their cheesy idols.
Elyce Keaton, “Family Ties” – Don’t Be Afraid to Tell Your Children They Are Weird
“Family Ties” was a very 1980s take on the generation gap. The parents were former hippies who ended up in the suburbs. Their eldest son Alex (Michael J. Fox) was a proud Reagan Republican. Thus, Elyce Keaton (Meredith Baxter) often found herself in the unusual position of encouraging her uptight conservative son to lighten up. When teenage Alex started dating a slightly older pregnant girl, he became obsessed with the idea of building a family with her. Since this was the 1980s, his parents could not sit him down to watch “Teen Mom” to show him that raising a child with someone he barely knew was a terrible idea. When the girl dumped him, Elyce gently pointed out that he should fall in love, before lowering the boom to tell him that no normal teenage boy was eager to settle down. The moral: it’s okay to point out your children’s eccentricities.
Claire Dunphy, “Modern Family” – Learn to Relax
“Modern Family’s “Claire (Julie Bowen) is the embodiment of the phrase helicopter parent. Although all three of her children are well-adjusted and healthy, she cannot stop stressing about them. She became convinced that her youngest child Luke’s occasional inability to focus was a psychological disorder. She dragged him to a therapist, who promptly declared that he was just fine. That was not good enough for Clare, who demanded that the doctor diagnose Luke with something and blurting out her fears that he would grow up to be just like his Dad. Oops. Phil and Clare got into such a huge argument that they accidentally left Luke in the doctor’s parking lot and he had to hitch a ride home. The moral: don’t micromanage your kids’ lives.
Nora Walker, “Brothers & Sisters” – Make Time For Romance
No television mother is more obsessed with her children’s lives than “Brothers & Sisters” Nora Walker (Sally Field). Though they are adults, Nora feels compelled to involve herself in every one of their numerous problems and cooking them elaborate meals. Several of the widow’s relationships have fallen apart because she cannot bear to focus on anything other than her children. When the man she loved in college, Brody, came back into her life, she finally realized that her thirty and forty-something kids could handle life without having their mother hovering over them and decided to move to Fresno with Brody. Of course, this being “Brothers & Sisters,” Brody turned out to have a deep, dark secret that tore them apart. The moral: mothers deserve to have some romance in their lives.
Sarah Braverman “Parenthood” – Know When to Be A Friend and When to Be A Mom
“Parenthood’s” Sarah Braverman (Lauren Graham) is usually the “Cool Mom.” She acts likes her children’s friend, gossiping with them and eating junk food. When her daughter Amber (Mae Whitman) began using drugs, she was forced to abandon that persona and start dishing out some tough love. Amber was furious when Sarah searched her purse. They had a brutal argument.
When Amber was injured in a car accident because her friend was driving drunk, Sarah did not back down. Finally, Amber realized that her mother was right. She needed to change her ways. After a lot of crying, the two made up. The moral: don’t let your desire to be your child’s friend stop you from enforcing the rules.