If you’re a TV-lover, being alive during Peak TV is a blessing. We live in a time with seemingly endless content options, channels and platforms. No matter what your tastes and preferences are, however specific, there’s a very high chance that, somewhere out there, there’s (at least) one TV show you enjoy. And so often, what makes a show is its characters and their dynamics. TV families often become iconic representations of family relationships that we can see ourselves (and our flaws and strengths) in and relate to.
In particular, the moms of television are notable for their portrayals of the complications of motherhood. From wacky to morbid, childlike to overly strict, quirky to careless, moms come in all different shapes and forms, and TV does a great job of representing all kinds. We gathered a list of (mostly contemporary) amazing, persevering women who showcase their versions of motherhood.
Surely we missed a lot, so comment below with your honorable mentions.
1. Lorelai Gilmore (Gilmore Girls)
A modern classic, Gilmore Girls is one of our culture’s signature mother-daughter shows. Lorelai Gilmore’s character, the perfectly imperfect mom, was the ideal depiction of “fun yet flawed mom” that we all wish we had. Lauren Graham’s charisma was perfectly incorporated into her character; it kept us willing to take her side even during her most painful, unforgivable parenting mistakes. Her efforts to relate to and understand Rory were earnest and great to watch; the show balanced them out perfectly with her life outside of motherhood duties, and highlighted her growth throughout the show.
2. Kitty Forman (That 70’s Show)
Debra Jo Rupp’s contagious laughter and impeccable comedic timing made That 70’s Show an instant classic. As far as moms go, Kitty’s biggest flaw is overprotectiveness — hardly a punishable offense. She balances her "mom-ness” out flawlessly with mild alcoholism, unbudging feminism (this was the 70s!) and her relentless ability to forgive grump-turned-jerk husband Red Forman.
3. Tami Taylor (Friday Night Lights)
Connie Britton is a contemporary favorite, and her talent betters any project she’s on. As the coach’s wife, Tami’s mother role stretches past her biological (ironically) daughters and onto Coach Taylor’s players. Her natural maternal instinct proves life-saving for several of the team’s players and also encourages her to naturally gravitate toward her eventual guidance counselor role at the school. She gets extra points for choosing to become a high school guidance counselor solely with the intention of helping Dillon’s students.
4. Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones)
Objectively, if your child can spew fire and you manage to teach it to control it and not incinerate anyone who upsets them, you’re a good parent. On a more serious note, watching the “Mother of Dragons” go from spoiled brat to overprotective parent was inspiring. By caring and worrying for her defenseless, coveted creatures, Daenerys learns the value others’ lives have in the world; motherhood guides her into becoming a leader who cares for the wellbeing of her people, and who wants to use her institutional power for good.
5. Penelope Álvarez (One Day at a Time)
Even if you don't relate to the small character traits that make Penelope Álvarez an extraordinary mother (and a pain, if we’re being honest), her undeniable love for her children is universally palpable, and her quirks as a parent are instantly enticing. Sharing the house in which she’s raising her two teenagers with her widow mother, Penelope masters the art of parenting while being parented herself. Her honest conversations with her children about hard topics like sex, drugs, mental illness and racism are so genuine and wonderful, it makes me wish I had her as a mom, even if she doesn’t let her kids go to sleepovers until they’re 17.
6. Linda Belcher (Bob’s Burgers)
Although most of her time is consumed by helping her husband, Bob, with the restaurant, Linda Belcher is an understanding, loving mother, who always makes a point to celebrate her kids and their aspirations and interests. No matter what crazy thing they decide to be fixated on (like competitive table-setting), she will support them and push them to see it through.
7. Morticia Adams (The Addams Family)
Unorthodox values aside, the Addams family is an undeniably rock-solid example of family love and camaraderie. As the matriarch of the spooky household, Morticia Addams has crystal-clear maternal instincts and will protect her children at all costs. She’s also very supportive of their passions and dreams and encourages them to be bold in whatever their endeavors may be — even if they happen to be nearly electrocuting their own brother, all in good fun.
While some of the gags in the show feature Morticia seemingly condoning dangerous behavior, it's clear she has her children's interests at heart and aims only to lift them up to be the best and most true versions of themselves.
8. Joyce Byers (Stranger Things)
Having the perseverance to defend and advocate for your child’s story and circumstances around even the most stone-cold institutions is admirable and courageous, just like Wynona Ryder’s enduring character in the Netflix hit Stranger Things. Joyce has to push the police to properly investigate her child’s disappearance, defend her parenting choices against judgmental neighbors and even travel to the parallel universe where her son is in order to get him back. She does all with fiercely unwavering love and a mother bear's protection over her son.
9. Lynnette Scavo (Desperate Housewives)
Although Wisteria Lane may be the wrong place to look for exceptional mothers, Lynette Scavo’s endurance is worthy of at least some recognition. With five children and a scatterbrain husband, she manages to be the head of the family while also not letting family life consume her. She still goes to poker nights with her friends, works out regularly and eventually returns to work as a successful marketer and advertiser. Furthermore, in the show’s eight seasons, she has survived cancer, a partial miscarriage and the discovery of an illegitimate daughter from her husband.
10. Kristina Braverman (Parenthood)
Not only is Kristina Braverman a mother of three, she is the mother of a child with autism and had to go through the arduous and exhausting process of getting him diagnosed, all while taking care of a baby and a teenager. As far as adversity goes, Kristina Braverman has had her fair share and a wide array at that. She’s a valuable part of this list because no matter the obstacle, she never loses sight of the most important thing: trying to be a good mother.
11. Blanca Rodríguez (Pose)
A chosen family is just as valid and strong as blood ties, and Blanca is one TV’s most shining examples of this. When she decides to leave her own house mother and establish hers in the ballroom scene in New York City, she has a very clear idea of what she wants this to mean: an actual family and support system. As House Mother, she vows to protect and support her children through thick and thin. Blanca not only fulfills her goal in terms of meeting that objective, but she also saves the lives of every single one of the young people she takes in, going above and beyond simply giving them a place to crash.
12. Moira Rose (Schitt’s Creek)
A bit like Morticia Adams, Moira Rose has a less-expected (but just as admirable) parenting style to millennials David and Alexis. She’s blunt, a little harsh and self-indulgent, but when it comes down to it, she will defend and protect her children at all costs. An especially touching character trait of the Roses’ matriarch is her acceptance and allyship of David, who is openly pansexual.
13. Stef and Lena Foster (The Fosters)
Although they both deserve to be on this list individually, Stef and Lena Foster thrive as a mom power-couple and one of the only WLW couples portrayed as parents on TV. Legal guardians of Stef’s biological son Brandon and former foster twins Jesús and Mariana, they also serve as foster parents and pretty much have the whole mom thing figured out. Their resilience is tested when Callie, a problematic teenager, and her younger brother Jude are placed in their care, but their dedicated efforts and patience with the troubled siblings prove so successful the pair becomes an official part of the Foster family soon after their arrival. Some of their best moments include dealing with Jude’s coming out, Brandon’s substance abuse and teenager Jesús’s proper sex education.
Although this list may seem long, it features but a fraction of the incredible mom characters across the countless TV shows that span over 100 years of TV. TV is great evidence of how multifaceted and nuanced motherhood can be, and it's uplifting to see it be portrayed so positively in so many different shows.