Mom, mommy, mother—no matter what you call her, you’ve probably had your ups and downs with her. With Mother’s Day coming up (kinda), it’s time to pay homage to the women in our life who have raised us up and dealt with us through our terrible adolescent angst. In TV especially, mothers have gone through quite a transformation through the years. Once only depicted as the nurturing homemakers, now some badass moms grace the screen: running households and taking no shit while they're at it. From nurturing to neurotic, here is a round–up of the most memorable TV mothers. Pay special attention to the gradual shift in representation of women in the household as the decades change.
June Cleaver, Leave it to Beaver, 1950
June Cleaver is the quintessential mother figure, and she and her husband are often cited as the archetypal (perhaps stereotypical) suburban parents. June is always around to cook her family a hearty meal and make sure all the children are prepped and ready for school. Her free time is spent engaging in activities like needlepoint and baking. Here’s the mom who's sure to have fresh cookies waiting when the kids bring their friends over.
Carol Brady,The Brady Bunch, late 1960-1970s
Despite a mysterious past marriage, Carol Brady raised six kids with a sunny disposition and perfectly coiffed hair, all without raising her voice or losing her shit once. Not to mention, her children were the emblem of American angels. Perhaps the best thing about her is that although she's a stay–at–home mom, she’s certainly not your “average” housewife. She fills her time with free writing, sculpting, singing and other endeavors—in addition to attending back–to–school meetings and caring for her “bunch.” As a bonus, she’s also great at “mom” jokes and one–liners. Who says dads are the fun ones?
Clair Huxtable, The Cosby Show, 1980s
Clair Huxtable, the elegant wife and mother of the Huxtable gang, is as sassy as she is sophisticated. A lawyer by trade, Clair can hold her own in an argument against her husband, aided by her excellent memory and bilingualism. Despite her strength and commanding presence, she can be playful and silly. Clair is a wonderful and warm mother to her five children, and is a great representation of the “working mother” that became popular in the '80s.
Joyce Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 1990s
A fan favorite of the cast members of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joyce Summer is the wonderful mother of Buffy, even when she disagrees with her daughter’s dangerous duties and life decisions. After her divorce, Joyce and Buffy moved to Sunnydale, California, where the series begins. Although she runs a gallery, Joyce is always around for a warm hug and a cup of hot cocoa. Due to absence of Buffy’s father, Joyce takes on the role of both figures for the most part, and, not only that, but she also basically adopts the Scooby Gang (the unofficial nickname of Buffy’s group of friends) as her own children.
Gabrielle Solis, Desperate Housewives, 2000s
Gabby Solis is perhaps the most unlikely mother on this list. Armed with a designer fashion sense (not to mention, what she calls “an amazing bone structure”) and a taste for the finer things in life, Gabby began the series as a vapid former model who definitely was not looking forward to adding “mother” to her resume. Despite her materialistic attitude, when Gabi eventually does have children, she is shown to be a strong, independent, and protective mother, keeping the household afloat when her husband is incapacitated. Perhaps what makes her the most unique on this list is how much the role of motherhood changes her and how much she learns from her two daughters, even as she is busy teaching them important life lessons as well. However, what makes her most memorable is her hilarious (and bold) sense of humor and her willingness to say what others are thinking, even—especially—when she shouldn’t.
Jessica Huang, Fresh off the Boat, 2010s
A practical kind of gal, Jessica Huang believes in tough love and frugality. The matriarch of the Huang family, she and her husband Louis own a restaurant, and much of the show revolves around the parent’s reconciliation of their Eastern principals with many of the Western ideals and surroundings they are raising their children in. Not only does Jessica provide many of the one–liners and zingers of the show, she’s also the grounding figure of the household and the one who keeps her husband’s ideas from getting too far–fetched.