Once upon a time, television mothers tied aprons around their waist and smiled a lot. Their feet were planted squarely in the kitchen, and their lives revolved around their families. June Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver) and Margaret Nelson (Father Knows Best) never even expressed a desire to work outside the home. Of course, once upon a time, many real-life mothers lived that way, too.
Moms on the Move
Over the years, women’s roles have changed — in real life, and on TV. By the eighties, when working moms were a fact of life for much of the nation, television moms were also out in the workforce. Elyse Keaton (Family Ties) worked as an architect; Maggie Seaver (Growing Pains) had a great career as a television news reporter; and Claire Huxtable (The Cosby Show) was a high-powered attorney who thought nothing of leaving her obstetrician husband to care for the children while she worked late.
Exploring all Options
In the past decade, women have had exciting career options, on TV and in real life. Amy Brenneman (Judging Amy) takes a family court judgeship that forces her to confront the dynamics of other families and to measure herself against them. Lynette Scavo (Desperate Housewives) goes from stay-at-home mom to advertising executive to working in her husband’s pizza store. Her neighbor Susan works from home as a children’s book illustrator. Allison Dubois (Medium) works for the district attorney’s office — as a psychic.
Blue Collar Moms
The incredibly varied careers television moms choose reflect the general population. And because not all working moms drive SUVs and have housekeepers, TV moms reflect that reality, too. Roseanne Connor (Roseanne) worked on a factory assembly line earning minimum wage for long hours as well as several other blue collar jobs before she opened her own diner. Lois Wilkerson (Malcolm in the Middle) worked as a pharmacy clerk and tried really hard not to kill her kids (the latter probably counts as a part-time job).
Making it Work
Like real moms, TV moms do whatever it takes to put food on the table and give their kids a decent life. Just ask Nancy Botwin (Weeds) who finds herself unexpectedly widowed and struggling to make ends meet. To pay the bills, she deals marijuana to her well-off friends and neighbors. Too out there for you? Remember Carla (Cheers)? The mom of seven wasn’t ashamed to work as a waitress to keep her kids fed.
On television and in real life, working moms — like their stay-at-home sisters — don’t always have it easy. But sometimes, it’s fun to curl up on the couch and watch someone else juggle all those balls for a little while.