Displaying motherhood on TV often comes with an ideal version of parenting, including home cooked meals every night, freshly pressed laundry every day, and a full face of make up each morning. In reality, being a mom can feel like a thankless, never-ending battle to keep your head above water with hopes that you’re doing something right for your kids along the way.
Thankfully, in recent years TV has begun to show a more relateable and realistic look at motherhood. It’s wonderful, yes, but motherhood can be messy and difficult and sometimes all these things at the same time. Here are TV shows that are keeping it real for moms.
Who: Bridgette Bird
Where: Boston, MA
Why We Love Her: The superstar SMILF is single mom Bridgette Bird, who is balancing a toddler, working as a tutor and trying to make it as an actress. As if that weren’t enough to deal with, Bridgette still harbors feelings for her ex and is trying to keep her relationship with her mother (Rosie O’Donnell) civil, for the sake of her son. Being a mom and struggling to make ends meet doesn’t mean that Bridgette can, or has to, turn off the other parts of herself, like her desire to be in a healthy relationship or have some ‘me’ time. SMILF also takes a more realistic look at motherhood, like mismatched bedding, cereal for dinner, and using paper towels when there are no clean towels.
Best Mom Line: “Mom, he’s a great dad, he does bedtime every night.”
Who: Roseanne Connor
Where: Lanford, IL
Why We Love Her: Comedian Roseanne Barr fought with TV execs to make her groundbreaking comedy that dared to show middle class families dealing with real issues, like unemployment, depression, and surviving teenagers. Paving the way for other shows, Roseanne was never Mrs. Cleaver and that’s why we loved her.
Best Mom Line: “Oh, honey. You’re gonna make it. You’ll survive this horrible moment and grow up and have horrible moments with your own kids.”
BIG LITTLE LIES
Who: Madeline Mackenzie
Where: Monterey, CA
Why We Love Her: Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of stay at home mom Madeline on HBO’s Big Little Lies could have been a one-note character, with her stunning home and supportive husband making her life look perfect. But instead, Witherspoon’s Madeline didn’t have it all together. Her first husband left her for someone younger, her teenage daughter is rebelling against her mother in every way possible, and she’s trying to hold her marriage together after having an affair. She has rich mom problems, but also relateable mom problems.
Best Mom Line: “Sometimes I’m just holding onto this idea of perfection so tight, something has to give.”
THIS IS US
Who: Rebecca Pearson
Where: Pittsburgh, PA
Why We Love Her: Our admiration for Rebecca started from inception, because any woman that carries three babies at one time is a bona fide super hero. After losing one child, Rebecca opened her heart and home to adopt a young boy who was left at a fire station. Some of her kids worship her and some resent her, but she never stops trying to be the best mom to all three kids and really, what more can you ask for from a mom role model?
Best Mom Line: “How can I leave them, Jack? Kevin’s having sex, Randall’s giving himself stress ulcers, Kate is… I don’t even know what Kate’s doing, but she’s wearing a ton of eyeliner, so that can’t be good.”
Who: Mary Cooper
Where: East Texas
Why We Love Her: Dealing with three children is a lot on any day, but throw in a son that is both brilliant and has social anxieties and it’s a lot for any parent to handle. Yet Mary manages to hold onto her religious convictions while also letting her child explore his own beliefs. She also knows that some battles, like letting your kid wear a bowtie to school, aren’t worth fighting.
Best Mom Line: “Lord, look after my son. Don’t let him get stuffed in a gym bag.”
Who: Sharon Morris
Why We Love Her: Created by comedians Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, Catastrophe is a show built on accidents that turn out mostly positively, which is essentially parenting. After accidentally getting pregnant and deciding to make a relationship work, Horgan’s Morris becomes a mother and wife who manages to hang onto her humour and her sense of reality (kids are great, but they’re also jerks).
Best Mom Line: “Like, God is the best friend of a lazy parent. ‘Why is the sun yellow?’ ‘God’s favourite colour is yellow.'”
Who: Lorelai Gilmore
Where: Stars Hollow, CT
Why We Love Her: Lorelai’s close relationship with her daughter Rory is something that most moms dream of, but their relationship sometimes crossed the line to friendship, which led to tense moments. Still, when Rory messed up, Lorelai was there to catch her and teach her to take responsibility, even if it meant losing her daughter to her parents for a few, dark months. In all fairness to Rory, it was a nice pool house.
Best Mom Line: “I just want you to remember three things while you’re sitting up there. I love you. You’re the greatest kid in the world. And you’re in a skirt, keep your knees closed.”
FRESH OFF THE BOAT
Who: Jessica Huang
Where: Orlando, FL
Why We Love Her: The Huangs spend their lives trying to navigate a culture where they’re almost always considered outsiders, but don’t tell Jessica Huang. She knows where she belongs and she’s not going to let anyone tell her otherwise, giving her kids a shining example of how to stand up for yourself and fight for what you want. Even if that means having to fight your own family sometimes.
Best Mom Line: “I don’t have to say ‘I’m sorry’ to him, Louis. I gave birth to him.”
Who: Helen Solloway
Where: New York, NY
Why We Love Her: When her husband decides to have an affair and blow up their family, it’s Helen who’s left to look after the couple’s four children and try to navigate their new normal. With child rearing often falling on the mother, Helen must take on more than most parents can handle, with four different children needing very different types of support. She doesn’t always do the right thing and her kids don’t turn out perfectly, but it’s nice to know you’re not the only one messing up.
Best Mom Line: “Why do you get to f*** up and I don’t?”
Who: Marge Simpson
Why We Love Her: It can’t be easy to be a mom to three kids and wife to an even bigger kid, but Marge Simpson has been doing it with grace, humor, and orange pearls for 29 seasons. She manages to give support to three very different children, while bearing the brunt of the child rearing in her house. It’s not always easy to raise a feminist with a husband that does, well, nothing, but Marge manages to put her kids first and even find a little time for herself.
Best Mom Line: “Lisa’s growing up. It’s a really complicated time in girl’s life from age eight to…actually, all the rest of the way.”
Who: Sam Fox
Where: Hollywood, CA
Why We Love Her: Writer and actor Pamela Adlon pulled from her real life to create Better Things, a series that focuses on a single mom raising three daughters while navigating Hollywood. It sounds like another Real Housewife series, but Aldon’s Fox stumbles and succeeds through real motherhood issues, like dealing with your teenager dating someone much older while also supporting a child with gender identity issues.
Best Mom Line: “No. I’m dating my daughters. They’re my love life.”
New episodes of SMILF Season 1 stream Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET on CraveTV, day-and-date with SHOWTIME in the U.S.