TV moms mirror our own
They’ve healed our scraped knees, wiped our tears away, and eased the pain of our emotional scars.
They’ve cheered us on and scolded us when we needed to realize the errors of our ways.
Some are still with us, while others are now just a memory.
They are our moms.
Some of the most recognizable names in television history have portrayed them so brilliantly that we’ve watched our own mothers, time and again, in one or more of their performances over the past six decades.
They are the TV moms we all grew up with.
Ask any baby boomer who his or her all-time favorite TV mom is and the names June Cleaver, Margaret Anderson, and Donna Reed immediately fly from their lips.
The archetypal suburban mothers of the 1950s showed us the presumed perfection of motherhood by cleaning their homes wearing pearls and high heels, having dinner on the table by 5 p.m., and tucking their well-behaved children in at night with a kiss and a smile.
The moral and emotional center of the family, they helped the fathers of their children deliver a life lesson at the end of each episode.
Fifty-seven-year-old Judy D’Antonio of South Deerfield said her all-time favorite TV mom is June Cleaver of “Leave It To Beaver” fame.
“She was my fantasy mom,” said D’Antonio, who was raised with her four brothers by her mother Charlotte Robinson, after her father died unexpectedly when she was just 8 years old.
“I always dreamed of growing up with the white picket fence and the mother waiting with cookies and milk after school,” said D’Antonio. “That didn’t happen.”
Instead, she said her mother had to work to support the family.
“She was a great mother,” said D’Antonio. “She taught all of us to be independent, and that ended up being very important in life.”
D’Antonio lost her mom several years ago, but said she still thinks about her and the lessons she taught quite often.
D’Antonio admits that though June Cleaver was her “dream mother,” her three grown children would not see many similarities between their mom and the TV mom.
I lost my mom, Mary Fritz, almost two years ago.
She came from the June Cleaver generation and reminded me so much of her and all of the 1950s TV mothers.
Mom was always dressed beautifully, wore makeup and never had a hair out of place. As a child I wondered how she got all of the housework done, while remaining picture perfect in her appearance.
We ate a hot, healthy meal at just after 5 each evening, when my father returned from work. She never would have dreamed of serving a sandwich at supper.
She let my dad do the disciplining, though I’m sure neither my sister nor I would have wanted to tangle with her when she got mad.
I think I enjoyed watching the TV moms of the 1950s so much, because they made me feel I was at home.
The image of perfection prevailed throughout most of the 1960s, with mothers like Samantha Stevens, Carol Brady and Lily Munster, backbones of their families, doing what they did quietly while they stood behind their men, deferring to them, in most cases, to hand out punishment to the children.
Moms in the 1960s were still, with perky joy, raising sweet little girls and well-behaved boys.
It was in the 1970s that things started to change and we saw a break from the previous stereotype.
We met Ann Romano, a woman raising two teenage daughters, while holding down a job and finding time to date.
At the same time, Alice Hyatt, a widow who had moved with her young son to start life over, was working in a diner and raising her son with the help of friends. She also found time to date now and then.
Mothers were starting to be seen as not just moms, but as women who wanted to pursue careers and other interests. We were also starting to get a glimpse of their flaws.
It was in the 1980s that it became rare to find a stay-at-home TV mom — they were women who wanted it all.
Claire Huxtable made working as a lawyer, while raising five children, look easy, and Elyse Keaton became a role model for husband-wife teamwork as she worked as an architect by day, and played a much bigger role in teaching and disciplining her children than her predecessors had done.
And who could forget the outspoken, straight-shooting mom who showed us just how imperfect family life really is? It was Roseanne Conner.
Roseanne made all of us who were raising children at that time feel very good about ourselves.
My oldest son, Daniel Abrahamson, 32, of South Deerfield, told me his all-time favorite TV mom is Claire Huxtable of The Cosby Show.
“She was witty and clever and always there for her kids,” he told me. “She was a caring mother who taught her kids lessons.”
He said that he likes that she was the calm, centered parent to her husband’s hothead.
“She reminds me a lot of you,” he said, which is one of the best compliments I could have hoped for from my child.
Roseanne and all of her flaws took us into the 1990s, where we met Jill Taylor, Annie Camden and Debra Barone, three women who had a say in everything that went on in their households.
My 29-year-old son Jeremy Abrahamson of South Hadley told me his all-time favorite TV mom is Estelle Costanza, the overbearing, obnoxious mother who spent most of her time screeching at her husband and son on the hit comedy “Seinfield.”
“I just really like her,” he said — he tends to be the child of mine who leans toward unconventional and obnoxious.
He said the only similarity he can see in Estelle and me is a coddling nature toward our grown children.
I confess that I do have that tendency.
Women over the past 13 years have been everything from unconventional to single mothers to their child’s best friend.
Lorelai Gilmore was a working mother who raised a teenage daughter on her own after getting pregnant when she was just 16, so we basically watched her grow up with her daughter.
Reba Hart, the fiery redhead who got a divorce from her husband and ended up being friends with him and his new wife.
She raised three children, just down the street from her ex, including one who got pregnant and married in her teens.
Reba not only held her own family together, but her ex’s new family as well.
My 27-year-old daughter Christina Williams of Montague said her all-time favorite TV mom is Reba, because she’s temperamental and sarcastic, but also kind and caring, just like me.
“She was funny and had to deal with a lot of strange situations,” my daughter said. “She always came out on top, though, and in the end she didn’t let things bother her too much. She was always there for her kids, who were kind of goofballs and difficult to deal with at times.”
She said she sees similarities in Reba’s and my parenting styles as she watches reruns.
I personally relate most to Lorelai Gilmore, because as a mother, I’ve always attempted to impart the wisdom of my years, but I’ve also tried to balance that by offering them friendship.
Not long ago, I told my daughter I envied Lorelai’s relationship with her daughter Rory and wished that she and I had a similar relationship.
As I made my way through my “Gilmore Girls” box set, I realized that we do have that relationship — and more. I told my daughter and she just smiled.
So, there you have it.
You have probably seen your mom at least once here. She may have been a little overprotective or overbearing. She may have been a little too involved in your life, or maybe she was not as involved as you would have liked. But, she’s still your mom.
If nothing else, I’m guessing she did the best she could have throughout the years.
Take a moment this weekend and tell her how you feel. I’ll bet she isn’t waiting for a gift, but rather a little recognition and a lot of love from the person or people she cares most for in this world.
Happy Mother’s Day to all.