Being a mom is equal parts challenging and rewarding. While you don’t have to give birth for those maternal instincts to kick in, not every woman is instantly a great mother. There will be bumps along the way as they love and nurture their kids while guiding them toward achieving their potential. But is there anything more satisfying than watching it unravel on screen? Maybe not.
Women are held to the most unrealistic standards, and we forget that, like their kids, moms are human, imperfect, and will make mistakes. While there isn’t a handbook or a single definition of motherhood, these are some of television’s most shining examples of motherhood to inspire and admire.
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Penelope Alvarez, One Day at a Time
Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado) is one of the most multifaceted mothers on the small screen. She is an army veteran who worked as a medic in Afghanistan, a nurse, a daughter to a very spirited Cuban mother, and single mom to Elena and Alex. First and foremost, she is supportive of her kids, and when she doesn’t fully understand something, she looks for ways to educate herself. She talks to her kids and doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, whether it’s her daughter coming out as a lesbian, or her son dabbling in drugs. Most of all, she’s created a home filled with love.
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Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights
Tami Taylor (Connie Britton) is not only a mom to daughters Julie and Gracie Belle, but she’s also a mother figure to many of the teens at Dillon High. In her work as a guidance counsellor, she helps some of the students realize their potential and aspire for greatness. Tami is patient and understanding, yet also firm. She also doesn’t shy away from having an honest conversation with her teen daughter about sex. While her husband, Coach Taylor, is celebrated for leading his team to winning on the football field, she needs to be celebrated for leading her family and the people of Dillon to winning at life.
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Rainbow Johnson, black-ish
Dr. Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross) is an anaesthesiologist and mother of five kids. Although she has a demanding job, she is there for her kids – even if it's only to help them pull off an elaborate prank. Following the birth of Bow and Dre’s fifth child, she starts to show signs of postpartum depression, but instead of the family falling apart, they come together armed with the skills she’s given them. One of the most important messages communicated through this character is that a woman is not a failure in her career if she chooses to take some time to be a stay at home mother.
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Stef and Lena Adams-Foster, The Fosters
Stef and Lena’s (Teri Polo and Sherri Saum) family started with Brandon, Stef’s son from her first marriage, and grew as they adopted Jesus, Mariana, Callie and Jude. They created a loving home where their kids were nurtured and encouraged to do their absolute best. They raised their kids to learn from their mistakes, never hide their true selves, admit when they’re wrong, and fight for what they believe in – traits that are embodied by both moms.
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Jane Villanueva, Jane the Virgin
She may have been accidentally artificially inseminated during a routine check-up, but Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) embraced motherhood with her entire heart and soul. Whether her son, Mateo, was kidnapped by evil criminal masterminds or was contending with challenges at school, Jane was always in his corner. At times, she definitely had blinders on to Mateo’s actions and behaviours, but once he was diagnosed with ADHD, her persistence and determination proved helpful in finding ways to adapt.
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Joyce Byers, Stranger Things
Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) didn’t give up when her son, Will, went missing. She didn’t even give up when they told her he was dead. She transformed her living room into a creepy display of Christmas lights when she discovered he was communicating with her from another dimension. Her strong beliefs and refusal to accept the lie she was being fed paid off when her son was rescued from the Upside Down. Will’s troubles are far from over, but Joyce will literally fight the monsters lurking around Hawkins to protect her boy.
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Beth Pearson, This is Us
There are many reasons why Beth Pearson (Susan Kelechi Watson) is the best mom on This is Us, but her sense of humour and ability to get straight to the point are two of her strongest qualities. While she’s firmly grounded in reality, she can reconnect with a childhood dream and rekindle a passion that she thought was long gone, and that sets a great example for her daughters. Whether she’s helping the kids understand the passing of a loved one or learning that one of her girls is questioning her sexuality, Beth handles it with love and compassion.
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Blanca Evangelista, Pose
There is a very good reason that Blanca (MJ Rodriguez) was named “Mother of the Year” at the end of Pose's first season. She provides a home to youth who have been rejected by their families. She fights for her children, believes in them, and encourages them to live their best lives. The House of Evangelista is so much more than a group of people competing in the NYC balls. Blanca helps these young people realize that they are not defined by the families they were born into, but rather the strong bonds of their found family.
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Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls
Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) rarely takes the easy path. She left the world of wealth and privilege that she was raised in, and at 16, gave birth to her daughter, Rory. She was a maid at the Independence Inn in the small town of Stars Hollow and eventually became the manager, raising her daughter to value hard work and perseverance. Lorelai is by no means a perfect mother – often acting more like an older sister or best friend to Rory – but when it comes right down to it, she is her daughter’s fiercest champion and supporter.
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Jessica Huang, Fresh Off the Boat
While she may seem a bit severe at times, Jessica Huang (Constance Wu) is a loving mother. She doesn’t believe in coddling her sons but knows when to step in and defend them against bullies or discrimination. She doesn’t only expect greatness from the boys, but also expects it from herself at all times. Beneath the tough love and overachieving veneer is a mom who cares deeply for kids and wants only the best for them.
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Carol Brady, The Brady Bunch
Without a doubt, Carol Brady (Florence Henderson) is one of TV history’s most iconic mothers. When she married Mike, she took it upon herself to integrate her daughters and his sons with ease and understanding. She is nurturing and caring with all of her kids, but she’s not a pushover. She advises them to embrace their strengths and not dwell on their failures. Motherhood may look easy for Carol, but she was always honest about how hectic and demanding it can be.
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Vivian Banks, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
Vivian Banks or 'Aunt Viv' (Janet Hubert) really was the heart of the Banks family. Not only did she support her own three kids, but in many ways she became a second mother to Will. She was always there to keep her husband in line, and while sometimes she was strict, it was always coming from a place of love. She never wavered in her desire for her family members to be the best versions of themselves.
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Mindy Lahiri, The Mindy Project
Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) was always a quirky and fun mom who worked hard while still putting her son Leo first. While Mindy may have started off as a whimsical, fast-talking character in search of love, when she became a mother to Leo she was forced to grow up start making decisions with not only herself in mind. She pivoted from focusing only on herself and her career, to becoming a proud working mother who cared deeply for her son while still having a thriving career in medicine.
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Yong-mi Kim, Kim’s Convenience
Yong-mi Kim, better known as Umma (Jean Yoon) is an extremely caring mom — sometimes too caring. Although she often gets pulled into different hijinks at the family's store, she always has time to be everyone's biggest cheerleader. From celebrating Janet's photography to displaying a cardboard cutout of Jung, Umma is the glue in the Kim family that wants everyone to get along.
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Jean Milburn, Sex Education
Dr. Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson) is definitely an unconventional mom. As a sex therapist, she is constantly embarrassing her son Otis by encouraging him to explore his sexual identity. While she may sometimes butt heads with Otis, she tries hard to be there for him at home and at school. As an independent single mom, she is always standing up for herself which sometimes rubs the men around her the wrong way, but she always attempts to set a good example for her son.
Related: 21 sex myths everyone thinks are true.