The sitcom mothers of the ’80s were a diverse group, representing a wide range of lifestyles. But whether working or staying at home, single or married, wealthy or working class, these ladies knew what it meant to be mothers. They packed lunches, climbed corporate ladders, solved problems, sat their kids down for “the talk,” and inspired all of us to dream bigger than we believed we could.
TV moms of the ’80s were in many ways similar to our own mothers. This made sense since they were, in large part, based on our mothers—modern, progressive women who had shaped our past and were changing our present. They were our role models as we played house and envisioned ourselves as mothers, wives, and adult women. In short, they were pioneers. Here are just a few that we’ll always love:
1. Elyse Keaton, Family Ties
Elyse was a successful architect who, at one time, was a part of the 1960s counterculture movement. This former flower child could also play guitar and sing a mean folk song. The woman who once preached peace had conflicting emotions as she tried to balance her career, her family, and her feminist ideologies. With each passing season, she proved to us that women could handle anything, just as she did with her later-in-life pregnancy—baby number four.
2. Roseanne Conner, Roseanne
Roseanne didn’t have a college education, but she worked hard. Her role as a working-class mom made her relatable. For many of us, she was the closest to real that any sitcom mother had ever managed to get. The Conner family often reminded us of our own. Roseanne and Dan’s marriage wasn’t always perfect, and her kids didn’t always behave, but still, her family survived as she took different jobs to pay the bills. Roseanne understood that it wasn’t really important to have it all, because sometimes having just what you needed was enough.
3. Clair Huxtable, The Cosby Show
Clair had it all—a job as a lawyer, where she was just as successful as her own doctor husband, and the respect and love of her five children. She was a strong, well-spoken, intelligent woman we could all look up to. And she was funny. Her sense of humor was the key to a parenting style many ’80s mothers tried to emulate. Clair was the mother we wanted our own mothers to be, and the sort we hoped we would someday become.
4. Norma Arnold, The Wonder Years
Norma, while an ’80s sitcom mom, portrayed a mother in the 1960s and ’70s. She showed us what it was like before and during the burgeoning women’s movement. This trailblazer went from doting and nurturing housewife to college student and, eventually, Ford executive. Her inspiring evolution demonstrated to all of us that labels need not define us, and that no matter the decade or circumstance, women could be or do anything they wanted.
5. Valerie Hogan, Valerie
Valerie was a working mother with three active boys and an airline pilot husband who traveled often. While a success, Valerie showed us that life as a mother and woman wasn’t always easy. She did her best to balance the hardships and joys of parenthood and marriage. Her attitude, more than many other ‘80s sitcom moms, reflected that of our own mothers, as she was frequently overwhelmed by the demands of modern motherhood. It wasn’t until we became mothers ourselves that we realized just how relatable she was.
6. Kate and Allie, Kate & Allie
This was a show about a pair of friends who moved in together after both divorced and had to start over. Their blended family consisted of the two women plus their three children who didn’t always get along. The way they surmounted their daily struggles made them our heroes. Kate and Allie were also very different from each other, a complete oddball couple, but they showed us what a healthy, adult female friendship is supposed to look like.
7. Ann Romano, One Day at a Time
Ann was a divorced, single mother raising her two teenage daughters in Indianapolis. She dealt with difficult issues with honesty and grace, though Ann also showed us what imperfect motherhood looked like. She taught us that, when it comes to parenthood, the answers aren’t always easy, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. Ann addressed controversial issues like birth control and sex head on. We admired her spunk, and now, as mothers, we understand her frustrations because we share many of the same ones.
8. Peg Bundy, Married With Children
Peg was truly one of a kind, a real firecracker. She made our own mothers seem downright conservative in comparison. She smoked, drank, talked openly about sex, and wore whatever the hell she wanted. Her lackadaisical parenting allowed for more time on the couch at her spot in front of the television. This wacky but wonderful mother loved her kids and her husband, we were sure, but she simply wasn’t the doting type. While she might not have set the most stellar parenting example, Mrs. Bundy sure did make us laugh, and we’ll never forget her.
9. Bev Goldberg, The Goldbergs
While technically not an ’80s sitcom mom, Bev is a 21st -century sitcom mom living in a 1980s world. Both crazy and protective, Bev is the original Smother, but her heart is in the right place. More busybody than helicopter parent, she is involved in every single aspect of her children’s lives. Bev reminds us of how much our mothers loved us and how often we took them for granted.