21 Awesome TV Moms

Whether expertly explaining the birds and the bees, being a shoulder to cry on, or ... riding her dragons, these moms inspire the hell out of us.

BETTER THINGS "Sam/Pilot" Episode 1 (Airs Thursday, September 8, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: (L-R) Pamela Adlon as Sam, Olivia Edward as Duke (photo: Colleen Hayes/FX)

Defining what makes a mom great is a complicated undertaking. No mother — or human, for that matter — is perfect all the time. Keeping that in mind and in honor of Mother’s Day, Rotten Tomatoes made a list of some of our favorite fictional TV moms.

We’ve included some obvious recent choices like characters from Jane the Virgin and Parenthood — programs that, in their very premise, address the concept of parentage and what that means to different people. We’ve also included older series like Leave It to Beaver — series that may not seem as relevant in a world in which many moms juggle career with home life, but that still shaped the role for a generation of viewers. And there are also shows that aren’t necessarily about motherhood all the time, but have certainly offered some thoughts on the subject; Game of Thrones’ Daenerys Targaryen, for example, will fiercely protect and avenge her “children,” and Catelyn Stark made the ultimate sacrifice in doing so. (No, Cersei — just no.)

One thing’s true for all of these shows: These characters may not be the best moms all the time, but their imperfections sometimes make them best in the role.


Tami Taylor (Connie Britton)
Friday Night Lights 97%

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS -- Season 1 -- Pictured: Connie Britton as Tami Taylor (Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

(Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

It wasn’t just that Tami Taylor was a great mom to two her daughters — which she most certainly was — but she was also the de facto parent for so many other kids in Dillon, Texas, when they needed advice on everything from how to handle colleges or their own parents or even more serious issues.


Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez)
Jane The Virgin 100%

Jane the Virgin - Gina Rodriguez (The CW)

(Photo by The CW)

It may not have been Jane Villanueva’s plan to have a kid when she was still a virgin — especially since she was artificially inseminated with her old crush’s sample — but it turned out that she’s  pretty good at it. Probably because she had such great role models in her mom, Xiomara (Andrea Navedo), and grandmother, Alba (Ivonne Coll).


Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross)
black-ish 92%


(Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless)

One of Dr. Rainbow Johnson’s greatest acts is her ability to talk to her kids like adults and put them first even when she’s going through her own stuff (like, say, when her marriage is falling apart).


Sharon Morris (Sharon Horgan)
Catastrophe 98%

Catastrophe (Amazon Prime)

(Photo by Amazon Prime)

The circumstances under which Sharon and Rob (Rob Delaney) accidentally became parents and partners could have been catastrophic (one-night stands can have that effect on people’s lives), but she’s handled issues like redefining herself after children and fighting with a spouse in front of the kids with impeccable comic timing.


Penelope Riera Alvarez (Justina Machado)
One Day at a Time 99%

One Day At A Time (Mike Yarish/Netflix)

Penelope Riera Alvarez leads an exceedingly stressful life. A war veteran coping with her own issues of depression and anxiety, she’s also a nurse to a fairly incompetent doctor (Stephen Tobolowsky) and lives with her extremely vivacious mother (Rita Moreno). But she always has time for her kids.


Clair Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad)
The Cosby Show

THE COSBY SHOW, Phylicia Rashad, Raven-Symone, Yr.7, 1990-1991. (c)Carsey-Werner Co. Courtesy: Everett Collection.

The epitome of “having it all” just as the phrase was permeating the lexicon, Clair Huxtable was a successful attorney, a mother of five, and a patient saint who was able to keep up with her family’s antics.


Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham)
Gilmore Girls 85%

GILMORE GIRLS - Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel (Saeed Adyani/Netflix)

Lorelai Gilmore is there for her daughter Rory’s (Alexis Bledel) many, many mistakes with a smile and a quick-witted pop culture reference. In fact, she loves her so much that she’ll even attempt to play nice with her own mother, Emily (Kelly Bishop), no matter how infuriating those encounters can be.


Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley)
Game of Thrones 89%

Game of Thrones moms: Daenerys, Catelyn, Cersei (HBO)

Daenerys might be the Mother of Dragons, but she also feels a maternal duty toward her ever-increasing army of soldiers and followers. Catelyn Stark’s final act was a (failed) attempt to protect her first born. And then there’s, erm, Cersei (Lena Headey). Say what you will, the woman loved her children — mostly. Bye, Tommen!


Sam Fox (Pamela Adlon)
Better Things 97%

BETTER THINGS -- Pictured: (l-r) Pamela Adlon as Sam Fox, Olivia Edward Duke, Hannah Alligood as Frankie, Mikey Madison as Max. CR: Pamela Littky/FX

Single mom and working actress Sam Fox knows she doesn’t always have a good work-life balance. But she’s raising three kids who don’t begrudge her for it and that says something.


Nora Walker (Sally Field)
Brothers & Sisters 79%

Brothers & Sisters - Sally Field (ABC)

Sally Field, who played matriarch Nora Walker in this long-running series, said it best when she accepted an Emmy award for this part: “If mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamn wars in the first place.”


Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore), Beth Pearson (Susan Kelechi Watson)
This Is Us 93%

This Is Us - Mandy Moore, Lonnie Chavis; Susan Kelechi Watson, Lyric Ross (Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

We know that Rebecca Pearson had a strong better half in her husband, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) when it came to the emotional support necessary for raising triplets. But it’s how strong Rebecca had to become after Jack’s untimely death that proves she should not be underestimated. The series’ other standout mom is smart, successful, and sympathetic Beth Pearson.


Debra Barone (Patricia Heaton)
Everybody Loves Raymond

EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, Patricia Heaton, 1996-2005, © CBS / Courtesy: Everett Collection

That stereotype that housewives sit on the couch and watch soaps everyday? It doesn’t apply to Debra Barone. She’s relatable because she’s as overworked and stressed out as the rest of us. Plus, she has to put up with her meddling mother-in-law, Marie (Doris Roberts).


Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter)
Family Ties

FAMILY TIES, Meredith Baxter (aka Meredith Baxter Birney), 1982-89, © NBC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

How did a feminist, free-thinking mom like Elyse Keaton end up with such materialistic and conservative kids? It’s a sign of the times and she made the most of it.


Jessica Huang (Constance Wu)
Fresh Off the Boat 94%

FRESH OFF THE BOAT -Do You Hear What I Hear? - As head of the HOA Christmas committee, Jessica threatens to cut the neighborhood caroling this year due to last year's rocky performance. TUESDAY, DEC. 12 (8:30-9:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Richard Cartwright) CONSTANCE WU

Like many immigrants, Jessica Huang wants her kids to be successful Americans and remember their roots. And if she has to be a stern pragmatist to get them there, then so be it.


Marion Cunningham (Marion Ross)
Happy Days

HAPPY DAYS, Marion Ross, from the opening credits, 1974-1984.©Paramount / Courtesy: Everett Collection.

Who doesn’t love Mrs. C? Marion Cunningham was the caretaker and mother everyone wanted in their lives — even those like Fonzie (Henry Winkler) who may have been too cool to admit it.


Kristina Braverman (Monica Potter), Sarah Braverman (Lauren Graham)
Parenthood 88%

Parenthood's Monica Potter (NBC)

This TV remake of the Ron Howard movie was loaded with strong examples of motherhood — be it Monica Potter’s Kristina, who overcame cancer and also turned her worries about her son’s development into a career that would help similar kids, or Lauren Graham’s Sarah Braverman, who may not be so good at adulting herself, but who moves back home because that’s what’s best for her kids.


Harriet Nelson
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET, Ricky Nelson, Harriet Nelson, David Nelson, 1952-1966 (ABC)

Before the Kardashians or the Partridges, there was this long-running comedy in which singer Harriet Nelson played a version of herself as the perfect small-town housewife and mother (even if she was nothing like this in real life).


Linda Belcher (John Roberts)
Bob's Burgers

Bob's Burgers (Fox)

Wife, mother, and Tom Selleck fan Linda Belcher is husband Bob’s partner in life and at their restaurant. A little scatterbrained yes, but who can blame her? The lady hasn’t had a day off in years, and she has to put up with burger-themed puns.


Harriette Baines Winslow (Jo Marie Payton and, later, Judyann Elder)
Family Matters

FAMILY MATTERS, JoMarie Payton, 1989-1998. ©ABC/courtesy Everett Collection

Harriette Baines Winslow was proud to be a working mother with her own opinions. She was also patient enough to deal with Steve Urkel’s (Jaleel White) increasingly frequent visits.


June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley)
Leave It to Beaver

LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, (from left): Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow, 1957-63.

With her pearls and immaculate kitchen, June Cleaver was the archetype of nuclear family matriarchs who always managed to have a handle on her two sons. She eventually finds a life for herself outside of her family; the follow-up series The New Leave It to Beaver sees her as a member of the city’s council.


The Big Little Lies Tiger Mom Posse
Big Little Lies 89%

Big Little Lies stars Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Nicole Kidman (Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/courtesy of HBO)

If motherhood is about keeping your kids as innocent and safe for as long as possible, then all of the women on this miniseries deserve accolades. We’re especially impressed with characters like Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley) and Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman), who strove to keep their sons good even if genetics wasn’t working in their favor. The series also starred Reese Witherspoon as Madeline Martha Mackenzie, Laura Dern as Renata Klein, and Zoë Kravitz as stepmom Bonnie Carlson.

Tag Cloud

1990s disaster mockumentary robots trailers Pirates trophy independent USA parents Tokyo Olympics true crime posters dragons Television Academy Pop TV Shudder 2018 First Look Opinion NYCC reviews VOD justice league psychological thriller TCA Awards Mary Poppins Returns rt archives war comic book movies E3 Comic-Con@Home 2021 scorecard The Witch quibi Pet Sematary italian Sci-Fi GoT Exclusive Video batman Musicals President telelvision hispanic FXX NBC Sony Pictures ESPN video on demand Tubi hidden camera news SDCC festivals Academy Awards laika spanish language golden globes Masterpiece TCA Winter 2020 21st Century Fox Anna Paquin Universal Pictures Infographic docudrama nfl IMDb TV TBS Peacock kaiju Freeform child's play slasher Chilling Adventures of Sabrina SXSW new york talk show rt labs critics edition asian-american heist movie politics Television Critics Association political drama halloween tv crossover ABC football sequels dogs christmas movies remakes YouTube Red Hollywood Foreign Press Association spinoff Tags: Comedy toy story Toys Character Guide TIFF Valentine's Day Fantasy Marvel Television international art house Podcast unscripted cats LGBTQ Mindy Kaling rom-coms leaderboard universal monsters science fiction popular San Diego Comic-Con 72 Emmy Awards Lifetime Christmas movies monster movies Winners TV renewals 4/20 movies documentary Disney Plus Awards Tour wonder woman 93rd Oscars Esquire RT History Baby Yoda Mudbound Film AMC Plus japanese suspense Mary Tyler Moore A&E Best and Worst strong female leads Song of Ice and Fire 71st Emmy Awards Rocketman Tarantino spain BET Awards Alien DGA saw Reality YouTube Premium joker Awards Comedy Central See It Skip It IFC Trophy Talk screenings Premiere Dates Hear Us Out jamie lee curtis Crackle cinemax hispanic heritage month scene in color Year in Review MSNBC Nominations Red Carpet james bond 73rd Emmy Awards Film Festival Drama Video Games documentaries Country romance CNN Superheroes Epix Acorn TV TLC Lionsgate mob Oscars Columbia Pictures razzies Crunchyroll Prime Video YouTube zero dark thirty The Academy directors toronto worst Trailer TCA Starz natural history worst movies rotten movies we love boxoffice WarnerMedia 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Sundance Now period drama Chernobyl free movies Netflix finale Comics on TV GIFs Nickelodeon legend Martial Arts anime cooking ratings Sundance stand-up comedy BAFTA binge 24 frames Ghostbusters indie Winter TV boxing deadpool comedies miniseries Fox Searchlight NBA live event cops reboot chucky Spike award winner Syfy HBO Max Sundance TV Amazon Studios Lifetime Set visit genre technology venice Travel Channel sports slashers zombie Lucasfilm discovery biopic Musical Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Apple TV Plus 79th Golden Globes Awards cancelled TV series The Purge DC Comics best game show Fall TV casting crime drama comics kids blockbusters ghosts spider-man Box Office new zealand FX harry potter 20th Century Fox criterion streaming movies zombies Brie Larson Biopics Disney romantic comedy Amazon Prime action-comedy versus Disney streaming service Schedule The Walking Dead HBO stoner Reality Competition Mary poppins X-Men streaming biography Showtime obituary Comic Book VICE OneApp young adult teaser Pacific Islander Cartoon Network RT21 hist Summer Grammys breaking bad Dark Horse Comics PlayStation fast and furious Wes Anderson Watching Series nbcuniversal E! Western Captain marvel Apple TV+ psycho prank TV Land Music dexter Fox News Disney+ Disney Plus book adaptation marvel comics Black Mirror ITV crime thriller TruTV series ID new star wars movies video FX on Hulu sitcom archives halloween serial killer DC streaming service mutant Kids & Family travel Food Network australia dark GLAAD rotten lord of the rings godzilla DirecTV composers The CW comic books theme song 2015 Arrowverse superhero New York Comic Con green book social media TV movies festival YA book Paramount Network Legendary Discovery Channel tv talk foreign hollywood ABC Family Holidays 2017 critics Binge Guide Election ABC Signature Writers Guild of America indiana jones Pride Month Polls and Games singing competition Photos Tumblr BET twilight satire Pop mcc renewed TV shows Paramount sopranos police drama scary marvel cinematic universe Endgame die hard Emmy Nominations nature animated Bravo mission: impossible CMT gangster basketball Turner The Arrangement Emmys Broadway Certified Fresh Amazon Spectrum Originals Ovation movie cartoon comic Turner Classic Movies HBO Go Action PBS CW Seed DC Universe women critic resources 45 emmy awards Netflix Christmas movies royal family Superheroe APB dc films First Reviews high school Trivia CBS thriller TNT elevated horror Animation Marathons Stephen King medical drama anthology Logo Tomatazos cars diversity Horror docuseries supernatural Walt Disney Pictures cancelled TV shows Vudu olympics 2020 Thanksgiving Calendar The Walt Disney Company doctor who game of thrones Shondaland jurassic park Warner Bros. Amazon Prime Video Hallmark spider-verse VH1 cancelled dceu Universal 99% 2016 franchise Pixar Creative Arts Emmys based on movie werewolf adaptation spanish Hallmark Christmas movies Neflix feel good vs. TV target fresh all-time BBC Hulu television space Interview Super Bowl TV One dreamworks Star Wars Extras Christmas a nightmare on elm street debate black comedy IFC Films Comedy ViacomCBS 90s Family 2019 Rocky facebook revenge spy thriller witnail 2021 Star Trek Funimation AMC Image Comics Elton John Rom-Com south america blaxploitation TCA 2017 Marvel Cannes MTV Paramount Plus live action Cosplay know your critic Adult Swim vampires Spring TV Britbox A24 aliens kong comic book movie SundanceTV Black History Month American Society of Cinematographers Marvel Studios Nat Geo pirates of the caribbean king kong latino FOX black king arthur cancelled television Holiday Ellie Kemper OWN Disney Channel Mystery historical drama superman Quiz WGN HFPA BBC America Sneak Peek aapi PaleyFest transformers Fargo dramedy comiccon Rock Avengers crime LGBT canceled blockbuster screen actors guild BBC One Women's History Month japan canceled TV shows sequel concert golden globe awards scary movies El Rey name the review National Geographic History CBS All Access adenture children's TV Instagram Live sag awards Classic Film adventure rt labs Countdown Teen 007 Apple MCU cults what to watch stop motion french Heroines USA Network richard e. Grant TCM classics