By Eliska Counce, TSB Columnist
It so totally should have been the other way around. Why wasn’t I a mom in the 1970s and a kid in the 2000’s? Back when I was a kid, during the “me” generation, when we were Up With People, and You Were OK and I Was OK and smiley faces were omnipresent, we children were treated like the non-income-generating resource consumers that we were.
Families were not nearly as child-centered back in the day. I had three babies during the 2000-2009 period, a time of Baby Einstein videos, attachment parenting, and the pressure to make your own organic baby food. I blame Clinton for the prosperity of the times, but I digress. My point? 1970s Moms drank and smoked their way through pregnancies and enjoyed hot dogs and stinky cheese. They dyed their hair with extreme prejudice and never, never did they have to experience the guilt of reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Good, good times.
Child-rearing was a totally different experience back in the day. In the 1970s, we who were children got away with behaviors that would make today’s mommy bloggers swoon: no helmets or pads! Rides in the back of Grandaddy’s pick-up truck with no five-point harnesses in sight! Sugar Smacks for breakfast! Every other meal of the day prepared in a microwave! Crisco was, if I am not mistaken, one of the four food groups then.
Also a feature of my 70s upbringing: unlimited television time, which was less of a boon when there were only three channels and two shows apiece a kid might want to see. You can only get so much mileage out of The Electric Company and Zoom, after all. But moms of the 1970s had no problem not being our favorite toys, even if that meant letting us watch whatever flickered across the pre-cable-days screen, a la Mad Men‘s Sally Draper. As a kid when things got dicey, you got sent out, mercifully, to watch TV, while the adults drank.
And so I largely grew up sitting in a dark room watching my beloved TV, being raised by my TV moms. Oh, I loved my TV moms. So flat, so two dimensional, so able to solve any problem her child had within the allotted half hour, a beautiful foil to their somehow always dumpy and hapless husbands: these were women to be admired.
They weren’t, of course, real, but I loved them and wished somehow I could vanish into their little sitcom worlds if only to be fictitiously raised by them for a only a little while. And so, and in honor of Mother’s Day, I am compelled to present you with a tribute to TV’s Best Moms Ever:
Edith Bunker. Oh, I still love to belt out “Those Were the Days” from All In the Family in my best Edith voice. Forever calm, loving, and unflappable, Mrs. Archie Bunker never did acquiesce to stifle herself. She was proud to put Archie’s dinner on the table for him and provide a foil for his bombast. No matter how offensive or borderline abusive Archie could get, Edith gave you the idea she used a stupid act to get away with being the smartest character in the room. And wasn’t Gloria a sweet kid? You know that was all Edith. Edith Bunker: one of the most patient mothers in all of TV history.
Carol Brady. Who couldn’t love The Brady Bunch‘s cool blonde Carol Brady? She had six kids, and they never had a fist fight that we saw, anyway. Carol was super mod with her sleek signature bob with the fringe and the mini-skirts and go-go boots she could rock. I envied her Alice, her ginormous split level house, and her hot architect hubby. Carol always loved the boys as her own, and you never doubted she would be able to advise a son about jock itch with just as much aplomb as when she counseled Jan through her broken nose and overshadowing by Marcia. Plus, her daughters always looked hot, too. How did she do it all?
Louise “Weezy” Jefferson. On The Jeffersons, Weezy dealt with another blowhard husband and the trials and tribulations of movin’ on up. Interestingly, Weezy really did seem to find George’s sawed-off hotheadedness…well, kind of hot. She and Florence were comedy gold. And she showed sensitivity and embraced diversity as she interacted with mixed-race couple Tom and Helen Willis. Trappings of money and success didn’t change Weezy either, or make her lose her street smarts. Weezy was a loving and patient mom to Lionel and had a heart of gold. She deserved a medal for her patience with George, and it never flagged. God bless you, Weezy.
Marion Cunningham. Oh, Mrs. C. Happy Days, indeed. Mrs. C welcomed a biker into her home and loved him like a Poindexter, the only one who dared to call Fonzie by his birth name, Arthur. She dressed like Donna Reed and cooked like Betty Crocker. She didn’t let Joanie grow up too quickly (although you know she and Chachi were hooking up). She was Ritchie’s calming influence, and she was surrogate mom to Ralph and Potsie. She, too, had a rather sardonic husband that just never seemed to take the lilt out of her voice. Marion is known for her witty comments, always-clean house, raising wholesome kids. When she wasn’t dancing with the Fonz.
Edna Garrett. While Edna Garrett did indeed have two sons of her own, it wasn’t her guidance of them that inspired my adoration of the Facts of Life mother figure. God knows what would have gone on at that Eastland Academy without her. I swear I think there was some sexual tension between Blair and Jo. But I digress. The best mothering quality Mrs. Garrett had was an uncanny ability to allow her blow-dried charges to make their mistakes and draw their own conclusions and lessons from the consequences of these decisions. Blair smoked a joint once, and Mrs. Garrett didn’t even cluck. Her calm management of all those females is to be admired too; I imagine once all those menstrual cycles synched up, that group made the Avengers look like sniveling wimps.
Peggy Bundy. I save my very favorite TV mom for last. On Married…With Children, the wife of shoe salesman Al refused to cook or clean for the family. I have loved her ever since she leaped to her feet at the sound of Al hitting the door. She’d drop her magazine and grab a vacuum, pretending she’d been working. Oh, my heroine Peggy, who drops cigarette butts in the salad. The hair! The heels! The tight pants! And despite her obvious dearth of parenting skills, Peggy still obviously loved her kids, even if she refused to feed them. And she was always nagging Al for sex. Peggy Bundy: unmasking mothers’ dark secrets. Who doesn’t love Peggy?
There they are, my very favorite TV moms. Happy Mother’s Day to them. And happy Mother’s Day to you, be you one or just born of one. Don’t worry if you don’t feel like the ideal mom to your kids, or if maybe you didn’t end up with an ideal mom yourself. All moms have their good points: you turned out pretty awesome, didn’t you? Enjoy the day. If you’re separated from your mom for some reason, don’t fret. Because any time you need mom? She’s right there for you, available in syndication.