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5 best TV moms of all time, ranked

The best TV moms of all time are the ones you wish you could welcome into your own family. Some are strict, unafraid to throw down the gauntlet, but all for your own good. Others are calm, cool, collected, and always level-headed, ready to offer support, guidance, and care whenever you need it.

These moms run the gamut, from funny to stone-faced, traditional to non-traditional, and span several decades of television.

5. June Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver)

A woman looks at her husband in Leave It to Beaver.
ABC

Considered the archetypal mother in a typical nuclear family of the 1950s, Leave it to Beaver‘s June Cleaver made kids who grew up in that era feel like she was their surrogate mom whenever they sat in front of the television to watch. Portrayed by Barbara Billingsley, June is fiercely dedicated to her family and is always there for her kids and husband when they need her.

She also has her own life, though, attending social events and tending to her various hobbies, like needlepoint and cake decorating. June never loses her cool, no matter what hijinks her kids get up to. She’s always ladylike, prim, and proper. But she’s no doormat: June makes sure her husband helps around the house and disciplines her children should they ever get out of line.

4. Penelope Alvarez (One Day at a Time)

A mom talks to her kids in One Day at a Time.
ONE DAY AT A TIME Netflix

A more recent TV mom character, Penelope (Justina Machado) is from the 2017 sitcom based on the original of the same name from 1975. She not only represents a Latina mother but also a war veteran, a single mother, and a woman suffering from PTSD. Despite all this, she raises her two children to be wonderful, caring human beings. With the help of her sassy mother, Lydia (Rita Moreno), Penelope struggles to balance life, bills, and obligations at work as a nurse.

No matter how busy she gets, however, Penelope is always there for her children to guide them through coming-of-age challenges, giving nothing but love and acceptance. While it’s a comedy, One Day At a Time (one of the best Netflix original series ever) touched on a lot of serious topics. But Penelope always came out looking like an idealistic mother who wasn’t dealt the best hand in life, but makes the best of her challenging situation.

3. Rebecca Pearson (This Is Us)

A grandmother smiles in This is Us.
Netflix

Fans had the unique opportunity to see This is Us‘ Rebecca Pearson through several decades of her life. It begins from the moment she becomes pregnant to her time raising her children through four decades, spending time with her grandchildren, and finally, as she deals with the tragic consequences of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Through every challenge and setback, from losing a child at birth to adopting a young Black boy, dealing with her husband’s drinking problem, and then suddenly losing her husband in a fire, Rebecca was always a mother first. She wasn’t afraid to admit her faults, and while she might have been invasive at times, it took the kids decades to realize all their mother did for them. She truly cared, and everything she did was out of love.

2. Kitty Forman (That ‘70s Show)

Kitty Foreman smiling, her hands to her face in a scene from That '90s Show.
Netflix

A bit different from the other best moms on television, Kitty is a unique one in that she is not only a mother to her own two children but also a mother figure to all her sons’ friends who frequently drop by to hang out in the basement. She always made sure they had snacks and felt welcome, despite her surly husband Red’s distaste for so many guests.

Kitty eventually became a confidante to many of the kids who approached her with issues and questions, both in the original That ’70s Show series as well as the spin-off That ‘90s Show (as one of its most likable characters), where she reprises the role and opens her home to her granddaughter and her new friends. While Kitty always has an ear-to-ear smile and a sing-song tone with her high-pitched voice, she is not a mother that can be walked over. She will go to the ends of the earth for her kids, but if they wrong her, they won’t go without punishment.

1. Claire Huxtable (The Cosby Show)

A woman arches her eyebrow in The Cosby Show.
NBC

All it took was a simple tilt of the head, a raise of the eyebrows, and Claire Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad) would have any of her children (and their partners!), even her husband, shaking in their boots. She didn’t lash out in anger, however. She knew how to discipline with the right level of sternness and care. Balancing her career as a successful lawyer, Claire raised her kids alongside her equally successful doctor husband, Cliff (Bill Cosby), all the while making it look easy.

Claire was welcoming and kind, and she provided guidance for her children in a way that didn’t make them fear her but respect her. Claire is the ultimate sitcom mom and our pick for the best TV mother of all time.

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Christine Persaud
Christine has decades of experience in trade and consumer journalism. While she started her career writing exclusively about…
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