Michael Ansell/ABC
Motherhood Gets Real On These Shows

by Chrissy Bobic

About half the time, TV moms glamorize parenthood and make it seem a lot easier or more light-hearted than it actually is. Luckily, there are some truly honest portrayals of motherhood on TV that most moms can relate to. In order to stay sane, sometimes it’s these portrayals we need the most. As a mom, I’ve done what all great moms do and have learned as I go. I’ve followed my intuition and have done my best to not let my fears and concerns get the best of me. But this is real life and as a mom, I also know all too well the art of second guessing yourself, worrying whether or not you’re raising your child the right way, and hoping that they’ll grow up to be rich enough to take care of you in your old age.

Once upon a time, I may have related to a different sort of character on TV, but these days, I can no longer watch children get hurt or grow up and leave home without bawling my eyes out — and I have my own child and TV to thank for that. But because there are a ton of amazingly realistic portrayals of moms on TV right now, I don't have to feel like a sometimes paranoid, stressed out emotional mess of a mom. Or, I can, but at least I’m not alone.

'American Housewife'

When American Housewife premiered in 2016, it was like a breath of fresh air for moms who not only have their own personal issues to worry about, but also raising a family at the same time. Katie Otto is a suburban mom who doesn't really fit in with the rest of the country club-goers of her neighborhood, but she somehow always finds a way to relate to her kids.

'The Goldbergs'

Whether it’s a good or bad thing, I have come to the conclusion that Beverly Goldberg is the mom I am slowly becoming. She loves her children to a fault, but every time she gives any of them an extra tight or extra long hug, I can see myself doing the same once my toddler gets a little older and no longer looks forward to Saturday morning snuggles. For Beverly, her life has been caring for her kids and for some moms, that’s accurate, so wanting to continue to be their life line and favorite person in the world is only natural.

'The Handmaid’s Tale'

Our society may or may not be on the way to becoming a Gilead of its own, but its June’s drive as a mother that really gets to me every time I watch The Handmaid’s Tale. Her devastation at having her daughter ripped from her arms and desperation to keep her other child safe seem so very real that it’s honestly hard for me to watch some of these scenes more than once. But in other ways, motherhood on The Handmaid’s Tale is also so honest and raw. Like when June’s daughter was hospitalized with a fever and June was judged for being a working mother.


Showtime’s SMILF is loosely based on Frankie Shaw’s own life as a young mom trying to stay afloat and make something of herself while raising a son on her own and dealing with her toddler’s father. Frankie’s struggle in general is so easy to relate to and so realistic, as it doesn't sugarcoat anything or give quick fixes to her problems by the end of each episode.

'This Is Us'

Admittedly, This Is Us centers around the relationship of the patriarch of the Pearson family and his children more than anything. But Mandy Moore’s Rebecca is the mom who stands beside him to raise their brood and does so alone as they embark on adulthood later on. One of the important arcs for her character, though, is when she tries to have something of a singing career.

At one point, she has to drive back home because of Jack’s drinking and during their big blowup, she says that her life had been raising their children and that she wanted something for herself. As a mom, I can't relate enough to that sentiment. I love being a mom, but it’s also important to be able to maintain your own identity even when you’re a parent.

'Better Things'

Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K. created the comedy series for FX, which follows Adlon, a divorced mother of three, as she raises her children alone and navigates through motherhood in her own way. It’s a brutally honest portrayal of motherhood and of a working mom who — like the rest of us — is kind of making it up as she goes along.


Parenthood is no longer on TV, but it’s still one of my all time favorite TV shows, particularly because of all of the parental relationships. Kristina Braverman specifically goes through the struggle of caring for and protecting her son as he deals with the social complications of having Asperger’s Syndrome. Then there’s Sarah Braverman, a single mom whose complex relationship with both of her children is challenged throughout the series.

'The Letdown'

If you’ve ever been a new mom in a mommy group, then you probably feel as though The Letdown has been secretly filming you for the first year of your baby’s life. The show follows a new mom and her mommy group who meets weekly and have different views of what’s "right" as far as motherhood is concerned. Honestly, I have people who aren’t even moms commenting on my parenting choices, so that is all too real for me.

As long as you’re doing what’s right for your child and caring for them in the best way you know how, then there’s really no “wrong” way to parent, but more often than not, someone will try to convince you otherwise. Luckily, there are enough realistic portrayals of motherhood on TV so we don't have to feel so alone or judged and that’s all we can really hope for.