Known for her trademark hair scrunchie, cardigan and leggings outfits, Barbara is a busy, hard-working mum of the Royle family who ensures for her loved ones there will be always a Sunday roast — all while her frankly lazy husband plonks himself in front of the telly. A loving mum to Denise and Antony, she always supports them 100% — and has a close bond with her daughter even though they’re opposites.
Peggy Mitchell, EastEnders
Played by the late, great Barbara Windsor, Peggy ran The Queen Vic like a well-oiled machine even when her family — aka her two sons, Phil and Grant, caused chaos all round her. Diminutive only in height, cockney Peggy ruled her domain like a queen herself and is famous for perhaps the best soap catchphrase ever: “Get out of my pub!”
The Kate Moss pretender
Edina Monsoon, Absolutely Fabulous
A rock ‘n’ roll wannabe who is just too cool for the school run, this PR operator extraordinaire with a list of high-profile clients is desperate to keep up with the trends and fashions she promotes and to stay young — even while partying hard. This infuriates sensible daughter Saffron — but it does produce classic comedy when she has sidekick Patsy at her side.
The Northern Irish mum
Ma Mary, Derry Girls
Aka Mary Quinn, Derry Girls’ tough-talking Ma, (Tara Lynne O’Neill) who is strong, house proud and often found herself dolling out harsh punishments thanks to the antics of daughter Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson) and niece Orla (Louisa Harland) — and the rest of the gang. Always ready with a sharp Derry retort — often directed at hubby Gerry or sister Sarah — Ma Mary at her heart, just loves her family.
The mum who never ages
Marge Simpson, The Simpsons
A quietly devoted wife and mum, who really is the epitome of a woman who has the patience of a saint having been married to Homer for nearly four decades, this mother has made blue rinses cool — a hipness only enhanced by her raspy voice. Marge is quite simply the type of mum who delivers the words ‘I’m disappointed’ and it would only leave her offspring devastated — and yes, Homer too.
The Sticking-it-to-the-patriarchy mother
Jackie Corkhill, Brookside
A tough, no-nonsense Liverpudlian matriarch, Jackie (Sue Jenkins) was the long-suffering wife of Jimmy Corkhill who dealt with some major heartbreak during her time on the Channel Four soap. Jackie was distraught when her son ‘Little Jimmy’ was murdered by drug dealers in 1996 after he fled France to escape his debts with them. Jackie, then in her 40s, later has a baby son called William. Although at one stage she reunited with Jimmy, the pair divorced and she left Brookside Close in 2001 for good.
Ma, Give My Head Peace
A celebrity-loving, cynical and sharp-tongued wife to Da, Ma tries to be an archetypal warm-hearted Northern Irish mum, but she quickly gets frustrated with her family. She takes no nonsense from Da, who regularly makes fun of her short stature, prompting her to call him a “lanky streak of p**s”, although underneath it all she wouldn’t want anyone else to be his significant other. Ultimately apolitical, Ma holds sectarianism in contempt and thus allows herself to be open to her Protestant in-laws (and whisper it: she also has a mild crush on Uncle Andy).
Tough cookie to crack
Cookie Lyon, Empire
Typifying the American dream, even if achieving it comes by criminal means, Cookie (played by Taraji P Henson) starts out life with little and then ends up co-founder of Empire Entertainment. Mum to three children, Andre, Jamal and youngest Hakeen, Cookie means business, and strove to ensure her kids would experience the best life has to offer. In the drug-dealing trade, her life’s about music, money and dodging the cops.
The sci-fi screen queen
Joyce Byers, Stranger Things
A mother who will fiercely protect her two sons, particularly youngest Will (Noah Schnapp), Joyce (played by Winona Ryder) is a hard-working single parent who just like other 1980s mums and dads, was accustomed to not knowing where their kids were every single second. But when her kids need her, she’s there — even when it’s fighting creatures from The Upside Down. And who can forget communicating with poor abducted Will via Christmas lights.
The loyal protector
Vivian Banks, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Anyone silly enough to mess with her family would have to answer with Aunt Viv, Will’s Fresh Prince relative who equally wasn’t afraid to call out her loved ones if they instigated problems. A balanced mix of tender and tough, viewers knew she’d do anything to ensure her children — and nephew — were happy and well looked after. She had a knack for wittily putting people in their place without seeming callous.
The household name
Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls
Lorelai and daughter Rory pretty much became household names in the early 2000s as they powered through life in Stars Hollow. Mum Lorelai tries to parent Rory in a way she didn’t have growing up. A significant part of the show concerns with that difference and how she’s doing her best at whatever parenting issues her life threw at her. She also strove to ensure Rory got the best education possible.
The ice queen
Betty Draper, Mad Men
The first Mrs Draper wasn’t exactly a maternal role model. After all, her worry when daughter Sally was running around the house with a plastic laundrette bag over her head was that she’d wrinkle the garment. Let’s not forget too when she visited Sally’s child psychiatrist in the hopes of being told about her daughter. Icy doesn’t even come into it.
The tough lover
Sophia Petrillo, The Golden Girls
Surely Sophia is the embodiment of a tough love mother. Yes, her delivery is pretty poor and her remarks strewn with harsh realities, but the most golden of the Golden Girls was almost always right. Which she loved. Never shying away from discussing taboo subjects, such as daughter Dorothy’s single status and Blanche’s love for men, she also affectionately referred to her offspring as ‘pussycat’.
Morticia Addams, The Addams Family
One thing is for sure, there’s no one quite like Morticia in the mothering states. Another loyal head of the household, Mrs Addams is supportive of her family’s predilections, whatever they may be. Let’s be honest, she did her job in ensuring her children upheld the Addams’ family way by keeping things from getting too pleasant. She praised her children for their individuality. Oh, and she rocked a look that was entirely her own.
Alexis Carrington Colby, Dynasty
Much like Betty Draper, Alexis wasn’t in the running of the Best Mum award but, well, she was unstoppable. Full to the brim with sass and style, there’s a reason why Rolling Stone ranked her one of the greatest TV villains of all time in 2016.
The revenge master
Catelyn Stark, Game of Thrones
A pillar of strength for her family, Catelyn was willing to do anything to keep her children safe. This is someone whose bad side you never wanted to get on. After all, she kidnapped and killed anyone she perceived to be a threat to her family. Moreover, she never stopped fighting. When it looked like the Lannisters were going to finish off Bran (after he was shoved out of a tower), Catelyn grabbed the blade to stop an assassin. Oh, and she punched Jaime, but well, at that stage her husband had been beheaded and her daughter held hostage.
Julia Johnstone, Motherland
When her mum decides to stop taking care of her children Ivy and James, Julia realises that her organisational skills are nowhere near those of the Alpha Mums. Once it’s clear she’s unwelcome in that coveted group, Jane befriends other parents, realising she has more in common with Liz and Kevin. Her energy is admirable but frantic. When one of the mums signing up for the school fundraiser says you ‘have to do your part?’ Julia replies, ‘But do you, really? Do you really?’
Ma Larkin, The Darling Buds of May
Joanna Scanlan plays the matriarch in the recent revamp, but to us, the role will always belong to Pam Ferris. Her endearing portrayal of the vital cog in the family won her many fans and cemented her career which later saw her star as Miss Trunchball in Matilda and Aunt Marge in Harry Potter. Ma isn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty and is just as likely to be plucking a goose as redecorating the home.
The acidic tongued
Violet Crawley, Downton Abbey
When asked if she was a very involved mother with Robert and Rosamund, the Downton Abbey doyenne replied, ‘Does it surprise you?’, later saying that she spent an hour every day with her children. Her acerbic nature, her sharp tongue and her insistence to always have the last word on evening make her an interesting character. However, she is fiercely loyal and protective of her nearest and dearest. That said, Violet wasn’t averse to doing some rather dubious things to ensure her family was protected… Edith’s marriage to Sir Anthony Strallan, anyone?
The money maven
Nellie Boswell, Bread
Another matriarch, this time based in Liverpool. Bread was the must-watch sitcom of its day and Nellie was compelling on screen, as she tried her best to guide her family through life in Thatcher’s Britain. When her husband Freddie left her for another woman, ‘Lilo Lill,’ she never let it get in the way of getting on with things. Her remembered quote has to be ‘She is a tart!’ when referring to the red-haired siren who captivated her hubbie. Extra marks go to Nellie for answering a cordless phone — the height of sophistication in the 1980s.
Mrs Cunningham, Happy Days
One of only three characters to remain on Happy Days for all 11 seasons, Marion was mum of Richie, Joanie and Chuck, though she sometimes played the role of surrogate mum to Fonzie. The housewife kept the house ticking over while Mr C was at work but at times was frustrated by her lot in life. She had a brief role as a waitress in Arnold’s but insulted the menu and interfered with orders… so that didn’t last long. She also goes wildly over the top when she learns one of Howard’s friends left his wife for a younger woman.
The seen it all
Susan Kennedy, Neighbours
Well, we had to include our former Weekend cover star. Susan was central to Erinsborough and her family. Over her time on screen she was married, divorced and widowed, became a stepmother and a grandmother, and involved in a particularly messy love triangle with Karl and Izzy. Actress Jackie Woodburne has said that she never got bored of playing Susan, saying, “In a week you might be doing absolute slapstick comedy, you might be doing high drama/tragedy and in between maybe some nice subtle interesting stuff as well.”
The wise one
Lorraine Waldron, Normal People
Some have called her the real hero of the show, offering tenderness to son Connell and friendship to Marianne. While little is known of Lorraine’s background, and despite her only being on screen for a relatively minor amount of time, her no nonsense attitude was well remembered. A classic scene includes her asking Connell to pull over while driving, after he announces he’s bringing another teen to their debts rather than Marianne. “I think you’re a disgrace, and I’m ashamed of you,” she says, getting out of the car. Atta woman.
Concepta O’Hare, Hope Street
A resident of Port Devine, who incidentally likes to know everyone’s business, Concepta (Brid Brennan) is certainly best placed to know all the goings on thanks to her inspector son, Finn (Ciaran McMenamin). A classic nosy NI mum.
The Only Way is Essex mum
An unashamedly typical Essex wife who does not have to work and who loves a good party and entertaining guests. She is glamorous and fun to be with, and still has a great relationship with Mick (the Charles to her Camilla) and is caring and maternal to those like Smithy, her son’s best friend. Although loving, she can be highly strung, but those moments are often undercut with funny mispronounced sayings such as, “I can see it in my mind’s isle”.
Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones
Mother to Prince Joffrey (*shudder*), Princess Myrcella, and Prince Tommen, Cersei doesn’t let motherhood stop her power hunger from manifesting itself. Involved in an incestuous relationship with her twin brother, the Game of Thrones, and despite her villainy, she is a devoted mother.
The mastermind mother
Lucille Bluth, Arrested Development
Snarky, fond of a drink and a master manipulator, matriarch of the dysfunctional Bluth family, Lucille Bluth (played by a sublime Jessica Walters who clearly relished this role) is that one mum who’d probably take a Mother’s Day card, roll it up and use it to light a rather fancy cigarette. Accustomed to a decadent lifestyle, she is verbally abusive towards her children and grandchildren, as well as having a tight grip on her youngest son, Buster. It does, however, make comedy TV mum gold, though.
The never forget mum
Elizabeth McDonald, Coronation Street
How any TV round-up couldn’t contain Liz (E-liz-a-beth, if you’re on/off husband Jim), we do not know. Truly iconic, Liz had various dalliances in Weatherfield but her marriage to Mr McDonald was one of the most famous ever to be watched on the Street. Wearer of on-trend clothing too.