by Meredith O’Brien
Moms across primetime programs this past week ran the gamut of maternal behavior. There was bravery, defensiveness, idiocy, cluelessness and all things in between just like what might be going on in our homes right now. Or not.
On one TV show there was a fugitive pot dealer who protected her kid from getting busted for murder. On a different show, a firmly middle class married high school teacher finally told people that she has cancer and is ready to fight it. A working mom of five argued with her nanny, a mom of two, that crying it out was the best option for her baby, while an at-home mom of three insisted she could still be funny even though she seems kinda serious supermom-ish these days. Another working mom with five kids – a real, gun-totin’ one on a reality show – watched bears fight in the wild while her teenage daughter snuck a boy into her bedroom against her mother’s wishes. All of this, when taken together, was a fine reminder that TV’s doing a much better job of depicting the variety of moms out there and that it’s no longer holding out any one mother as perfect or ideal anymore. (Although, to be honest, the pot mom’s an outlier.)
The seasons concluded on two Showtime programs, Weeds  and The Big C  with their leading moms representing different ends of the spectrum. On Weeds, Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) capped a season where her family – a baby boy and two teenage sons – was running from her Mexican politician/drug kingpin husband, as well as from the FBI, after her croquet mallet-wielding teen son murdered her husband’s female Mexican political advisor. The Botwin family’s odyssey concluded after the lot of them, along with Nancy’s former brother-in-law and a former lover of hers, got to the airport, trying to flee to Europe. But neither Nancy nor the baby went with them as she sacrificed her freedom by giving herself up to the FBI and confessing to the murder her son had actually committed.
In a completely different universe in the ‘burbs . . . It may have taken all season and a boatload of immature behavior, but The Big C’s school teacher Cathy Jamison (Laura Linney) finally decided that she’d punished her husband Paul enough by pushing him away from her and came clean about what had prompted her radically different behavior: She has stage four melanoma. Together, they told their son teen Adam about the diagnosis, just before Cathy checked herself into the hospital for an experimental cancer treatment. For most of the season, Cathy kept her cancer a secret, kicked her husband out of the house for no real reason, had an affair, had her first bikini wax, spontaneously bought stuff and tried in vain to bond with her son who didn’t get why his mother was acting so strangely. It wasn’t until that son discovered that she’d rented and filled a storage unit with gifts for him for every major milestone, Christmas and birthday for years to come, including a new convertible, when Adam finally realized that his mother is really sick.
For the moms on Desperate Housewives , the concerns were much pedestrian or, shall we say, auditory. Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman), who’d just recently hired her friend Susan Delfino (Teri Hatcher) as a nanny for her baby Paige so Lynette could work, clashed with Susan over how to handle Paige’s crying. Lynette, the baby’s mom, wanted Paige to cry it out and for Susan to allow the baby to soothe herself but Susan vehemently balked. “I think it’s a crappy system for lazy moms,” Susan said, refusing to carry out Lynette’s dictate as she quit her gig as the nanny.
Offended, Lynette took a stand saying that with five children in her house, motherhood is “a war, so if I need to put my baby on a schedule to stop my life from spiraling out of control that’s what’s I’m gonna do.”
Modern Family ’s high-strung, involved, at-home mom Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen) was busy trying to convince her son Luke that his father Phil isn’t the only one in the house who’s “crazy fun” to spend time with. “When I met your dad I was fun too,” she said defensively. “ … But you can’t have two fun parents. That’s a circus.”
But, under pressure from Luke, Claire decided she needed to prove that she hadn’t completely lost her kooky high-spirited side despite her super-responsible mom demeanor, by engaging in an ill-advised car race against her husband to see who could reach their destination quicker, a race which nearly ended in a car crash. The episode concluded with their nephew lecturing his relatives about how he realized, by watching them, that you can act like a kid well into your adulthood.
The final primetime mom of note this past week leading up to Thanksgiving wasn’t a fictional character, though some of the antics on the new reality show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska  seemed scripted, as we watched Sarah Palin, mom of five, go fishing and rock climbing and do a remote interview for the Fox News Channel. However what was interesting about this reality show glimpse into the Palins’ home life, was the fact that her 9-year-old daughter Piper -- who mocked her working mother’s BlackBerry addiction -- licked the cupcake batter off the mixing bowl mixers then put them back into the batter and that her 16-year-old daughter Willow allowed a boy to sneak up to her bedroom over Sarah’s on camera objections. A chagrined Sarah had to call her daughter’s cell phone to ask that they, specifically the boy, come downstairs.
And here I was thinking I was the only mom whose kids need a bazillion reminders to do (or not do) something. But at least I’m not on camera when I’m screaming to my 9-year-old to pick up his coat for the 10th time. And we’re not on the run from Mexican drug lords nor are we trying to sleep-training a baby. Although I am embarrassed to admit that hope my kids think I’m fun to hang out with, but then again, they haven’t called me Claire Dunphy for nothing, though they’ve also likened me to the doofus dad Phil. Not exactly a compliment.