An account manager in an advertising firm. A waitress who aspired to
be a singer. A New York City police officer. A couple of attorneys. A pair
of journalists. An architect. Travel agents. An assistant to an online
magazine editor. And a drug store clerk.
Married. Divorced. Widowed. Single.
Living in New York City, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Columbus (Ohio),
Long Island, Washington, D.C. and suburban Chicago.
A far cry from the days of June Cleaver in "Leave it to Beaver," the past 30+ years of television have offered viewers a delicious variety of working moms in myriad circumstances. These weren't women who wore frilly aprons and pearls. They managed their families (from one child to five) the best they could. Those with husbands tried to figure out who would take the kids to school and who would make the lunches. Those who were divorced, widowed or single leaned on family and friends for support.
Though working moms' storylines haven't exactly dominated primetime
television, they've been there nonetheless, not really calling attention to
the fact that they were breaking new ground as their characters attempted to climb the career ladder while also helping their kids out with their
So, given that it's summer -- and it's certainly not easy to be a working
mom when the kids are out of school -- we here at Mommy Track'd have decided to kick off a nostalgic summer series in which we'll look at some of our favorite working moms of the small screen. We'll examine 10 different TV shows and see, through our 2007 perspective, how working mothers have been portrayed in primetime in recent decades. The shows we'll feature include:
* One Day at a Time  (1975-1984)
Bonnie Franklin played Ann Romano, a freshly divorced mom of teenaged daughters. Romano had the challenge of venturing back into the work world after a 17-year absence and wound up landing a job as an account manager at an ad agency, just as her daughters were entering the realm of teenaged rebellion.
* Alice  (1976-1985)
The lone widowed mom in the group of TV moms in our Mommy Track'd series, Alice Hyatt (played by Linda Lavin) found herself and her 12-year-old son in Phoenix's Mel's Diner quite by accident. And we all know how the story turned out. Alice, who aspired to be a singer, became one of Mel's hard-working waitresses.
* Cagney & Lacey  (1982-1988)
Controversial from the very start, this drama featured a pair of female New
York City police officers battling not just the bad guys, but fellow cops
who didn't think the duo had what it takes to make it on the streets. Buried
beneath the crime solving and the struggle for respect was Detective Mary
Beth Lacey's (Tyne Daly) role as a working mom raising kids with her
* Family Ties  (1982-1989)
Though this show was known primarily as Michael J. Fox's launching pad to stardom, it also featured a professional woman in the form of Fox's
on-screen mom, Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter-Birney) as an architect who raised four kids with her public TV station-running husband.
* The Cosby Show  (1984-1992)
Ground-breaking on so many levels, "The Cosby Show" was notable for Phylicia Rashad's character Clair Huxtable, as a high-achieving African-American attorney, mother of five and wife of an ob/gyn. Unlike many of us, Clair was mostly unflappable in the face of her kids' (and her husband's) antics.
* Kate & Allie  (1984-1989)
Two recently divorced moms - Kate McArdle (Susan Saint James) and Allie Lowell (Jane Curtin) decided to save money and shared a New York City townhouse, while eventually taking jobs at a travel agency and helping one another manage the chaos of rearing three kids.
* Growing Pains  (1985-1992) As
with "Family Ties," "Growing Pains" became famous largely due to its teen heart throb star, Kirk Cameron. But the premise was decidedly modern. Maggie Seaver (Joanna Kerns), mom of three, decided to return to work as a newspaper reporter. To make sure someone was still at home when the school day ended, her husband Jason moved his psychiatry practice to their house and he became a work-from-home dad.?
* Murphy Brown  (1988-1998)
No one can think of TV's single moms without Candice Bergen's "Murphy Brown" coming to mind. Bergen's TV journalist Murphy Brown became immersed in a real-life political debate in 1992 when then-Vice President Dan Quayle said the program glorified out-of-wedlock motherhood when Murphy had a baby.
* Once & Again  (1999-2002)
If author Leslie Bennetts  were looking for a TV program that dramatized the dangers of a woman giving up her career once she has kids, "Once and Again" would be it. Sela Ward played Lily Manning, a mom of two who, in the midst of divorcing her cheating husband, learned that she was in danger of losing her house and entire savings if she didn't get a job, ASAP. Though the character worked part-time, she didn't earn enough to make ends meet.
* Malcolm in the Middle  (2000-2006)
Lois (Jane Kaczmarek), the mom of
five boys in this kooky comedy, was a frazzled Everywoman. Perpetually short on money, she clocked countless hours as a clerk at a chain drug store and her husband toiled at a dead-end desk job, as they cobbled together a patchwork of child care arrangements for their (*ahem*) precocious boys.
So, get ready for some nostalgia and a fresh look at some of your favorite
First up: One Day at a Time.