Denise Neil

TV shows full of moms I'd like to be

Before I was a mom, I used to judge the moms I watched on television by different criteria. Would I want them to be my mom?

Of course I wouldn't. Mary Anne Neil was the best mom ever. But if I hadn't been so lucky to end up with her, who would I want?

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, I had a lot of good options.

I wanted Marion Cunningham from "Happy Days" because she was sweet, had great hair, was very accepting of her children's friends and was easy to fool — until she wasn't. Mrs. C. could and would stick up for herself when necessary.

I wanted "The Partridge Family's" Shirley Partridge because she was totally cool about packing up the kids in a bus and touring the country as a band. And she could rock that tambourine.

I really wanted "One Day at a Time's" Ann Romano. She was tough and capable and able to make her girls feel safe and cared for even when she didn't feel safe or cared for. Plus, she had the handyman in her back pocket.

I never really wanted Carol Brady from "The Brady Bunch." She was a little too focused on all of life's lessons for my taste. And she let Marcia get away with murder.

Harriet Oleson of "Little House on the Prairie" scared the curls out of me, though I did like that having her as a mother would mean unlimited access to hard candy.

And June Cleaver? She was OK. I liked her dry wit and smart frocks. But the woman was never willing to give poor Eddie Haskell a chance.

Now that I'm all grown up and a mom myself, my criteria for judging television moms is a little different — a little less "Would I want to have them?" and a little more "Would I want to be them?"

Fortunately, since I became a mom five years ago, television has been overflowing with examples of Mothers I'd Like to Be.

At the top of my list is Lorelai Gilmore of "The Gilmore Girls," who managed to find a perfect balance between being her daughter's friend and being her daughter's mom. And she was funny. And pretty. And smart.

My colleague Suzanne has made me aware of the awesomeness of "Modern Family's" Claire Dunphy, whose parenting style effortlessly blends patience and sarcasm. And she's serenely accepting of the fact that her husband is her fourth child.

Even though she's animated, "Mom" from Phineas and Ferb also is a parent to admire — modern, sassy and willing to let her animated children make their own animated mistakes.

If I could model myself after every television mother I've ever admired, I'd be one rad parent — a beehived, bread-winning, sharp-tongued tambourine player simultaneously loved and feared by my equally sassy and capable children.

It's something to strive for this Mother's Day.

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