My favorite fictional mothers.

These moms from some of my favorite books and tv shows aren’t perfect, but they have a lot going for them: they’re fun to watch, they’re kind and competent, and I don’t pity their (fictional) kids because of their family situation. And they love their kids. I’d say that’s enough.

Molly Weasley, Harry Potter: Fiercely protective and unfailingly generous, whole posts have been devoted to the gracious hospitality of Molly Weasley. She made her kids roll their eyes plenty of times, but they’d still agree she was pretty  fantastic.

Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights: Honest, kind, and compassionate, she’s the kind of mom other people’s kids sought out for advice. Mrs. Coach made plenty of mistakes, but she owned them.  We watched her go to the end of her rope, and that convinced us: she’s a great mom. (And one tough cookie.)

Marilla Cuthbert, Anne of Green Gables I love the dry wit (and sometimes sarcastic) mother-figure Marilla as a foil to dreamy, lost-in-the-clouds Anne Shirley.

Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls: Even when her parenting decisions make you cringe, you can’t deny the power of her bond with Rory. This is one devoted mama.

Caroline Ingalls, Little House: 21st century mamas are blown away by Mrs. Ingalls’ incredible know-how: she wove baskets, she made cheese, she tapped syrup, made the cheese, sewed the clothes, tapped the syrup, all while (mostly) cheerfully moving across the United States and raising up three pretty amazing daughters.

Mrs. Quimby, the Ramona books: This down-to-earth mom never (okay, rarely) loses her sense of humor with the often-impossible Ramona. And when she does, well, we don’t blame her for it.

Kate Murry, A Wrinkle in Time: She’s kind, she’s beautiful, she’s a microbiologist. Not a bad role model–and her children (understandably) think she’s wonderful.

Who’s your favorite fictional mother?

P.S. Fictional mothers we love to hate.

7 favorite fictional mothers

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  1. Lindsay says:

    I love Mary Emma from the Little Britches series! She was extraordinary: strong, intelligent, resourceful. And on top of that, she recited poetry, read Dickens aloud, and made sure her children knew Shakespeare.

  2. Katie says:

    As soon as I saw the title for this post, I said, “Mrs. Weasley, of course!” And she was the first person you listed. I love how she makes do with what the Weasley’s have, creates a warm and loving home, and is still one mean-mama if you mess with her brood.

  3. Lisa Suit says:

    I thought of Mrs. Weasley and Ma Ingalls right away! And btw, the Ingalls’ had four daughters, not three ? (Mary, Laura, Carrie, & Grace.)

      • Jennifer says:

        The events in “Little House” are not purely autobiographical (I’m a historian by training). Leaving out the brother who lived a very short time and other things made sense, of course. It is written as a story, and so, like one of my favorites, “Little Women’s” Marmie, it’s a situation of “based on the life of…” that is reasonably close but goes in fiction rather than biography (Closer than TV’s “Scorpion”, but both mothers were meant to be role models, not humans with visible responses to leaving a home behind, again, or trying to raise a daughter who would end up dependent on you even when she finished at the college- I’ve been there, they don’t tell the students the part about how the real Mary lived at home with her mother and only outlived her by a brief period- or watching a daughter slowly die when you’d she was just sickly or go off and scream into a pillow as she prepares to leave her children to go join her husband at a Civil War hospital)

  4. Lisa says:

    I love Mrs. Quimby! I’m re-reading the Ramona series with my soon-to-be-7 year old after spending many a summer afternoon reading through them myself a couple decades ago. Reading them as an adult, I find new things to appreciate in these stories and Mrs. Quimby’s kind but not overly sentimental approach to motherhood is one of them!

    • Laura says:

      Yes! I’m reading them with my daughter and keep thinking that I could take some guidance from Mrs. Quimby.

  5. Julie Y says:

    My favorite TV mom is Reba, from the 2001-2006 sitcom. Not exactly a family to emulate — daughter gets pregnant in high school, marries teen boyfriend and they live with Reba. (Ex)Husband has affair, gets mistress pregnant, marries her, and she wants to be Reba’s best friend. I love Reba because she never condones their bad choices/behavior but she always makes the best of a bad situation, reacting with droll humor and, ultimately, unconditional love and acceptance.

    My second favorite movie mom is Cher in Mermaids. I watch this whenever I have a 14-year-old daughter (I’m on my seventh) and need a reminder that when kids get snarky, you don’t HAVE to engage in every battle … and it’s easier to let their snide complaints bounce off when you respond with deadpan humor. I also love her idea of meal-planning: serving trays of sixties-style hors d’oeuvres.

  6. Peggy says:

    Recently I met Mrs. Frisby in the book, Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. What a mom! She shows amazing bravery for the sake of her children. She is not afraid of adventure to save her home. Mrs. Frisby is a #1 mom! This is a delightful book to read to children.

  7. Bernadette says:

    I do love Mrs. Murray, but she’s so behind-the-scenes … I think we get a much fuller picture of Mrs. Austin in L’Engle’s more realistic Austin Family Series. Even a child, I loved those books just as much for their beautiful depiction of home and family as I did for the stories and Vicky, the protagonist. I was a bit disappointed to read later that L’Engle herself always identified with Vicky rather than with Mrs Austin, actually. But we get far more opportunities to see her interact with her children as they grow up and face ordinary struggles. We even get to see some of the relationship between her and her husband, particularly in The Young Unicorns. I love all of L’Engle’s books and characters, but I pretty much want to re-create the Austin home!

  8. Julia says:

    I love Ma Ingalls and Marmee – they’re everything a mother should be! I also love Rosa Hubermann from The Book Thief. She’s introduced as a hard-hearted woman, but she’s anything but!

  9. Dana says:

    My faves: Marilla, Mrs.Quimby, Marmee, Molly Weasley are all great choices. I would add Calpurnia from To Kill a Mockingbird. She raised the irrepressible Scout with the discipline and love she needed growing up without her own mother.

  10. Jill says:

    My favorite fictional mother is Mrs. Brown from the movie National Velvet with Elizabeth Taylor. Oh my stars, I watch the movie almost solely to watch her mothering and her calm demeanor as a wife. A well-written and superbly-acted character.

  11. One of my new favorites is Lena Adams from ABC Family’s The Fosters. She is so amazing! Seriously, watching that show is like parenting advice. She’s the vice principal at a charter school (middle/high school I think). She always asks questions when one of the kids does something wrong. She wants to understand why. She doesn’t just issue punishments. She’s all about natural consequences and letting kids make their own decisions. I love her!

  12. Kelty says:

    Oh! I love this post!! I’ve been reading the Anne books over the last few months and just loving them. They are such a delightful mix of hilarious characters and sweet relationships. I really loved watching Marilla’s tenderness for Anne grow over the course of the first few books. I’m on the later books now and I really miss Marilla in the later books when Anne leaves Avonlea.

    I’m reading Anne of Ingleside right now and I have to add Anne herself as a literary mother that I’m loving. Anne is so tender and kind to her brood of 6, inspiring me to try and default to kindness rather than irritation with my own kiddos. I underlined this prayer she prayed in the early part of the book after finding out that Gilbert had to go and tend to a child that had been badly burned:

    “Dear God, help him and help the mother … help all mothers everywhere. We need so much help, with the little sensitive, loving hearts and minds that look to us for guidance and love and understanding.”


  13. pam says:

    Marmee from Little Women. She was strict but always loving and a great role model for all the girls.
    Also love Marilla and Caroline Ingalls.

  14. Rissie Lundberg says:

    I love the choice of Marilla Cuthbert! As I have reread “Anne of Green Gables” as an adult, I see more that the story is not just about Anne, but also about Marilla growing into her role as mother. Like on the walk home after the Anne apologizes to Rachel Lynde and Anne takes Marilla’s hand … “Something warm and pleasant welled up in Marilla’s heart at touch of that thin little hand in her own–a throb of the maternity she had missed, perhaps. Its very unaccustomedness and sweetness disturbed her. She hastened to restore her sensations to their normal calm by inculcating a moral.”

  15. I’m a big fan of Ma Joad from The Grapes of Wrath. She is the glue that keeps that family together, she handles being a refugee with grace and optimism, and has the wisdom, when multiple crises are happening at once, to say, “We’ll take the biggest thing and lick it first.” I want to be her when I grow up.

    I also love Mrs. Ray from the Betsy-Tacy-Tib books by Maud Hart Lovelace. Remember when she encourages Betsy’s writing by giving her the old trunk as a writing desk? And she is a great believer in “people having private places,” which as an introvert has always resonated with me.

  16. LadyWoman says:

    Aunt and Katriona from Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley are delightful. Not biological mothers to Rosie, but mothers all the same!

  17. Brittney says:

    Marmee, Marilla and Molly Weasleys are all wonderful mothers! I would also add Jo March in Little Men, she mothers her flock with wit, humor, morals, fun and ingenuity.

    • Jenni says:

      Yes! I was going to say Jo from Little Men. She was always very quick to listen to her boys, and she was very wise in how she looked at each boy’s individual circumstances before she offered advice, punishment, etc.

  18. Marlizette De Kock says:

    I couldn’t agree more, I absolutely love Molly Weasley, Lorelai Gilmore and Tami Taylor (as well as Rayna James). These moms all have open and honest relationships with their kids while still maintaining a no-nonsense upbringing with more than enough discipline. These are the type of relationships I hope to have my children one day.

  19. Lynn K says:

    Lorelei & Marilla are favorites of mine. I heard Geraldine Brookes speak several years ago about the reason she wrote “March” which was her version on Mr. March of Little Women. Brookes’ mother told her, [NObody could be as goodie goodie as Marmie was] so she imagined what must’ve gone made her the way she was for Little Women and I have to say it’s one of the few novels written about a character by an author other than the character’s creator that I actually really enjoy.

    I also have to second the person who chimed in with Jo March ~ she’s so real and earthy and I love her as mother hen in Little Men and Jo’s Boys. I’d like to add a mother: Mavis from Beverly Cleary’s The Luckiest Girl. I always felt she was a modern day Jo March ~ sort of hippie~earthy and a nice surrogate mother her best friend’s daughter who comes to stay with the family for a school year. I loved that book when I was growing up.

  20. Coriander says:

    My mother tells me that when I was a teenager, she asked me who would I want to be my mother if she wasn’t my mother, I answered, “Matthew Cuthbert”.

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