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13 TV Working Moms Who Brought Home the Bacon

Jun 2 2013 - 5:58am

Motherhood's come a long way, baby! Just this week, we learned that 40 percent of US households with children depend on mom to keep them financially afloat [1], meaning mom's the primary breadwinner in 13.7 million families. That's up from just 11 percent back in 1960.

Though the number of working moms has grown significantly in real life, they're portrayal on TV hasn't progressed quite as quickly. According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media [2] (yes, that Geena Davis — she founded a research-based organization to improve gender portrayals in the media), while women run 25 percent of all companies, primetime programs only show them doing so 14 percent of the time. Hopefully, with news of more moms bringing home the bacon, that number will change. With these numbers in mind, we're taking a look at 13 of our favorite TV working moms who balance — or juggle — families and career on the small screen.

Julia Braverman-Graham — Parenthood

Julia Braverman-Graham is the "Can women have it all?" debate all rolled up in one TV character. As an associate at a law firm who was the family's primary breadwinner, she delicately walked the fine line between work and home. But after almost passing out from the stress of juggling it all, missing her child's recital, and missing a work deadline when she spent some time with her family, Julia threw in the towel and quit her job.

Miranda Hobbes — Sex and the City

Miranda Hobbes is the epitome of the type A working woman who had mapped her career path before ever stepping foot in an office. After having her son, Brady, Miranda refused to put her high-power legal career on hold — she was her family's primary breadwinner both when she was single and married — until she began missing her son's important events. Then she moved to a less stressful legal career but continued to support her family.

Jules Cobb — Cougar Town

Though more known for her love of wine than her career, Cougar Town's Jules Cobb is one successful working mom. The divorced mom (who was probably supporting her ex-husband as well as her son) owns her own real estate business.

Pam Halpert — The Office

Fans of The Office watched as Pam and Jim's love story grew throughout the show's nine seasons. But careful observers noted that Pam's career took a journey, too. From receptionist to saleswoman to eventually office administrator, Pam searched for the right position to balance her career aspirations and her devotion to her family.

Clair Huxtable — The Cosby Show

It doesn't get much better than Clair Huxtable when it comes to TV portrayals of working moms. The matriarch of the family not only managed a household of four kids (and face it, basically five because Cliff needed some managing, too!), but also maintained her career as a partner at a law firm. Sure, Cliff's OB-GYN practice operated out of a lower level in their home, so he could help with the kids, but Clair realistically showed the struggles and joys of having both a successful professional career and a family. She showed it wasn't always easy — she broke down often, once throwing up her arms and saying, "What it is, is it’s a life so crowded that . . . I don’t have time to figure it out because I’m going to be late for work" — but that it was worth it.

Reagan Brinkley — Up All Night

Emily Spivey created Up All Night after returning to work as a writer on Saturday Night Live following the birth of her son. She cared for him during the day and then went to work at night. So it's no wonder that Reagan Brinkley, the executive producer of an Oprah-like talk show and a new mom herself, accurately depicted the life of the modern, breadwinning working mother.

Tami Taylor — Friday Night Lights

The wife of a football-obsessed town's beloved high school coach, Tami Taylor didn't just sit back and cheer on the team. Though she moved to Dillon, TX, for her husband's career, we watched Tami's career progress from high school guidance counselor to principal back to guidance counselor and eventually to the director of admissions at a small college during Friday Night Lights' five seasons. Along the way, Tami juggled a teenage daughter and a newborn while continuing to push both her, and her husband's, careers.

Roseanne Conner — Roseanne

The picture of the '80s working-class mom, Roseanne Conner was the overworked, woefully underpaid, tough-love mom of three. Working through many jobs — a line worker at a plastics factory, fast food restaurants, telemarketing, and eventually co-owning a luncheonette — Roseanne showed the world the hardships many working moms face while trying to provide for their families.

Alicia Florrick — The Good Wife

Thirteen years after leaving her high-power legal career to raise her kids, Alicia Florrick returned to the legal world to support her family after her husband's sex tape was leaked to the media. As the estranged wife of a public servant, Alicia juggles after-school child-care issues, office politics, and her romantic interests while providing for her family.

Vivian Banks — The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Though we didn't see Vivian Banks working much when The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was on TV, we knew Carlton's mom and Will's aunt was one highly successful women. A retired doctor, she went back to school and earned her PhD at UCLA, eventually showing up as a substitute teacher at the boys' school.

Murphy Brown

Where to start with Murphy Brown? The groundbreaking show famously made headlines when Murphy, a famous news anchor, decided to have her baby out of wedlock and raise him alone. But for working moms everywhere, Murphy became an icon when she returned to work, determined to continue her successful career path while raising her son.

Miranda Bailey — Grey's Anatomy

Known as the tough-love attending general surgeon at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, Miranda Bailey always appears to have things under control. But as long-time viewers of the show know, Dr. Bailey constantly struggles with the juggling act as her colleagues suggest that she isn't committed to her job and her personal relationships suffer due to the long hours she spends at the hospital. In one poignant moment, the devoted mother sneaks in a late-night call home, just to sing her infant son his favorite lullaby before he goes to sleep.

Joan Holloway Harris — Mad Men

Back in an age when working motherhood was far from the norm, Joan Holloway Harris was a pioneer. Working (or sleeping) her way to partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Joan worked hard to provide for her son, often relying on her own mom to care for him while she pushed her career forward.


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