Every mother has her own parenting style, and nowhere is that more evident than on television. There are the super mothers that seem to have more than 24 hours in a day, and there are the truly horrible mothers who seem to only want to sabotage their children. So who is the mother of all on-screen bad moms? We’ve ranked the absolute worst fictional moms in TV history, so see for yourself who made it to the top of the list.
Consider this: Together, Golden Girls’ Blanche, Sophia, Rose and Dorothy have 15 children, but the audience only ever meets six of them over a seven season run. Still, it was actually the moments where you did finally meet some of their children that were the most revealing about the Golden Girls being bad moms.
Take, for example, Blanche, who fat-shames her own daughter, Rebecca, and later openly disapproved of Rebecca’s decision to become a single mother. However, this did not stop Blanche from later using baby Aurora to score a date. Or how about Sophia, who admits she was always ashamed of her son, Phil’s, “cross-dressing,” and did not visit him because of it. These golden girls are not exactly golden parents.
Throughout her time on the show, Donna’s mother, Midge, certainly shared her very liberal standards with her daughter and it may have scarred her for life. It is a miracle that Donna became such a powerful, independent character herself, judging by her mother’s example.
First, we can discuss her love of embarrassing her daughter, but that’s the least of it. Beyond that, we can talk about the fact that Midge basically ruined Donna’s childhood reading hammock with just one of her many escapades. Then there was the time that Midge kind of ran off to California to “pursue a career on Broadway.” We’re still trying to figure out the logic behind that one.
Unlike some of the absent mothers on this list, the issue with Estelle Costanza is actually quite the opposite. Over the nine-season series, George Costanza’s mother, Estelle, proved herself to be an overbearing, obnoxious mother who was definitely hilarious to watch, but was also definitely not the ideal parent.
Besides the fact that virtually every single line Estelle delivers is focused around yelling at George or her husband, Frank, she also raised a pretty emotionally attached son who largely blames her for his issues. On top of that, Estelle seems to embarrass her son whenever she can. We give her bonus points for letting George live with her for all those years, but she definitely didn’t make that living situation easy.
If you were to ask Judy Geller’s on screen children, Ross and Monica, about their feelings towards their mother, the two would have very different answers. And that is kind of our point here. Judy very clearly favors her son over her daughter, and does not even try to hide her favoritism.
When around her children, Judy constantly packs on the praise to Ross, despite all of his very obvious character flaws. Meanwhile, when it comes to Monica, she is openly critical of basically everything she does, from her cooking to her nail polish to her choice in men, even Monica’s ears, which Judy once claimed were “not her best feature.”
Okay, hear us out on this one. Lorelai was one of those moms who some teens wished they had growing up, but she definitely had her flaws. This young mother to her daughter, Rory, was constantly trying to blur the lines between mom and best friend, and sometimes made some puzzling decisions because of it.
As a mother, Lorelai was feeding Rory pizza constantly, or letting her drink coffee from a frighteningly young age. There’s also that time she dated Rory’s English teacher, or when she didn’t want her gifted daughter to go to Yale just because her own parents attended the college. We could continue, but we’ll stop ourselves from ruining your childhood dreams.
Some television mothers are a bit more low key about their less than ideal mothering traits. We definitely cannot say that for Evelyn, the mother in Two and a Half Men, brilliantly played by Holland Taylor. Nope, she wears her narcissism right on her sleeve.
Remember the time that Evelyn cried at her son, Charlie’s, funeral? That seemed normal enough for any grieving mother. But talking at the funeral about how she (a realtor) wanted to be the one who sold his home was definitely not, as far as we’re concerned. It seemed that Evelyn was either constantly just trying to make money, or trying to marry someone who did.
If anyone was wondering how two of Modern Family‘s most neurotic characters, Claire and Mitchell, came to be the way they are, look no further than their equally neurotic mother, DeDe. The family is proof that the apples really do not fall far from the tree.
DeDe’s bad parenting skills were apparent from the moment she visited her daughter with her daughter’s high school ex-boyfriend on her arm as her convenient date. And she isn’t exactly the “family first” type of mother, especially considering the fact that she knocked down her ex-husband’s wedding cake and tried to fight his new wife after the wedding.
The matriarch of Shameless is definitely a nuanced character with a lot of issues, from being mentally unwell to having a substance abuse problem. But by the end of her time on the hit show, Monica Gallagher leaves her children with a lot of emotional trauma to sift through.
There is a reason why her children refer to their mother as “Hurricane Monica.” It seems that her kids were always trying to figure out which option was worse: having their mother disappear from their lives for years on end, or having her back in their lives and taking their food and money.
Marie Barone is practically the poster child for reasons why married couples are worried about living so close to their in-laws. And we couldn’t help but notice that when counting the worst traits a mother-in-law can have, she seems to cover every single thing on the list.
Does she constantly just show up to her son’s home without an invite? Yes she does. Does she interject herself into her child’s marriage? Oh, all of the time. Does she challenge her daughter-in-law, Debra, about how she manages her household? One hundred percent. Between all of this, along with her penchant for picking favorites among her two sons, Marie has earned for herself a spot on this list.
Some early signs of bad parenting are easy to spot, especially if your son has “hit mom with a car” on his childhood to-do list like Jack Donaghy did. And once you meet Jack’s mother, Colleen, you start to understand why young Jack made that a priority, and later did accidentally hit his mother with a car.
Colleen is the embodiment of parental tough love. She is vitriolic, constantly put her son in his place, and blamed him for just about everything (and we mean everything, including the assassination of JFK). She was critical of Jack at all times, starting from the moment he annoyed her by crying at his own birth.
Lucille Bluth is the manipulative, martini-drinking mother that everybody loves, but that seems to love no one at all besides herself. She turns her children against each other, plays favorites, blames Michael for her own car accident, constantly criticizes Lindsay, and admits she “never cared for Gob.”
There was even that one time that Lucille adopts a Korean child to make her youngest son, Buster, jealous, and ends up losing the adopted child in the walls of her house. Somehow, even as she is being one of the worst mothers on television, she succeeds at being one of the most loved characters of all time.
Aleida Diaz solidified her spot as one of the worst TV moms from the moment she graced television screens. That’s probably because upon seeing that her daughter landed herself in the same prison that she was locked up in, she proceeded to slap her across the face without saying a word. Yep, that was her very first scene in the series.
Unfortunately, the first impression pretty much sums up all of Aleida as a character throughout the series. Daya’s mother, from her absence before she landed in prison, to her mocking of Daya’s love for drawing, proves herself to be selfish and narcissistic. But, we have to admit, she does let her more caring side slip sometimes, try as she might to act like she has no feelings at all.
Many people in politics are used to putting their careers before their personal lives. Fictional vice president/presidential hopeful Selina Meyer is no different. She is not afraid to use anything she can for her own political advantage. That, unfortunately, often includes her own daughter, Catherine.
Catherine is constantly being used as a political prop throughout her mother’s career, from forced interviews, to making Catherine stand in the freezing cold for her swearing-in ceremony, Catherine never really seems to enjoy the role. By the end of the series (minor spoiler alert), we learn about how done Catherine is with Selina when she elects not to come to her own mother’s funeral. Ouch.
No one is saying that raising four rambunctious sons is an easy thing to do. Hats off to any mom who is somehow alive after raising four boys. But that doesn’t let Lois, the domineering matriarch featured in the series Malcolm in the Middle, completely off the hook for some of the tough love she hands down to her sons that are borderline cruel and unusual punishments.
Lois’ signature punishment was to make her children stare at walls for hours (and once forgot she punished Dewey, leaving him alone staring at a wall for who knows how long). Or another one of her favorite forms of discipline was having her children scrub the floors when they were injured, or partaking in a bit of public humiliation. And we thought a simple time out was bad!
In the beginning of the series Scandal, the audience almost feels bad for Mellie Grant, the First Lady of the United States whose husband is cheating on her. But that is probably because the audience had not quite met the real Mellie yet. Oh, how naive.
It turns out, the seemingly perfect mother was not so perfect after all. There is the classic TV “bad mother” trope, when she ships two of her children off to boarding school. Then there is the not-so-classic TV trope, when Mellie manipulates her husband into holding off from a divorce by risking the life of her baby and inducing labor a few weeks before the due date. Responsible, Mellie, really responsible.
Starting a drug dealing operation is certainly one way to land yourself on the list of bad moms. But let’s not act like that is the only error in parenting judgment that Nancy Botwin made during the eight seasons of Weeds.
By the time her drug dealing was through, she had single-handedly roped her children into the industry, and endangered their lives on more than one occasion. She had one of her children arrested for hanging around a rival gang, and stopped her son from going to college. If Nancy is only in the top 10, imagine how bad mom number one is!
If you want an example of what not to do as a mother, look no further than the episode when Ellis Grey has a moment of clarity from her Alzheimer’s and screams at her accomplished surgeon daughter for being “no more than ordinary.” What sparked this outburst?
Oh, nothing more than her daughter, Meredith, telling her mom that she was actually happy. How dare she! But this scene comes as no surprise as Ellis is portrayed throughout the series as a ruthless workaholic who seems to have no time to be a parent. No wonder Meredith later complains of being a “dark and twisty” person.
This truly insane character on Lost was not even given a real name, but her actions were so terrible that it guaranteed her a spot on this list. From her murderous behavior to her ability to turn her two “sons” against one another, she is definitely deserving of the “bad mom” title.
Her story as a bad mom begins with how she even became a mom in the first place. After befriending a pregnant woman on the island named Claudia, and helping deliver her twin boys, Mother proceeded to off Claudia and take her sons. When one of them found out about this story years later, she basically decimated an entire village. Have we convinced you that she’s a bad mom yet?
Lily Rhodes van der Woodsen Humphrey was so busy having her pick of rich men on the Upper East Side and even one in Brooklyn, that she barely had time to be a good mother to her two children. There was Serena, who seemed to be constantly crying out for attention, and Eric who she sent to rehab. Are we forgetting one?
Oh yeah, that’s right, there’s also her son that she gave up for adoption and kept a secret for roughly 18 years. Lily seems to live life by her own Upper East Side rulebook, and sometimes her attempts at good parenting are a little questionable. For example, she sends an innocent teacher to prison just to get Serena into a good school. Now that’s one way to do it…
The Mad Men audience is first introduced to Betty Draper’s bad parenting when she nonchalantly notices her daughter with a plastic bag on her head and, instead of telling her she could suffocate, tells her that she better not have wrinkled the clothes. Yes, when it comes to parenting, Betty is all about appearances.
From that moment on, her reputation does not exactly improve. Throughout the series, Betty seems to resent her children for turning her into this icy housewife, and would rather punish them by putting them in closets than actually take the time to get to know any of her kids. Can it get worse than that? It sure can! Just take a look at the top 5.
It is hard to believe that one of the most notorious characters on The O.C. started without a mention in the opening credits. But leave it to someone like Julie Cooper-Nichol to climb her way to the top and land herself a spot.
Julie seems to only be in it for Julie, always. Need proof? Well, there’s that time that she had an affair with her teenage daughter’s ex-boyfriend. Or there are the time(s) that she repeatedly threatened that she would send her daughter, Marissa, to boarding school. And just think, that’s only about a season and a half worth of drama.
Before we talk about how Cersei Lannister is definitely not a great mom, we need to address how she became a mom in the first place. In a fact that makes our skin crawl, all three of her children, Myrcella, Joffrey and Tommen, all come from the same father…who is actually their uncle. But somehow, the bad motherhood choices don’t stop there.
While it’s true that Cersei’s two greatest loves include her children and acquiring power, that doesn’t make her a good mom. We’re pretty sure that having your daughter-in-law killed and, inadvertently causing your son to take his own life because of it actually makes you a terrible mother instead. We’ll let you ponder this one while you calmly stare off in the distance and sip your red wine Cersei style.
Livia Soprano once described her three children as “no different from dogs,” but in this case we have to say they may have gotten it from their mother. We mean, what kind of mother actually tries to have her own son killed?
That’s what Livia did on multiple occasions when she put a hit out on her son, Tony, just because he had the audacity to suggest that she live in a nursing home. Clearly the only assistance this manipulative and miserable matriarch needed was having someone assist in taking out her son. While she died in season three, she had more than enough time to leave her mark on both the Soprano family and viewers.
If you have watched Scandal, then it should come as no surprise that Olivia Pope’s mother herself, Maya Lewis, has landed herself on the list of bad moms. After all, she is a terrorist. You just can’t get much worse than that.
Maya played a role in killing hundreds of innocent people when she lied to the American government about putting a bomb on a plane. In an attempt to cover up the bombing, the government shot the plane down only to find out that Maya had lied about there ever being an explosive aboard in the first place. So, yeah, definitely a bad mom. And yet somehow, still not the worst. So who is?
When it comes to describing the ways that Constance Langdon is the worst mother in all of television history, it is hard to even know where to start. There was her daughter, Addy, who had Down’s Syndrome and had to deal with her mother’s absolutely cruel treatment until she passed away. And just think, Addy was the favorite child!
Then there was her deformed son Beauregard, who viewers may have forgotten about, given that Constance kept him chained upstairs in the attic. And the third time is definitely not the charm, seeing as her third child burned one man alive and then committed a massacre. Constance is definitely the mother of all bad moms.
Sources: The Huffington Post, Complex, Zimbio