June Cleaver has been the butt of many jokes over the years. She became the quintessential mother during the postwar era, donning pearls and heels on an ordinary day while dishing up moral guidance and comfort alongside her hearty and well balanced five o’clock dinner.
For whatever reason, she came to represent all things good and right in the realm of motherhood, but as wonderful as she was (and she was) she was also quite fictional. Her spotlessly clean house was a Hollywood set created and maintained by others, her hair and wardrobe chosen and put together by professionals, and her perfectly delivered words of wisdom crafted by staff writers.
And therein lies the joke. June Cleaver was just too darn perfect. No mother can really have it all together like that. No mother can really be that good.
Or can she?
What was it that earned June Cleaver her Supermom status? Was it really her frilly aprons and matching china? I think not. I can’t believe I’m about to quote wikipedia on June Cleaver, but here it goes.“June Cleaver remains calm amid household tumult, providing crucial guidance to her sons while shielding them from nefarious outside influences with a matronly force of will.”
Translation: she didn’t freak out when things got dicey at home, she tried to protect her sons by teaching them right from wrong, and she stood her ground when anything got in the way of that.
So, what’s the joke?
For some reason we can’t get past the clutter-free living room and her dainty pill box hat. Being the visual creatures that we are, we get hung up on the stuff we see and immediately start connecting dots that aren’t even on the same page.
Sure, June Cleaver was white, middle class, suburban, and probably both Republican and Christian (just a wild stab in the dark). And, yes, her house was spotless, her meals full of wholesome goodness, and her dresses divine, but the fact of the matter is, anyone can be a June Cleaver. Not the white, middle class, perfectly dressed June Cleaver, but the patient, moral, dedicated to her family June Cleaver.
More than 50 years have gone by since the days of June Cleaver, but we mothers still get hung up on our own modern stereotypes of “good” motherhood based on pop culture or whatever sub-culture happens to be around us. Depending on when and where we grew up, each of us comes into motherhood with our own pre-conceived notions of “good.”
Maybe you think “good” mothers ensure their children all learn two instruments, or blog about every milestone in their child’s life, or volunteer to be room mother every year, or sew adorable pillow covers and curtains, or make spinach pasta from scratch. And since you don’t do any of those things you will never be inducted into The Good Mothers Society.
But our message at The Power of Moms is that motherhood is more than our personal preferences, personalities types, hobbies and interests. Motherhood is more than pop culture or the sub-culture of our specific communities. And motherhood is definitely more than challenging life circumstances that often prevent us from having/doing many of the things we may have previously considered pre-requisites of “good” motherhood.
So forget about striving for some sort of visible, superficial Supermom status. Each wonderfully unique woman in every culture and life circumstance can be a truly great mother in her own right. Forget the photo op and just be your own kind of good mother.
The kind that doesn’t freak out when things get dicey at home. The kind that does her best to protect her children by teaching them right from wrong. The kind that stands her ground when anything gets in the way of that.
Be a June Cleaver.
QUESTION: What do you think are the most important attributes of a “good” mother?
CHALLENGE: Throw out any superficial stereotypes of “good” motherhood that are bringing you down.