Being June Cleaver

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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.


  1. Melissa Bruere says

    Loved this article. its so true. my mom never had the clean home but in many ways i still looked at her as June clever. she was clean cut, didnt panic, and never said a bad word… until my brother turned 18 and well. life changed. But for a long time my moms idea of blowing up was calling someone a “blommin’ idiot”. It was never directed at anyone in the family but i remember the first time i heard her say a curse was when my brother turned 18… and when mom cursed it was like the world stood still. We knew it was serious. and yet we all laughed about it later. it was SO out of character for her to loose her cool. SO i had a live in June cleaver, she kept all the chaos behind the scenes for us and now i look back and wonder how did she do it?

  2. Melanie V says

    It sure would be fun to interview June Cleaver and hear her personal thoughts on the character she played. Most actors and actresses are seldom anything like the characters they portray in the media.

    Speaking of which, if you look up “Barbara Billingsley” on wikipedia (the lady who played June Cleaver), it says she was married three different times among other things. So I can’t imagine her own life could have been anything like the character she played in Leave it to Beaver.

    Back in highschool, I used to think Princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride was the “end all be all” of what I wished I could be. But, later on, when I found out she was married to Sean Penn in real life, it was such a reality check!

    Becoming OUR OWN BEST can be so terrifying, yet it’s such an amazing adventure to embark on! Having the courage to blaze THAT trail is where it’s REALLY AT!

  3. says

    I actually always dreamed as a child of growing up and wearing dresses and high heels as a mother (and I didn’t even KNOW who June Cleaver was back then!). I do now and though I often pick skirts to wear over jeans on any given day, I’m not quite able to keep all the chaos and dicey-ness behind the scenes as June Cleaver did. Such is life. This is a FANTASTIC article Allyson. Love it!

  4. Danielle says

    I liked reading this. I might be using the phrase “Be a June Cleaver” as one of my mantras for when stuff happens (because it always does). I am going off some ideas I got from a cute book “Mommy Mantras.” I read this when my first was a baby and it gave me some good ideas on positive thoughts to run through your mind for the many rough spots we find ourselves in as mothers.
    I would use this phrase “Be a June Cleaver” as a mantra to remind myself that sometimes it is okay to even play the part of calm, collected, beautiful and patient while the inner storm rages. This shiny surface might be an opportunity to pull it together and so that I can get through something challenging. And I am not talking about holding back emotions or not letting myself ‘feel.’ I am talking about putting on my imaginary pumps and donning my frilly (yet sturdy) apron to get to work with the stuff that just has to get done. Just because I want to have a meltdown doesn’t mean my 2 year old will understand or accept it. Sometimes a good mother needs to ‘play the part’ as part of working to become the mother she hopes to be.

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