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In a few weeks, we will say goodbye to "Mad Men," a groundbreaking show that for seven seasons presented us with flawed, imperfect and, at times, unlikeable mothers.
While they lived in trying times that involved civil unrest—and a presidential assassination—at least they didn't have the internet to constantly remind them they were mothering wrong.
Lets look back at that their journeys and have some fun imagining what type of mothers they would be if they were around today.
1. Betty Frances (formerly Betty Draper)
The ice-queen has horrified many of us with her lack of affection and elusive, childlike nature. In the first seasons, we see her grappling with a husband who is often more interested in the office, and other women, than her. At best she was a woman trying to do what the social norms of the time dictated; at her worst she was cruel and petulant.
Just when we had ruled her out as a woman trapped in a hell of her own making and unable to escape Don Draper's charms, she surprised us at the end of Season 3 when she left Don for Mr. Frances, the fancy politico. While her life with him seems much more suited for her, in "The Forecast" (Season 7, Episode 10), she gave us an inkling that she is seeking life beyond the confines of being Mrs. Henry Frances by announcing she will be studying psychology in the Fall. While this could be sign of evolution, her reaction when Glen (Sally's childhood friend) declares his love for her indicates that perhaps she will never outgrow the need to be validated by men.
Her daughter, Sally, noted she still "oozes every time she gets attention" and so perhaps it's one step forward, one step back for Betty. I predict she'll become a professor after getting her degree, teach about the Sexual Revolution at New York University and get in a Mrs. Robinson type situation with one of her students.
Glen returns from Vietnam and seeks her out.
If she were mothering today she would most likely:Sleep train her baby. Betty needs eight hours of sleep to keep her youthful glow, so she most definitely would not tolerate a baby that wakes up several times a night. This woman would not be afraid to use the CIO (crying it out method) if needed.
2. Trudy Campbell
If any of you thought Trudy Campbell was just a wet blanket who would waste away in Connecticut waiting for Pete to come home, you were severely mistaken. After months of indulging Pete's deceptions, in the beginning of Season 6, she sent him marching back to NYC for good in one of her most epic scenes.
In Season 7, Part 2 , we see Trudy living with the consequences of her decision to divorce Pete. She was not able to secure their daughter Tammy a spot at a prestigious school, and she abandoned her back-up school because the headmaster was hitting on her. (Where are those sexual harassment laws when you need them?) Towards the end of "Time and Life" (Season 7, Episode 11), she seemed to yearn for the protection that being married afforded her. Pete also seemed to still harbor feelings of love towards her. I predict these two sort out their issues and get back together. Maybe Trudy will finally get that pool she wanted a few seasons ago.
If she were mothering today: She would be the mom who makes homemade, vegan, organic pastries that somehow still taste delicious. She would be President of the PTA, and her child would always be on the Honor Roll, because she and Pete would talk their way into it. I would avoid her in the parking lot as I roll up just in the nick of time with unwashed hair.
3. Peggy Olsen
In season 1, Peggy Olsen famously gives her child up for adoption and, a few seasons later, tells the father, Pete, that she could have had him if she wanted to, since she could have used that child to force him to marry her. Unlike Joan, Peggy didn't seem to care too much for a white-picket fence in the suburbs.
In the first episodes of Season 7, we saw Peggy develop a strong bond with her neighbor Julio, and one couldn't help but wonder if this attachment was related to the child she gave up. In the third-to-last episode, "Time and Life," she withers with discomfort around the children that have come to the office to audition and is offended when Stan tells her she hates children.
Eventually she confesses to Stan that she felt too young to care for her child, and she made what she felt was the best decision. This was a beautiful scene that demonstrates the complexities of the feelings women experience around the decision to become mothers—especially when Peggy bemoans that men don't have to live with their mistakes the way women do and that women should have the right to move on just as men do. It was a stark reminder of why women needed a movement and is one of the first times Matthew Weiner hints at the women's movement, which was occurring around this time.
I want Peggy to have an ending that is true to the woman she has been. The narrative of career obsessed woman who finds "true" happiness only when she finds a man can appear tired and clichéd. She needs a man like Stan, who is strong enough to not be intimidated by her intensity. I admit, Peggy was the character with which I identified the most, and I will miss her greatly.
If she were mothering today: She would be a helicopter—bordering on drone—parent. Her child would have a busy schedule, and she would demand absolute perfection of her children just like she does from herself. Of course, she would schedule therapy once a week, along with baby yoga and Mandarin lessons. If she ended up with Stan (which I hope she does), he will remind her to let the kids relax and have sugar once in a while.
4. Joan Halloway
Joan has had one of the most dramatic character arcs of all the women on the show. When the show began, her biggest desire was to find a man to pamper and take care of her. Instead, she became a single mother and a partner at the advertising firm. She has grown to love her role as breadwinner and boss lady. Her physical appearance continues to be a source of power and a source of discontent, as some people will never fail to remind her that her looks helped her achieve success.
Now that the agency she was instrumental in building will no longer exist, she will have to, once again, try to assert herself and earn the respect of her colleagues. Because I'm a sucker for improbable happy endings, I hope she ends up married to Roger Sterling. Her son will one day fire Gene Draper (Don and Betty's youngest son). I also hope she champions sexual harassment laws later in her life.
If she were mothering today: She would embrace free-range parenting and not understand Peggy's incessant need to monitor her children. After all, kids need to learn to fend for themselves sooner or later.
5. Marie Calvet
Although not a main character, Marie Calvet left an indelible mark on Don and Megan Draper's marriage. Her discontent was palpable and often directed at Megan. I suspect Megan chose to walk away from Don, partially because she did not want to become as unhappy as her own mother.
Once Megan has fully distanced herself from Don in "New Business" (Season 7, Episode 9), she decides to liberate herself from her own unhappiness and leave her husband for Roger Sterling. Since I am rooting for Joan and Roger to end up together, I see her moving to France and writing a book about how to find happiness after menopause.
If she were mothering today: She would, of course, parent exactly like the French women described in "Raising Bebe" and NEVER hover over her children at the playground. She would hate American parenting and would not understand why we wear yoga pants outdoors.
I will miss all of the mamas dearly. I can't wait to see how it all actually ends when the last episode airs May 17, on AMC.
I will bring the tissues. You bring the gin and tonics.