Why the Moms of “Mad Men” Fascinate Us So Much

3. Joan Holloway Harris 

Mother to Kevin, played by Christina Hendricks

Parenting Style: The show’s only fleshed-out depiction of a working mother (and single mother, for that matter), Joan’s all about the balancing act, and when it inevitably collapses, she teases her signature auburn hair, sweeps on some lipstick, and fakes it like a BOSS. Even after a particularly horrible work day/week/trip, she musters a sing-songy greeting for her toddler Kevin.


Priorities: Financial independence, upward mobility, and being seen for the corporate dominatrix she is. (And, crazy reminder: She’d like to keep it a secret that Roger Sterling is Kevin’s true father, not estranged husband, Greg Harris.)

Vices: This girl knows how to indulge beyond the era’s ciggy/whiskey go-tos, frequently enjoying French toast for breakfast, desserts at dinner meetings, champagne on dates, bubble baths at home, and pin-up- worthy dresses for the daily grind. (Swooooon. But she so deserves it. Go, Joannie, go. You’ve come a long way, girl.)

Quintessential Mom Quote, delivered to the sisterhood of secretaries she formerly governed: “He may act like he wants a secretary, but most of the time they’re looking for something between a mother and a waitress.”

4. Peggy Olson 

Mother to secret baby she put up for adoption, played by Elisabeth Moss

Parenting Style: In this past Sunday’s episode (“Time & Life”), we (finally!!) learn more about Peggy’s deep-rooted, long-hidden feelings about her abandoned baby boy (Pete Campbell’s baby, no less). In an argument with Stan, she reveals, “Maybe she was very young and followed her heart and got in trouble, and no one should have to make a mistake just like a man does and not be able to move on. She should be able to live the rest of her life just like a man does. Maybe you do what you thought was the best thing.” When Stan presses to know more, she adds, “I’m here, and… he’s with a family… somewhere. I don’t know, but it’s not because I don’t care. I don’t know because you’re not supposed to know or you can’t go on with your life.”

Priorities: Leaving the past in the past, and professionally getting ahead, but on her own terms. 

Vices: Booze — plain and simple. Don Draper is her mentor, after all. Great Peggy quote she barks at her creative team: “Am I the only one who can work and drink at the same time?!” Love this. Love her. Even though she’s — clearly — a neglectful mother in every sense of the word.

Quintessential Mom Quote: “This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.” (– season 2, Don to Peggy, at the hospital, soon after she delivered her baby)

Among the badass, despicable, complicated, and glam moms of Mad Men, do you identify with any one?

As for me, at the very least, I’m going to work on emulating Joan’s continued commitment to post-pregnancy voluminous hairdos. A worthy goal, indeed.