Who’s a Better Mother, Roseanne or Donna Reed?

Duels or “classy show-downs” as they are often called by no one, have been solving hot debates for ages. They’re useful for delivering crowds a champion, through often unpredictable means (just ask Alexander Hamilton). Television loves a surprise, so what better way to measure and battle elements of TV than with a duel? Here, we will battle two characters in an imaginary contest of wills. Sometimes a winner will be crowned because of pertinent facts, and sometimes in spite of them.

This week? Roseanne v. Donna Reed in motherhood.

It’s the Mother’s Day edition of the duels. Here we pit two iconic mothers against one another to find out who is the ultimate. On one side we have a housewife and trained nurse who grew up on a farm, made a fabulous chocolate cake, and occasionally volunteered in the community. On the other side, we have the best hair-sweeper in all of Lanford, Illinois. If this contest were for who can take Halloween so seriously it’s almost creepy, Roseanne would win hands down. However, this is mothering and each of these ladies has a very distinct passion and style that make them pretty evenly matched.


Roseanne has Dan Connor as her co-parent, at least for a while until she inceptioned him out of the entire last season in the final episode. He’s a hippie, a jock, a motorcyclist, a contractor, a bowler, and a mechanic who, like most people, occasionally fronts a band with Blues Traveler. He is a multi-talented and complicated man: warm and caring with his children and wife, yet still beats up guys who mess around with his sister-in-law. Plus, he’s got a fantastic head of hair — no clip, that’s just me finally saying it.

Donna Reed, on the other hand, has Dr. Alex Stone (Carl Betz). In this case MD stands for ‘major dickhead.’ This guy is a real piece of work, who won’t even take his kids on a ski trip because he “can’t just lock up and leave like a banker or something.” He’s a doctor, remember, and don’t worry, if you happen to forget, someone on the show will remind you every five seconds. Dr. Stone is a pediatrician, not just some do-nothing obstetrician like that hack, Bert Bowen. As Dr. Stone explains, it’s a lot easier to predict when a baby will arrive than it is to guess when a six-year-old will fall out of a tree or contract mumps and need him. Mostly, that six-year-old will need him to explain why he wasn’t vaccinated against the mumps in the first place. Or perhaps to explain why Dr. Stone’s white coat looks suspiciously like a woman’s bathrobe. Point: Roseanne


Donna Stone doesn’t smother her children. Who the hell is Donna Stone, you ask? Donna Stone is Donna Reed’s character name that was, I’m pretty sure, created solely to spit in the face of logic. The show is called The Donna Reed Show starring Donna Reed as a woman named Donna… Stone. (Sadly, the show was originally going to be titled “Mother Knows Better,” which is probably one of the greatest fumbles in television title history.) Titular tangents aside, Donna Stone gives her son Jeff (Paul Petersen) room to handle challenges like Sloppy Callahan, the school bully, by himself. Conversely, Roseanne… Conner, the character played by Roseanne Barr on the show Roseanne, tends to be slightly more hands-on when meddling in her daughters’ love lives and her son’s problems, like when he had all those dolls under his bed. Point: Donna Reed

Hardest working woman in show business

Roseanne went from the Wellman Factory line to magazine subscriptions to Chicken Divine fast food, waitressing at Rodbell’s department store, running The Landford Lunchbox diner, and with a lot of other yelling and bill evading in between. Donna Reed once hired an Acme event and catering company to set up the campsite when she took Jeff and a few of his friends on an overnight hiking trip. Point: Roseanne

Performances inspired

Donna Reed’s older daughter, Mary (Shelley Fabares), offered this little number:

Roseanne’s mothering has also inspired some major performances. For instance, on a certain Mother’s Day when Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and Becky (Sarah Chalke) acted convincingly like caring daughters, trying to pawn Rosie off with a salon makeover. However, the girls were only doing a good deed to distract Roseanne so that they could go to a faraway rock concert and, of course, she caught them in the end. But without a doubt, the best performance Roseanne has inspired is the following phone call she forced her sister, Jackie, to make when their father died.  Roseanne is truly a second mother to Jackie, and Jackie definitely needs all the help she can get, as evidenced by the way she executed this task.

Point: Roseanne


Donna Reed put up a good fight.  However, she didn’t have to overcome nearly as many obstacles and she never once hid bacon in the stove from the rest of her family. In the end, it’s hard to compete with Roseanne. Mrs. Conner is, truly, the mother of all television mothers. Winner: Roseanne

Who’s a Better Mother, Roseanne or Donna Reed?