Follow TV Tropes


Motherhood Is Superior

Go To

A Double Standard which states that mothers love their children more than their fathers do. Presumably the idea comes from the fact that since it's women who carry children, they are more "connected" to them — or perhaps because of Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe. This is especially present in works where the single mother is so much more common than single fathers, and when they "come back" (for one episode because Status Quo Is God) they're usually unloving or unreliable deadbeats.

Biologically speaking, human males like most male mammals do not have evolutionary adaptations specifically used for rearing children and according to some anthropologists, human fatherhood may have been a social construction. There is no conclusive evidence demonstrating that early human fathers participated extensively in childcare. In fact, we get more evidence that many women collaborated together in the raising of children. The 'grandmother hypothesis' is a theory that postulates that menopause evolved in human females because when they reached a certain age they would become infertile so as to focus on caring for their daughter's offspring rather than their own.

Also Truth in Television that there are more single mothers than there are single fathers in the world because of the different roles in human reproduction; a man can easily leave after sexual intercourse while a woman must deal with the pregnancy and birth. This is not to say that a father cannot raise a child or that fathers are unimportant, but it asks whether the fatherhood role in humans is naturally occurring or if it is a cultural creation.

Compare Disappeared Dad, When You Coming Home, Dad?, Raised by Dudes, All Abusers Are Male, "Well Done, Son" Guy, My Biological Clock Is Ticking, Madonna Archetype, and Not Wanting Kids Is Weird. Contrast The Patriarch, House Husband, Papa Wolf, Standard '50s Father, Maternally Challenged, My Beloved Smother, and Evil Matriarch. Compare and Contrast Abusive Parents, Good Parents, Parents as People, and Wicked Stepmother.

See also Women Are Wiser and Females Are More Innocent.


    open/close all folders 

  • Played straight in this ad discussing absent fathers.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass puts quite a bit of focus on this with the Vi Britannia siblings, whose mother gave them all the affection in the world prior to her death while their father was a stern distant figure who banished them following said mother's death and the younger sister's crippling. The end of the series puts this trope in the shredder as the two are shown to be as loved by Charles as his wife and their actual relationship being a lot more faulty and messed up than Lelouch or Nunnally thought. Nunnally is likely unaware of this fact, while Lelouch learns this truth first hand, and does not take it well for several reasons up to and including an ongoing instrumentality plot.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: In the epilogue, Kenshin and Kaoru have a child who is a boy named Kenji. A block of text clearly states "Loves his mother" complete with Kenji eager to hold onto Kaoru. Another block of text clearly states "Hates his father" complete with Kenji eager to pull Kenshin's hair when he tries to hold him. The kid is only a few years old, and it's not like the father has done him wrong or anything!
  • Averted in Giant Robo. Many characters are motivated by their relationships with their fathers. The end credits dedicate the film to fathers.
  • The final twist in Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror is based around the main character having her belief in this challenged. Haruka's motivation revolved around missing her dead mother and resenting her workaholic father. At the end of the movie, she witnesses memories of the past and realizes that, while her mother certainly loved her, her father was more active in giving her attention, and his current lifestyle is a direct result of his love for her. This ultimately leads to the start of their reconciliation.
  • For decades, Pokémon: The Series has famously given all of the focus on Ash's familiar relations to his mother, with his relationship with his father being rarely discussed, especially by Ash himself. The series itself at several points puts emphasis on traits that Ash has that came from his mother, ranging from his skills as a trainer to his kindness and ditzy, dorky nature. At times it leads one to question what, if anything, Ash got from his father's influence in his life beyond possibly his hair color and interest as a trainer and traveler of the world given the rare comments about the man, and even that can be heavily debated.

    Comic Books 
  • Cable: Aliya Dayspring loves her son Tyler so much that her last words to Cable are asking him to keep her safe. While Cable grieves over Tyler for some time (and holds a grudge against Wolverine for murdering him) he eventually gets over it, though he does name a stadium on Providence Island after Tyler.
  • Supergirl (2005) Inverted like you wouldn't believe. Alura was cold and distant towards Kara while Zor-El was the sympathetic parent.

  • An incredibly common trope in fanfiction of various series, particularly ones where both parents are dead or the father is not present. For some common examples of this trope.
    • The Owl House, prior to the reveal that Luz's father was a huge part of her life prior to his death and that said death still greatly affects her, fanfics would generally write him as absent and unimportant to her life. Divorced, dead, and uninvolved, there was little to do with him in Luz's life most of the time while Camila, Luz's mom, is given extensive focus and attention, frequently as the only person to care about Luz and her only positive relationship prior to the Boiling Isles, even if it wasn't perfect as per canon (with the two generally staying on different wavelengths, but the idea that the two love each other is never in doubt). In fact, prior to the canon explanation, most fanfics and fan art frequently defaulted to takes on the man that enforced the idea that only Camila was close to Luz.
    • My Hero Academia, Hizashi Midoriya is mentioned in extra material to be working overseas and to appear eventually. However many fanfics take this lack of attention and go further, generally erasing any relevancy in Izuku's life at all and doing little with any relationship between the two, focusing entirely on his childhood with his mother, who sticks with him through a rough childhood and either helps him as best she can or laments she can do little to help him and makes up for this issue later with all the support she can give. If he isn't depicted as having completely abandoned Izuku for being Quirkless, he very specifically is doing the bare minimum he is legally obligated to provide him while his mother supports him the best he can. Times when the man is more involved typically paints Hizashi as a villain, either a racist against Izuku's status as a Muggle Born of Mages or being the Big Bad himself, at which point the fanfic plot is about Izuku rejecting any influence from him.
    • Naruto and Harry Potter follow similar trends that largely play down the affection that either son gives or gets from their father while more often than not keeping or expanding the relationship with their mothers regardless if they are dead or alive. Minato and James will generally be bashed, shown as not really caring for their children, or presented as worse than in canon and as parents, whose only worth to their sons is in familiar inheritance. Their mothers, often spared their canonical deaths or revived in some way, are frequent vessels for changing their stories as being raised by them, and typically only them, leads to 'better' versions of Naruto and Harry. In many such stories, the mothers are sources of love, additional powers, and confidence, while the father is just sources of money, land, and titles left to their only children after their deaths as many, including their sons and widows, note their flaws and failures as human beings real or imagined.
    • To a lesser extent than the above, it is not uncommon to see Pokémon: The Series fanfics continue the home series tradition of putting all the emphasis on Ash's familiar relations through his mother and not his father, with fanfics just as prone to expanding the influence and love of Ash's father compared to his mother or downplaying it, depicting Delia as his most important familiar source of love. A notable example of this more split application of the trope comes in the form of Ash's aura abilities, a fan-loved topic of fanfic stories frequently inherited. If Ash inherits them from his father the man has a roughly equal chance of being alive and showing up as an important figure in Ash's life or having died and his legacy being a mixture of approaches while playing up his bond with his mother, or inheriting them from Delia at which point the man is more often dismissed as a nobody not worth any affection or part in Ash's life or a villain.

  • In A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, the father brings a robot son home hoping to "replace" their comatose real one, mostly as a means to distract his wife from the grief. When the wife manages to bond with the son, he becomes increasingly jealous and hostile.
  • An Invoked Trope in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: when 838-Reed tells Wanda (who is controlling her 838 counterpart) that he has children of his own (in an attempt to sympathize with her), Wanda asks if the children's mother is still around. When Reed confirms that she is, Wanda coldly states that the children will still have someone to raise them before killing Reed and the rest of the Illuminati (sans Mordo). However, this is not an endorsement of such attitudes, but rather a demonstration of how far 616-Wanda has fallen.
  • The Forgotten: Julianne Moore plays a mother still grieving over the loss of her son in a plane crash some time previously and suddenly wakes up to find that no one remembers he existed, not even her own husband. She talks to the father of another child who died in the crash and he doesn't remember either and only when shown physical evidence of her does he finally remember only to be taken away by the mysterious force stalking them. At the end, this is all revealed to be part of an alien experiment to test the "mother-son bond", and whether it could be destroyed. Apparently not, since despite the aliens' best efforts, her memories cannot be erased. Eventually the kids are brought back and the dads don't remember a thing.
  • Meta-example for the Silent Hill movie: The reason why Harry Mason was turned into Rose for the adaptation, according to the director, is because his loving and nurturing of his daughter was determined to be 'feminine' by the director.
  • In Suffragette, Maud's husband loves their son so little that he gives the child up for adoption rather than allow Maud, whose only crime was to be a suffragist, to raise him on her own, when he's decided that he doesn't want to live with Maud anymore. He justifies his behaviour by pointing out that it's completely legal.
  • Thor: While Loki's adoption creates all kinds of drama, it all revolves around Odin. No one says that Loki is not Frigga's son. Even though they know better!

  • The Bridge Kingdom Archives: Silas Veliant has no love for his children, he encourages his sons to murder one another so that the most ruthless one becomes his successor and uses his daughters as bargaining chips. In contrast, his wives in the harem are extremely protective of their children (which means the children of all the harem, regardless who their biological mother is).
  • Inverted in A Brother's Price, as it is men's responsibility to care for the children ... if there is a man in the family. Also, it is expected of teenage brothers to care for their baby sisters, and the failure to do so is noticed by potential wives — Balin Brindle leaves it to his frail old father to care for the babies — Summer Whistler does not approve. She understandably wants to marry a man who is good with children.
  • Turns up in a lot of Jodi Picoult books. In Handle with Care: Charlotte says, "Oh, Sean...You're the best father. But you're not a mother." However, many books have the mother of the protagonist's family as the one who drags them all down into hell and this belief is the cornerstone of their martyr complex.
  • In C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce, one of the damned souls insists this is true, though it's proven hypocritical and incorrect in more ways than one. Her brother in Heaven points out that she's only speaking of her son and not even mentioning her own mother, and gently informs her that her husband and daughter revolted over her mourning for her dead son not because they were less loving but because she was obsessed and uncaring. At one point, one character points out to the narrator that she would gladly demand to take her son to Hell to keep possession of him.
  • In Death series: Averted with Eve Dallas, because while her father Richard Troy was a child molester, her mother, who has many names, is fully revealed to be evil as well in New York To Dallas. At least her surrogate mother Dr. Mira and her surrogate father Ryan Feeney treat her much better! Initially subverted with Roarke, with Meg Roarke and Patrick Roarke being Abusive Parents, but then played straight when he finds out in Portrait In Death that his birth mother was Siobahn Brody, who loved him and didn't see what a monster Patrick Roarke was until it was too late!
  • In The Red Tent, Leah and her sisters dote on Dinah. They don't pay much attention to the boys after they finish nursing since they go off to tend the herds with their father. Except for Bilhah, who has an affair with Reuben once he grows up. Likewise, Jacob pays more attention to his sons than he does to his daughter, again on the grounds that men and women operate in different spheres of their semi-nomadic society.
  • Discussed in Things Fall Apart: An elder points out that despite the fact that in Igbo culture the father is in charge of the family, and children "belong" to their father and their fatherland, they still frequently name their children Nneka, "mother is supreme." He says this is because in times of sorrow, your mother is the one you turn to for protection and sympathy. He brings this up in the context of Okonkwo and his family being exiled from his father's land to his mother's after the Accidental Murder of a fellow villager.
  • Burgess Bedtime Stories: In several stories Burgess claims that while father love is strong, it's not as strong as mother love.
  • A subtle example in the Harry Potter books. Despite James and Lily sacrificing their lives to protect their son, it's Lily’s love that protects Harry from Voldermort. Additionally, in a segment called The Women of Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling admits that she intentionally used this trope in various ways throughout the series. Justified since Lily, unlike James, was given the choice to stand aside, and she refused.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A sort of inversion happened in an episode of Criminal Minds ("Hanley Waters"): the mother throws all the standard accusations at the father claiming that since he stopped doing things like celebrating their dead child's birthday, he didn't care about him. However, she also goes on a psychotic rampage caused by her grief, while the father's subdued reaction is portrayed as more appropriate.
  • Charmed has an inversion in an episode where Piper was depressed because her husband Leo (and her sisters) was better at taking care of their son Wyatt than she was.
    • Zig-zagged and discussed with the Charmed Ones' father and the matrilineal Halliwell line in general — the girls get their powers from their mother's line, took their mother's name rather than their father's, and were raised by their grandmother after their mother's death, seemingly playing the trope straight. But while at first it seemed like Victor was just a deadbeat, it turned out Grams enforced the trope because she insisted that Victor was useless and refused to let him see his daughters, since he didn't have magic and couldn't protect the girls from demons like she could.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" blatantly promotes this message, especially when the tree people reject males (even the Doctor) as their vessel because "You are weak", but accept females—Madge in particular—as "the mothership". British journalist Caitlin Moran figured that having spent the day corralling the family and making Christmas dinner for everyone, mothers would appreciate the boost: "Yeah, we're the USS Enterprise".
    • Played with in "Closing Time", where Craig starts the episode doubting his ability to care for his baby son Alfie while Sophie is away, but ends up overcoming the Cybermen's attempts to convert him through The Power of Love for Alfie. (According to the Doctor, who speaks Baby, Alfie also stops referring to Craig as "Not Mum" and calling him "Dad" by the end of the episode.)
    • In "The Doctor Dances", futuristic nanogenes have been mutating humans based on a flawed template from Jamie, a little boy killed in a Blitz explosion, now an empty shell looking for his "Mummy". After the Doctor realizes that young Nancy is Jamie's mother, not his sister, he convinces Nancy to tell Jamie the truth. Recognizing the link between mother and child gives the nanogenes enough genetic information to correct their error and change everyone back — even healing a pre-existing lost limb! Downplayed, since the Doctor says the "parent DNA" was the key factor, not specifically the mother's.
  • This is the subject of an argument between Tim and Jill in an episode of Home Improvement, where Jill thinks she should be the one to talk to a suddenly withdrawn and quiet Mark because of the special tie mothers have to their children. Tim thinks she's being ridiculous and insists he can handle the situation just fine. The trope is never confirmed in the end: Mark does talk to Jill about the problem (he needs glasses), but only because nobody else was at home.
  • Once Upon a Time features a scene in "The Stranger" where the Blue Fairy says, "Snow White must accompany her daughter or all will be lost. She must be protected—this is a land with no magic. She will need someone to guide her. Someone to make her believe in her destiny. Who better than her mother?" Apparently her father isn't an option.note 
  • Schitt's Creek: Subverted. It’s Johnny Rose who seems to worry far more about the Rose children and his and Moira’s failings as parents. Moira is blunt about how little she cared for taking care of her children, even though she does love them. Johnny tends to make excuses and feel guilty, and even volunteers to babysit a friend’s infant to prove they could have been good hands-on parents.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Close To Home: One episode has a mother, father, and child. The child is put on a measuring device that determines if he loves his mother or his father more. The machine has its pointer on the mother's side. The mother and child are holding each other happily, while the father stands there looking unhappy.
  • Pearls Before Swine: Deconstructed as a parody in one episode where Pig is talking to Goat about his neighbour. His neighbour had married this one woman, and everything was great...until the wife had two kids. Then the wife and the kids, who love each other, started treating him like a non-entity. The neighbour has come to the conclusion that she was only using him to get some kids. Goat tries to point out that there is more than one side of a story, and Pig agrees. Then the last panel shows the neighbour was right. The kids and wife are sitting on him, he gets milkshake on his head, and one of the kids says "I spilled milkshake on the couch again, Mommy." She simply says, "That's okay. I was thinking of trading this one in, anyway."

  • Everybody's Talking About Jamie: In the face of their son's sexuality and gender nonconformity, Jamie's father left them, never sends cards, and is ashamed of his son, while his mother Margaret supports his dreams, works extra shifts to afford nice presents, and covers for his dad so Jamie doesn't feel rejected. She sings a stirring ballad, "He's My Boy", showing her utter devotion despite Jamie's rejection of her.
    And maybe he'll break my heart
    'Cause he'll take my heart
    When he goes
    It's cruel that he can
    But that's just like a man.
  • HONK!: In this adaptation of "The Ugly Duckling", Ida Duck is the only one in the barnyard who is supportive and encouraging of her "son" Ugly, even though he's different from her other hatchlings. While the father Drake is a Bumbling Dad, Ida is the one who goes out searching for Ugly when he gets lost. Even after realizing Ugly was a swan and not truly Ida's hatchling, Ugly chooses to stay in the barnyard to be close to his real mother.

    Video Games 
  • Subverted by Final Fantasy VIII: Raine is Ellone's mother figure, but her bond with Laguna (Raine's main squeeze, basically) is much weaker. However, after she gets kidnapped by the Estharians, Laguna goes Always Save The Girl, daughter-style.
  • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War: Second-generation characters except Seliph and Leif are naturally bonded to their mothers, as their fathers could be anyone in Sigurd's army. While most conversations express the kids' loves and desires to find their lost mothers, they tend to avoid discussing the same about the fathers altogether, except Lewyn and Finn, if they are married.
    • This is also largely the case in Fire Emblem: Awakening, which also has children tied to the mothers (with the exception of Chrom and the Male Avatar). Fire Emblem Fates inverts this, where the children are tied to their fathers (again, with the exception of Azura and the Female Avatar). Both games do make a point of giving the children supports with the parent they aren't tied to, however. Awakening lampshades it in Laurent's first support with his father: his father asks if Laurent inherited anything from him, and after some thought, Laurent answers, "My hair color?" (As it happens, child characters' hair colors are determined by who their father is.)
    • Fire Emblem Fates plays this straight character-wise with Mikoto. She's the Avatar's mother, and is depicted as The High Queen and epitome of Incorruptible Pure Pureness who sacrifices herself to save her child even after being separated from them for years in a chapter whose title draws attention to her motherhood in both English and Japanese. Additionally, unlike their other relatives, Mikoto really is the Avatar's biological mother. By contrast, the Avatar's adoptive father Garon is an Abusive Parent and all-round Generic Doomsday Villain who kidnapped them as a baby, and their biological father, Anankos, is a Mad God and the true villain of the game.
  • Defied in Silent Hill. Harry Mason is a Non-Action Guy forced to go To Hell and Back to save his adoptive daughter, while slowly uncovering just how shitty a mother Dahlia Gillespie is. It's notable that the film adaptation felt the need to gender flip Harry, the director believing that that kind of drive would be more believable on a mother.
    • The other games in the series swing back and forth with this. Some of the most tragic characters have been broken by their abusive fathers like delusional fanatic Claudia and Broken Bird Angela while a lot of the mothers in the series are just as horrible, like Margaret Holloway. Due to the minimalistic and isolating nature of the stories, many characters are only shown interacting with one parent, if even that, so for most, it is simply not clear. Some of the few that had both parents were damaged by both, like Alex and the above-mentioned Angela.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Double Homework, Rachel’s mother is a little overbearing, but she does always look out for her daughter’s interests. Conversely, in his only mention, Rachel’s father is said to be unsupportive of her Olympic ambitions.
  • The title character of Melody never knew her father, but she sorely misses her mother, who gave her the best memories of her life.

    Real Life 
  • This quote from anthropologist Margaret Mead: "Fathers aren't biological necessities, but social accidents."
  • Belief in this trope was one of the reasons that for decades, custody after divorce was defaulted to the mother rather than the father, and even today courts will regularly default to ruling in the mother's favor. Partly as a result of fathers not even asking for custody, stemming from this belief.