Five of the worst fictional mothers of all time

Has your child ever told you that you’re the worst Mum in the world? Usually for some major transgression like not buying them a toy or feeding them the wrong-shaped vegetable.

Here are some of ‘best’ worst mothers from the worlds of film, television and literature who are guaranteed to make you, the dispenser of wrong-shaped-vegetables, look like a saint in comparison.

Margaret White (Carrie)

Severe religious fanaticism and general derangement collide to produce Margaret White, one of the worst fictional mothers in history.

If you ever felt badly towards your mum because she threw you an embarrassing period party when you first ‘became a woman’, spare a thought for Stephen King’s Carrie. It’s bad enough that her very public first period is met with taunts and humiliation from her classmates. But then she comes home to her mother telling her she is a sinner and locking her in a prayer cupboard.

Norma Bates

We first meet Norma Bates as a corpse in the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film adaptation of the novel, Psycho. Even while dead, Mrs Bates exerts such an enormous influence over her son, Norman, that he assumes her identity and murders women he’s attracted to.

The 1990 film prequel and recent TV series, Bates Motel, “fleshes out” (pun intended) the character of Norma Bates, depicting her as an extremely overbearing and possessive mother who seeks to control her son at any cost. She also teaches her son that sex is sinful and all women (apart from herself) are… to put it more politely than she did…. hussies.


Corrine Dollanganger, nee Foxworth (Flowers in the Attic series)

Bad maternal figures are a central feature in Virginia/V.C. Andrews’ novels, with Flowers in the Attic being the book that started it all.

An idyllic family life is shattered when Corrine Dollanganger’s husband is killed in a car crash, leaving her and her four children penniless. As a solution, she seeks refuge with her wealthy parents with whom she’d been estranged since before the birth of her children.

When she finds out that her only chance to reclaim the family fortune is to hide from her father the existence of any offspring, she forces her children to hide up in the attic, promising that it’s only for a short time. However, soon greed takes over and she goes to whatever lengths she needs to secure her riches – including poisoning the children.

Betty Draper (Mad Men)

With most of the dodgy mums we’ve talked about so far, you could still see that somewhere deep down – very deep down – they just wanted the best for their offspring, even if their execution of this goal was a bit questionable. For example, Corrine Dollanganger’s original intention to elevate her and her children out of potential poverty came from a noble place, even if it did end up being warped by greed. You could even argue that Norma Bates was at least lovable enough for her son to want to keep her lifeless body and assume her personality (for the sake of argument, let’s ignore the fact that he killed her in the first place).

However, Betty Draper from Mad Men is widely regarded to be one of the worst fictional mothers of all time. While she does at times perform acts of abuse towards her children (e.g. slapping Sally for cutting her own hair), what irks people about her parenting style is the icy indifference. She seems to believe her children should be seen but not heard, dispensing gems like “Go watch TV” to get them to go away.


Kate McAllister (Home Alone)

Let’s end on a slightly lighter note and honour harried and forgetful mum, Kate McAllister, from the Home Alone franchise.

Forgetting to take your kid on a holiday is bad enough the first time. But twice?

Though to be fair, Mr McAllister needs to bear half the responsibility for this too.



Can you think of any other dodgy fictional mamas? Perhaps you yourself have done questionable things to your children (we expect lots of confessions from mums named “Anonymous”)