American icon Barbara Billingsley, who played June Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver, died this afternoon. She was 94.
By all accounts, Billingsley was as warm and kind off screen as she was on screen.
Her TV son, Tony Dow, who played Wally Cleaver, told CNN:
She was as happy as a lark being recognized as America's mom. She had a terrific life and had a wonderful impact on everybody she knew, and even people she didn't know.
While we mourn for the loss of the life of the actress and for her real-life family and friends, it's hard to separate Billingsley from the famous character she played -- the character and her unattainable, pearl-clad ideals who died long ago but continues to haunt and taunt women everywhere.
Because though we may rejoice in women's progress and options since that era and tout all of our feminist strides, at the core of most every woman is tiny part that wishes we could be June Cleaver ... which makes us hate her.
We hate her when we think of her in her perfectly pressed skirt and blouse vacuuming in heels as we throw on yet another track suit and wonder when we last showered.
We hate her when think of her producing endless fresh, homemade fare in her kitchen as we try to drive stealthy through the drive-thru once again hoping no one sees the crap we're feeding our kids.
We hate her when we think of her calm demeanor and soothing voice as we frantically yell at our kids to get in the car as we rush off to work, then t-ball, then dance lessons and soccer before collapsing in heap at the door at the end of the day.
We hate her when we think of her children getting in trouble for minor mischief as ours face drugs and violence and bullying so bad they commit suicide.
Sure she was a fictional character in a different era, but she represents the ideal we have in all of our minds of how we should look and act as mothers And while everyone's is different, we all have a June Cleaver of some sort there in our heads -- sometimes motivating us to do better, but all too often mocking us for what we're not.
And it's not just the plight of the working woman. You can talk to stay-at-home moms, moms who work part-time, full-time, from home, or have never left their children a single hour, and when you really get to the truth, none of us feel like we have it right or are doing it right.
Most of us have great days and some pretty good ones, and overall we may feel like we have it pretty good compared to most, but we still know we're not our June Cleaver, and we never will be. And that kind of sucks, as ridiculous as it is.
So rest in peace Barbara Billingsley, you'll be missed.
But June Cleaver, anytime you want to stop haunting us, we'll bid you an enthusiastic adieu. Of course, then there's always Martha Stewart to face.
Do you feel the haunt of June Cleaver?
Image via Amazon.com