Florence Henderson died on Thanksgiving Day, 2016. She was best known for her role as Mrs. Brady on The Brady Bunch, a show that had a relatively short run but somehow got embedded in our culture for a very long time. As a child of the 70s, I've probably seen every Brady Bunch episode numerous times. Here is some of the wisdom of Mrs. Carol Brady, played by Florence Henderson.
1. Don't Let the Past Get You Down
One weird thing about The Brady Bunch is that the past spouses of Mr. and Mrs. Brady are never mentioned. While this is weird from a psychological standpoint (dead, divorced, don't the kids miss their other parent?), Mrs. Brady didn't let that hold her back. She didn't pine over her former husband. (Florence Henderson joked "I killed my husband. I was the original Black Widow," but the show never said, and we know that Mrs. Brady is too nice to kill anyone.) Regardless of the reason, she didn't mope, she moved forward.
2. The Perfect Mother Doesn't Exist
Yes, Carol Brady appeared to be perfect, but remember she had a full-time, live-in maid, Alice (played by Ann B. Davis, who, unfortunately, died in 2014). She acknowledged that raising six children is a hard task and was willing to accept help. Not many of us can afford a full-time maid, but when you are comparing yourself to others, remember that they may be getting help that you don't have. Don't compare things that aren't similar.
3. Gender Equality Matters
When the boys wanted to keep the girls out of their clubhouse, Mrs. Brady didn't sit back and do nothing, she helped the girls build their own clubhouse, teaching them that no girl has to sit around waiting for a boy to do something for you. If you want a clubhouse, by golly build it yourself.
4. But You Don't Have to Fight Every Gender Difference
When Mike and Carol switched roles, with Carol trying to teach baseball and Mike trying to make dinner it was a hilarious disaster. This didn't mean boys are superior to girls, just that Mike and Carol had different talents. Different talents are okay, whatever they are.
5. Honesty and Integrity Matter
While we have cultural beliefs that kids are angelic until corrupted by some adult, the Bradys understood that the opposite is true. They teach their kids to be honest and kind--even making them return a found wallet with lots of money in it. If you want honest kids, you need to teach them honesty.
6. Your Parents are Smarter Than You Might Think
Those darn kids were always trying to get away with something, but Mrs. Brady was always on top of things (as was Mr. Brady). They knew that kids are not perfect and that didn't change their love for the children, but they also knew how to get their children to be better people. Remember, your mother may be ignoring something you've done wrong, but she certainly knows about it.
7. Fight for What Is Right
When Mrs. Brady has a car accident and gets accused of reckless driving, she goes into full battle mode, taking it to court and winning. She gets help from her husband, of course, which goes to show that we shouldn't fight all our battles on our own, but we should fight them when we're right.
8. Let Your Kids Be Themselves
The Brady kids had different life goals--from astronaut to painter. Mrs. Brady didn't stand in their way saying, "No, you must do this!" She let them develop their own talents. She and Mr. Brady gave guidance, of course, and pointed out stupid ideas, but when Jan wanted to paint, they let her paint.
9. Use Your Talents Wherever You Are in Life
Presuming that Mrs. Brady's first husband didn't die on Tuesday and she married Mr. Brady on Wednesday, there was a period in which Carol had to support her daughters. She's a capable woman. After marriage, though, she became a housewife, but that didn't stop her from using her talents.She writes, creates art, sings, and volunteers for the PTA. Pay or no pay, never stop being who you are.
10. Life Will Never Be Perfect, but There Can Be a Happy Ending
The whole premise of sitcoms is that something goes wrong every episode--it wouldn't be interesting if everything was perfect all the time. But with every problem, there comes a resolution. While most of our problems can't be neatly wrapped up in 30 minutes, most of our problems will be, eventually, wrapped up. Don't focus on how there's a problem now; focus on the solution.
Florence Henderson will definitely be missed, even as she lives on through re-runs.