There's no proven way to completely prepare for the diaper deluge, the restaurant tantrums, and the rest of the beautiful chaos of being a parent. Life and children are too unpredictable. But there are a few TV shows that explore the hardest job you'll ever love in a way that goes a little deeper than the average laugh-tracked family sitcom. These are the series that don't incorporate kids just so they can deliver their catchphrases and then adorably toddle off into the wings. These show depict motherhood and fatherhood in all their messy glory, from major childhood milestones to everyday dilemmas.
You'll find comedies and dramas both on this list. Because while there's no more emotional a relationship than the one between a parent and a child, the process of raising little humans is rich with opportunities for all sorts of mishaps and humor. If you're getting ready to take on the job, these TV shows will be your best and most entertaining parenting boot camp.
1. 'Parenthood' (2010 - 2015)
An obvious choice, maybe, but nobody on TV does the bittersweet business of life like the Bravermans. This Californian clan is expansive, loud, and always in each other's business. The show covers a lot of parenting ground in the various branches of the Braverman family tree, from adoption to empty-nesting to caring for a child with special needs. And the ensemble's multigenerational makeup lets audiences experience the perils of new parenthood with the younger characters while also gleaning pearls of wisdom from the older and more experienced. You'll want to bring your tissues to this one -- though "Parenthood" knows exactly when to rescue your emotions with a dorky family dance party.
2. 'The Mindy Project' (2012 - )
Can Mindy Lahiri have it all? That's the outdated query Mindy Kaling's workplace-sitcom-turned-family-comedy poked fun at when its stylish and self-obsessed leading lady became pregnant with little Leo. "The Mindy Project" spills some secrets that, until now, moms have been afraid to admit, like how being responsible for a sleeping baby can actually add significantly to your Netflix and Twitter time. If you're concerned that having a child might consume your entire identity, this is the series to remind new parents that you can still be fabulous you.
3. 'Empire' (2015 - )
This soapy prime-time drama is one to watch when you're looking to manage your own parenting expectations. Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) aren't the unflappable, docile parents of those old G-rated black-and-white family classics. Instead, these "Empire" parents are the originators of a musical dynasty. Lucious's cold ambition mixed with Cookie's ferocious mama-bear love bred the Lyons into a family with members that clash regularly (and sometimes in song), but are certainly never boring. You may make some mistakes as a parent, but you and your family won't experience in your entire lifetimes the plot twists that the Lyons do in a single episode.
4. 'Modern Family' (2009 - )
The secret to great parenting is truly accepting that nobody out there knows exactly what they're doing, least of all the Pritchetts and the Dunphys. "Modern Family" is still going strong because parents all over the world can relate to meddlesome relatives, failed attempts at creating "a teachable moment," and kids who are too smart for their own good. Blended families may be nosy and suffocating sometimes, but the parents of "Modern Family" wouldn't give up theirs for all the peace and quiet in the world.
5. 'Bob's Burgers' (2011 - )
To embrace the Belchers is to embrace your family's own unique weirdness. Instead of trying to curb Tina's (Dan Mintz) hormonal honesty, Louise's (Kristen Schaal) appetite for destruction, and Gene's (Eugene Mirman) affinity for bodily functions, overwhelmed Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) and fun-loving Linda (John Roberts) let their kids' freak flags fly. This animated series is a blueprint for parents who want to be their children's strongest support system. Because of their respect for each other's individuality, the Belchers of "Bob's Burgers" are among the best teams on TV.