She and Adam were newlyweds when the film began, trying to adjust. It was stated she tried to start a family and failed when she was alive, which explains why, even as a ghost, she has a liking for children... especially with a motherly bond with Lydia.
When her cousin and realtor Jane suggests that she sell the house as it "ought to be for someone with a family", she appears pained by the comment, perhaps because she has so far been unsuccessful at trying for a family of her own, but has no plans to leave her home.
A woman of simple pleasures, she prefers to spend her vacation at home, decorating her Victorian home in a quaint decor in favor of spending it in Jamaica. She partially regrets her unintended death wish when she and her husband return home as ghosts, as she not only gets cabin fever from being unable to leave the house (except for the Afterlife or to land on Saturn). She is irritated that she can no longer clean her home properly, as her vacuum is in the garage and she can't leave the house.
Kristie Alley was the first choice to play Barbara Maitland, but the producers of Cheers refused to let her out of her contract to take the role. In addition to Alley, Sigourney Weaver, Linda Blair, Goldie Hawn, Laura Dern, Linda Hamilton, Oliva Newton-John and the late Carrie Fisher were all considered for the role of Barbara Maitland before Geena Davis was cast.