On Friday, Netflix dropped the first season of of Workin’ Moms, a Canadian sitcom created by and starring Catherine Reitman, for users in the U.S. (The series is in the middle of its third season up north, and given the way streaming works, that means more seasons are likely to come to Netflix soon.) Workin’ Moms is about a group of mothers (some very new, some experienced) and their various issues and hurdles as, well, working moms. These women—Kate (Reitman), Anne (Dani Kind), Jenny (Jessalyn Wanlim), and Frankie (Juno Rinaldi) are the series regulars—come together in a “mommy and me” group led by the eccentric and oft-ignored Val (Sarah McVie), nearing the end of their maternity leave and ready to get back to work.
Despite living in the States myself, I’ve been watching Workin’ Moms since it debuted in 2017, as is my way. My editor regularly points out how I’ll reference series he’s never even heard of during my pieces and pitches, to the point where I could probably just make up a show and convince him it exists. [Editor’s note: True, though I can confirm that Workin’ Moms does in fact exist. ] I have plenty of American series to catch up on, yet I’m all up to seed on several niche and foreign series—and not just Canadian ones—that haven’t even aired here yet. (Fair warning: That means my perspective on the series includes more than the first 13 episodes, which are those available to U.S. Netflix users at the moment.) It’s not exactly an easy or normal way to watch TV—especially when I want to talk to people about the series I’m watching—but it works for me.
Workin’ Moms is, as one less-than-stellar review of the first season claimed, a series born of privilege. (Though the same writer also suggested that the only “ready-made audience” for the series must come from the “vast online world… devoted to discussing and exalting the arena of breast pumps, back-to-work issues and finding the balance between baby, work and partner,” so… grain of salt.) I certainly don’t deny that privilege, especially the series’ whiteness: Frankie’s wife is black and Jenny is of Asian descent, but the former is very much a minor character, and if any series regular could be considered the villain of the series, it would be the latter. But just as in the bit from Season One of The O.C., in which two teenage girls bond over the fact that they relate to the Golden Girls, I relate strongly to Workin’ Moms, despite the fact that I am neither a mom nor a working mom. (And I didn’t exactly choose a career that would put me in the same tax bracket as the moms—and dads—of Workin’ Moms. Not even close.) As Reitman said in a recent interview, “There’s so much dishonesty with motherhood in general… The truth is it’s just a lot of embarrassing, humiliating moments.” That’s the show.
And while I can’t relate to a woman’s postpartum depression specifically destroying her family and career, I totally understand crippling depression and that kind of destruction. While I can’t relate to a woman who forms no attachment to her newborn child and does everything she can to shirk her parental responsibilities, I can relate to the fear that that’s the type of mother I would be. I can’t relate to “balancing” work and family by simply choosing work, but I can relate to being a someone who’ll pretty much always choose work. I can’t say I’m like Anne—except for perhaps in terms of her Type-A tunnel vision—but I can aspire to be. (Or any Dani Kind character, really, whether here or on Wynonna Earp. In fact, her character in the Syfy series might ultimately have less trauma to deal with.)
These are all plotlines from the series’ first season, and I know they don’t sound all that funny. If they work, it’s because the feeling Workin’ Moms captures best is being over it all: The series asks the eternal bullshit question, “Can women have it all?,” but it does so to address why the question is bullshit in the first place. In fact, instead of being about women’s rage, the series is specifically about the mountains of bullshit women wade through, and not only as mothers. As much as I enjoy the Bad Moms cinematic universe, it must be said that Workin’ Moms is the honest version: It’s not that the moms in Workin’ Moms no longer give any fucks, but there’s a freeing, cathartic sense of nonconformity in the series, in addition to material that depicts the less glamorous, less healthy side of handling the bullshit. (It should be noted that the series begins with its main moms all married—with Frankie in the lone same-sex relationship of the main crew—but ultimately does approach the subject of single parenting down the line.)
The heart of the series is the friendship between Reitman’s Catherine and Kind’s Anne (a boon when Jenny and Frankie are going through the worst of their brands of self-sabotage and self-destruction). In fact, the series’ greatest weakness may be its early attempts to bond all four of the main characters through their post-maternity leave situations; it’s much more successful as it evolves into revealing how the mommy group relationship is only a superficial bond. Workin’ Moms is great about weaving characters in and out as necessary—Wanlim’s Jenny takes a backseat in the second season for the series to focus on her Chris Pratt-doppelgänger husband’s (Dennis Andres) side of things, for instance—and at not forcing relationships that don’t need to exist. This isn’t some hangout sitcom for moms, in which you end up questioning why the characters are still spending so much time togther): I’m invested in these characters, even though they’re a bunch of married parents who own Canadian properties I couldn’t dream of affording. Because I can still relate to a character so fed up with everything she screams at a bear.
Season One of Workin’ Moms is now streaming on Netflix.
Despite her mother’s wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB’s image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya’s your girl. Her writing has been featured in The A.V. Club, Indiewire, Entertainment Weekly, Complex, Consequence of Sound, and Flavorwire, among other publications. You can find her tweets about TV shows, movies, and music you completely forgot about @lafergs.