CBC’s Workin’ Moms spotlights the raw honesty of being a mom

Right out of the gate viewers will notice Workin’ Moms isn’t a typical comedy series, and certainly not the usual for the CBC.

In Tuesday’s debut at 9:30 p.m., a trio of moms sit at daycare, holding their infants and bemoaning how childrearing has ravaged their bodies, particularly their breasts. They speak of sagging, drooping and other changes while looking down. Then, suddenly, a wide shot of the ladies with their breasts totally exposed for primetime television. No editing, now pixelating, no black bars. This is Workin’ Moms, lumps and all.

“Bringing up a child, you lose a certain amount of privacy with your body and what happens to your body is incredibly humbling,” series creator, executive producer, writer and star Catherine Reitman says during a CBC press day. “To create a show about a mom where you don’t witness what happens to a mom’s body felt inauthentic to me … to not show it in a raw and honest way. It’s funny, but I also find heart and truth in it.”

Reitman—who appears sans top alongside her co-stars Dani Kind (The Good Witch) and Juno Rinaldi (The Killing); all have two boys in real life—has used her own experiences as a mother as the basis for Workin’ Moms. Reitman’s Kate is headed back to work at an advertising firm after maternity leave and struggles not only to spend hours away from her son but find her place in an office environment she left for months. Yes, there are funny moments in Kate’s days—reluctantly leaving her cherub with the nanny and she has to pump her breasts the bathroom, with the squirting results you’d expect—but there are sobering, serious moments that reflect on what it means to be a mother. The most poignant may be when Kate breaks down crying in the middle of a meeting with her male co-workers.

(l-r): Jessalyn Wanlim, Dani Kind, Catherine Reitman, Juno Rinaldi

“I think that’s part of being a mother and a parent,” Reitman says. “There are moments of comedy and moments of pain. But, usually, in those moments of pain you have to laugh.” She recalls how when her first son was born (he’s now three), she went back to work after just a couple of weeks and was wracked with post-partum depression. Like Kate, Reitman was joking around with male friends. The jabs went too far and before she knew it, she was crying and the men went silent, awkward and unsure of what to do. When Reitman got home, she told the story to her husband Philip Sternberg—he’s executive producing and co-stars on Workin’ Moms—who told her to get out her laptop and write it down.

“Catherine’s writing has a real floor to them,” Sternberg says. “These are real experiences, so you relate to them, and when the humour comes out, it really works and hits hard. I don’t think it would hit so hard if you didn’t believe the characters and the struggle.” He’s right. All of the ladies are dealing with something. Rinaldi’s Frankie Coyne is a successful real estate agent who in one moment makes a flippant remark about post-partum depression and in another is sticking her head in a swimming pool, dreaming of drowning. Kind’s Anne Carlson is just getting into the swing of things with her baby when her doctor tells her shocking news, throwing her life into uncertainty.

And while, at first glance, CBC may not have been the most obvious home for Workin’ Moms, Reitman couldn’t be happier because it meant her vision would stay intact and not turned into a broad comedy or watered down.

“We got here, and we realized it was nothing but working mothers,” Reitman says. “I’ve never seen a network where I literally shook hand after hand of working mothers. [CBC general manager of programming] Sally Catto watched it, and it struck so deeply with her as a working mother that we knew she would do it justice.”

Workin’ Moms airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and owner of TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.
Greg David
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