The laugh out loud Canadian sitcom “Workin’ Moms” was created by Catherine Reitman and premiered in 2017 on CBC television. America was finally blessed with the series this past May when Netflix picked it up and decided to take the show global. “Workin’ Moms” follows a group of women who meet through a “Mommy and Me” group in Toronto. While the series attempts to tackle serious female issues and is always entertaining, it is still searching for the perfect balance between humor and more complex themes.
Kate Foster, the main protagonist, is played by Catherine Reitman herself. Kate works in public relations and is the mother of a newborn baby, Charlie. Throughout the series, she struggles to balance work, being a mom and finding enough time to spend with her husband, Nathan (Philip Sternberg). Kate’s best friend since college is Anne (Dani Kind), a psychologist and mother of 9-year-old Alice (Sadie Munroe) and a newborn. In the pilot episode, Anne discovers that she is pregnant with her third child.
Through the “Mommy and Me” group, Anne and Kate meet Frankie (Juno Rinaldi), a first-time mother and real estate agent. Then, there is Jenny Mathews, who questions if she even really wants to be a mother to her daughter, Zoe. Finally, the group is led by Val (Sarah Mcvie), an overly optimistic divorcée with two teenage sons.
“Workin’ Moms” explores many feminist topics throughout the series, the first and foremost being how to manage both a career and a household simultaneously. In the pilot episode, Kate goes back to work after nine months of maternity leave and is forced to hire a nanny to watch her son, Charlie. She struggles to find someone she trusts enough to take care of him the way she wants. After only a few days, Kate fires the nanny when she gives Charlie formula instead of breastmilk.
Jenny also struggles with the expectations placed on her as a mother. In Season 1 episode “Rules,” Jenny goes back to her job at a tech company and begins to enjoy her freedom a bit more than she imagined she would. She worries that she isn’t bonding with her daughter, Zoe, enough and maybe she never will. On the other hand, her husband Ian (Dennis Andres), really takes to being a stay-at-home dad. She feels guilty for not being the natural parent he is, and it ultimately leads to trouble in their marriage.
Moving on from work-life balance, the show hits on abortion. In “Merde,” Anne makes the hardest decision of her life when she decides to get an abortion. She had been contemplating it since discovering she was pregnant again only nine months after having her second child. She knew she and her husband, Lionel (Ryan Bellville), couldn’t afford to have another child. As a couple, they were just getting by taking care of the two daughters they already have. Viewers are included in Anne’s experience of going to the abortion clinic and the emotional toll it takes on her.
“Workin’ Moms” also exposes its viewers to postpartum depression. In Episode 1, Frankie expresses to her group that she wants to take a “brain dead vacation,” describing a fantasy of running into another car during her morning commute. Later that day, she shows a house to a client and stays floating in the pool for several minutes dissociating from reality. These are things anyone who has experienced depression can relate to feeling — postpartum or not. Giving birth and caring for a child can be extremely mentally tiring and high stress. Women’s hormones go through many ups and downs during this time and Frankie’s thoughts are familiar to others who have just given birth.
Despite the dramatic moments and consequential themes of “Workin’ Moms,” it is undoubtedly hilarious due to its situational satire, quirky characters and quick-witted dialogue. “Workin’ Moms” is more than binge-worthy because of its ability to keep you entertained. Season 3, which was just released in August, is the funniest and most absurd season yet.
Things get crazy in Season 3 episode “Girls Trip” when Val invites the gang to her cabin on a lake for the weekend to celebrate Frankie’s birthday. Val pulls out a box of items she confiscated from her sons over the years and retrieves acid strips she took from them a while back. She suggests they all take some. After taking the drugs, the women go out into the woods to walk around. They ultimately find themselves lost; Val ends up naked and acting very different from her typical uptight nature. A cop car drives by and they get picked up by police and taken to the station for questioning and are forced to call their husbands to come and get them.
Alice also has mischief on her mind in the episode “Revenge Fantasy.” Alice wants to get revenge on her teacher for being too strict on her, so she and her friend Brenna (Erika Swayze) make a batch of brownies for her teacher with laxatives mixed in. The plan goes awry when the teacher offers the brownies to the rest of the class. Their revenge ends with their entire class getting sick and running to the lavatories. The teacher ends up pooping in the hallway trash can when she realizes she won’t make it to the women’s restroom.
While “Workin’ Moms” is meant to be a pro-woman show that takes on many feminist issues and addresses most of them in a positive way, just like any other series, “Workin’ Moms” has its shortcomings. Jenny’s character is a major point where this mission falls short. In the first few episodes we feel for Jenny; she doesn’t feel cut out to be a mom. The audience is directed to empathize with her struggle as not everyone wants to be a mother and that is okay.
As the first season progresses, Jenny begins flirting with her boss at work to make herself feel sexy again, and at first, it seems innocent. But, the audience loses sympathy for Jenny after she takes her flirting to the next level, encouraging him to make a move. She begins to nearly ignore her husband and daughter in order to pursue this affair. Jenny’s image teeters more in Season 2 when, after leaving her daughter in a hot car while she goes into a store, she is only allowed to see Zoe if her husband, Ian, allows it.
Jenny also pretends to be the mother she knows she isn’t in order to impress the other woman at her daughter’s birthday party in Season 3’s “Stand for Something.” She tells them how terrible of a father and neglectful her husband is. The women are thrown off when Ian shows up to the party dressed in a costume from one of Zoe’s favorite TV shows. He brings a cake to go along with the costume but Jenny refuses to put the cake out in fear of ruining her cover as the good parent.
This scene portrays Jenny as the selfish person Ian thought she was all along. After watching this unfold, it is hard for viewers to not have a deep hatred of Jenny. While there are women out there who do need to put their children first more often, Jenny should have been depicted by the show as less villainous and more human.
Jenny’s character falls flat of their pro-woman stance, but that’s not the only issue. Another flaw is the lack of cohesion amongst the seasons. Season 1 explores the deeper and darker sides of motherhood, creating a platform for audience discussion. Season 2 remains focused on serious topics and has many evocative moments as well. But, Season 3 seems to focus more on humor than on the serious issues, disregarding the more profound themes once present in the series. While both elements of the show are enjoyable to watch, I think the show needs to once again find its balance.
There is serious potential for the show to come full circle in its final seasons by redirecting its plot to the show’s original intentions and thematic ideals. “Workin’ Moms” presents an excellent critique of the world through the eyes of modern women and will continue to do so upon its return. I have high hopes for the show’s fourth season premiering in Winter 2020.