In Conversation with Catherine Reitman, creator of CBC’s Workin’ Moms
Reader’s Digest Canada: We’ve been saying that women can have it all for a long time now, but your show Workin’ Moms isn’t always so optimistic. What’s your take?
Catherine Reitman: I think the most honest answer I can give is that you can have degrees of it all as long as you’re willing to compromise. You can have a foot in motherhood and career and relationship, but there are going to be days when your relationship is stronger and others when you feel like you’re killing it as a mom. In my experience, women don’t tend to get everything on the same day.
The show has resonated with a lot of actual working mothers. Is there one scene in particular they most often want to talk about?
At the end of the pilot, my character, Kate, is struggling after returning to her job as a PR exec following her mat leave. Her co-workers don’t see her as the kick-ass professional she used to be, and her husband is telling her that she can always just stay home. She misses her child’s first word because she’s stuck at the office and, the next day, she’s jogging in a park with her son when she stumbles upon a bear, which roars at her. Even though your first instinct would most likely be to turn and run, she steps in front of her child and screams back. For me the scene is a battle cry for working mothers and, really, for any human being who’s in the middle of an identity crisis.
At the end of Season 1, a major character decides to terminate her pregnancy. Why was telling that story important to you?
I wanted to show that this is a completely acceptable and legal thing for a woman to do if she has an unwanted pregnancy. I read somewhere that the majority of women who receive abortions already have children, and I thought, Wow. Who better to realize the strain of having a child—whether it’s emotional, financial or professional—than a person with a family already? I wanted to show a woman who was content with her choice and is looking forward to her future with her husband and her children.
Your mother, Geneviève Robert, has worked as an actress. Did her relationship with her own career inform yours?
My mom, who is amazingly talented, could have continued to work but she sacrificed her career when she had me and my siblings. On the one hand, I’m so grateful to have had this incredibly present, generous mother. But a part of me has always wondered, What if she kept going? A lot of women my age feel guilt and wonder if our mothers regret quitting. And now, of course, there’s a new expectation, and financial reality, for most homes to be dual income, which is just a different kind of pressure.
In Season 2 the focus will not just be on moms, but working dads, too. How come?
I wanted to explore the idea that a working father is just as connected to his child and loves his child just as much. My husband is one, and he experiences the same pain I do. The difference is that less is expected of him. It’s okay to be a father who is sometimes missing in action, whereas women are expected to be present—and put together handmade Halloween costumes.
A special episode of Workin’ Moms airs on December 19, 2018, ahead of the Season 2 premiere on January 9, 2018.