Catherine Reitman on the set of 'Workin' Moms,' which just aired its final season.
Jackie Brown

Catherine Reitman Says The “Double Standard” For Working Moms Hasn’t Changed

“There’s a structure in place that hasn’t made it easier for us. But we have more community to talk about the very real predicament we’re in.”

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When Workin’ Moms premiered in 2017, we hadn’t really seen hadn’t anything like it before. Moms on TV were common enough, of course, even moms who worked. But the idea of centering a show around that specific identity was something new, so much so that creator and star Catherine Reitman, who plays Kate Foster in the series, couldn’t sell it in the United States.

“It was a resounding no,” she tells Romper. But representation, she says, has improved in the media landscape. Women are more confident about sharing their stories and struggles. Even issues like postpartum depression are given more attention and less stigma in media. But TV isn’t real life, and when I ask if society at large has improved for actual working moms in the years since the show premiered, she’s less optimistic.

“Oh, man, do I want to say yes, but I don’t think it’s improved,” she laments. “I don’t think that people are giving us more leniency or asking us questions they obviously aren’t asking working fathers. There’s a double standard that hasn’t changed, and there’s a structure in place that hasn’t made it easier for us. But we have more community to talk about the very real predicament we’re in.”

Workin’ Moms wrapped at the end of September 2022 after seven seasons. While the final episode has aired on CBC in Canada, the season premieres internationally on April 26 when it lands on Netflix. “Until the rest of the world witnesses Season 7, I don’t know if my heart is ready to close that chapter yet, at the risk of sounding pretty sentimental,” she says. “I do have some other things in development, and it’s really fun, but [Workin’ Moms] is my baby and it feels like she hasn’t graduated yet, so I want to make sure I’m there for her graduation.”

Reitman played Kate Foster for seven seasons.Netflix

The project has always been deeply personal for Reitman, which was inspired by her own struggles with postpartum depression and “the identity crisis of the first time you returned to work after having a baby.” The various characters were written as different facets of her postpartum self — anger, vanity, ambition, depression. As time went on, the show and the characters took on a life of their own, but Reitman still sees the show’s off-screen/behind-the-scenes trajectory as being analogous to her own journey through parenthood.

“When I was mother to a newborn, I had so much fear and frankly, postpartum depression, that I was too scared to look elsewhere. I was just like, ‘OK, I’ve got to white knuckle through this and figure out who the hell I am and protect this baby at all costs, even though I have no idea what the hell I’m doing,’” she says. “And I think Season 1 was like that.”

Reitman had never been a showrunner before. She’d never been number one on a call sheet. She dealt with the pressure (and, she realized, remarkable opportunity) by diving right in: she wanted to learn quickly, fail publicly, and do her best. As with parenting, she didn’t reach out for help as much as she should have. But the tenacity paid off in the finished product.

“I think I credit the authenticity of Season 1 to that. There was a lot of ‘you can’t do that’ and I just kept muscling through,” she recalls. “And I think the result of it is we had this very clear, singular story that people connected with.”

By Season 2 there wasn’t such a vulnerable sense of newness, either in motherhood or being a multi-hyphenate on set. And both of her babies — her toddler and her show — now had a better sense of who they were, which gave her the confidence to let go. “I started to follow and trust the people around me, the writers specifically. I started to trust the baby and the show more and more.”

Reitman describes this final season as a “direct reflection” of the first. “What happened [seasons] two through six are bananas,” she laughs. “We laugh so hard when we look back and think about where we went. And zero regrets! It’s been such a fun ride. But Season 7 is definitely for the hardcore [fans].”

The last episode, like the first season, is also extremely personal. “The last episode is a love letter to my father because he died just two months before we started shooting.”

Reitman and her father, filmmaker Ivan Reitman.GP Images/WireImage/Getty Images

Reitman’s father was renowned and beloved filmmaker Ivan Reitman. His comedies including Ghostbusters, Animal House, and Space Jam were a hallmark of the ‘70s and ‘80s. He died suddenly in February of 2022.

“Grieving is a very special pain that I didn’t know, and it rears its head in the strangest of places,” she reflects. “Maybe this is the luxury of being over a year into it, but it’s given me as a person — as an artist, as a mom, as a wife, as a buddy — a breath of something magical that you didn’t have before. I feel like I can touch the other side in some strange way. I’m sure that sounds nuts. I’m drawing outside the lines in a way that I never was before and I feel very fortunate for that.”

(Anyone who has ever lived with deep grief can attest to the fact that it is not, in fact, nuts at all.)

When other moms approach me I welcome any of them because I have learned the hard way that I cannot do this alone and really rely on my female friends now more than ever.

The bond between the titular “workin’ moms” of the show with their own parents is something that’s explored in this final season; how their relationships with their mothers and/or fathers forged them, for better and for worse, into the Kate, Anne, Jenny, and Simone we’ve been rooting for all these years. From the joy and the magic that was instilled in them to the intergenerational trauma they have to fight not to pass down.

“So much of our childhood is reflected in our own relationship with our children,” she says. “We’re all constantly complaining about the things we had to overcome to be better parents and how to not forward the poison we were dealt.” She pauses. “That sounds like I was dealt terrible parents and I was not. But it gets confusing. They’re doing the best they can, and their parents were actually giving them some pretty toxic parenting. And a lot of them were surviving war and God knows what.” [Editor’s note: Ivan Reitman’s parents were a Holocaust survivor and a World War II partisan.]

“Mommy and Me” group scenes grounded much of the early seasons of the series.Netflix

Though ending the series in Season 7 was an intentional, thoughtful choice, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were stories, jokes, or situations Reitman wanted to include at some point but didn’t or couldn’t. “Oh my God, thousands! Thousands!” she says. “I think about the index cards with either amazing jokes or pitches for stories that didn’t get utilized… There’s definitely storylines that both made it all the way to shooting that suck and ones where I still think back and I go, ‘God, I should have fought for that harder.’”

As we wrap up our interview — talking about the melancholy that comes with the end of something great (“Oh God, I miss the people! I hope I can work with them again!”), the joys of raising school-aged children (“You can actually have conversations with them and they’re telling you who they are!”), and the hell on Earth that is helping with homework (“I’m like, ‘Somebody else take over.’”), there’s one last thing I want to know. After having written and played such a beloved, relatable mom character for years, is she constantly asked to be someone’s cool mom friend? She laughs.

“I think I’d disappoint you. But when other moms approach me I welcome any of them because I have learned the hard way that I cannot do this alone and really rely on my female friends now more than ever.”

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