Motherhood Thrust Catherine Reitman Into A Postpartum Identity Crisis
“You have been spending all this time developing who you are, and at that moment, your label has changed without your real true consent.”
Catherine Reitman isn’t known for romanticizing motherhood. Rather, the Workin’ Moms creator and star has made it her job (literally, her actual job!) to explore the challenges of having children in a way that is refreshing and real. Recently, Reitman spoke candidly to the Betches Moms podcast about how Workin’ Moms was inspired by her own experiences with postpartum depression and the identity crisis childbirth thrust her into.
“Prior to having kids, we spend all this time nourishing ourselves and going to university and trying to water this flower and see what happens to us,” Reitman told Betches Moms host Aleen Dreksler. “And then we have kids and it’s like you wake up one morning and all the sudden you’re supposed to be selfless and you’re supposed to be maternal and pure — and that’s not the reality for a lot of women. It wasn’t for me anyway.”
In fact, Reitman said the birth of her eldest child, Jackson, thrust her into an identity crisis. “I woke up and thought, ‘wait, I’m supposed to suddenly be a mom?’” she said. “I had an identity crisis.”
Reitman explained she struggled to feel seen following her son’s birth seven years ago. “When you’re pregnant, all the attention is on you and then you give birth and all the attention shifts to the child,” she said. “You’re not jealous of the child... you’re excited that the child is getting attention, but you’ve become this transparent thing behind it that has gone through a major physical trauma.”
But for Reitman, having a child wasn’t simply a physical trauma to the body. There was an emotional trauma too, one that others couldn’t see and that even she struggled to completely comprehend. “It’s that you have been spending all this time developing who you are, and at that moment, your label has changed without your real, true consent,” the 40-year-old explained. “Yes, you consented to having a child, but you didn’t believe that you were no longer going to be who you are, and the way the world perceives you changes.”
In fact, Reitman said she struggled to adapt to her new role as a mom. “I was not connected to my first child. I wasn’t naturally maternal,” she said. “I didn’t like the way the world was looking at me because I had all these personal questions in my head, like ‘Am I still smart? Am I still interesting? Am I still sexy? Am I still worthy of attention outside of the child?’ And I didn’t know the answer to that for a few weeks after I gave birth.”
Of course, Reitman isn’t the only mother to experience a postpartum identity crisis. Nowadays, the topic is often covered by well-known pregnancy and parenting brands, including What To Expect, which offers readers tips for navigating the postpartum identity crisis. But that wasn’t always the case, which is why Reitman felt so drawn to co-creating Workin’ Moms with husband Philip Sternberg — and likely why the show resonates with so many.
“Now... I’ve got this TV show that I’m so proud of because I feel like it is such a representation of my own painful experiences as a working mother,” she once told People. “Our pain doesn’t have to be handled in one certain way. We have the authority to laugh at our own pain if we choose to. By being able to write comedy based on my own darkness, on something that I felt really ashamed of, was incredibly liberating and empowering.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or anxiety during pregnancy, or in the postpartum period, contact the Postpartum Health Alliance warmline at (888) 724-7240, or Postpartum Support International at (800) 944-4773. If you are thinking of harming yourself or your baby, get help right away by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or dialing 911. For more resources, you can visit Postpartum Support International.