June 24, 2019

The Fake Realness of Motherhood in "Workin' Moms"

“Workin’ Moms, which premiered on Canadian TV in 2017 but has gotten a major boost from its recent arrival on Netflix, markets itself the way many, many other parenting-focused pieces of media do: as a “real” show that tells the “hard truths.” A press release bills the show as a “raw and honest look” at how its main characters “juggle their burgeoning identities as mothers,” and a tweet from its official account asks “Can we all just be brave adults and admit that adulthood is really fucking hard?” But instead of rawness or honesty, Workin’ Moms offers up patronizing “hard truths” about motherhood in an infuriating, tonally confused, and ultimately harmful way.

The most obvious and glaring problem with Workin’ Moms is the privilege of its main characters, which is blinding, exhausting, and all-encompassing. (I know, talking about privilege was tiresome and old seven years ago, but this show warrants an exception.) The main character is an ad exec who, like Don Draper, understands how to “tell a story” and “connect to the client.” Her main problems in balancing work and family come from repeatedly telling her family she will leave work at 5 p.m., then failing to do so—the main ramification being that people are briefly mad at her. Watching this show, you would have no idea that the lack of affordable day care options is a weight around the necks of millions of parents in both the U.S. and in Canada, nor that such a thing as day care even exists. (The babies are universally cared for by nannies or stay-at-home parents.) You would certainly be unaware of the real costs of being late to pick up your child, including $1-a-minute fines, or the fact that the lack of affordable day care can mire people in poverty.

Kate (Catherine Reitman), who returns to work after nine months of (paid) maternity leave, is somehow able, on her first day back, to fire her nanny for feeding her son formula—even though, five episodes later, she’s somehow fine with doing it herself. Kate’s mother parachutes in to help, then her sister follows shortly after. Both are a little annoying and a little quirky, but also seem to have plenty of time to provide free on-demand child care—something real families almost never have. Each of the four women is partnered with a supportive, if sometimes bumbling husband (or in one case, a wife).”

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