Culture

Catherine Reitman talks about the many facets of mom shaming and why she's part of the problem

The creator and star of Workin’ Moms on why ‘having children is messy and easy to judge’.

The creator and star of Workin’ Moms on why ‘having children is messy and easy to judge’

(Credit: CBC)

 Catherine Reitman is the creator, star, executive producer and writer of Workin' Moms, the CBC original comedy about women juggling the pressures of work and motherhood. As mother to two young boys offscreen, she affirms that moms are facing a lot of judgement on the daily - self-inflicted, hurled at each other and supported everyone else. We sat down with her to talk about where all the judginess is coming from and what we can all do to help take some of the pressure off.

A lot of the comedy in Workin' Moms comes from watching the characters try to fight off the judgements of others while making judgements of their own. Why is motherhood so judgey?

In general, we walk around not only feeling incredibly judged, but judging as well. I think we have to own up to the fact that we're part of the problem. But specifically the community of mothers is a realm that is more judgement-heavy than others.

Stay-at-home mothers, working mothers, people are very tough on each other. I don't see that in the world of men. I don't see working men who have children, and those who don't, judging each other. I think there's a different category of expectation.

What do you think the difference between men and women is in this regard?

There's the male-female thing that happens. What is it to be masculine? Classically, it's to go spread your seed, have children, and bring home the bacon.

For women, it's like we are supposed to bear as many children as possible, while still looking like Sandra D and having a house prepared. Obviously, we've come a long way since that. Workin' Moms, obviously, is about mothers who also work. But we're also expected to remain graceful when we return to work, and that's just impossible. F*ck it, it's impossible to be graceful staying at home. Having children is messy and easy to judge.

What do people judge moms about the most?

Breastfeeding versus formula, homemade baby-food versus store-bought are all common things to judge moms about. And on the show, I get to explore more idiosyncratic ones, like bought Halloween costumes versus homemade costumes. It's endless. There's judgement in every corner of this recipe.

How do you deal with these standards?

Whether I was working or not, I am not a good cook or a good seamstress. I love my kids and I provide for them, but do I think that I'm a great mom? Not by any means, other than that they're full of love. I rely heavily on nannies and my mother and my husband to fill in all over the place where I'm lacking.

The show focuses on the fact that, even if you're talented - like I'm not - it's absolutely impossible to be all the things that we are expected to be. That can feel really bad, but I'm lucky enough to work in a place where I can exercise my talents, and I can come home and say… I don't think I am a great mother.

Who is it precisely that you feel is judging you?

By our community, by society, by TV shows, by everything.

Do people sometimes feel judged because they aren't meeting their own standards?

We choose our own role models, we select our standard, but outside forces still influence us. TV, magazines, the online community, our friends - all infect our bar-setting ability.

I have a very good friend who makes really elaborate birthday cakes - three-dimensional incredible things - every year for her son. It's absurd, and I tell her to knock it off. But she tells me, "No this is what I expect from myself. Only I set this bar and I want to surpass it."

So that's all good and fine, but then I start to think that maybe I should be doing that and I can't. I start to apply her standard to myself.

You look at other people and you wind up setting a bar for yourself that you might not have otherwise.

What do you judge other people about?

Oh my god, so many things! I'm part of the problem. If I see someone doing exceptionally well, I judge them because of my envy and insecurity and my sense that I myself can't achieve what they are achieving. For example, if I see a mother who can bake an entire meal and also kill it at work, I say "God! She's perfect!" Then I also assume that she's expecting the same of me. She really isn't, she just wants to live a full life herself, but I still definitely judge her.

Like your cake-master friend?

Yes. The cakes are so elaborate that I feel shame about the cakes I make. That is my problem, but I'm judging her.

What's wrong with judging others? Isn't it good to hold people to standards?

That might be true sometimes. But instead of judging someone and just writing them off, it's better to try to have compassion for them. Maybe the moms that have perfectly kept houses and cook elaborate meals have their own insecurities and worries that make them do that kind of thing. If I think about that, then I can sympathize with them rather than judging them.

I think this is a moment where women have to have each others' back. In our flaws, in our whims, in our fails, we have to support each other instead of tearing each other down. Unless you're doing it very quietly at home with your husband.

Season 3 of the CBC original comedy Workin' Moms airs Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. (9:30 p.m. NT) on CBC and the CBC Gem streaming service. 

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