If you think about the number of shows in the past few years that focus on working mothers and how they balance their jobs and their home life, you’d probably find it difficult to get something as realistic as Netflix's Canadian dramedy Workin’ Moms. I don’t mean to take away from the other TV moms of the new era. But very rarely do the surgeons, lawyers or corporate executives put focus on motherhood as it affects not just their work and relationships, but also their basic sense of self. Most of these women, in fact, are no less than superwomen, hardly having any personal struggles at all.
The moms on Workin’ Moms aren’t like that. They are moms, they are workers, they are wives, daughters, partners. Sometimes they manage to get it right, more often than not they make mistakes. But they always keep going because that’s just what moms do. After spending three years with them, does season 4 hold up to the fantastic first and second? Well… No, and yes. No in the way that is that delicious bite of irreverent humour still intact? Perhaps not. But Kate, Anne, Frankie and Jenny are still learning, and their friendship is enough to keep this season afloat.
For those who haven’t caught up with the first three seasons, Workin’ Moms has Catherine Reitman (also the co-creator of the show) as Kate, who as an expectant young mother attends a Mommy and Me run by the borderline maniacal Vic. This is where she’s met her friends from the show, but each mom who attends the class has troubles of her own. Kate is a successful PR and advertising executive who at the beginning of the fourth season has already given birth and just reconciled with her formerly cheating husband. This season has her returning to work and bearing the brunt of sexual politics at work, not to mention the pressure of being fiercely passionate and ambitious and yet always putting family first. Anne is already dealing with her promiscuous pre-teen Alice. This season, she is pregnant with her third child which puts her in all kinds of mood swings. Between all of this, she is trying hard to bond with her children so that they may resolve their issues together. Frankie and Bianca are co-parenting in a same-sex relationship. But Frankie may be on the verge of a nervous breakdown which puts their truly loving relationship at risk. Finally, Jenny is in a confused state as to what she wants to post her pregnancy. She finds herself increasingly dispassionate about her husband and seeking pleasures at work and outside.
If you got the inkling that this show is all comedy or it shows the raunchy but innocuous side to women’s parenting, this would be a mistake. Yes, Workin’ Moms is a comedy but it is not as ha-ha funny in its writing as much as it has subtle moments of hilarity in between scenes that are genuinely profound. If you have been keeping up with the show so far though, you may find it not being able to match up to the genius of the first two seasons, but this one is still pretty cute and funny and possesses many genuinely heartwarming, emotional and dramatic moments.
The strength of Workin’ Moms comes from the fact that if you are someone who has dealt with parenthood or seen a close one around you going bat-shit insane in just trying to deal with regular moments of epiphany, then you might find yourself resonating with the show more than usual. For instance, there is an entire discussion on what is acceptable as boundary-setting around your children (the haughty moms at the class severely frown upon the usage of the ‘c’ and ‘n’ word - can’t and no). For Kate and Anne, it is genuinely baffling that this is something that could affect the emotional development of their children and not as healthy boundary building. What happens when you also have a pet in the house, and perhaps the pet hasn’t bonded with your child? At one point, Anne realises that her daughter Alice is bonding with her nanny far more than her, in spite of her being home all the time. How can a mother’s mental health affect her environment? And most importantly, is becoming a mother the only fulfilment a woman can have? What we see happening in this season is that rather than characters going through life-altering events where they can grow, this season is a show of the smaller moments. The babies have been had, they’re all back at work. Now what?
If one is to take the show more like an anecdotal set of episodes than a full-fledged story itself, then the comedy is certainly still intact with genuine wit in the delivery of the dialogue than the dialogue itself. This is most prevalent in the scenes with Dani Kind, who plays Anne. Anne is not an emotional mother, she is straight-forward, precise, often clinical. But there is still a balance between her external nature and the loving and respectful relationship she seeks with her daughter. Her best moments, though, are with her scary ‘mean nanny.’ Showrunner Reitman is the staple fish-out-of-water weirdo who gets stuck in awkward situations. The good thing is that she’s still confident about getting the job done. Jessalyn Wanlim and Juno Rinaldi are authentic in their portrayals of their characters. Sometimes, it is difficult to get to the depth of their story though.
In some ways, the season does suffer from not having a larger story to fall back upon, which also doesn’t allow for a lot of character development. Jenny and Frankie are both going through some kind of mid-life crisis but it seems to be more in the vein of making us laugh rather than truly exploring how postpartum may be a cause. Season 3 explores how Alice was experiencing slut-shaming and bullying at school for being sexually promiscuous at a very young age. This is fleetingly touched upon in this season and abruptly addressed as if having a sibling or an unemotional mother has little to do with how she expresses herself at school. Everyone’s stories are left at cliffhangers at the end of the finale, which means there is ample opportunity for stories to be explored in season 5. This does not guarantee, however, that if the series will still remain vignettish and lack depth.
Whether the writing improves or not, Workin’ Moms is still eerily close to reality. Whether it means just putting a scene of Kate trying to bond with other moms for a playdate and doing miserably but still rushing off from work when her baby needs her. Or Anne going horse-riding because her daughter loves ponies. For all that it's worth, even someone as complicated as Jenny will use the office stall to pump breast milk for her child because it's a priority. Do these women exist in a bubble of upper-class privilege? Yes. But is that the show’s core audience? Also yes!
Music and Other Departments:
For a show that is centred around four parallel households, with only one point for their conjunction, it is well edited and pieced together. The show also boasts of a fantastic soundtrack (many ambient pops and indie artistes appear) that has been curated and placed at just the right moments of utter poignancy.
Did I Enjoy It?
Yes. I wasn’t expecting to initially but once I got used to the pacing of the first episode, I was able to connect to the women and their bond and go with it!
Do I Recommend It?
If you are a parent, then almost definitely yes. And even if not, it is worth watching an episode or two.