What Netflix’s “Workin’ Moms” Missed

Netflix’s new original series, Workin’ Moms, launched this February, and I finished the entire series over a few days while sick in bed. In the midst of my stomach bug, Workin’ Moms’ honest and witty humor made me laugh. The show follows the narratives of four different modern-day women with newborn babies who, evidently, have to go back to work. It’s clear that the writers tried to be mindful of inclusivity and worked hard to tell new stories when creating the show; Catherine Reitman, who plays Kate, surpasses her male coworkers at her competitive marketing firm, Anne, played by Danielle Kind, is faced with an unwanted pregnancy after already having two children, Juno Rudell’s character, Frankie, struggles with post-partum depression, and lastly, Jessalyn Wanlim’s character, Jenny struggles with her desire to be a mom and feeling disconnected to her child.

 

The series shines a light on the multi-faceted difficulties of motherhood: the sacrifices women specifically face in their careers after having children, the unique pressures of being the “perfect parent” that women face where men do not, and other narratives that are often skipped over such as experiencing suicidal ideation after having a child, deciding to have an abortion because two kids are already enough, and losing your sense of identity after having a child. However, despite the show’s attempt to paint an accurate and inclusive picture of motherhood for modern-day working women, they skipped over the important narrative of the single working mother.

 

When Frankie decides she is going to go away to a treatment program for her depression, her wife is supportive. When Kate decides to take a job in another city for three months, her husband and sister agree to take care of the baby. Anne has complications with her pregnancy and has to be on bed-rest, and her husband and nanny are able to care for the kids. Jenny rejects the responsibilities of motherhood and we watch her husband take full responsibility for the child. The consistent factor in all four of these stories is that these women, despite their modern narratives, would be lost, would have to make immense sacrifices, or would be unable to care for themselves and their children without their spouse. What would this show look like without their spouses’ support? Frankie may have harmed or killed herself, Kate wouldn’t be able to take her promotion at work, Anne would struggle to care for her children, and Jenny’s child would probably experience neglect. All of them, except for Kate, would probably struggle financially. The easy answer to why these narratives aren’t told is because they aren’t as glamorous. They don’t drive Range Rovers or Mercedes, they can’t afford nannies or drinks out with the girls (nor someone to watch the kids), their houses would be smaller, and frankly, we wouldn’t see our strong female characters, like Kate, thrive.

 

This is not to say that single mothers can’t, or do not, thrive. They can, and they do... it’s simply much more difficult. Without a spouse’s parental role for their children and additional emotional and financial support for their family, the role of motherhood for Kate, Jenny, Frankie, and Anne begins to seem impossible, or at least with a lot less room for their career, friends, and emotional health. The narrative of the single mother is one that millions of women carry out day-to-day in their real, non-Hollywood life. When trying to write an inclusive show that recognizes uncomfortable stories of motherhood, why neglect the one that is the most solitary and difficult? Do single mothers not deserve a spot in a strong, female-driven narrative? With the deliberate representation of several diverse narratives within the show and the absence of one without high socioeconomic status and a partner, it seems that the producers of the series wouldn't think single mothers are unable to support the strong female roles the show works to create. Despite Workin’ Moms’  feminist perspective and relatable humor, the producers simply missed the mark when it came to inclusivity outside of marriage and economic privilege.

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