Being a new dad isn’t an easy job. The training is intense, the environment is chaotic, and the hours — well, let’s not talk about the hours. Even so, says Ryan Belleville, a real-life father of two who also plays one on CBC’s comedy Workin’ Moms — dudes have it pretty easy: “We never have anything that wants to suck on our nipples.”
Workin’ Moms, which recently wrapped its third season, focuses on a group of Toronto matriarchs — led by series creator Catherine Reitman’s Kate — who refuse to let parenthood stunt their ambitions, and the partners along for the oft-hilarious, always bumpy ride. In other words, don’t let the title fool you: this show isn’t just for mothers. Like its network pal Schitt’s Creek, Moms has recently found a massive audience through a distribution deal with Netflix. (Chances are, if you haven’t watched it, you’ve already heard someone talking about it at a dinner. Or had an American ask you about it on a flight.)
We spoke to the dads of Workin’ Moms — Belleville, Dennis Andres, and Philip Sternberg, an executive producer who’s married to Reitman — about three valuable lessons in modern fatherhood and partnership found through their work on the show.
1. Support your partner’s goals.
When Reitman started writing the stories that would become Workin’ Moms, Sternberg — who plays her husband Nathan on screen — knew he had to help her make it happen. Soon, Reitman was leading a writer’s room while pregnant and doing table-reads while nursing, with Sternberg right by her side. “We were living the show while we were making it,” he says.
His character, however, is less than pleased when his wife makes a bold career move soon after their son is born, pressuring her to stay home instead. “I think for a lot of women, it’s common to hear stories of suppressed or cloaked ambition,” Sternberg says. “If you aren’t being supportive of your partner’s ambition, you aren’t doing your job. [With me and Catherine] we both understand the other has dreams, and we have to nurture those as much as possible.”
2. Be a sponge.
Dennis Andres isn’t a father yet, so when he’s on set as new dad Ian Matthews, his eyes are peeled for any parenting tips he can find. “From what I’ve heard, fathers get advice from everybody,” he says. “That can be a bit overwhelming. I think like any job, the best thing you can do is find the best qualities in people you admire, and try to cherry-pick those and apply them to your parenting style.”
Andres is fascinated by how Sternberg and Reitman juggle the show’s production while keeping their kids happy and relationship strong. “Ideally, I’d want to make parenting look the way they make it look.”
3. Embrace your emotions.
“There’s this idea that men always have to be stoic and soldier on to be a man,” says Belleville. “But that’s incredibly unhealthy for you, your relationships, your kids and your family.”
Belleville’s character Lionel Carlson is equal parts goofy and gooey, and he isn’t afraid to be open about his emotions. When he became a dad in real life, Belleville turned into a “total mushball,” blubbering over everything. At first, it was jarring, but he realized it made him a better dad and partner.
“The more you’re allowed to learn about yourself, the better person you become,” he says. “Removing that pressure to be tough is a very healthy thing.”