Modern Mamas – Cat & Nat
Catherine Belknap and Natalie Telfer are best friends and the hilarious duo behind social media sensation Cat & Nat. Two comedic moms, seven kids and a daily dose of the true reality of raising a family amid the chaos of everyday life.
Gone are the traditional conventions of what it means to be a family; you now have nuclear families, adoptive, blended — the list goes on. But we’d classify Toronto moms Catherine Belknap and Natalie Telfer as the mama bears of one massive, supportive clan. These two besties turned business partners share their entire lives with one another, and the world, through their show Cat & Nat.
Every week the pair broadcasts a number of episodes, including a daily “Chit Chat with Cat & Nat” from Monday to Friday, which airs live at noon on Facebook, and a “#momtruth” every Friday. The duo tackles a number of topics that range from PG-rated to adult talk, like why moms hate playdates and what the heck sex becomes after babies.
In between their scheduled content, Cat & Nat are constantly updating their Instagram story and chatting with other moms in the digital community they’ve formed — essentially an extended, extended family. Collectively, their platforms have garnered more than 500,000 followers and boast thousands of views and endless interactions.
Recently, Cat & Nat followed Real Housewives of Toronto star Roxy Earle to snag a glimpse of “a day in the life” and documented the experience for fans to follow along. The two were completely in character, ditching diapers and naptime for designer dresses — totally embodying their comedic alter egos Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
“We’re just so happy that people feel like we’ve created a community that they belong to,” says Nat. “Bringing the audience into the show is what sets us apart from things like a television show. We have favourite people that we love to watch on TV, but we can’t access them. Even if you were to go to their Instagram and you were to leave a message, they may never see it.”
It was about four years ago that Cat & Nat birthed the idea for their brand. The pair first began hosting events and then vlogging for their YouTube channel, sharing the trials and tribulations of motherhood. After all, becoming moms is what reconnected these high school pals after life and marriage naturally distanced them.
“When we first had babies we wished that there was a place like this,” says Nat. “There were so many things that we would just ask ourselves in our minds that we’d go over and over and over again.”
“Not everybody loves every phase and we always try to tell people that just because you’re havinghard days doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids” — Cat
It’s easy to envy the kind of bond that Cat & Nat share, especially when you feel the void of a similar relationship in your own life or are raising your children as a single mother. Who doesn’t want someone to show up at their house with coffee on a weekday morning, or someone to calm them down when days with the kids get overwhelming? Bottom line: we all wish we had a Cat or Nat in our lives.
This is where the community comes in and technology proves, once again, that the world is a small place and we’re never truly alone. Cat & Nat is a safe space for moms to be honest about the struggles they face, but also to celebrate the joys of motherhood. “Not everybody loves every phase and we always try to tell people that just because you’re having hard days doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids,” says Cat. “I still love them, I would do anything for them, but I found the phase of mothering hard when I had a baby.”
This is the kind of real dialogue between the women that encourages moms to share, post and interact on a global level. Whether you’re a working or stay-at-home mom, you’re bound to feel helpless and alone at one point or another, and having a community of women to turn to for reassurance at your most vulnerable is priceless.
Vulnerability and anxiety have become the standard of motherhood. As author Judith Warner puts it in Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, modern moms are gasping for air as they choke on “that caught-by-the-throat feeling that so many mothers have today of always doing something wrong.” Moms are inundated with mainstream media and celebrity culture telling them how they’re failing. Our feeds are flooded with “experts” telling us why we should stop coddling our children, or why not hugging our children every five minutes will lead to them becoming serial killers in their late 30s — there’s always a new study.
In Perfect Madness Warner recalls a conversation she had with her daughter’s pediatrician at five months. Sobbing, Warner admitted feeling terrible about going back to work. Her pediatrician responded, “Listen, you don’t just have this child for a couple of months. You’ll have her for the rest of your life. You have to have a life of your own. Because if you’re happy, she’ll be happy. If you’re fine, she’ll be fine.”
“I think what’s been the most amazing thing about this community is realizing that everybody’s insecurities are the same,” says Cat. “We always remind each other that [any problem] is normal and it’s going to pass.”
Cat has three children and Nat has four (all eight and under), so the saying has definitely proven true: sometimes it really does “take a village.” Between running their brand and their respective households, Cat admits it’s hard to get out for a date night, but that’s okay. “There’s no such thing as balance.”
“I think that the important thing is, Nat and I and our husbands are like a team. We see each other as partners in everything we do,” shares Cat. “So I think that it’s not necessarily about taking time out to go for dinner. We do that. It’s finding moments throughout the day to reconnect without making big, grand plans.”
According to several studies, modern families spend an average of 30 minutes or less of quality time together during a regular workweek. And whether you’re a working or stay-at-home mom, even 30 minutes may seem impossible to you.
As a mom, your biggest fear is that you’ve failed if your child is different, that the difficult phases won’t ever pass and that other moms must have it so much easier. “When you talk to other moms, you realize we’re all in the same boat. All of these crazy kids, they’re all the same.” — Nat
“I think there’s so much pressure on parents with little kids to find this time that doesn’t exist,” says Cat. She says she is happy sitting in the backyard with her husband and catching up over coffee while the kids play.
Although they don’t often appear in their wives’ videos, husbands Marc (Cat) and Mark (Nat) are just as integral to the family dynamic. “Their job is to bring home the bacon, got that?” jokes Nat. Would they consider starting their own show? “Definitely not,” they shout, practically in sync. “They’re out there running companies, then there’s us two fools running around in lingerie, dancing to music,” adds Nat. But they don’t seem to mind.
If you’ve ever caught a live stream or “#momtruth,” you’d know that Cat & Nat will sing and dance their hearts out, regardless of who is watching. One of the most important values in their homes is having fun; “Number one is always laughing and having fun. We want our kids to be happy,” says Cat. “The biggest lesson we’ve learned is just being 100 per cent who you are and not apologizing for it.”
When you’re raising a tiny small army, it’s important to remember that it’s often a game of “monkey see, monkey do,” which is exactly why Cat & Nat often make the conscious choice to not sweat the small stuff. Crumbs on the couch? Clothes that don’t match? Uneaten dinner? Don’t sweat it. “Even if we’re kind of freaking out on the inside, we just try to show an example of calm so that they won’t get overwhelmed or so crazy about things that are not important,” says Cat.
“We teach[our children] to be grateful and we teach them to respect each other’s opinions even though they may be different” — Nat
Cat’s motto is, the problem is solvable. “So there’s no problem that we can’t solve and that’s kind of how we tackle everything,” says Nat.
With 14 ears and eyes on them at once, the moms use gatherings like group dinners to enforce positive habits and instill the values of gratitude and kindness. Nat shares that one ritual is to go around the table at the end of the day and each talk about one rose and one thorn. “We teach them to be grateful and we teach them to respect each other’s opinions even though they may be different.” (See “From Zero to Happy” featuring Neil Pasricha in our February/March issue.)
And we know what you’re thinking: “There’s no way to keep my kids focused for something like that. I must be doing something wrong.” Cat & Nat are the first to admit it’s not always rainbows and butterflies, but it’s the effort that counts. “It sounds beautiful, but there’s usually someone lying on the ground or standing on the table while that happens.”
At the end of the day, Cat & Nat, along with all the other hard-working moms (and dads) out there, have one thing in common: the desire to raise happy, healthy children who grow up to be valuable members of society. Each child’s journey is going to be different, and rest assured, parents will have to surrender to the natural ebb and flow of motherhood — but they have to remember to trust themselves along the way.
“You have to believe in yourself 10 times more than your biggest doubter,” says Cat.
10 MOM TRUTHS
1. Balance doesn’t exist
2. A little appreciation goes a long way; we want to hear we’re doing a great job
3. You are not going to love being a mom at every phase
4. Bad moms are good moms
5. The best parenting education is experience
6. You can love your husband but not like him sometimes — it doesn’t mean your marriage is over
7. We are too unnecessarily worried — stop worrying!
8. No matter what you do, you are going to mess up your kid. Your parenting style will always be under scrutiny
9. You shouldn’t feel guilty for taking time for yourself
10. Your sex life is going to change, and that’s normal
Creative Director – Michelle Zerillo-Sosa
Photographer – Robin Gartner | www.robingartner.com
Contributing Videographer – Sal Pasqua
Fashion – Zara | www.zara.com/ca
Accessories – Rita Tesolin | www.ritatesolin.com
Stylist – Jo Jin, Judy Inc. | www.judyinc.com
Hair and Makeup – Aitous Paris, House of Aitous | www.instagram.com/houseofaitous
Decor – HomeSense | www.homesense.ca
Backdrop – Forever in Bloom | @_forever.in.bloom_
Location – Treasure Hill Homes,
Aurora Views | www.treasurehill.com
Breakfast Catering – Pusateri’s | www.pusateris.com
Florist – Fortinos | www.fortinos.ca