New York Post Blasts “Bad Mom” Chirlane McCray, The NYC First Lady
This kind of bullshit makes my blood boil: the New York Post’s cover today shows a picture of New York City’s First Lady Chirlane McCray with the headline, “I WAS A BAD MOM.” It references an article that just came out in New York magazine about McCray’s life in which she writes about her difficulties balancing work and motherhood.
But did McCray actually ever call herself a “bad mom”? Of course not.
McCray was an out lesbian and radical feminist activist who belonged to the Combahee River Collective, a black feminist lesbian organization. She also published an article in a 1979 issue of Essence called “I Am A Lesbian.” Over time, however, how she defined her sexual orientation changed and in 1994, she married fellow progressive Bill de Blasio, who is now NYC’s mayor.
In the New York magazine piece, she described how difficult it was for her to acclimate to a more conventional way of life after having children. She said:
“I was 40 years old. I had a life. Especially with [daughter] Chiara — will we feel guilt forevermore? Of course, yes. But the truth is, I could not spend every day with her. I didn’t want to do that. I looked for all kinds of reasons not to do it. … I’ve been working since I was 14, and that part of me is me. It took a long time for me to get into ‘I’m taking care of kids,’ and what that means.”
Fathers, of course, say and think these kinds of things about parenthood, too, but they don’t end up on the front page of the Post over it. Chirlane McCray’s only fault here is honesty: she said something women aren’t supposed to say. She said something mothers aren’t supposed to say. Moms are supposed to be endlessly selfless, sacrificial and long-suffering. Moms aren’t supposed to want to be away from their babies. Instead, women like Chirlane McCray end up at the center of the mommy wars, just for speaking openly and honestly.
In reality, it seems that McCray actually sacrificed quite a lot for her whole family while her husband was climbing up the ranks of NYC politics. She said that she became the “default parent” when their son Dante was born three years after Chiara and her husband was working for the Clinton administration. (She eventually went back to work in 2002, when Dante was in elementary school.)
She also cared for both her and her husband’s aging mothers, who lived in a house down the street from them in Brooklyn. As New York explains:
In 2005, Bill and Chirlane decided to move their mothers, both in failing health, into a house that de Blasio’s mother, Maria Wilhelm, owned down the street. Katharine McCray, who had multiple myeloma, occupied the top floor, and Wilhelm, who suffered from heart ailments, lived below. It fell largely to Chirlane to coordinate “the grandmas’ ” care, keeping track of the coming and going of home health aides, driving them to doctors’ appointments, rushing to the emergency room as needed. It was, she remembers, one of the most difficult periods of her life.
Of course, a lot of people don’t see caretaking as “work.” It’s just what women do. It’s just what women have always done. And McCray admitting that she didn’t grin and bear it through every second of it apparently makes her a “bad mom.”
The Post shouldn’t be trashing Chirlane McCray on their front page. They should be giving her a pat on the back.