I may be a few days late on this one, but it’s important enough to bring it up again. Chirlane McCray, first lady of New York, is not a “bad mom.” She’s one hell of a woman.
In case you missed it, McCray, wife of New York mayor Bill DeBlasio, was the subject of a New Yorker magazine profile and then a New York Post attack. In the article she talks about how she felt about the loss of independence and the responsibilities that women experience when they become mothers. She said of the birth of her first daughter Chiara, “I was 40 years old. I had a life. Especially with Chiara—will we feel guilt forever more? 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 reason not to do it. I love her. I have thousands of photos of her—every 1-month birthday, 2-month birthday. But 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.”
McCray’s is a perfectly normal reaction to a massive life change. I remember missing a sense of achievement when I was on maternity leave. As a worker, I always felt a sense of accomplishment when I could check things off my to do list. At home on maternity leave, nothing was ever finished. I remember expressing those feelings only to have other people tell me, “But you are achieving so much. You are raising a child.” I knew that and I wasn’t undervaluing the role. I was just adjusting to a new way of life. It was frustrating to have other people try to “fix” how I felt.
That is why it is beyond frustrating that following the New Yorker article, the New York Post ran its article with the headline, “NYC’s First Lady: I Was a Bad Mom.” The article begins with a gross misrepresentation of McCray’s’ words. The author writes, “New York City’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, didn’t much care for her new role as a mother after daughter Chiara was born — and looked for any excuse to keep away from her little girl.” The writer goes on to describe what McCray did say as a, “startlingly frank confession.” Frank? Maybe. But startling? No.
We cannot allow the mainstream media to shame women who speak the truth about motherhood or anything else for that matter. It’s why I urge women to “phone a friend” at least once a week. What I found while writing Mogul, Mom & Maid, was how infrequently women discuss their lives and their feelings with each other. We talk about our kids, our jobs, our kids, our spouses, our kids, and our parents, but rarely about ourselves and what is and isn’t working in our lives.
And what I know from speaking with hundreds of women all across the country is that we are not alone. As I wrote in the book, “Sharing with other women, knowing we’re not the only ones who are experiencing our feelings and challenges, is important. As we give voice to what is happening in our lives, we can address the challenges, make more informed decisions, and change what isn’t working.”
If the mainstream narratives about motherhood don’t work, then we will write our own.