Let’s just get this on out the way: eff the New York Post for screaming from its front page that Chirlane McCray, wife of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, is a “BAD MOM” for being 100 percent honest about how difficult it was for her to put aside her career for motherhood. Eff The Post so hard.
Yeah, I said it.
Because I remember.
There is the humongous belly and the swollen ankles and the weirdo cravings and, my God, the breathless, sleepless nights with body parts jerking and groaning and leaning each and every which way. And then there’s the stretching and pushing and serrated knife-styled searing pain that makes us feel like Jason or maybe Satan himself is tearing us limb from limb when we push a full human being from our loins.
And then, nine months after love is consummated and seed meets egg, finally, suddenly, there we are: somebody’s mama. In those first moments we are ecstatic and exhausted, hopelessly, helplessly in love and completely, ridiculously effing clueless, feigning confidence and scared shitless that we will break them—our babies. We don’t know what we’re doing. The books, the classes, the regaled tales from the moms who’ve been there, done that, don’t mean a damn thing.
There is only one thing that we know is true: we are mothers.
And everything for us has changed.
Relationships morph. Time shifts. We are catching vomit in our hands and washing green projectile poop off our bedspreads and letting a little human gnaw our nipples with vice-gripping gums. We are not who we used to be. Even and especially when that’s all some of us want.
That last part is true and fair and not at all uncommon.
Indeed, it is human.
And so Chirlane’s recollections about new motherhood in this week’s New York magazine are not only candid but ridiculously familiar. Any woman who’s ever faced the awkward two-step that is work/life balance after kids knows this for sure:
“I was 40 years old. I had a life. Especially with Chiara—will we feel guilt forever more?” Chirlane said of the birth of her first child, a daughter, in her New York magazine interview. “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.”
And you know what? That’s real deal Holyfield, y’all. Dead right, all the way down to the bone. Chirlane’s revelations about what it took to get her mind right behind being a mom and passionate about work sound a lot like the conversations you’ve had with your best girlfriends and your sisters and your co-workers when you kissed the babies and wiped the booties and fixed the bottles and secretly wished you were back in the office, doing the work and earning your keep and all up in the middle of the action.
Nothing wrong with this.
So why did the New York Post, and, to a lesser extent, the Daily News, make Chirlane out to be some kind of god awful human being for wanting to honor the 40 years of life she lived before she became a mom? Why is it so okay for a man to become a father and proudly hold on to every inch of who he is outside the home, but not so much for a woman?
Because here in America, where we scream “family values” from every rooftop and ballot box (but then move heaven and earth to deny the social safety nets necessary to help mothers and children who choose motherhood over jobs survive and thrive) there is no space for a lady to be both woman and mother. No room for bottles in the boardrooms or a power suit in the nurseries.
Well, isn’t it time we call bullshit? Who says that in 2014, we should be all-the-way-good with a crappy, has-been, sensational rag like The Post painting motherhood with that stupid Leave It To Beaver brush?
Hello, NY Post? The ’50s called—they want their stereotypical mom tropes back. The Twenty First Century in its entirety wouldn’t mind you returning that “Black moms suck” labels, either. (Oh, please believe, I don’t doubt for one second that Chirlane’s deep, dark chocolate skin and those locs and those biracial children with the wild and wooly hair helped The Post editors along in their headline picking process.)
Mayor de Blasio gets all the high fives and fist bumps for coming to his wife’s defense and demanding The Post and The News issue an apology to his wife for their ridiculous headlines. “It suggests a tremendous misunderstanding of what it means to be a parent, what it means to be a mother,” de Blasio said of the coverage in a hastily-called news conference yesterday. “A lot of hardworking women in this city are offended,” Mr. de Blasio added. “I think both The Post and The Daily News owe Chirlane an apology. I think they owe all of us an apology.”
Full disclosure: I was a political and entertainment reporter for The Daily News for eight years back in the 90s, so I get the rush for the raucus front page and sensational headlines. But this here? Too far. Do better, y’all. At least try. Damn.
In the meantime, we here at MyBrownBaby certainly #StandWithChirlane and thank her not just for her candor but for using her platform as the first lady of New York to speak up on behalf of us moms. Us women.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.