Chirlane McCray On Motherhood

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.”

Indeed.

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.

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Denene Millner

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.

5 Comments

  1. In a perfect world, all moms would #StandWithChirlane and recognize and applaud her for her selfless sacrifice. Unfortunately, our world is currently broken and lopsided. As a mom I stand with Chirlane to make my own choices to raise my children in a way that makes me happy and fulfilled. I stand with her to be honest about the decision without any condemnation. I stand with her because I am not directly a part of her parent-kingdom and I believe that she is fully capable of making good decisions. I thank her for her honesty. Rock on and soar high, because our children need to see the best of us and if you are giving them your best, you are flying with eagles!

  2. I’m torn on this one. I think the Post is wrong for their characterization of Chirlane. But I’m also not running to defend Chirlane as a “good mother” either. Her daughter has publicized her very recent struggles with drug and alcohol abuse (I think she was treated within the last couple years). And she did mention her father’s busyness as a contributor to her struggle. What I appreciate is the family’s honesty. Their revelation and support/affirmation of Chirlane’s fluid sexuality and Chiara’s substance abuse is brave and powerful. But I think, in their admissions, is also an acknowledgement that they, indeed, have NOT been perfect parents. When I, as a young mother, look at Chirlane’s life. I don’t necessarily see a model I want to follow. I see a cautionary tale about the difficulty of balancing motherhood and a political career. And a woman who is brave enough to be honest about it.

  3. After reading this article, I don’t feel like this article is as harsh as you do – at least not in the same way. If anything I feel like the whole article is written with and air of disbelief, “she can’t really be what she claims…”

    I believe that, in spite of the writer’s doubts, McCray is a great mom, wife, and co-leader of New York City. She is a non-conformist. She has nothing prove and nothing to hide. I think those two realities about her character are what most people are uncomfortable about. She’s “too real”, she isn’t playing the smoke-in-mirrors political game (as far as her person is concerned).

    One more thing: being a good mom and being a perfect mom are two different things. One is possible, individual, and subjective. The other is a fantasy. I have no choice but to believe that McCray is a good mom (as well as a good wife and a good human being). That means she has made mistakes, but she has done her best. That’s all anyone can rightfully expect and ask for.

  4. I too am Chirlaine. I don’t regret my kids and its was my choice to have them. (So don’t go there) but I did put my career track on hold three times to have my children, and huge pay cuts, that to this day piss me off. Even with a supportive husband, and every freaking book out there on how to have it all, not have it all, or do it a different way, I was confused, criticized and put in solitary confinement by my friends, family, and the companies I worked for. Either I was too in love with being home with my kids and eating bon-bons (right!) or I was too work focused and needed to be a traditional mother and wife (right!). I was never to complain, itch, or make a bad remark about my children or my life. My mother told me right away that she wasn’t listening. This mommy stuff was all supposed to be a blessing everyday. And when it wasn’t I was supposed to smile anyway. It was a sacrifice that I don’t regret. But it’s not as simple as whether you regret it or not, its a complicated daily dance that I do everyday. Many women still look at me as though I am crazy when the first pronoun I use to talk about myself is not “mom.” It’s a sacrifice that I make everyday. But not one I enjoy everyday. And that’s just a fact. And I’m sick of having to justify my love of writing, reading, thinking, and hustling because I have three kids whom I love too! But I deal. And I try hard not to compare myself to my friends who have 1 or no children and make 4 to 5 times more than I do. Or those friends who go to fabulous vacations while I’m picking up kids from camp and forcing my mini-me to eat a green leafy vegetable. It’s not easy. We’re not all Gisele Bunchen, nor do we want to be. It’s the 21st century, when will it just be okay to be our own versions of mom no matter how we do it. Just as long at the end of the day the kids are alright?

  5. In this effing world, we begin our life as pure little angels, then turm into seductive prostitutes and then, once we’re done feeding the fantasies of men, we become incubators and mothers. That’s it. Once you’re a mom, you are expected to live for your family and wait for grandchildren. Oh, and not waste all that money on shopping, your very favorite activity, other than breastfeeding (but not in public!).
    I’m exaggerating, for the most part, but this BS enrages me!

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