No, New York Post, Chirlane McCray Is Not a Bad Mother

Chirlane McCray is not a bad mom

We are well aware by now that we should do our very best to ignore the New York Post, especially when it comes to the tabloid’s treatment of women. However, some things are just too provocative to let slide; some things are just too offensive to allow into the public record without some kind of counterpoint. Such is the case with the Post‘s response to New York magazine’s profile on Chirlane McCray, the first lady of New York City, in which the tabloid proclaims that McCray is “a bad mom” and implies that, due to her faulty parenting skills, McCray’s daughter Chiara de Blasio suffers from depression and a substance abuse problem. Which, seriously, New York Post? This is a new low, even for you.

In the New York profile, McCray speaks about her struggles in the early days after Chiara was born, and how it was difficult to instantly adjust to having an infant to care for. McCray, who “had always imagined a life with children” quickly found out that “the reality of motherhood—the loss of independence, the relentlessness of the responsibility—was difficult.” McCray tells New York, “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.”

Practically every mother can recognize McCray’s sentiments. Even if the adjustment to parenthood is an easier transition than McCray’s, there is inevitably a loss of self involved when a child is born—a loss that is usually far more profound for mothers than for fathers. But the New York profile goes on to reveal that McCray adjusted to motherhood and, following the arrival of son, Dante, “built around herself a different kind of women’s world, centered on her kids, their friends, and other mothers in the neighborhood.” McCray’s husband, now-mayor Bill de Blasio, was frequently absent due to work, and thus the burden of parenting fell squarely on McCray’s shoulders. However, this was clearly a challenge she met head on; one she embraced while also continuing to build her own estimable career.

So, where’s the problem? Oh, there isn’t one? Well, you’re clearly not reading between the lines in the way that the Post is, because, while you might have simply read about a woman who was doing the best she could to raise her family and maintain some sense of professional self, the Post sees evidence of an unfit mother whose lack of interest in being present for every single second of her infant’s life is “bound to horrify most mothers.” This might come as a shock to Post writer Bruce Golding, but, as is the case with most fathers, even the most devoted mother can’t always handle being on mommy-duty 24-hours a day, seven-days a week. It’s possible that even Golding’s mother required a break once in a while!

But beyond erroneously crediting McCray with calling herself a “bad mom,” the Post also implies that McCray’s disclosure of her ambivalence as a new mother (which, the tabloid claims, “shatters the carefully crafted image of de Blasio’s close-knit family”), is also a clue to why Chiara de Blasio suffers from depression and has struggled with substance abuse. While the Post notes that Chiara has “let her parents off the hook for her alcohol and drug problems,” the tabloid also juxtaposes its “horrific” revelations of McCray’s totally normal maternal behavior with the old information about Chiara’s mental health issues. This tactic is not only incredibly insulting to McCray and Chiara, but also to all people who struggle with depression and substance abuse and betrays an enormous lack of empathy or understanding about what that struggle entails. Depression is a chemical imbalance and, as was the self-admitted case with Chiara, many people suffering from depression attempt to self-medicate, which frequently leads to substance abuse problems. Trying to connect that with McCray’s early parenting trials is a disgusting attempt to make the personal political, and, truly, even the Post should be above that kind of behavior. We all should. It’s more than fine to criticize our politicians and public figures when it comes to their records and positions, but to criticize them on their all-too-normal parenting woes? That’s just pathetic.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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