The New York Post took quotations out of context to push the sexist smear that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's wife Chirlane McCray was a “bad mom,” after McCray admitted that she initially found balancing children and her career to be challenging.
A May 18 Post article featuring the headline, “NYC's first lady: I was a bad mom” claimed that McCray admitted in a New York magazine profile that she “was unable to embrace motherhood and initially neglected Chiara,” her daughter. The paper went on to claim that McCray's disclosure was “bound to horrify most moms” :
In a startlingly frank confession, Mayor Bill de Blasio's wife says she was unable to embrace motherhood and initially neglected Chiara, who last year dropped the bombshell that she was in treatment for abusing booze and pot.
“I was 40 years old. I had a life. Especially with Chiara -- will we feel guilt forevermore? Of course, yes,” McCray told New York magazine for its cover story this week.
“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.”
The disclosure -- bound to horrify most moms -- shatters the carefully crafted image of de Blasio's close-knit family, which helped vault him into office.
The Post ran the article as its May 19 cover story:
But the full context of the New York magazine profile makes clear that while McCray initially found “as with so many women” that juggling new-motherhood with her career was a challenge, she became fully “committed” and was “a devoted and relaxed parent” -- a far cry from having “neglected” her child (emphasis added):
Chiara was born in December 1994, seven months after the wedding, when Bill was working on Francisco Diaz's state assembly campaign. McCray had always imagined a life with children, but as with so many women the reality of motherhood--the loss of independence, the relentlessness of the responsibility--was difficult. “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.”
By the time Dante was born in 1997--the same year de Blasio started working for the Clinton administration as a regional director for HUD--Chirlane had mostly assumed the role of the default parent. She stopped working full-time for several years, and even when she resumed, it was she who was usually at after-school pickup at 6 p.m. “The kids came first,” she says. It was then that de Blasio's ascent in Democratic politics began in earnest--first running Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign and then winning a City Council seat to represent brownstone Brooklyn. 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.
The weight of all that family responsibility, though, made it easier for McCray to shoulder her new role as mother, wife, and caretaker. She was committed. But it was also the case that, for all her lifelong diligence and toughness, McCray had never been someone who defined herself primarily through her work--in fact, she often defined herself against it, as someone animated by fiercely held values rather than self-interested ambition. Her friends from the time describe a devoted and relaxed parent, autonomous within her sphere.
Furthermore, the Post's sexist attack on McCray as a “bad mom” selectively edited out discussion of her husband's decisions with regard to family and career. The New York profile details how McCray stopped working full-time in order to become “default parent,” putting the kids “first” when she eventually returned to work: “it was she who was usually at after-school pickup at 6 p.m.” Meanwhile, de Blasio's “ascent in Democratic politics began in earnest.”
Both McCray and de Blasio faced the challenge of balancing their passion for their careers with a loving family life, but only McCray was smeared by the Post as a “bad mom” when she tried to honestly discuss that challenge.