Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stop the Presses: Chirlane McCray Is A Bad Mother!!!!

Some posts I love to write, others I love to imagine as the head of a giant monster trying to eat me while I push knitting needles and cayenne pepper into its eyes.  Who wins that struggle to death is anyone's guess.

This is the second type of a post.  It also has that stink of musty old cellars, the echo of spider webs wrapped around patriarchal gender norms and the clink of cheap dollars in the till of New York Post, a not-so-venerable New York newspaper.  It has decided to write about the parenting skills of a woman, Chirlane McCray, for no other reason than the identity of her husband who happens to be the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio.

Get it?  The parenting skills of politicians' relatives matter!  Hence the descriptions of Barbara Bush as the devil mother in the past (for someone must be responsible for George Walker Bush and usually that someone is a woman).  And all those articles we read about how good a father Bill Clinton might have been or might not have been, right?

Except that male relatives of politicians are not judged on the basis of their parenting skills.  Even not paying child maintenance for one's children is no big deal.  But the wives of politicians!  They must f***ing be perfect traditional ladies and mothers, for else the sky will fall.

And of course it's perfectly AOK to discuss the mothering experiences of politicians' wives and to rank them.

The most annoying aspect of debacles like this one are that those who rise up in the defense of women like Chirlane McCray often use the same framing:  She's not a bad mother, she's a perfect mother, as all mothers are supposed to be!  And this and this and this proves her perfection.

We can't get off that merry-go-round.

Now the really funny stuff.  McCray's sin appears to be that she admitted not being absolutely and totally dedicated to 24/7 mothering from the beginning:

“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.

This, my sweet and erudite readers, is the Perfection Myth of Motherhood in full operation.  McCray's admission is expected to "horrify most moms." Had people only known earlier that Chirlene McCray admitted that motherhood has its shadow sides, de Blasio would never ever have gotten into the office!

Just remember, while you read this, that de Blasio is the mayor, not McCray, and that the discussion is not about his fathering skills or how he felt when tradition required him to quit all paid work and spend all his time with his newborn daughter.

It's a rubbishy piece, that New York Post one, but it manages to stuff into a small amount of space the expectation that all child-rearing is to be done by mothers, that all mothers must love every minute of the experience, that fathers are not expected to do hands-on fathering and that public criticism of anything but mothering perfection is fine.  Finally, the piece tries to relight the Mummy Wars, once again.