From the moment I first laid eyes on my children, all I wanted to do was bathe, feed and burp ‘em. Every diaper was a discovery.
Once they were old enough to talk, I hung on their every word all day, every day, until their precious heads hit the pillows tucked into cases I’d monogramed in their favorite colors. Certain of their slumber, I would haul out their eight-volume scrapbook collections and update them while I sobbed to an endless loop of Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game.”
Occasionally, I’d start worrying about the utter wasteland my life would become once my children grew up and discarded me. At such moments, I found it very helpful to go down to the basement and make a tub of lye soap from bacon grease.
If you think I’m serious about any of this, you, too, could be a headline writer for the New York Post.
Last week, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio demanded the Post and other tabloids apologize for disparaging front-page headlines about his wife, Chirlane McCray. In a New York magazine interview, McCray had admitted to struggling with the transition from life as an independent professional to motherhood after her daughter was born.
“I was 40 years old. I had a life,” McCray was quoted as saying. “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.”
She added: “It took a long time for me to get into ‘I’m taking care of kids,’ and what that means.”
The New York Post headline, in 2-inch type, next to a front-page photo of McCray: “I WAS A BAD MOM!”
Yep. So exactly what she meant.
I’d like to think this anti-mom thing is an aberration in 2014. I also like to imagine I’m Queen Constancia, ruler of a whole string of islands somewhere far away from this idiocy. Both are unlikely, I’m sad to report.
Reaction to the Post’s headline suggests plenty of Americans still believe that good mothers are never ambivalent. Judging from my reader mail, these are often the same people who insist that Jesus romped with dinosaurs.
Meanwhile, in Mesa, Arizona, there’s been quite the uproar over pages 40 and 41 in a 255-page high-school yearbook. At issue are eight photos depicting the real lives of teen parents. The headline over the photos: “I’m working a DOUBLE SHIFT.”
Some critics told reporters that the photos could encourage more teen pregnancy by making it look appealing. Because nothing says fun like wearing a baby strapped to your chest while your classmates are tweeting pix of their college admission letters and dressing for the prom.
To her everlasting credit, Mesa Public Schools spokeswoman Helen Hollands said the yearbook would not be altered.
“Yearbooks are an opportunity to commemorate students’ school activities and achievements,” Hollands said in a statement to reporters. “The material presented on several pages in the student life section of the Mesa High School yearbook reflects choices made outside of the school environment. The feedback received about the subject matter will help refine the judgment used when determining content in future yearbooks.”
Alas, not every school administration is so levelheaded.
Last spring, a high school in White Cloud, Michigan, banned yearbook photos of two pregnant students. Superintendent Barry Seabrook said publishing babybump photos would contradict the state’s mandatory abstinencebased sex education.
“It’s our feeling … that (the photos) could very well be a contrary message to (the state policy),” Seabrook said.
Also last spring, a high school in North Carolina pulled from the yearbook a photo of 17-year-old Caitlin Tiller with her little boy.
No way, officials said. That there photo promotes teen pregnancy.
Tiller told WGHP-TV that she had declined the invitation to pose alone.
“I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for him,” she said, sounding like mothers everywhere.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine.