Brooklyn Councilmember Crystal Hudson, fresh off family leave, returned to the office this October with a profound sense of appreciation for sleep after she and her wife welcomed a newborn baby girl.
Hudson made history in 2021 as the first out gay Black woman ever elected to the New York City Council. About three months ago, she used the state’s12-week paid family leave policy to spend bonding time with her wife, Sasha Ahuja, and daughter, Cy, at home.
“It’s definitely been stressful. It’s also really rewarding, joyful, and exciting. The sleep deprivation was something that you can never really prepare for,” said Hudson. “It’s almost unfathomable.”
She’s excited to be back at work, and at the same time, adjusting to this next chapter in her life. The first few weeks of leave were devoted to family, she said, but she eventually shifted to a hybrid schedule with her district office, assisting with projects and an asylum seeker shelter, as well as making appearances when she could.
Hudson represents District 35, covering neighborhoods like Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, and Bedford Stuyvesant. She chairs the Committee on Aging and is also co-chair of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) Caucus.
A Brooklyn native, Hudson said she grew up an only child with a single parent. While on leave, she thought constantly about her mother and other single parents rising to the difficult task of raising children alone.
Legislatively, she’s been inspired.
“I was already a huge proponent of universal childcare and (related) things, but it’s different once you’ve lived the experience. And so now I’m just like ‘everybody should just get a year,’” joked Hudson. The joke aside, she said she does believe that paid family leave could stand to be increased to possibly six months, especially for new parents.
She’s also proud of the work the City Council has done to address citywide childcare issues and pay disparities for early childhood educators. “For a city council that is majority women, I think now we have more mothers than we’ve ever had. That’s the priority you see when you have a body that looks the way that our body does,” said Hudson.
Hudson said she didn’t desire to be pregnant herself but has been family planning with her wife for some time. Her wife delivered her daughter at NYU under the care of their family obstetrician-gynecologist (obgyn), a Black queer woman who runs an all-female practice. She thinks that for many “LGBTQIA+ identified couples,” the choice to have children is very deliberate and intentional, so it’s about commitment more than anything. The evolution of maternal leave to parental leave allows for more diverse families to make that commitment, she said.
“For the City Council specifically, we have parental leave, and it extends to all parents, whether you’re adopting, fostering, birthing, or not birthing,” said Hudson. “It’s just parental leave for everyone and it’s the most inclusive that it could be.”
Hudson said she has received some backlash from the community for taking the time off, but overwhelmingly, the feedback has been positive and congratulatory.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.