‘World’s Best Mom’ Rewrite

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

There was controversy this weekend over an obituary in the New York Times that led with beef stroganoff. 

They had gotten it right. Yvonne Brill – Mrs. Brill — “she preferred to be called Mrs., her son said” was “a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children.” 

And apparently she “made a mean beef stroganoff.” That was in the original version of the piece but after outrage on Twitter and in house, the beef stroganoff had to go.

The Times, it seemed, had gotten the story exactly right. Who was this woman? And what’s the news? Not simply that she was a successful scientist with a satellite propulsion invention but that she had some trailblazing priorities. And her son clearly understands and appreciates. What an achievement. 

We insist on fanning these flames — the idea that somehow only what a woman does in professional pursuits, as a supposedly independent actor, is important — that beef stroganoff should be in the shadows. But what happens at home are lives being shaped. Lead with the beef stroganoff because it was clearly every bit as much of who she was as being a rocket scientist. And to have found a sane balance — knowing the importance of family and making choices and, no doubt, sacrifices and having patience — is brilliant. 

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