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‘A wild journey’: Mayor Wu joins Hillary Clinton to talk mental health, politics, and parenting

The pair tackled everything from the protestors outside Wu's house to Bostonians' intense sports loyalties in the podcast segment.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu smiles after being sworn into office at City Hall in November 2021. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff


Hillary Clinton and Mayor Michelle Wu certainly have things in common — both broke gender barriers in politics and took unconventional routes to get there. But, they also shared the unique challenge of having to raise a family in the political spotlight.

In an episode of Clinton’s podcast “You and Me Both” this week, Wu shared with the former First Lady, senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate the challenges and surprises parenting her 4- and 7-year-old sons while in office has brought. 

“It has been such a test of parenthood raising kids in this time,” Wu said. “It’s such a jarring experience to be working my hardest to raise boys who hopefully will turn into caring, kind, strong young men, concerned about the world, and ready to help their community, and then to have to explain to them what they are hearing when they wake up everyday outside their home.”

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Wu talked about how for months her family and neighborhood have been faced with 7 a.m. protests over the city’s vaccine mandate. While she described a “deep anxiety” about raising kids in this time, she also said she is, in a way, grateful for the stage her children are at because “they are full of joy and everything is an adventure.”

A few months ago, when holiday cards were still coming in, Wu’s oldest son was helping sort the mail and exclaimed that he had found mail from the protestors. Wu said she rushed over, concerned about what it might say.

“He gave a big sigh and said, ‘Oh never mind, its to the honorable Michelle Wu, I thought it said to the horrible Michelle Wu,’” she said. “He was truly disappointed because he was so excited that we were going to get this mail interaction. In some ways at the end of the day kids are kids and they have fun in any situation.”

Clinton said she could relate and recalled the tough conversations she had to have with her then 6-year-old daughter Chelsea when Bill Clinton was running for governor of Arkansas.

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The roughly half-an-hour conversation between Wu and Clinton didn’t solely focus on parenting; the pair also touched on how Wu got into politics, the importance of prioritizing mental health, Wu’s impressions of being mayor so far, and affordable housing, among other topics. 

Both Clinton and Wu took a more unconventional path into politics. Wu, who grew up in Chicago, said when she was younger she thought she would be a stay-at-home mom. 

“I had the opportunity of a lifetime to come to the Boston area when I got that scholarship to Harvard, but still in some ways was never thinking that far ahead and never saw people who looked like me in positions of power or in politics,” Wu said. “It’s been a wild journey for me, unexpectedly into government, into public service, for the chance to try to shape our communities from someone who understands what it’s like from the outside.” 

When Wu was finishing college, her mother began struggling with mental health and Wu became her mom’s caregiver. 

“There’s really no way I would be where I am now in a position in government had it not been for my family’s journey and for my mom’s experience with mental illness and hospital systems — the many, many barriers that it felt like our family was always facing in the moments of greatest need,” Wu said. 

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She said the most dehumanizing experience of all was when she finally convinced her mom to seek medical care and was in the emergency room.

“In some ways that still drives me in what I do every day — realizing how much it matters when government works but especially when government doesn’t work for people, and the ways in which all the programming we create, all the funding we put to this, all the systems we are building, if it is not actually meeting people where they are in those moments then we aren’t delivering the impact that we could,” Wu said. 

Clinton and Wu went on to discuss how mental health will continue to be its own pandemic once COVID recedes.  

Wu has been the target of criticism and hatred since taking office, especially regarding the vaccine mandate. Clinton asked how she is dealing with the constant criticism and attacks, especially in regard to the protests outside Wu’s house. Wu called this a “difficult moment in our history,” and said despite the protests, she sleeps well at night knowing her decisions were guided by experts. 

“I am lucky that Boston is home to such expertise, and the way that I like to lead and make decisions is to ensure that the people who are closest to the issue, with the greatest expertise on this, are informing the decision making,” Wu said. “At the end of the day this is not about vaccines to a lot of these people, this is about a changing country and power structure that sees women advancing in leadership, and women of color, we are here to stay.”

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After talking with Wu, Clinton spent the rest of the episode talking with New York City Mayor Eric Adams. The podcast is available wherever podcasts are found, including on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and iHeart.

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