We have seen more of Michelle Obama lately: numerous profiles in the media, a direct mail appeal, and coverage of her decision to put her career on hold and campaign for her husband full-time. In all accounts, she is described as a willful, intelligent, and compassionate professional who has enjoyed her own degree of success. In her direct mail letter, she explains her former skepticism about politics and how Barack inspired her to have more faith in national politics. She also relays an anecdote about how she helps keep him “grounded” by not letting him lose sight of the everyday needs of the household.
For a woman who has gone through the struggles of balancing her career and family life, and has been open about the difficulty of the decision to continue her career, the move to campaign full-time for her husband was certainly not easy:
“Every other month [since] I’ve had children I’ve struggled with the notion of ‘Am I being a good parent? Can I stay home? Should I stay home? How do I balance it all?’ ” she said. “I have gone back and forth every year about whether I should work.” When she finally winds down her duties as vice president of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals in the days ahead (she was promoted to the position soon after her husband joined the Senate), she said, it “will be the first time that I haven’t gotten up and gone to a job.”
“It’s a bit disconcerting,” she said. “But it’s not like I’ll be bored.” (Link)
She is also refreshingly open about her uncertainty surrounding her potential role as First Lady. She has made it clear that her husband’s is not a “two for one” campaign in the style of Bill Clinton’s. But what role will she take? “You know, I don’t know what will be, and I’m just trying to keep from going there yet,” she said. This “one day at a time” approach is a very realistic one, and women seem to be responding to her honesty.
She’s confident and capable, but also unafraid to admit to doubting herself. I’m impressed by her willingness to say “I don’t know” when confronted by certain questions. This more realistic, or more human, approach to campaigning is in stark contrast to the more know-it-all impression some people get from career politicians like Hillary.
I know plenty of women who, for whatever reason, simply do not like Hillary. I’m wondering whether Michelle will draw some of these women into supporting her husband – not because she will be the “bonus president,” but because she is refreshingly honest and can demonstrate her concern for keeping her family grounded.
So this Mother’s Day, I’d like to send my best wishes not only to my own Mom, but to all the women who – like Michelle – have struggled with trying to balance a career and family life.