Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Michelle Obama represents

I finally got around to reading this Salon article on Michelle Obama's slide from professional working woman to traditional First Lady/Mom. I've seen this happen to so many women in my life, including myself to a large extent, that it's a familiar story. And I can't decide if it's a sad story or not. I think it's yet to be seen. I'm looking forward to the possibility of Michelle focusing some attention on the dilemma many women face of trying to balance work and family, especially for those who decide to take some time away from the fast track to tend to children. Perhaps we'll see some policy changes that help people balance their work and family lives.

The money quote for me in this article:
Barack continues, "No matter how liberated I liked to see myself as -- no matter how much I told myself that Michelle and I were equal partners, and that her dreams and ambitions were as important as my own -- the fact was that when children showed up, it was Michelle and not I who was expected to make the necessary adjustments. Sure, I helped, but it was always on my terms, on my schedule. Meanwhile, she was the one who had to put her career on hold." Barack considers his dawning realization that in his wife, as in so many working women, there was a battle raging. "In her own mind, two visions of herself were at war with each other," he writes. "The desire to be the woman her mother had been, solid, dependable, making a home and always there for her kids, and the desire to excel in her profession, to make her mark on the world and realize all those plans she'd had on the very first day that we met."
Like many men his age, Obama is "liberated" in the sense that he recognizes that women have the right to have the same ambitions as men, but doing to the work to make that happen locally is hard. I also think that women have that same battle Michelle had (has?). I think women recognize more than men do (sometimes) the value of good childrearing and even if they can afford it, have a hard time handing that over to others.

In just the week that I've been away from work, I've already seen positive results from my being around. Geeky Boy told me this morning on his way to school how glad he was to have all his homework done, that it felt really good. After all the homework battles I didn't have the energy for after work, dinner, cleaning, this was music to my ears. And proof at least to me that parently presence is important, at least for my family.