What Will Michelle Do?
The Obama girls, Malia and Sasha,
are so adorable. They make America smile every time they skip onto the
stage with their father, and we're communally delighted to know their
good behavior during the campaign will be duly rewarded with a puppy.
And just imagine what a kick it is for girls in their 7 to 11 age
range to see peers front and center in the political lens. Though there
have been other children in the White House, Malia and Sasha are the
first in the current hyper-mediated world. New Moon, a magazine for girls their age, has issued a call
for readers to contribute welcoming thoughts which the magazine will
send to the First Girls right after the inauguration. There's no
question they will be role models to their generation as much a their
father and mother are to theirs.
Michelle Obama has declared that the first role she will be modeling is that of Mom-in-Chief.
Punditmom Joanne Conrath Bamberger hopes the Mommy Wars won't be reignited as a result, but:
There's no doubt that she'll help bring more attention to the issues of work/life balance so many of us struggle with every day.
What Michelle will do with her platform is the big question. As the New York Times reports:
Once Mrs. Obama has settled her girls, she has said, she will move
on to the matter of exactly what sort of first lady she wants to be.
Although she dresses with unusual care — in both designer clothing and
the off the rack styles she has become known for — friends say she has
only a certain amount of patience for the domestic arts. She is a
get-it-done-efficiently Rachael Ray type, they say, not given to
elaborate Martha Stewart-like efforts.
As first lady, Mrs. Obama has said, she plans to make herself an
advocate for working parents, particularly military families, urging
better access to child care for all. Trying to juggle public duties
with two young children, she will be a living illustration of the very
issue she describes.
It's great that Michelle is interested in work-life balance issues,
but we don't yet know what that means from a policy perspective, do we?
Will she focus on influencing her husband's agenda behind the scenes?
Will she convene a comission or task force to create policy solutions
to the vexing problems families face today trying to have a life while
making a living? Will she personally work for legislation such as equal
pay, paid leave, day care, and universal health care that would
tangibly make America more family friendly? I hope she is considering
all of these.
She can, if she chooses, help continue the
trajectory toward greater equality and justice for women and within
families that the women's movement has fostered. It would be
devastating if the only message the vibrantly full of potential Malia
and Sasha and their peers get from Michelle's self-determined role is
that women should put their careers on hold to support their husbands.
Michelle Obama isn't the president-elect, and she doesn't sign or
veto legislation. But she could do a lot to help other women, including
her own daughters once they come of age, who are struggling with the
same issues she has dealt with throughout her married life, and now
will have the bully pulput of First Lady to confront them publicly.
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