Obama's Family Values

FEMINISM/POLITICS - Thanks to Michelle Obama, balancing your career and work has suddenly become sexy and cool.

Traditionally some people have frowned on people who try to balance (dare we say juggle) work and kids, but the statuesque United States First Lady – with her global presence, Ivy-league education, law career and two young daughters – seems to do it with ease.

I disagree however. I think women who manage to find time for both work and family should be admired, not disliked. After all, what is a gal supposed to do with all that free time while the kids are at school?

Its not like we need women as dishwashers/etc any more. These days technology has replaced the role of the homemaker. We have robotic vacuum cleaners, automated dishwashers, frozen TV dinners, pizza delivery (yes, the White House has been ordering pizza since the 1970s) and if you're wealthy enough, in a position of prestige, meals prepared for you by servants.

Of course most of us don't have servants, but the point is still made. In modern America eating out or ordering in has become relatively normal, and there is now a lot more women can do than cooking and cleaning while the kids/husband are away at school/work, so why not have a career?

Well, lets look at what Michelle Obama has been doing. She has her beautifully sculpted arms, the Portuguese water dogs (including new pet Charlie-Bo), has become a fashion icon, and yet still manages to carve out lots of family time.

For women in the USA and around the world Michelle Obama is a role model, and no less a busy one. As a U.S. First Lady, Obama gets a staff, an office and is expected to champion a cause... in the past First Ladies have championed issues like literacy, health care and education.

Right now Michelle Obama seems to be championing family values.

The Obama family hardly live the life of the mainstream masses, walking the dog on the sprawling White House lawns and surrounded by a cast of thousands. She talks about "date nights" with her husband, the hassles of making healthy school lunches and why her daughters should make their own beds, Michelle Obama touches on the stuff of everyday life for ordinary families.

She is also growing a vegetable garden. She has spoken about how managing two careers and children put a strain on her marriage and how her mother has helped out with childcare (we've all done that, if anything the granparents enjoy it).

Its been a long time since there's been young children in the White House, let alone a First Lady who has young kids and a career, and Michelle Obama sends a powerful message that balance is important and also achievable.

It will likely be translated into domestic policy, too. Mrs Obama is pushing for more family-friendly leave policies from U.S. employers and incentives for community service. This is alongside her husband's priorities of investing in childcare, working families and education.

While Canada is far ahead of the United States on policies like health care, child care programs, maternity and parental leave, and flex-time, many countries will feel the effects if family issues move up the U.S. public agenda.

It comes at a time when lack of affordable childcare in the USA is stressing families, the post-Bush recession is pressuring workers, and boomers grapple with caring for aging parents.

For both working mothers and homemakers, Mrs Obama's role to play is to show that the "one-size-fits-all" approach for supporting parents and children doesn't work for everyone. Parents need more flexibility to work out their own needs and determine what is best for their kids.

There are those who despair of Obama's evolution from tough Harvard lawyer to a role Michelle Obama once described as "Mom-in-chief." Obama has put her career on hold while her husband takes over the running of a nation and tries to fix the mistakes of the past 8 years. Its a big role to fill actually, and frankly she will be far too busy doing political work anyway on behalf of America.

That's not something people should be slamming her for. Its something to be praised. True, its kind of sexist she had to put her career on hold because of her husband's career... but the Presidency isn't a normal career.

After all... its not what your country can do for you, its what you can do for your country.

And I believe Michelle Obama is going to give America her best.

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