Michelle Obama’s decision: 2008 or 1958?

As Thanksgiving approaches and I think about my peers and our relationships to our families, I’ve also been thinking a lot about our new First Family and what their gender roles will communicate to the Nation at-large.  And how will Michelle Obama specifically change, or not change, the role of First Lady? 

When asked in the past how I hope Obama will function as the next First Lady, I have expressed my desire for her to become the next Eleanor Roosevelt, but her recent commentary leads me to believe she’s going to be putting her career and/or any public service on the back burner for the indefinite future and put, who else, her kids (and husband?) front and center. 

I recognize that child-rearing is an important pursuit and that I should respect Obama’s choices, but it still stings a little to see that it’s the woman, yet again, putting her career on hold for her husband’s. Not only that, I had hoped that a highly educated woman would realize (and popularize?) the options that exist beyond “Career OR Family.”  But perhaps I shouldn’t completely mourn Obama’s purported decision.  Perhaps, as she self-identifies as “Mom-in-Chief,” she will bring newfound recognition and much-needed attention to the role of Motherhood in the 21st century.  Maybe she will become the figurehead for a much needed Mom Revolution and drum up public support for Social Security, federally funded child care, and medical benefits for moms and children!  Maybe we’ll even get an ERA out of the deal!  And maybe pipe dreams are fun.  Hey, at this point, one can only dream, and hope for the best.

For one of the best op-eds I’ve read to date about Michelle Obama, the one that inspired me to throw in my 2 cents, check it here for Ruth Marcus’ 11-26-08 piece.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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2 responses to “Michelle Obama’s decision: 2008 or 1958?

  1. Since when does living in the 21st century mean that she has to leave the raising of her children to the White House nannies? Heaven forbid the woman want to take care of her own children, or that she see her participation in her children’s lives as more important than making a political statement.

    This conversation has come up in other blogs that I frequent, and my reaction is the same. The Obamas made a decision – at some point in his political career – that he would be the public figure and she would be the more private (she’s obviously politically active) of the pair. Every couple that has children has to make these decisions. It is true that there is a history of the woman being the one to give up her career, but…would the best solution *really* be for her to remain in Chicago, working, while Barack moves to DC to be president? Really? Their kids are young enough to need the presence of parents, and I think that’s more important than making a political statement.

    And quite frankly, when children are quite young, those *are* the choices: career or family. Until children are raised in creches of anonymous infants, parents have to decide which one will physically protect the young and which one will provide for them.

  2. I agree with both of you… I think that Michelle Obama is entitled to do whatever she wants, and I think the decision she made is probably the right one, although it bothers me that a woman who once was viewed as so intelligent and capable and powerful has recently been reduced to a woman who has two children, has generally good style, and from time to time commits fashion faux pas. I really hope that a middle ground can eventually be reached.

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