Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

21 January 2009

Michelle Obama: Mother or Career Woman?

From the new First Lady's webpage:

When people ask Michelle Obama to describe herself, she doesn't hesitate. First and foremost, she is Malia and Sasha's mom.

But before she was a mother — or a wife, lawyer, or public servant — she was Fraser and Marian Robinson's daughter.

This introduction for the First Lady's biography has continued the discussion on whether or not Michelle Obama downplays her achievements as a working woman. She is quite accomplished on her own as witnessed by a press release by Leadership Greater Chicago and Crane's Chicago:

He was known as “Michelle’s husband — that guy who’s a state senator,” recalled Mr. Goolsbee, the only one of the three to make it to Monday’s event.

I know pointing that line out and me adding that my husband knows people who knew Michelle when she was THE OBAMA in town, will just add fuel to the "she's downplaying her role" fire.

But is she really downplaying her role?

No, she's not.

Michelle is a mother and the mother of two young girls who are now in the center of international attention. As a mom, we can easily quit our office jobs, even if we love them, but we can't quit our kids. Now you're asking yourself, isn't Barack quitting his kids? If his letter to the girls is true, no. I believe that he believes this path is HIS best way to be a father to the girls.

Is it gendered? Hell yes.

But that's the way they played their cards.

Would I play my cards that way? I can't say for certain. My husband & I try to take turns on who is out front. And honestly one never knows when one of us will "shoot way in front." From what I've read of Michelle & Barack, he has had his eyes set on running for political office for years. She preferred to leave her mark in other ways, in the way that most of us actually walk. Did she make that choice knowing that public life makes it harder to be a mom? I don't know.

What I do know is that Michelle oozes strong woman vibe. Whether she is touting her degrees and lengthy resume, dancing elegantly with her husband or mothering her daughters, she is a strong woman. As my husband said when I asked him what he thought, "She's a strong woman who balances it all in her own way."

Do we need a new definition of motherhood or fatherhood in this situation? Perhaps. Remember that grandma moved into the White House for a reason. My bet is that Michelle will log just as many frequent flyer miles as Barack - And we will be a better country for it.

Malia & Sasha - Thanks for lending us your parents for the next 4-8 years. We owe ya.

2 comments:

Reads like an op-ed to me - hint hint. :) Nice job.

You rock, hon. You're so good at gently telling me, "well, that's the obvious answer. But have you thought of this?" And I'm glad I'm not the only one who benefits from your brilliance. And E gets to benefit most of all.