Sunday, November 16, 2008

Michelle Obama and "just a mom"

I heard one more comment today about Michelle Obama and her "mom in chief" statement - her plans to be focused more on the girls than anything else right now. So many people - democrats! - are talking about her either selling out, Barack's "poor" view of women for making her take this role, the bad example she's showing young girls by giving up her own practice to "just be a mom", the sexism that is still "clearly" given in this.


I thought we could move beyond all that. At least that's what I try and tell myself when I see my friends defending their decisions to "just be a mom" and not have to "work." When did it become mandatory for a mom to go outside her own home to find an outside job? Like child-rearing isn't the hardest job on earth? ESPECIALLY if you're doing it right.

Yes, Michelle is an accomplished woman with more than a small ability to go do good works and make a statement in the business, medical and/or political world. But to villify her as backwards or not enough of a feminist in making the decision to focus on her children for the time being?

I wonder if these will be the same people to villify her if she chose to start up a practice and then "ignored" her kids.

It is arrogance to think we can choose the best way for another family to raise their children, and the people who think Barack is making his wife stay home should say that to Michelle's face, and see whether she thinks Barack is "making" her do anything.

I didn't really like the movie "Mona Lisa Smile" except for one big point they made in it. Through the whole movie, Julia Roberts is challenging these smart young women to become more than just a trophy wife. For the most part, she succeeds in making several of them choose careers, not settle for a husband who treats them bad, etc. But one woman, who gets into law school, chooses to start a family and stay home with them. When Roberts tries to talk her into going one last time, thinking she's throwing her life away, the girl reminds her that she taught them they could be anything they wanted to be. This should include "just being a mom."

I worked in child care with low-income families for several years. Many, many of the parents - mom or dad - would give their right arm to not have to get an outside job, and instead focus on their children. Study after study comes out that says the child is best off if at least one parent can stay home with them. So why is it such a horrible, anti-feminist thing for Michelle to focus on being "Mom-in-Chief", as she says?

I think between being "just" a mom, and being a lawyer, she chose the more difficult one. I want to send her a congratulations for choosing her children. I would love it if more families chose this route, and would love it even more if more families were able to choose this route. Hopefully, we will soon live in a society where both parents don't have to get outside jobs. They can choose to get an outside job, or choose to stay home, but aren't forced into either.

And though this goes into the realm of judging another family's child rearing choices, can you imagine what those two girls are going to have to deal with for the next four to eight years? I moved a lot when I was little, and that is life changing for a child in itself. But to move into the biggest, brightest spotlight in the world, where you better do good in school lest your "F" on a spelling test be plastered on the Internet, where the choice of your family pet is front page news around the world, and you have a bunch of new black-suited "friends" whose job it is to keep you from neo-Nazis and KKK who want to kill you and your family? I commend Michelle for wanting to see them a bit settled in.

For that matter, I commend both Barack and Michelle - my guess is neither of them makes all the decisions, and it is unfair to think Michelle got "told" what to do. I just needed to hear one interview of hers to know this is not a woman who gets told to do anything.
Picture from the Daily Mail.


just jen said...

I agree. Considering how young the girls are and how busy their father is going to be putting as much of this country back together as he can in 4, if not 8, years, allowing her to focus on their well being is likely going to bring Barack the greatest source of comfort while he's otherwise distracted with the nation's ailments. And in that respect, I believe Michelle is more in line with Jackie Kennedy than any other first lady since.

Love your post. Love your blog.


Mary Agard Szczepanik said...

I'm not sure that you would remember me, but we met at a Veterans BBQ for Diane Benson last July. I was working on her campaign at the time and I checked out your blog then and have been following it ever since. Thanks for this post-- it addresses the concerns that so many young women of our generation are grappling with now that "feminism" is accepted carte blanch (well, mostly... aside from the glass ceiling on wages and promotions, but that's a different tangent). Anyway, I appreciate your insights and thanks for giving such a well voiced and articulate argument to what it means to be a mom/breadwinner/woman today. Best, Mary

Unknown said...

Throughout the past year I have watched Michelle Obama and have been so impressed with her demeanor and desire to keep her family core on a level plane. This only endears her to me more. That a woman of her talent and career position would be willing to put that on hold so that her children can be guided through what surely will be a testing time in their childhoods says words beyond measure about her true class. I agree with Jen this woman really is on the level of Jackie Kennedy in regards to truly top notch First Ladies. I love your blog, keep up the good work.

rikyrah said...

I dont think there is anything degrading in being ' just a mom'. It's darn hard work. Michelle Obama is going to fight like hell from having her daughters becoming an ' E! True Hollywood Story'. And, more power to her.

CelticDiva said...

Thanks, "just a mom" I know what hard work it can be...especially when things aren't going along "perfectly."

Right now, my daughter's puberty is causing her to rebel against school work. When just last year, she used to come home and do her homework immediately without anyone saying anything, now it's a battle royale every day. If I was working outside of the home, I would not have the strength to fight her all the time and probably wouldn't have noticed the change in the first place.

Plus, I'd like folks to take a look at our own State "working mom" who took her kids out of school and on the campaign trail for over 2 months without a tutor. As Piper Palin told Matt Lauer, she's having a very hard time now...but mommy just wants to talk about 2012.

No, I'm quite pleased that Michelle Obama is planning on being "just a mom" in the White House. Since as "just a mom" I also manage to run a blog and do some community organizing, I have no doubt that (since grandma's moving into the White House) Michelle has some firm ideas on just where she's going to "shake things up."

Bookfool said...

I think this came about with the Baby Boomer generation -- which I'm a part of. I chose to stay at home and raise my own kids. You would not believe how many eyebrows I've seen go up, how many scowls. When I briefly worked a minimum wage job to help pay for my eldest son's braces, everyone thought my job was so cool and I suddenly had the respect I've missed as a homemaker.

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