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Katherine Lewis

Michelle Obama Tells 60 Minutes Work-Life Balance is a Priority

By December 29, 2008

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I love that the future U.S. first lady is making work-life balance one of her top priorities in the White House. In a 60 Minutes broadcast last night, Michelle Obama mentioned work-family balance second in a list of her policy interests, after military families. (And, of course, her top priority is helping Malia and Sacha transition to Washington D.C. and their life as first daughters.)

Having been a working mom herself until her husband's campaign for president, Obama must understand the struggles, the guilt and the real tradeoffs we make each day. Even if she does nothing more than talk about these issues, it will do a tremendous amount to advance the cause of working moms.

I've submitted an interview request to President-elect Obama's transition team to no avail. I'll be sure to blog about it if they ever respond.

Please let me know what you'd like to see Michelle Obama do to help working moms. What policy change would help you most?

Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


January 22, 2009 at 6:50 pm
(1) Peggy Dobbins says:

Hooray for you, and for Michelle!

At the beginning of the Women’s Liberation Movement and for years until it crumbled, I kept a NYT clipping in my pocket reporting a study projecting that within 20 years, American labor time would be cut in half( from 40 to 20 hour/week) to support the median income family of 4. That was 1968. We were sure with women and men both working, the labor time of each would be cut to 10 hours leaving plenty of time for men to share nurturing and women meaningful work. (it’s helpful in this discussion to distinguish labor (time bossed by another in exchanger for money to purchase necessities of life) from work (which may or may not employ the same skills as those sold as labor) The projected increase in free time — just from projecting productivity in 1968 forward, and this was way before the personal computer, email, cell phone, robotics, etc, etc, — was a major premise in the pursuit of a theory for a women’s liberation movement before practice lept ahead and it ‘became a household word.’

We know what happened. I will take the gains over the price, but the price includes, and need not include, 80 hour weeks and for some, more, to support a family of 4. Yes, the standard of living now includes indebtedness for consumer goods and services, not available in 1968, which I count improvement in quality of life. It also includes the cost of commercial childcare, pretty inferior to the quality our early experiments projected with both parents participating a few hours a week as volunteers helping supermom staff who mentored us as well as children.

In 1993, I read an op ed by a young freshman Congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, noting that if people were really serious about saving the family and abolishing welfare they would set about reducing the standard labor week so mothers and fathers could make enough money to support their families in few enough hours to have good time with their children. As in 1968, the idea was not pushed forward, not because it wasn’t a good idea, not because it was ahead of its time. The standard labor week could have been reduced and needed to be reduced in 1993 as in 1968. Not just because of the stress and guilt laid on working mothers who to keep their job and make ends meet often work even more than 40 hour weeks today.
It wasn’t reduced because it wasn’t politically called for. It wasn’t economically called for. Well, today it is.

Businesses are “furloughing” people and the president commended the “selflessness of workers who cut their hours so a friend will not lose their job.” Many experience this negatively, because fewer hours means less pay, but a campaign to make reduction in hours permanent with wages pegged to inflation is possible and the president’s stimulus legislation could stipulate the maximum and minimum number of hours subsidized at wages pegged as low as poverty for a family of 4.

I understand a part of this. Michelle is one someone who can get her mind around of it and how to move it forward. And you, Katherine Lewis, I salute for your working moms blog. Yes you can and are reviving my hope for the change I believe in.

Peggy Dobbins, Phd
retired academic, retired activist,
active artist
(see what you think of art on the topic when you have a chance)

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