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Michelle Obama Puts Her Career On Hold


A story in Friday’s Washington Post says Michelle Obama–wife of Sen. Barack Obama–is stepping down from her position as vice president of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals. She will instead be focusing on her husband’s campaign for president.

According to the Washington Post:

She never aspired to be a stay-at-home wife or mother.
For years she wrestled with the issues that many professional women
with families face, chiefly whether to quit her job. Now, that is what
Obama, 43, has decided to do. And though she will hardly be homebound,
she admits to being conflicted.

“It is very odd,” she said of the prospect of
interrupting her career, during one of her first one-on-one interviews
since her husband, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), announced he is running
for president.

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“Every other month [since] I’ve had children I’ve
struggled with the notion of ‘Am I being a good parent? Can I stay
home? Should I stay home? How do I balance it all?’ ” she said. “I have
gone back and forth every year about whether I should work.” When she
finally winds down her duties as vice president of community and
external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals in the days
ahead (she was promoted to the position soon after her husband joined
the Senate), she said, it “will be the first time that I haven’t gotten
up and gone to a job.”

“It’s a bit disconcerting,” she said. “But it’s not like I’ll be bored.” …

Yet 15 years after Hillary Rodham Clinton stumbled into
the culture wars with comments about pursuing a career rather than
staying home “baking cookies,” Michelle Obama appears unfazed by
questions about her choices. “Yeah, you know, cooking isn’t one of my
huge things,” she admitted, laughing when asked for a favorite recipe.
“My view on this stuff is I’m just trying to be myself, trying to be as
authentic as I can be. I can’t pretend to be somebody else.”

The story also says Michelle Obama was earning nearly $275,000 a year
before she pared down her job responsibilites earlier this year. (The
Chicago Sun-Times reported that she went part-time Feb. 5.) According
to the Sun-Times, Sen. Barack Obama’s 2006 Senate salary was $157,082.

Tough Choices

I applaud Michelle Obama’s decision to do what she thinks is best for
her family and for herself. It’s hardly easy to walk away from your
passion, from something that’s part of your identity and brings you a sense of
purpose–whether you’re a woman or a man.

Last week I interviewed several women about mothers who make decisions
similar to Michelle Obama’s: they leave the workforce to spend time
with newborn children. One of those sources pointed out that whatever
decision women make, they’re happiest when they have an active role in
making the decision, instead of feeling coerced by someone or something.

Given what I’ve read about Michelle Obama, I tend to think she was
empowered to make this decision–not coerced. And so I stand behind her
and all women who love their life’s work and their families.

Any thoughts?

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Matt Schneider
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