When the Obamas moved to Washington more than a year ago, quite a few things changed in the White House. There were new residents, a new staff and a new dog.
This was also the first time the White House had seen little kids inhabit the residence since Amy Carter in 1976.
Amy Carter was nine when her dad moved them to Washington; Sasha and Malia Obama are nine and 11, respectively.
President Obama was adamant before he swore his oath of office he would still make time for his wife and his kids. Impressively enough, regardless of anything else he has or has not done, it is a campaign promise he has been able to keep.
According to a recent New York Times article, whenever he is in D.C., Obama makes sure he sits down to dinner with Michelle and the girls at 6 p.m., and evening meetings are scheduled after 8 when the girls are in bed.
His staff tries to coordinate his duties as a president with his duties as a dad. Obama recently paused a health care meeting to go watch Malia’s band recital. Once the cheers died down, he headed back to the oval office to pick up right where he left off.
The issue with his parenting skills comes from critics, mostly political strategists and vocal Republicans who think Obama shouldn’t be taking time away from fixing the economy or passing a health care bill to spend spring break with his family.
Republican strategist John Feehery said government officials are elected to office to help the country, not because constituents like their “good family guy” aspect.
Obama’s dedication to his young kids and his wife shows he has the right priorities. Moms and dads across the country try desperately to balance board meetings with soccer games and dance recitals.
Obama is trying, just like a normal dad, to be a presence in his girls’ lives, and that’s commendable. It makes him seem real and relatable, not like a Washington robot who forgets he had a life before politics and will have one after he leaves office.
The one aspect of Feehery’s argument I find valid is the point Senators and Representatives who serve in Washington leave their families back in their home districts. Those moms and dads miss birthdays and field trips to serve their elected positions.
But I would bet if those parents had the option, they wouldn’t miss those birthdays and field trips. Those activities would appear on the day’s itinerary, just like they do for the president.
However, when Obama was serving his Senate seat, his daughters lived in Chicago while he was in D.C. He also had to leave the girls at home while his campaign bus toured the country. He did miss recitals and family dinners, so why not make up for them now?
While the Obama girls may be the youngest kids in the White House in more than 30 years, the idea of a hands-on dad is not new. President Clinton spent time with daughter Chelsea during his first term in office, when she was still in high school and called the White House home. President Bush took time away from the office to host daughter Jenna’s 2008 wedding in Texas.
While I understand Obama swore an oath promising to serve the country and put it first, he was a dad before he became president and he will be one after his time in office is done.
Plus, if one of the busiest men in the country can make it to a band recital, it gives every dad on the block a little more hope he can do it, too.