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December 26th, 2008
04:52 PM ET

First Lady: A job worth a paycheck

President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama.

President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama.

Lauren Stiller Rikleen
The Washington Post

First lady. First mom. Mom in chief. No - none of these titles works. And therein lies the problem.

When Michelle Obama moves into the White House, she will inherit a title with no job description as the world watches to see how she performs. So far, media coverage has focused on what she will not be doing - she is taking a sabbatical from her paid career. Obama has described her major role upon entering the White House as that of a mother wanting to help her daughters adjust to their changed lives as children of the president of the United States.

Media reports have focused on her Ivy League pedigree and her distinguished career as a lawyer and hospital administrator. By giving up her paid position, the argument goes, she has relinquished the opportunity to be the role model in chief for working mothers. But this thinking underestimates the intricate role of first lady, which will call on all of the skills she has developed as a working professional.

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. steptoe

    Michelle getting a paycheck would be a really bad PR move for obama.

    December 26, 2008 at 8:22 pm |
  2. Heather,ca

    Barack Obama was the one who filed papers to run for President. His name was on the ballot. Not Michelle. She is in fact his wife and mother. She doesnt hold a office. We the people pay for it. He gets his paycheck and that provides for his family. She represents our country and performs various duties. I agree with Mrs Bush. Besides the fact that the white house is not a house. Its a living museum and government building which happens to have a second floor residence for the president and family.

    December 26, 2008 at 7:38 pm |
  3. Maria

    First Lady is a priceless title and will always shine her C.V. for one term or 2 terms, it doesn’t matter, whatever job she sacrifice, she is doing the right thing… she is not only the First Lady, but the first African American First Lady (2 in one)….. I think she will actively engage her qualification on the American family daily issues…. @Tammy, don’t be offended of my words; is it family is first or we have to follow men for the sake of family, I know when women is first…

    December 26, 2008 at 7:21 pm |
  4. Franky

    Hmm, Tammy on top pretty much said everything I wanted to say, LOL!!

    December 26, 2008 at 6:50 pm |
  5. Tammy, Berwick. LA

    Call me a traditionalist here, but what ever happened to it being a good thing to give up your professional career to be a full-time wife and mom? Supporting a spouse in his work (hello, that's what the First Lady and any good wife for that matter does) and being a stay-at-home mom are wonderful in and of themselves. No identity is lost. In fact, it's something a woman has her whole life where the identity of being a teacher or corporate exec is lost when she quits the job. First Ladies don't need a paycheck. It's service to their country they know they are taking on for life when they support their husbands in the run for president. I have a PhD and have always been about the career to an excess. Trust me when I say I had to fight for everything I've achieved as a woman in a male dominated world. However, family is first, and if that meant giving up my career, so be it. I'd like to think Mrs. Obama has an opportunity to show her daughters what real women can do by being good wives and mothers devoted to family and country full-time.

    December 26, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  6. earle,florida

    Makes "cents" to me. My first wife wanted my entire paycheck? No problem she got it all to run the household. I supplemented my income with a part-time job, she wanted a peice of that. We'll, I said see you in di-vorce court! End of story,...can only get so much out of a working stiff!

    December 26, 2008 at 5:12 pm |