December 26th, 2008
04:52 PM ET

First Lady: A job worth a paycheck

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/06/18/michelle.obama/art.obama.afp.gi.jpg caption="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.