Balancing the Journey

T he one thing people, particularly women, want to know is how I balance being a mother, a professional, a wife, a woman, and they want to know how things have changed for us over the course of this journey and as First Lady. Lesson One: Like many women, I do a whole lot of juggling. I cut back on my hours at my job, which I love, to give me more time. My focus is keeping my kids sane and making sure Malia and Sasha stay in their routine as much as possible. Barack and I measure how well we are doing by how the girls are. They are just fine, going to ballet and gymnastics, they care about the next pizza party, and then there is school. I make sure we are on point academically, and that we go to all the parent- teacher conferences. It is quite a scheduling feat, but we make presentations and school I would not be able to do it without a support network. My mother, Mama Kaye (the girls’ godmother), and girlfriends of mine help me shuttle and keep me held up. LessonThree: I still try to find time for myself, getting the hair and nails done, and getting a workout. That’s one of the things I always talk about: plays happen. LessonTwo:

Lesson Seven: We’ve made great strides in equality at all levels of society and because of the struggles so many have fought.Women can envision themselves any way that they want, as surgeons, Supreme Court justices, basketball stars, images that I never had growing up. But I wonder about the unspoken cost of having it all. If we’re scurrying to appointments and errands, we don’t have much time to care for our own mental and physical health; juggling adds another layer of stress, causing increased heart attacks, diabetes, and asthma. There aren’t enough hours in the day, so we do what we can, despite the fact that women and families are not getting needed support. We talk about family values, but our society doesn’t show that it values families. Lesson Eight: We have essentially ignored the plight of women and families. Figure out how to support a family on minimum wage and no benefits, who is going to watch your children while you are at work without adequate affordable childcare, how to ensure that your children get the best education possible, and how you are going to live without access to affordable housing. We’ve told women to dream big but, after that, you are on your own. Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is a lawyer, writer, and the wife of the 44th President, Barack Obama. Through her four main initiatives, she has become a role model for women and an advocate for healthy families, service members and their families, higher education, and international adolescent girls’ education.

of race, education, income, background, political affiliation, struggles to keep her head above water. For many of us it is a necessity, rather than a badge of honor to do it all and we have to be very careful not to lose ourselves in the process. Women are usually the primary caretakers, in charge of keeping the household together, scheduling babysitters, planning play dates, keeping up with doctor’s appointments, supervising homework, handing discipline. Lesson Five: Those of us working outside of the home have the additional challenge of coordinating household things with our job responsibilities. How many of us are the ones who stay home with a sick child? Or, when a toilet overflows - shortly before the inauguration, I was scrambling to reschedule a 9:00 meeting and Barack, love him to death, got dressed and left! Lesson Six: Women have the added social pressure of staying slim, having our wardrobe pulled together, and being in good spirits, ready to support our significant others. Women face a higher level of challenges in our journey, balancing work, family, and ourselves differently than ever before.

gotta exercise. Lesson Four:

My life is not that different from yours. I wake up every morning wondering how I am going to pull off that next minor miracle to get through the day. Every woman, regardless

14 I Nonprofit Performance Magazine

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