Obama recalls own family's struggle with work-life balance in vow to help working families
June 23rd, 2014
04:55 PM ET
3 months ago

Obama recalls own family's struggle with work-life balance in vow to help working families

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama talked about his own family's struggle to balance work and family life at Monday's White House Summit on Working Families, calling on Congress to act to make finding that balance easier.

“Before I moved into the White House, I was away a lot, sometimes with work, sometimes with campaigning. Michelle was working full-time and was at home with the responsibility all too often of dealing with everything that the girls needed,” the President said.

“If Malia or Sasha got sick, or the babysitter did not show up, it was Michelle who got the call. And, fortunately, she had an employer who understood if she needed to leave work in the middle of the day or change her schedule suddenly.”

The President said that expanding flexibility in the workplace and having paid parental leave would help America compete on the world stage, noting that the United States is the only developed country to not offer paid maternity leave.

“When a new baby arrives or an aging parent gets sick, workers have to make painful decisions about whether they can afford to be there when their families need them the most. Many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth. Now, that’s a pretty low bar,” Obama said.

He recalled being a father of a newborn with late-night feedings and the importance of being able to be with his daughters immediately after their births.

“I was lucky enough to be able to take some time off so that I was there for the 2:00 a.m. feeding and the soothing, and just getting to know them and making sure they knew me. And that bond is irreplaceable. And I want every father and every child to have that opportunity,” he said.

He urged the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to make accommodations for pregnant workers to be able to keep working while pregnant and prevent them from having to take unpaid leave. He also used the speech to encourage companies to give better access to high-quality childcare and he repeated his call to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

He argued that these are not solely women’s issues because they impact the entire family.

“At a time when women are nearly half of our workforce, among our most skilled workers, are the primary breadwinners in more families than ever before, anything that makes life harder for women makes life harder for families and makes life harder for children,” Obama said. “When women succeed, America succeeds, so there’s no such thing as a women’s issue.”

Obamas: Daughters should experience hard work, minimum wage job

During his remarks, the President announced he would be signing a Presidential memorandum for federal agencies to expand access to flexibility for work schedules available for all employees.

The summit, held Monday at a Washington hotel, featured first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, as well as business leaders and educators.

Prior to his speech, Obama made an unannounced stop for lunch at a local Chipotle with four participants in the summit who shared with him their struggles with the balance between their careers and families.

Obama stops at a Chipotle in Washington 6/23/2014 (Getty Images)

Obama stops at a Chipotle in Washington 6/23/2014 (Getty Images)


Filed under: 2014 • President Obama • Washington D.C.
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Silence DoGood

    More good ideas from our President that will get a resounding "no" from stone faced GOP Congress folk.

    June 23, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  2. Tom l

    I bet it's the first thing he thinks of when he wakes up and the last thing he thinks of when he goes to bed.

    June 23, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  3. Randall

    The GOP preaches family values and then the GOP votes against paid family leave, the minimum wage, universal health insurance, quality day care for single mothers, and anything else that might help working families. They say jobs is the most important thing, but continue to block a transportation bill that would put several million construction workers back to work.

    June 23, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  4. Stuffitu

    Sounds like more cost for businesses to pass along to us. Is anyone counting all of Obamas lies? Is anyone keeping track of how much he and his regime have raised the cost of living for hard working, taxpaying Americans? Is anyone keeping track of the articles of impeachment.

    June 23, 2014 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain: If you don't like Congress, get rid of the repub/tea bag majority

    Preemptive comment to all the trolls who will claim that President Obama is addressing this issue as a way to take the focus off Iraq or Benghazi or the IRS or anything else repubs focus on instead of actually HELPING OUR COUNTRY:

    Just because GW couldn't watch TV and eat a pretzel without choking doesn't mean President Obama can't multi-task

    June 23, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  6. smith

    Life in the US is all about choices. If you make bad choices then life will be tough on you. If you make smart choices life will be alot eaiser for you. This is simple stuff here people. For example, if you make min. wage to $15 an hour having kids is STUPID! You can`t afford them.

    June 23, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  7. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    All good ideas Mr. President! It's a very tough choice when a single mother has to decide whether to stay home with a sick child or go to work. Especially knowing, you could lose your job, if you stay home. Stay strong Mr. President and brush the dirt off your shoulders. (The GOP)

    June 23, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  8. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    I remember when my daughter was about 10. She had an Awards ceremony at her school and I wanted to go so badly but I had to work. Thanks to my bosses, who believed in family first, I was able to leave work for a few hours to attend, and then return to work. Everyone isn't that lucky.

    June 23, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  9. ThinkAgain: If you don't like Congress, get rid of the repub/tea bag majority

    @smith: "Life in the US is all about choices. If you make bad choices then life will be tough on you. If you make smart choices life will be alot eaiser for you. This is simple stuff here people. For example, if you make min. wage to $15 an hour having kids is STUPID! You can`t afford them."

    Then let's provide free and accessible birth control for everyone! And to those kids born to families of modest means, let's remind them of Jesus' famous words: Screw you!

    June 23, 2014 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  10. Tampa Tim

    Have you noticed that republicans are the only group that gets overwhelmed by doing nothing?

    June 23, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain: If you don't like Congress, get rid of the repub/tea bag majority

    @Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....: "All good ideas Mr. President! It's a very tough choice when a single mother has to decide whether to stay home with a sick child or go to work. Especially knowing, you could lose your job, if you stay home. Stay strong Mr. President and brush the dirt off your shoulders. (The GOP)"

    The single most important thing standing between a mother and welfare is her husband: He dies or leaves her, and she's stuck. My son's third grade teacher came from a family of 10 children – and when her father decided to split, her mother had to go on public assistance and leaver the three oldest children (teenagers) with relatives when she moved west for better employment opportunities. The father never did have much to do with them, including not providing any child support.

    If all these conservatives are so darn "compassionate," then they need to start caring for the least among us and stop making money their god.

    June 23, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  12. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    smith says:
    June 23, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm
    Life in the US is all about choices. If you make bad choices then life will be tough on you. If you make smart choices life will be alot eaiser for you. This is simple stuff here people. For example, if you make min. wage to $15 an hour having kids is STUPID! You can`t afford them.

    So people making less than $15 per hour should be robbed of the joy of children? Maybe the person is making $13 per hour but going to school, they shouldn't have kids either? Well it would cut down on a lot of brown kids since companies like to hire blacks at very low wages. Some never make $15 per hour. I know it's sad but it is what it is. Especially with most Automotive plants closing, an entry level job starts off at $9 here in Michigan. Thanks to the Right to work for less law.

    Such tough love for our fellow Americans from some of our Reich Wing....

    June 23, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "For example, if you make min. wage to $15 an hour having kids is STUPID! You can`t afford them.

    Teatroll Rosetta Stone says: "In other words, if you're from the "inner city" our advice to you...and we've been trying to get this across for decades without having to say it outright...is to simply stop reproducing. That way, you won't have to worry about not making enough to raise your children, and we won't have to worry about you reproducing faster than us and taking over what was supposed to be our beautiful white country."

    June 23, 2014 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  14. Silence DoGood

    @smith
    Life in the US is all about choices. If you make bad choices then life will be tough on you. If you make smart choices life will be alot eaiser for you. This is simple stuff here people. For example, if you make min. wage to $15 an hour having kids is STUPID! You can`t afford them.
    -----------
    (hyperbole alert)
    Oh yes! How dare the poor attempt to breed and take time to live life, when the Walton family empire needs their labor to add another zero to the bank account. Get back in line!

    June 23, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "I bet it's the first thing he thinks of when he wakes up and the last thing he thinks of when he goes to bed."

    Beats counting the hairs on David Koch's balls like the GOP/Teatrolls do while earning their donations.

    June 23, 2014 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  16. smith

    @Think again-Birth control should be free. However, common sense is free and alot people don`t use it.

    June 23, 2014 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  17. smith

    @Wake Up-My point is having kids when you can`t afford them equals that person having a very hard life. If that is something they wants then fine but they should be resposible, not cry and moan and expect others to pay their way. Btw, this is a colorblind issue that affects all races.

    June 23, 2014 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  18. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    The single most important thing standing between a mother and welfare is her husband: He dies or leaves her, and she’s stuck. My son’s third grade teacher came from a family of 10 children – and when her father decided to split, her mother had to go on public assistance and leaver the three oldest children (teenagers) with relatives when she moved west for better employment opportunities. The father never did have much to do with them, including not providing any child support.

    If all these conservatives are so darn “compassionate,” then they need to start caring for the least among us and stop making money their god.

    Or if he's abusive and she has to leave him or watch her children grow up in an abusive family where the son learns to be the abuser and the daughter learns to be the abusee. That was what happened to me. My ex is an abusive, controlling man so I left him. And since he could no longer control me, he didn't want to support the kids. But it turned out well. I got my kids away and we are all doing great. But it's hard work.

    June 23, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  19. Luc

    This has nothing to do with IRS and Bengahzi. The GOP since 2010 when ACA was passed have tried to repeal 50 times the law. Where are the Republicans now no word on ACA because it is working mum is the word. They are hoping that the American public forgets all the lies they spewed about the ACA. Bengahzi Irs are not going away because the GOP refuse to deal with the ever day problems that are facing the middle class in America. They believe that they are doing a service for Americans always looking backwards and not moving the country forward. Canada has a 1 year maternity leave which either parent can take or split between them when a child is born without having to fear that there job will no longer be there when they return to work.

    June 23, 2014 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  20. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    The President is a good man, no matter how much the MSM tries to tear him down.

    June 23, 2014 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  21. smith

    @Sniffit-Oh yes there are no poor white people and my comment is somehow racist because I promote personal accountabilty for your actions.

    June 23, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  22. plain & simple

    Here's what I have found to be true. Most people want to go to work, earn a decent wage, feed their families and watch their children grow up safe and educated. Not everyone aspires to be famous or rich beyond belief. This use to be referred to as the American dream. What has happened is the fear and insecurity of the few who have so much more than they know what to do with or more than they believed possible, now are terrified of losing it. Grow up and realize you're an idiot!!!

    June 23, 2014 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  23. Rick McDaniel

    That's nothing but lies and deception, to win the support of women in the November election.

    Women in America are foolish enough to fall for the deception.

    June 23, 2014 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  24. Hillary Izexi

    Too bad Obama's "family values" is to help illegal immigrants rather than US Citizens.

    Also, why build a strong economy when you can just print all the money you want and just keep on hiking the minimum wage. Who cares if everyone effectively gets a pay cut when priced rise?

    June 23, 2014 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  25. Tom l

    Woe. These comments really show the difference in mindset. Liberals believe that another "right" is to have children whereas others feel that if you want to have children thats's great but then it's on the individual to take care of that responsibility rather than the collective. Fascinating

    June 23, 2014 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
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