Finally — someone who lives in the real world.
Katie Couric interviewed Michelle Obama this past week and asked her: "First Ladies have adopted causes...Have you thought about what cause you would really like to adopt and pursue and push into the forefront?
Mrs. Obama's response was, for me anyway, a blast of fresh oxygen after years of old men blowing hot air and noxious gas in our faces:
...I am a mother and a professional — and a wife. And I know the struggles of trying to balance work/life/family. And I know that it's something that every woman that I know is struggling with, and every family in America is impacted by the challenges that we face when we try to do it all without resources and support ... informal structures of support.
The only way that I manage every day is because of all these informal support structures in my life, whether it's my mom or a set of girlfriends or the flexibility on a job because I'm a vice president and I can set my hours when I need to. I've managed because of that. But how on Earth are single-parent mothers doing it, nurses and teachers and folks who are on shifts?
People who don't have access to decent childcare. You know, folks who don't have good health care and where the school systems aren't where they need to be, so they're worried about whether their kids are getting a good education. You know, all of this takes an emotional and psychological toll on women and families. And the truth of the matter is that we are only as strong in this society ... as the health of our families and the people who head them. But we haven't talked enough about that in just real practical ways. I mean, up until this point, as a woman, I've been told, "You can have it all, and you should be able to manage it all." And I've been losing my mind trying to live up to that. And it's impossible. It's impossible. We're putting women and families in a no-win situation.
Couric: Especially if they don't have the flexibility that you ...
Obama: ...Which the vast majority of women in this country don't. They're not earning enough to cover childcare. They don't — you know, I met ... a woman ... she's working two jobs: a full-time job and a part-time job. She has two kids and a husband. They don't have healthcare. You know? She has a seven-year-old and a three-year-old, you know? I mean, you know she's not healthy. You know she doesn't have time to get mammograms and Pap smears. You know that she doesn't feel secure about what kind of mother she is.
And she's not fully invested in any of the jobs that she has because she's trying to do it all. That's how women are living in this society. And that transcends race and socioeconomic status and political affiliation. I can go into any town, anywhere in this country, and I can spend hours talking to women about this impossible balance and the toll that it's taking.
So we have to talk about that. And we have to design policies that have meaningful impacts on the quality of life of women and families. And that's something that I know I can speak passionately about because whether I'm in the White House as First Lady, as long as I have kids and I'm trying to have a life, I'm gonna be trying to make this balance work, wondering every day whether I'm being a good enough mother, whether I'm spending enough time with my kids.
What happens when they have a crisis and I'm flying around somewhere? My challenges are much more public, but they're the same as most women. And we need to figure this out. And how do we define roles for ourselves as women that are healthy and balanced and make sense?
Finally, we get to hear from someone who will not tell us A) women need "get back in them kitchens and raise them kiddies"; B) feminazis ruined our lives — as "having it all" was not the point of any wave of feminism, nor was the "no-win" situation we are in now; C) the usual about family values, and then turn around and make excessive, damaging domestic budget cuts that make it impossible to survive alone, nevermind as a family; D) while pointing her finger at us and instigating another BS mommy war, that we either need to dump the kiddies off and make a living, or forget our intelligence and future accomplishments and spend our days cleaning and watching Elmo.
When Obama talks about not having time or money for essential medical tests for women, I imagine funds going back to Planned Parenthood locations that usually don't even conduct abortions but simply provide low-cost healthcare. I imagine funds going back into family-planning programs and birth control so that married couples do not have to deny their basic human need, and right, for physical affection to avoid making another hungry mouth to feed. I imagine funds going back into day care (like progressive, happier, saner European countries that give a shit about their citizens). I imagine a better life for women, children, men, families, America.
We need a First Lady with a brain, a heart, and opinions. We don't need an educated woman married to an illiterate who believes in one thing but stands by smiling as her husband ruins the world. We don't need a First Lady who will go to underdeveloped countries, where girls and women are raped systematically during wars or contract HIV from their husbands only, and condescendingly tell them to practice "abstinence."
We need a government that will not do this:
"Mothers Scrimp as States Take Child Support: The collection of child support from absent fathers is failing to help many of the poorest families, in part because the government uses fathers' payments largely to recoup welfare costs rather than passing on the money to mothers and children."
Women will not stop working. People will not stop having sex. This is the 21st century, not the rose-colored 1950s. We need people, men and women, in the White House who will stop wishing for the good old days and start making our present life better.