I’m excited to be posting on BlogHer. Not only because blogging is something I’ve actually been able to beat my daughters to; but because it gives me the opportunity to tell you a little bit about them, my husband, myself, and our experiences traveling all over this great country.
Over the course of this campaign, I’ve been hosting roundtable discussions with working women all across America. I’m there to talk about my husband, of course – but more importantly, I’m there to listen. We talk about what it’s like to play multiple roles at once and what it’s like to feel stretched thin between the demands of a career and family.
And of course, we talk about our children. How they’re the first thing we think about when we wake up in the morning, and the last thing we think about when we go to bed at night. I know that no matter where I am – work, the campaign trail, wherever – my girls are always on my mind.
What I find is that our stories are similar. But what I also hear at each roundtable is that women are struggling. They are working hard and playing by the rules, doing the most important job of raising the next generation, but somehow can never get ahead. They’re desperate for change.
I’ve heard from mothers struggling to make ends meet because their salaries aren’t keeping up with the cost of groceries. But if they take a second job, they can’t afford the additional cost of childcare. Or the moms who are nervous about taking time from their jobs to care for a sick child. Or the moms-to-be who are scared of getting fired if the boss finds out they’re pregnant.
Then there are women who work hard every day doing the same jobs as men, but earning less. And the military families, who struggle to make ends meet with one paycheck where there used to be two. They welcome their loved ones home with full hearts but little support from their government for their service.
I hear similar stories everywhere I go. These struggles – the struggles of working women and families across America – aren’t new to me or to any of us. And they’re certainly not new to Barack.
He was raised by two strong, working women – his mother and his grandmother. Growing up, he saw his single mother put herself through school while raising him and his sister alone. She was determined to show them that in America, there are no barriers to success if you’re willing to work for it. But he also saw her struggle to make ends meet, at times worrying about how she would pay the bills.
He saw his grandmother, the primary breadwinner for his family, work her way up at a bank. But he also saw how, once she got to a certain level, she hit a glass ceiling despite her hard work and abilities. He saw that she was passed over and underpaid, a problem that persists today for too many women.
And he sees me, his wife, trying to juggle jobs and raise kids; often feeling like when I’m with the kids, I’m shortchanging work, and when I’m at work or campaigning, I’m shortchanging the kids. I know you understand these struggles. Barack understands them too.
That’s why he’s worked to give families the tools they need to make a better life for their kids for over twenty years – from his years in Chicago working with a group of churches to help families devastated when local steel plants shut down; to the Illinois State Senate, where he worked to move families from welfare to work and expand early childhood education and child health care; to his fights in the U.S. Senate for equal pay and a fair economy.
As President, he’ll continue these fights. And he’ll build an economy that rewards work over wealth, ensures a world-class education, and creates quality, affordable health care for everyone who wants it.
He’ll do all this because he’s determined to change Washington so that instead of just talking about family values, we actually have policies that value families. Policies that actually make it easier for women to support, care for, and raise their families without having to choose between their kids and their careers.
I’ll be honest – when Barack first told me he was thinking about running for President, I had mixed feelings. I worried about my girls and what a campaign might do to their lives. I wanted the best life possible for them, and a presidential campaign wasn’t part of that equation.
But then I thought about it. And the world I want for them is a world where they’re paid fairly and equally for their work; where they don’t have to choose between kids and careers; where they can dream without limits without a glass ceiling standing in their way. And I realized that if that’s the world I want for them, then I had to do my part to elect someone like my husband.
We all need to do our part to keep women’s issues at the forefront of the national debate. That’s why communities like BlogHer are so important. It’s not just a forum or sounding board; it’s an energetic space that lets women know they’re not alone. It’s our own national virtual roundtable. But we need to take these online conversations offline as well. I’ll do my part, and so will Barack. But we need you all too.
Thanks for allowing me to post here. I plan to continue blogging – and listening.