Get a Life

By Judith Welles

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Get a Life!: Work life Obama-style

Next week we will have a new president and first family. This president-elect and his family are clearly closeknit.  Their feelings for each other are palpable, and much like many of our families.  How will this working professional and his working wife (a first lady, after all, does have a role) balance their family and work life? 

One way is to bring grandma to town. That’s the way families used to do it, but today many grandmas are working. Michelle Obama’s mother chose to get off the working grandma track.

The other good news for the Obamas is that they don’t have far to commute – about 45 seconds to the Oval Office.  They already make time for fitness and healthy meals have  been a topic of conversation with the White House chef. 

During the presidential campaign, Michelle Obama talked about her personal interest in improving conditions for working families.  On “60 Minutes,” she said work/family balance was second on her list of policy concerns.
  
In her own life, as first lady with two young daughters, work and family balance will surely be her top priority.  But whether she can act on the concern for the nation too, in an uncertain economy, is less certain. 

For one thing, the United States falls behind many developed countries when it comes to family-friendly workplace policies. According to survey last year by McGill University’s Institute for Health and Social Policy, the U.S. is one of only four countries out of 173 that doesn’t guarantee some form of paid maternity leave; the others are Liberia, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea.

Last year, bills were introduced to improve paid maternity leave for federal employees. 
But a growing federal deficit makes prospects dim for any new benefits.  In a poor economy, it can be jobs alone, rather than benefits, that entice new employees and retain a workforce.  

So, what focus the new administration places on work life remains to be seen.  What do you think is the outlook for work/family balance issues in the Obama administration?


Posted on Jan 14, 2009 at 12:12 PM


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