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Michelle Obama's Balancing Act

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama's wife on balancing family, career, and life on the campaign trail

By Gabyliz Machado | January 22 , 2008
Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama, with the couple's daughters Malia, left, and Sasha celebrate victory at the Iowa caucus during a rally Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: ©Rick Bowmer/AP Images)
Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama, with the couple's daughters Malia, left, and Sasha celebrate victory at the Iowa caucus during a rally Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: ©Rick Bowmer/AP Images)

Michele Obama, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, is a busy woman with quite a balancing act. In addition to her own career in public service, Michelle speaks at campaign rallies, town meetings, and almost any other place in support of her husband's campaign. She's also mom to 9-year-old Malia and 6-year-old Sasha.

The graduate of Harvard Law School and University of Chicago vice president recently answered questions from Scholastic Kid Reporter Gabyliz Machado. Read on to find out how she and her family balance life on the campaign trail and what she thinks about the possibility of becoming First Lady.

Scholastic News Online (SNO): What is [your daughters'] favorite thing to do with their dad?

Michelle Obama (MO): We love to play games like charades and read as a family. I read with Sasha, and Malia reads with her dad. They just finished the last Harry Potter! They took their time and read installments together over the last few months-as Malia said, it's not a race. They were careful not to miss a moment or opportunity for dramatic interpretation reading it out loud together.

SNO: How do you balance family life with the demands of the campaign?

MO: Our priority for our family in this process is to make sure our girls are happy and healthy and stable. We think it's important for Malia and Sasha to feel like they have a say-like they have some ownership in this campaign-and that makes all of us feel balanced.

For example, over the summer the campaign asked us to come to Iowa a day early around the Fourth of July. So, we asked the girls if they'd like to hit the trail early. They ran to the refrigerator, took down the camp calendar, and found a field trip they were both looking forward to was scheduled early on that day-so, Barack went on without us, and the girls and I stayed home so they could go to their field trip. We got to Iowa to enjoy the state fair as a family the next day. So many rides and yummy sweet treats-like deep fried candy bars!

The girls have stayed in the same school they've always attended and have their same after-school activities with their friends; like soccer and tennis and piano and acting, which Malia is particularly enjoying these days, so their routines are the same amidst the busy campaign season.

And, we talk every night to Barack using webcams so we can see one another and talk about our days.

SNO: How is your everyday life different now than before Senator Obama began running for President?

MO: The biggest change is there are more cameras, and i get noticed more in the airport and at the store.

But Barack has been in public service for twenty years-spending the last few going back and forth to the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C., and the eight years before that going to Springfield, Illinois, to the State Senate.

I have always had my own career-which i still maintain. I carry two Blackberries on the trail: one for the campaign and one for the University of Chicago Medical Center, where i am Vice President of Community and External Affairs, so i can stay in touch with my colleagues and [keep track of] projects.

[Another] big change has been that many more people come up to say hi wherever i am. So many people feel comfortable just telling me their story, which i enjoy and appreciate. We should feel as a nation that we can trust and relate to our leaders, so I'm honored people feel a connection with Barack and me and our family. One of the best parts of the campaign has been getting to know people from across the country-going to new and different corners of our nation and learning that there is so much more that unites us than divides us. [There are] so many more ways we are the same than we maybe often acknowledge.

SNO: First Ladies traditionally promote a special issue during their husband's term. As First Lady, what would your special cause be?

MO: My first issue will be to care for what my family needs. Our daughters are 9 and 6 now, and [if] we move to Washington, D.C. in 2009, they'll be starting a new school. My husband would be, of course, starting this important job, so i want to make sure they [the girls] are happy and healthy and settled. Plus, it's impossible to predict what the country will need from its First Lady at the time, so i will be what the country needs me to be when the time comes.

SNO: What do Malia and Sasha want to do for a career when they grow up?

MO: Malia just started taking acting classes. She recently performed a monologue from Anne of Green Gables as her final project, which was excellent!

Both of the girls love sports and music, and they love to play. They laugh a lot together and they crack Barack and me up all the time. School time and play time, with visits here and there on the campaign trail, are really what we're focused on right now.

SNO: What do all of you think about the possibility of living in the White House?

MO: Well, first and foremost, as a family we have an agreement. The girls requested when we got in this race that win or lose, we get a dog. So no matter what, we will be welcoming a four-legged friend to our house. And, of course, the possibility of living in the White House is exciting!

It's especially exciting to think we have a real opportunity to make our country and our world a better, happier, healthier, safer, stronger place for all of us.

About the Author

Gabyliz Machado is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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