NYT reporter Jodi Kantor’s new book, “The Obamas,” has generated lots of buzz – mostly political. This is a parenting blog, not a political blog. So, I want to focus on the parts of the book that I thought were the most interesting – the Obamas’ struggle in the pre-2008 election years with the dilemma of how a Barack Obama presidential candidacy might impact the Obama family dynamic. Specifically, how would his campaign and, if elected, his presidency, affect Sasha and Malia. According to Kantor, their mom, Michelle Obama, was very circumspect about a presidential run for many reasons; family and parenting obligations were at the top of the list, hand-in-hand with the needs of her kids for parental involvement during this crucial period of childhood.
The Obamas’ dilemma as they gazed into the future of their family is the perfect example – actually the extreme example – of yesterday’s blog entry titled, “The Most Important Plan You’ll Ever Make” (January 10, 2012). The operative sentence in that blog, “But many parents neglect to make the most important plan of all – a plan for managing the time they have with their kids.”
As you learn more about No Regrets Parenting from this blog, my tweets (@NoRegretsParent), and from the No Regrets Parenting book due out next month, you know that the time you spend with your kids is the most important ingredient for their success – and the most important determinant of your own sense of fulfillment and satisfaction as a parent. You know how hard it is for you to juggle the needs of your kids with your own adult priorities and responsibilities. Although the actual amount of time (number of minutes) you spend with your kids is less critical than what you make of that time – how well you are able to turn precious minutes into cherished moments – you know that the time you have with your young kids is fleeting.
If time management with your kids is a challenge for you, imagine what it must have been like for the Obamas as they sat down to weigh the pros and cons of taking the national spotlight. That decision would have far greater repercussions than just Sasha and Malia’s time with dad – being First Lady comes with its own all-consuming responsibilities. Sasha and Malia would see very little of either parent for an entire campaign season, and at least 4 years in office were their dad to be elected. As with “first children” before them, their lives would be irrevocably altered – there are no instant replays on childhood. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
Now, having put yourself in the Obamas’ shoes for a few paragraphs, put your own parenting life back into context. No matter how busy you are, and no matter how badly your other priorities and responsibilities conflict with your job as parent, you’ve got it easy compared to the Obamas. After all, you don’t have your finger on the nuclear trigger and most of you don’t have to deal with Congress or run for re-election.
Doesn’t that feel better?