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Michelle Obama Puts Her Career On Hold

A story in Friday's Washington Post says Michelle Obama--wife of Sen. Barack Obama--is stepping down from her position as vice president of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals. She will instead be focusing on her husband's campaign for president.

According to the Washington Post:

She never aspired to be a stay-at-home wife or mother. For years she wrestled with the issues that many professional women with families face, chiefly whether to quit her job. Now, that is what Obama, 43, has decided to do. And though she will hardly be homebound, she admits to being conflicted.

"It is very odd," she said of the prospect of interrupting her career, during one of her first one-on-one interviews since her husband, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), announced he is running for president.

"Every other month [since] I've had children I've struggled with the notion of 'Am I being a good parent? Can I stay home? Should I stay home? How do I balance it all?' " she said. "I have gone back and forth every year about whether I should work." When she finally winds down her duties as vice president of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals in the days ahead (she was promoted to the position soon after her husband joined the Senate), she said, it "will be the first time that I haven't gotten up and gone to a job."

"It's a bit disconcerting," she said. "But it's not like I'll be bored." ...

Yet 15 years after Hillary Rodham Clinton stumbled into the culture wars with comments about pursuing a career rather than staying home "baking cookies," Michelle Obama appears unfazed by questions about her choices. "Yeah, you know, cooking isn't one of my huge things," she admitted, laughing when asked for a favorite recipe. "My view on this stuff is I'm just trying to be myself, trying to be as authentic as I can be. I can't pretend to be somebody else."

The story also says Michelle Obama was earning nearly $275,000 a year before she pared down her job responsibilites earlier this year. (The Chicago Sun-Times reported that she went part-time Feb. 5.) According to the Sun-Times, Sen. Barack Obama's 2006 Senate salary was $157,082.

Tough Choices

I applaud Michelle Obama's decision to do what she thinks is best for her family and for herself. It's hardly easy to walk away from your passion, from something that's part of your identity and brings you a sense of purpose--whether you're a woman or a man.

Last week I interviewed several women about mothers who make decisions similar to Michelle Obama's: they leave the workforce to spend time with newborn children. One of those sources pointed out that whatever decision women make, they're happiest when they have an active role in making the decision, instead of feeling coerced by someone or something.

Given what I've read about Michelle Obama, I tend to think she was empowered to make this decision--not coerced. And so I stand behind her and all women who love their life's work and their families.

Any thoughts?
-kc

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