Michelle Obama Talks About Balancing Work and Family

By Lindsey Ellerson

Feb 11, 2009 12:45pm

ABC News’ Yunji de Nies reports:

At Howard University today, First Lady Michelle Obama told a crowd of 250 students, she still struggles with the challenge of balancing work and family.

"There isn’t a day that goes by, particularly after having kids, that I don’t wonder or worry about whether I’m doing the right thing? For myself, for my family, for my girls?" she said.

Mrs. Obama explained that she has gone through many phases in her life – as a student, a professional, a wife, a mom – and that for each one, the solution was different.

"There is no right way or wrong way to do any of this.  And the choices and decisions will change given your circumstances," the First Lady said, "The question I hate most is that we ask of young people is ‘what are you going to be when you grow up?’ And the truth is I still don’t know and I’m 45!"

Mrs. Obama has said that she will focus much of her time in the White House on the challenge of the work/family balancing facing many American women.  Mrs. Obama made brief remarks at the start of a panel discussion entitled "Home, Work, Community: the Role of African American Women as Change Agents" held at Howard University’s business school as part of their Black History Month celebration.

School administrators were informed that the First Lady would attend just 24 hours before the event.  Word spread on the campus of 10,000 and the 250 tickets were gone within minutes.

Rochelle Smith, a freshman at the communications school, said Michelle Obama is an inspiration. 

"She’s a positive Black woman and positive role model that’s not necessarily an actress or a singer," Smith said.  "So it’s like we have the power to be smart, not just beautiful."

Wearing a bold red dress and long strand of pearls, Mrs. Obama told the crowd that she has been working to get to know the local community – then said she felt redundant telling them that, joking "if you watch any TV I’m sure you’ve seen." 

The First Lady has been on a "listening tour," visiting federal agencies and local community organizations throughout the District of Columbia.

"We [she and the President] believe that our first job as new members of this community is to listen," she said, adding that she hoped to be invited to many more events at Howard.

This was not Mrs. Obama’s first visit to the historically black college – she was here last June when then-candidate Barack Obama participated in a presidential debate hosted by PBS.  In September 2007, Mr. Obama received an honorary doctorate of law degree from Howard University.

-Yunji de Nies

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