White House Aides Missing out on Family Time

Filed under: Work Life, Celeb Parents, In The News

Obama family

The Obamas have family time at the White House, but they're the only ones. Photo: The Official White House Photo Stream, Flickr

Having trouble balancing work life and family? Just be glad you don't work in the White House. White House aides with young children -- who probably thought they were landing the job of their dreams last January -- have discovered that working for the President doesn't just take hard work -- it also takes time away from their families.

So why is this news? After all, there are plenty of parents out there working long hours, missing dinners, kissing their children goodnight after the kids have already fallen asleep -- parents who don't rub elbows with the President on a daily basis. Why should working in the White House -- running the country -- be any different?

It's news because when President Obama and First Lady Michelle moved into the White House, both breathed an audible sigh of relief. Finally, after several long years of campaigning, they'd get to spend time together. In May, Michelle Obama told Time magazine, "It (moving to the White House) has been the greatest single benefit of this for us as a family. It means that we see each other every day. And that hasn't happened for most of the kids' lifetime."

But while the Obamas are enjoying some quality family time, their aides with families are clearly struggling. "No matter how much the president tries -- and he and Michelle try, they do -- the White House is brutal on family life," Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel tells the New York Times. Emanuel mixes work and family time by bringing his kids to the White House with him.

Claire Shipman, wife to Jay Carney, who is Vice President Joe Biden's communications director concurs. "The first few months, we all thought, 'This is so exciting!' -- and it is exciting," Ms. Shipman says. "But I have to say, starting about a month ago, it really kicked in that I could really use a little more help."

Some of that help comes from the Obamas themselves, who do what they can to create a family friendly environment. They've made sure that aides with children get laptops, so that they can work from home. They allow flexible work schedules and encourage employees to bring their kids to work. "Part of the reason that we built the swing set out there was to say, you know, on weekends or after school, bring the kids here, set them loose, because, you know, we want to make sure that you're staying in contact with your family," the President recently told NBC Nightly News. "That, ultimately, I think, makes people work better."

So are the Obamas doing enough to help their employees balance work and family? Or should White House aides -- as Brett Singer asks over at Strollerderby -- have realized the demanding nature of the job before signing on? What do you think?

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