President Obama recalled his days as a new parent, changing diapers and quieting fussy babies in the middle of the night — while watching SportsCenter.
"I thought it was good for their development," Obama said. "We want them to be well-rounded."
At the White House Summit on Working Families on Monday, Obama ticked off the issues that working families face each day: lack of affordable child care, paid maternity and family leave and flexible working hours for parents, all of which Obama said need to be changed. The issues do not break down across gender lines, Obama said; fathers care about having high-quality day care and would like to spend time at home with a new baby.
"There's no such thing as a women’s issue. There’s a family issue and an American issue," Obama said.
Obama sent out a presidential memo Monday directing the federal government to expand access to flexible time for workers and directed Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to head a $25 million initiative to provide day care to people who enroll in job-training programs.
Obama endorsed a bill sponsored by Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) that protects pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace, and urged Congress to pass it.
“Many of these issues, they're not partisan until they get to Washington," Obama said.
Obama said a number of the proposals he put forward, including an increase in the minimum wage and an executive order preventing contractors from engaging in unequal compensation, all help working families. While Obama said that it is shameful that the United States does not offer paid leave to new parents, he has not put forward a proposal to do so.
Obama spoke about the issue of family and women in personal terms. He was raised by "strong women who worked hard to support my sister and me." He recalled his mother, a graduate student at the time, coming home late and fixing the same dinner. He would complain and she would tell him to stop.
"I take this personally because I'm the husband of a brilliant woman who struggled to balance work and raising our girls when I was away," Obama said. "Most of all I take it personally because I am the father of two unbelievable young ladies," he said, whom he wants to have families and careers and follow their dreams.
Obama said there was one upside to being president while his children were older.
"I never had to meet a world leader with Cheerios stuck to my pants," Obama said.