Is ‘doing it all’ the only right answer?

Well leave it to Donna Britt to talk about the truly universal “family values.” As in, I would really value it if somebody in my family picked up a towel or closed a cupboard.


The Obamas, from left: Sasha, Michelle, President Obama and Malia on Jan. 29. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

And should I be embarrassed to say that’s not the case in my house any more? When the mister realized that no, yard work actually isn’t a pleasure I want all to myself, he started doing more of it, along with almost all of the grocery shopping and a good bit of the general picking up.

Donna writes that at lunch with a friend, “I confessed how often I got distracted by household duties, invoking a Michelle Obama speech in which the then-candidate’s wife admitted to daily wondering about how she’d pull off the “next minor miracle” to get through the day.”

“As the primary caretakers in most homes, Mrs. Obama said at a 2007 campaign event, women manage an endless swirl of duties: “Scheduling babysitters, planning play dates . . . supervising homework, handling discipline . . . keeping the household together. . . . [You men] try to do your part, but the reality is that we’re doing it, right?”

President Obama has written about how, back when he was a “normal” hubby, pre-POTUS, he was made to feel a little bit clueless when he did try to help, with little birthday goody bags I think it was, because he didn’t really know where to start.

And I wonder if there isn’t a little corner of Mrs. Obama’s message about doing it all that takes pride in doing not just more than her fair share, but doing it better than any guy could, too.

I know I can fall into that: “Oh, you got that kind? No, that’s fine.”

Now that I’ve read every word of “The Obamas,” Jodi Kantor’s book about their marriage, I’m even more flummoxed by the idea that it was at all critical of Mrs. Obama, to the point that I dare anybody to come up with a single unflattering word in it about her.

But what does come through, there and elsewhere, is one perfect and perfectionist mother — who, for instance, lets her girls participate in one sport they like and makes them also apply themselves in practicing one they don’t like, because you’re not only going to get to do what you like in this life, are you? (As a result, they apparently love tennis, now, too.)

Isn’t there at least a little bit of a humble brag in there? And am I wrong to ask whether it seems like the right answer for really good moms is that of course we do it all?

Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchor of “She the People.” Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.

Melinda Henneberger has been writing about politics and culture for the Washington Post since 2011.

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