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Obama says his hardest job is ‘being a dad’

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President Obama acknowledged Saturday that he has not always lived up to his own expectations as a father, but he urged parents to spend more time with their children and set firm rules for them to follow at a time when economic uncertainty is straining families across the country.

In a weekly radio and Internet address that he used to celebrate Father’s Day, Obama delivered what amounted to a presidential homily on what he called “my hardest, but always my most rewarding job – being a dad.”

He used his message to underscore the toll that the poor economy is taking on families, and said his administration is doing what it can to help in “forging stronger bonds between fathers and their children.”

Those steps, he said, include community and faith-based programs that help working fathers spend more time with their kids, as well as initiatives coordinated by military chaplains to allow fathers deployed overseas to speak as often as possible with their children.

As Obama often does, he used his own story to highlight the importance of his message.

“I grew up without my father around,” he said, adding that his dad left when he was 2, leaving he and his sister to be raised by their mother and grandparents.

“And I wonder what my life would have been like had he been a greater presence,” he said. “That’s why I’ve tried so hard to be a good dad for my own children. I haven’t always succeeded, of course – in the past, my job has kept me away from home more often than I liked, and the burden of raising two young girls would sometimes fall too heavily on Michelle.”

But, he said, he has learned that children need parents’ time, discipline and unconditional love – “whether they succeed or make mistakes; when life is easy and when life is tough.”

“And life is tough for a lot of Americans today,” he said. “More and more kids grow up without a father figure. Others miss a father who’s away serving his country in uniform. And even for those dads who are present in their children’s lives, the recession has taken a harsh toll.”

To improve his own performance as a father, Obama said he has recently taken “a second job,” as an assistant coach for his daughter Sasha’s basketball team.

“I was so proud watching her run up and down the court, seeing her learn and improve and gain confidence,” he said. “And I was hopeful that in the years to come, she’d look back on experiences like these as the ones that helped define her as a person – and as a parent herself.”

“In the end, that’s what being a parent is all about – those precious moments with our children that fill us with pride and excitement for their future,” he said, wishing the country a happy Father’s Day.

© The Washington Post Company