There are few people on the face of the earth busier than Michelle Obama. But the former first lady maintains that work-life balance is possible — and on Tuesday, she shared her secret for achieving it during her time in the White House.
“Starting every year, before I booked anything, agreed to any meetings or conferences, we’d sit down with my assistant and we looked at our lives first,” Obama said. “We put potlucks in there, we put date nights in there, I put my workouts, we put our vacations on the calendar first, we put sports things and summers. We planned that out first, and then what was left would be left for work.”
Obama, who was speaking at Muse, an event hosted by Klick Health in New York City, emphasized that such a strategy can work for any busy family, not just the one living in the White House. She said the Obamas learned to perfect their juggling act long before the first inauguration, back when she was a Harvard-trained lawyer and accomplished philanthropist — making her, for a period, the family’s primary breadwinner — and Barack Obama was an up-and-coming politician.
“Our dynamic is really no different [than other families’]. It’s just that everybody was watching,” she said. Obama added that her husband made it a priority while president to be home for family dinners and never missed a parent-teacher conference — though she allowed that, “When you’re the commander-in-chief, you do have some control over saying yes or no to things.”
And while it’s important for individuals to prioritize their personal lives, Obama said part of the onus falls on employers and corporate culture as a whole.
“Even when you schedule your family, there’s still plenty of time for work, but we don’t plan like that,” she said. “We let work inundate everything. We have to start setting the priority of allowing people to put their lives before their work.”