Barack Obama’s hands-on parenting style is one of his most admirable achievements
Despite all his accomplishments in the political arena, the president of the United States is, first and foremost, a devoted dad to his two daughters
Taking a look at other world leaders, who lead busy lives, it’s easy to overlook just how much of an effort it must be for them to make time for their families.
Joshua Kendall, author of First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama, takes an incisive look at past U.S presidents and how their political careers influenced their parenting. In the book, he touches upon into what he views as Obama’s “unusual legacy”.
Kendall recounts how, years before he won the U.S. presidency by a landslide, the then 42 -year-old Senator’s advisers noticed that something was bothering him.
When asked, he answered simply: “I miss my girls,” he said, teary-eyed. “I don’t want to be the kind of father I had. I’ll work it out. I’ll be okay.”
Winning the presidency didn’t only give him the power to lead one of the world’s most powerful nations, it afforded him a chance to become a child-focused parent, unlike his own absentee father, Barack Obama Sr.
The president has often said that living “above the store” and not having to commute to work allows him more time for his girls. His once hectic travel schedule during his years as a law professor and senator, followed by going on the campaign trail no longer interfered with his desire to fully focus on his daughters.
Kendall notes how Obama’s caring nature was in contrast with past U.S. presidents, most of whom were solely focused on politics and spent little time with their kids. Based on his research, only Harry Truman was similar to Obama in this regard, doting on his only daughter Margaret, who described herself as “a total Daddy’s girl.”
A nurturer by nature, the hands-on dad has proven to be a firm and loving dad time and time again, like the time he coached daughter Sasha’s school basketball team. He read aloud all seven volumes of the Harry Potter series to Malia and the “Life of Pi” to his youngest Sasha.
Since his inauguration in 2009, president Obama has established an unusual rule: he would have dinner with his family five nights a week, leaving only two nights for official functions and the like.
At 6:30 p.m., he sits down for an evening meal with his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha, reveals Reggie Love, Obama’s former body-man.
It’s “like a meeting in the Situation Room. There’s a hard stop before that dinner,” shares Reggie. Adding that although Obama’s aides usually call him back to work at around 8:30 or 9:00 pm, none of them dares to bother the “sacred dinner hour”.
He also makes it a point to have breakfast with them.
These simple habits of a devoted dad are achievements he’s proud of.
Unlike his father, Obama boasts of a perfect record at his daughters’ parent-teacher conferences.
He describes growing up with feelings of loss and isolation in “Dreams of my Father”. He also talked more about his childhood in 2015 at a panel on overcoming poverty at Georgetown University:
“I am a black man who grew up without a father, and I know the cost that I paid for that. And I also know that I have the capacity to break that cycle, and as a consequence, I think my daughters are better off.”
Good parenting has shaped his social policy and has influenced change; it also inspires his plans long after his presidential term is over. Being a devoted dad may just be one of the most vital and enduring parts of his legacy.