For Obama, one of the most welcome byproducts of gaining the highest office in the land at the age of 47 was that he could finally differentiate himself from his own absentee father, Barack Obama Sr., and become the child-centric parent he had always longed to be. This hands-on dad, who helped coach Sasha’s grammar school basketball team, puts a high premium on both connecting with and providing direction to his girls.
As Obama has often said, the president “lives above the store” and has no commute. No longer has his hectic travel schedule required constant separations from his two girls. Malia was a summer baby — born on the Fourth of July in 1998 — and for the first three months of her life, Obama was glad to help his wife, Michelle, by changing diapers and rocking Malia to sleep. But once fall came, the state senator and part-time law professor had to be away from the family’s Chicago home at least half the week. And by early 2007, when he was both a U.S. senator and a full-time presidential candidate, Obama was forced to hand off just about all of the parenting responsibilities to Michelle.
He was eager to reconnect with his family. Soon after being inaugurated, Obama established what New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor has called “an unusual rule for a president.” As he informed all his aides, he vowed to have dinner with his family five nights a week. That left just two nights a week for out-of-town fundraisers or dinners with fellow politicians.
At 6:30, Obama and his wife sit down with the girls for a family dinner without any outsiders — not even Michelle’s mother, Marian Robinson, who typically retreats to her own “home” on the third floor of the White House.
The evening meal, observed Obama’s former body-man Reggie Love, was treated “like a meeting in the Situation Room. There’s a hard stop before that dinner.” While aides sometimes call him back to work at 8:30 or 9, they rarely dare to go upstairs to bother him during the sacred dinner hour.
On most days, Obama also eats breakfast with his daughters. And as part of his commitment to his girls, Obama has been reluctant to visit Camp David, since various school activities typically require the youngsters to be in Washington.
In sharp contrast to his own neglectful father, this president with the perfect attendance record at his daughters’ parent-teacher conferences has emerged as a model father.
Out of his own feelings of loss and alienation, which he described in “Dreams from My Father,” has come a road map for personal and social transformation. “I am a black man who grew up without a father, and I know the cost that I paid for that,” the president told a panel on Overcoming Poverty at the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit held at Georgetown University in 2015. “And I also know that I have the capacity to break that cycle, and as a consequence, I think my daughters are better off.”
There are very few traits that I find as admirable as a man who prioritizes being a good father.
Much like our President I am also the product of a broken homes and an absentee father, and I can admit that when I became a dad it was all consuming for me, and quickly made almost everything else seem insignificant by comparison.
There is no job more important in my opinion, not even the job of President of the United States.
So recognizing that the President feels the same way, only makes me admire him that much more.