On the windowsill in my office, next to a row of pink Mother's Day cards, sits a framed photo collage of my late mother. Hardly a day goes by that I don't glance at it, by intent or happenstance, for inspiration or courage.
I am here because of who she was, and my career success has been in great measure due to her devotion to my five children. Abuelas, I've long maintained, are the first and best baby-sitters.
So it is with great interest (and a little envy) that I watch Michelle and Barack Obama plan their big move to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. A lot of attention has focused on the First Pet, but not enough, I think, on the First Granny. It's been widely reported that Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson, will leave the Chicago home in which she raised her children and move to Washington to help care for her granddaughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.
She handled the job during the long, grueling presidential campaign, a job she undoubtedly does better than the highest-paid nanny.
News reports say she slept over at the Obamas' house when Michelle was traveling, got the girls up in the morning, fed them breakfast, made sure their lunches were packed and their hair combed and drove them to school. After the dismissal bell rang, she shuttled them to gymnastics, dance, piano, soccer and tennis. She supervised homework and limited TV viewing to an hour, per Mom's instructions.
While this may read like a paid sitter's schedule, I can assure you the difference – the priceless, immeasurable difference – rests on a single job requirement one can't advertise for: emotional attachment.
"If somebody's going to be with these kids other than their parents," Robinson famously told The Boston Globe in March, "it better be me."
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