First lady Dr. Jill Biden is opening up about her parenting experiences and giving advice to families amid the pandemic. In the March issue of Parents, the college English teacher shared that she has loved seeing her daughter Ashley and stepchildren, Beau and Hunter, "become their own people."
"Before you become a parent, you assume you shape your kids into who you want them to be," she said. "Once you have them, you see that much of who they are comes from them. I love seeing the world through their eyes."
When Ashley was born in 1981, Jill admitted she and Joe were "more aligned" regarding their parenting strategy compared to when they only had the boys. However, as her daughter got older, she realised she needed an outlet for her stress. "She was also just as stubborn and passionate as I was," she explained. "When she was a teenager, I kept sneakers by the door so that I could run out my frustrations when we argued. It's not a coincidence that I became a marathoner."
"Joe knew that I'd always wanted two things—a marriage that was strong, loving, and full of laughter, and a career."
While discussing her 43-year marriage, Jill reflected on how Joe supported her while she simultaneously pursued her own education, as well as teaching. "Everything in life has a season, and we all take turns needing support and giving it," she said. "When we got married, Joe knew that I'd always wanted two things—a marriage that was strong, loving, and full of laughter, and a career. He didn't love me in spite of my ambitions; he loved me because of them."
She continued: "When I needed to write a paper, he would take the kids somewhere to give me a quiet house. He didn't expect me to set aside my career when he became vice president, or now. In 2009, my advisors said it was crazy to do both, but Joe said, 'Of course you should.'"
Jill also acknowledged the undeniable toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on working parents. "Many moms were having a hard time juggling it all before the pandemic," she explained. "Now they can't send their kids to school while they work. There are no playdates to help burn off energy. They've lost the network of family and friends who can help out. And they're expected to supervise remote learning while working or job hunting."
To illustrate some of the challenges working parents are facing, she reflected on a time she met a mom on the campaign trail who has a son with disabilities. "His remote learning required more supervision than she could provide while working," said Jill. "She made less than her husband, so of course, she was the one to quit. I think stories like that are playing out in a lot of homes."
Looking ahead, the first lady acknowledged that a "sea of change" — which should include equal pay, affordable childcare, debt-free community college, and parental leave — needs to take place over the next five years to juggle raising a family and having a career.
"I had help from Joe and our family when our kids were young," she explained. "I was lucky. But you shouldn't have to be lucky to raise a family and pursue a career. My hope is that all parents will feel able to work and take care of their families."
Her advice for parents living through the pandemic? Don't forget to give yourself grace. "Maybe you've made mac 'n' cheese for dinner one too many times. Maybe your temper is shorter than usual. Maybe you're too tired to be the 'fun mom.' It's okay. You're not failing. You're strong. You're resilient. And you're doing your best to carry your family through one of the most difficult times in memory. We're going to do everything we can to get through this, together."