White House Hard on Families

NYT wants you to know that Team Obama is sacrificing mightily for you.  A feature titled “‘Family Friendly’ White House Is Less So for Aides” begins:

When President Obama talks up the family-friendly vibe at the White House — the nightly family dinners, the flexibility to attend school presentations and join impromptu plunges in the pool with his girls — his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, sets him straight. “Family friendly to your family,” Mr. Emanuel counters.


White House advisers often work 60 to 70 hours a week and bear the scars of missed birthdays and bedtimes, canceled dinners and play dates, strained marriages and disgruntled children, all for prestigious posts that offer a chance to make an impact and unparalleled access to the president.

We’re then treated to several anecdotes illustrating the fact that, while President Obama has taken some small steps to make it easier for his staff to get some family time in, it’s virtually impossible given the frenetic pace.

Why is this news?  Has nobody seen “The West Wing”?

News flash: If you want to work a normal work week, have weekends off, and go to your kids’ soccer games, don’t become a White House staffer.  Or a congressional staffer.  Or a major college or professional sports coach.  Or a brain surgeon.  Or a professional bull rider.  Or an airborne Ranger. Or a long haul trucker or dozens of other jobs.

Most prestigious and high paying jobs require ridiculous hours.  Some, like medicine and the law, having grueling dues paying periods after which point some modicum of a normal life can ensue.   Others, like coaching, simply demand long hours because that’s what the competition is doing. Quite a few non-prestigious, non-high paying jobs require long workdays and workweeks, too.  Truckers, movers, retail managers, lawn care providers, and quite a few others come to mind.

Unlike this last group, White House staffers get not only substantial prestige from their work but they tend to make these sacrifices for relatively brief periods and then take much more lucrative positions outside government, parlaying their public service into substantial wealth.  Often, they’ll cycle back into political appointments every few years depending on the vagaries of election outcomes.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Pete Burgess says:

    ** “It is not in the nature of politics that the best men should be elected. The best men do not want to govern their fellow men.” George MacDonald

    Me thinks this describes the editors at the NYT.

  2. Barry says:

    This is a standard theme for NYT ‘special’ reports (usually in the Sunday Magazine). Traditionally, they are about the travails of the upper classes – such as making do with a smaller (multimillion $) residence.