The first lady herself, Dr. Jill Biden, is the first FLOTUS in history to be a working mother. As long as her partner Joe has been president and vice president, Jill has juggled the responsibilities of the White House with the responsibilities of being a college professor and a mother.
He recently sat down with the editor-in-chief of very easy, Lauren Iannotti, to answer the question on everyone’s mind: How the hell does he do it all? Your answer? You’ve found ways to work smarter, not harder. The full interview is worth reading, but one moment that deserves its own moment is her secret weapon when it comes to managing the mental burden of running a home: Post-Its. When asked how he delegates, Biden shared that he finds using Post-It notes makes assigning tasks to other people in the house much more manageable.
“It started because the Bidens are a big family and we have a lot of meetings. And everyone was like, ‘What can I do to help?’ And by the time you’ve explained, ‘Get out the salad bowl, it’s in this cupboard, here are the utensils, etc.’ I thought, ‘There has to be an easier way.’ I know my food and what I’m going to serve, so I write Post-it notes, like, ‘Fill the glasses with ice,’ ‘Light the candles,’ and put them in the cabinet above my kitchen counter. Then I take out the salad bowl with the tomatoes or the lemons or whatever needs to be cut, and everything is ready so that when someone comes in they can do whatever they want,” he explained.
Biden continued, saying his children “will choose what they want, and they really like that because they’re helping out, but they’re doing what they chose to do. And no one asks, ‘Which way do you want the lemons?’ Everyone knows their role. If we get together, it’s at least 13 or 14 and can go up to 30. So now I do that for almost every big family dinner. I do the main thing. Everything else is at stake.”
If you’re wondering if the Post-It hack has made it onto your professional schedule, the answer is yes, but they are personal reminders. She shares: “Yes, but they are for me! They are telling me what to do. And if I want to send Joe a message, I put one on his mirror. It can be a nice ‘I missed you’ or ‘I hope you understand whatever it is you’re working on’”.
While Jill Biden is obviously a bionic multitasker, she admits that she refrains from using the terms “juggling” or “balancing” and prefers to use “manage,” explaining that “you can’t do anything randomly. You have to have a purpose while you’re doing it, and it has to be organized. That’s the key.”
She returned to the classroom as a full-time teacher in September 2021, teaching two days a week at Northern Virginia Community College., institution in which he has worked since 2009. Looking back on her decision to keep her day job, “Dr. B” recounted, “I think people were a bit skeptical. Could I really do it since I was the first to try? But I knew I wanted to teach. So I said, ‘This is what I want to do. We have to solve it. I knew I could do both. I had done it as a second lady, and at that point, my staff said, ‘There’s no way you can do this,’ and then they saw that I could. I saw it work then, and I knew we could find a way to do it now.”
Asked if she ever felt the guilt or pressure many experience from wearing so many hats, the first lady proclaimed, “Of course!” she’s no different from the rest of us busy moms, sharing, “Especially when you have kids, right? You’re always thinking, “Did I spend enough time on his game?” Or, “Should I have said that?” You are always questioning yourself because you want to be the best mother you can be, the best teacher you can be. You’re thinking, “Did I pay enough attention to that student?” I think she is part of human nature. She wants to make sure that she does a good job in everything that she does.
Of course, Jill Biden doesn’t think the country’s problems with burned-out dads and stressed, overworked moms will be solved with a few sticky notes. Oh no While grades and organization help keep her life on track, she thinks America won’t have healthy parents until there is systemic change.
“We should pass universal child care and pre-K laws,” he said in the interview. “I’m a big believer in early childhood education, and so is Joe. Don’t forget he was a single father. His first wife died in a car accident with his daughter, and he was a single father of two children for five years. He knows how difficult he is. He was a senator and he had his mother helping him, but there were the parent-teacher conferences, the games, his work. So I think that helped him understand what working parents need, not just working moms. Keep pushing him, but Congress has to step up. The House passed subsidized child care and its universal pre-K bills, but the Senate did not.”
Yet another reason to look up your senators’ voting history and get rid of anyone who doesn’t run for parents. Thanks for the reminder, Jill. Putting it on a Post-It now.