As a makeup artist for People Magazine readied Michelle Obama's face for a photo shoot, her daughter, Malia, presented her with a strawberry shortcake ice cream bar.
"Mommy, look at my ice cream," she insisted.
Obama, whose day trip to Concord yesterday included a talk at White Park and a speech at the state Democratic convention, came with much of her family in tow. Her two daughters, 5 and 8, joined her at both events, as did her mother, Marian Robinsion, who will retire from her position as a secretary at a Chicago bank next month to help the family through the campaign.
As Obama's husband, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, mulled a presidential run last year, he said the effect of the race on his family weighed heavily on his decision. But yesterday, Michelle Obama said the couple has found a way to keep the family close, and their children's lives as normal as possible, while he campaigns for the Democratic nomination for president.
"It grounds us, because we're sitting here doing interviews, and they're getting ice cream," she said.
For the last few months, Michelle Obama has campaigned about one day a week, planning her
events so they allow her to be home "by bedtime." She's cut back on hours at her job as vice president of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals but still goes in for meetings. When her daughters' school lets out next week, she expects to travel with them more, but they will not be on the road as often as their father.
Take yesterday. The family flew to New Hampshire from Chicago in the morning, made two campaign stops in Concord, and flew back home last night. They won't be in New Hampshire today for the Democratic debate.
It's a balance, Obama said, between interrupting her daughters' lives, and sheltering them too much from the experience.
"It's not every day your father runs for president of the United States," she said. "We want them to grow up being aware and engaged."
While the girls got their faces painted in White Park, Obama spoke to residents about the role of women in politics. A few hours later, at the convention, she tried to distinguish herself from the conventional political wife, always at her husband's side. Personally, she said, she'd prefer to avoid the rigors of a run. "When I put on my wife hat, I think 'Run away, run away,' " she said.
But that instinct does not make her any less dedicated to her husband's campaign.
"The reason I'm here and I'm making sacrifices and toting my kids around and cutting time back at work is because I desperately want change," she said.