Watch CBSN Live

Obamas Juggle Kids & Campaign With Help

When class lets out for Michelle and Barack Obama's two daughters, their grandmother is there to pick them up.

When 10-year-old Malia needs her hair done in the two-strand twist style she likes, a family friend brings a beautician to the Obama house.

And when Michelle Obama and her husband both recently campaigned out of town, their girls stayed with another friend who regularly shuttles 7-year-old Sasha to ballet class.

Like countless other working parents, the Obamas rely on a close group of friends and family especially Michelle's 71-year-old mother to help juggle home life and work.

The Obamas' jobs may be more high-profile than most, but those close to them say many of the everyday challenges are the same as when she worked as an administrator at a Chicago hospital and he was just another U.S. senator: shuffling the girls to play dates, piano lessons, drama, ballet and soccer games.

Michelle Obama is "you and I, she's the woman next door, she's the woman down the street," said Yvonne Davila, who has been friends with Obama since the two worked at Chicago City Hall together nearly 20 years ago.

The Obama girls stayed with Davila the weekend after the first presidential debate when their parents were out of town campaigning. Davila, whose two young daughters are tight with the Obama girls, stuffed them full with breakfasts of french toast and waffles.

That was a rare weekend away for Michelle Obama, who tries to organize her campaign travel so that she's home on the weekends and gets home during the week before her daughters go to bed lights out is promptly at 8:30 p.m.

Even when Obama is away, she's not out of touch, checking in with Davila, owner of a communications and marketing firm, while the girls had a pizza party.

"Michelle called, I had her on speaker," said Davila, a single mother who considers the Obama girls "my kids, just like she feels that my kids are her kids."

Barack Obama, for his part, calls home every night at bedtime, and he hadn't skipped a parent-teacher conference, his wife said earlier this year.

"He did miss one of Sasha's dance recitals in December and was broken up about it," she told US Weekly. "No one wants to miss 20 6-year-olds in red cowboy hats tapping to 'These Boots Are Made for Walkin'."'

The Obamas aren't the only ones on the campaign trail juggling politics and parenthood. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee and governor of Alaska, is a self-described hockey mom with five children, including a baby boy with Down syndrome, a pregnant teenager and a son in the U.S. Army deploying to Iraq.

Palin leans on her husband, Todd, parents and sisters to help with family duties. She also brings her kids to work. Her husband and some of her children were with her on a recent trip to Arizona to prepare for the vice presidential debate. And, three days after giving birth this spring, Palin took her newborn son, Trig, to work at her Anchorage office carrying him in a sling.

John McCain has seven children, mostly grown. His youngest is 17-year-old Bridget.

Michelle Obama has talked about how, like other working mothers, she feels torn.

"I can't be everything to everyone, always feeling guilty that when I'm with my kids I should be doing more on the job or for the campaign, but when I'm with the campaign that I should be with my girls. We all know that guilt," she said last month during a visit to New Mexico. She is on a leave of absence from her hospital executive job.

The Obamas' biggest help with the girls comes from Michelle's mother, Marian Robinson, who retired last year from her job as a bank executive secretary to help with her granddaughters as the presidential campaign heated up.

Michelle Obama is like an air traffic controller when it comes to organizing her daughters' activities she puts everything in motion but Robinson and others, like Davila and family friend Kaye "Mama Kaye" Wilson, help make sure the girls get to their destinations.

"She handles all the scheduling and all I have to do is do it or Yvonne will do it or Kaye will do it. One of us will do it. And if she's home, she'll do it," said Robinson, who lives in her own home near the Obamas.

It's Robinson who picks up the girls every day from the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools where Malia is in fifth grade and Sasha is in second. After school, Robinson takes the Obama girls to play dates or other activities and makes sure they're home in time for piano lessons.

"That's my responsibility, gladly," she said.

Their grandmother will also bring the girls to school if their mother leaves early in the morning to go out of town on the campaign trail. But on their first day of school last month, Barack Obama escorted his daughters to class in a five-SUV motorcade because of Secret Service protection.

For the Obamas, one duty Wilson regularly handles is hair care for the girls, something she has been doing for a few years.

Every few weeks, Wilson, the self-described "hair person," brings a beautician over to the Obama house to do Malia's hair.

While Wilson is at the house, she will also sometimes wash Sasha's hair. She likes wearing hers in pigtails or a ponytail.

Wilson and the others know how important it is to Michelle Obama to have a group of people she can turn to to help care for her daughters.

"I don't think she could do her life without it," said Wilson, a not-for-profit consultant who lives in the south Chicago suburb of Olympia Fields and has nine grandchildren of her own.

Obama's mom and many of her friends, including Davila and Wilson, were with the family in Denver at the Democratic National Convention.

Michelle Obama is careful to make sure her schedule doesn't interfere with her daughters' school activities, and she was recently at home to attend a parent-teacher night.

But even when she is in town, Robinson will sometimes take the girls places because their now-famous mother draws a crowd. "It distracts from what the children are doing," Robinson said.

Otherwise, life for the Obama daughters is much like it was before their father ran for president, their grandmother said.

"They are really still focused on what they do, their friends, their piano ... everything they do is exactly like it was before," Robinson said.

View CBS News In