Focusing on family is not a priority just for President Barack Obama, but also for his senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett. Ms. Jarrett is known as a longtime mentor to both the president and first lady, but now she’s opening up about another side of her life: raising her daughter, Laura, as a single mom.
“You can have it all, but not all at once,” Jarrett says during a sit-down interview with Yahoo Parenting at the White House last week.
Making a decision
“By 30, I was separated from my husband, and I clearly remember sitting in my lovely office with a magnificent view, staring at a very lucrative pay stub, and bursting into tears because I was just miserable,” she said then. “So I had to make a decision: Keep following my plan, or be honest with myself and search for my true passion.” That led to her leaving the private law firm where she worked and starting over in public service — which is how she soon met a young Michelle Robinson and her fiance, Barack Obama — and working her way up from different positions in the Chicago mayor’s office.
On life being full of trade off’s
“Life is full of tradeoffs. And I think at different phases in your life, you’re able to do certain things that you can’t do at other phases, and you make choices,” Jarrett says today. “For example, I had my daughter when I was pretty young, 28, and I had to sacrifice not going out with my friends, and I had to figure out how to juggle both raising her and also a very demanding job. And part of the reason why I decided I couldn’t continue to work in a law firm is that I just didn’t feel like I was thriving in that environment and able to spend enough time with her. And I had done one of those gut checks where I said, is this really the kind of person I want to be? Or do I want to have a job where I have more flexibility?”
You can’t do it alone:
“You can’t do it alone, and that’s one thing I think a lot of times, particularly women, we think we can do everything,” she says. (She also cites the Affordable Care Act as a good opportunity for women to take care of themselves.) “And we take a sense of pride in doing everything. We take care of everyone. We take care of our children, our spouses, our parents, our colleagues at work. I mean, that’s maybe a stereotype, but I think that’s our sense. And I know I can say that certainly was my sense, and I had a thousand balls up in the air at one time, and the balls started to drop. And I found that I wasn’t getting everything done at work. I felt like I was struggling to make sure my daughter had everything she needed. Thank heavens my parents said to me, we’re right here, ready to help.”