Podcast·2 min read

Jen Psaki on What it’s Actually Like to Work at the White House and Raise Kids

October 25, 2023

When Jen Psaki became President Obama’s White House Communications Director, she was pregnant. Later, she became President Biden’s Press Secretary, and she had to navigate her role as a mom and as the White House’s chief spokesperson. And considering when you work for the president, you’re expected to be on call 24/7, it was a challenge. Today, we spoke to Jen about what doing both actually looked like for her – from the hard realities to the help she got along the way. 

In this episode, Jen shares: 

  • What a job interview with the president is like 

  • Why she regrets not seeking feedback early in her career

  • Her non-traditional approach to mentoring 

  • What she learned from not getting the job she wanted the first time  

  • How she set boundaries, even when on call 24/7 

On Setting Boundaries While Working in the White House

Jen: I discovered pretty early that I had to make my own definition of what quality time was with my kids and my husband and my family. And I couldn't let what cultural structure defined that as be what defined it. And what I mean by that is, you know, I used to get up probably at 5, 5:15…and my kids, especially my daughter who was five when I started the job, they started getting up around the same time. And they would just kind of follow me around the morning. I mean, sometimes I'd be reading the newspaper, making coffee, maybe I'd exercise, I would be taking a shower. But I spent quality time with them. I wasn't home at 5pm, but I had time with them in the morning, and I did try to get home so that I could put them to bed at night whenever I possibly could. And actually, I could do that many nights. You have to force yourself to be able to leave to do that. I also kind of carved out for me. [On] Friday nights…I would try to leave the office early and do pizza night with my sister and brother in law and my niece and nephew who live five minutes from us, and that became important to me.

On Not Getting the Job She Wanted the First Time Around

Jen: Sometimes you have to kind of recognize it's not about you being a failure or you being incompetent. It's about someone else being better for the job at that moment. And that's okay. And I was far better prepared to do the job because of life experience, because of perspective, because of a range of things, when I eventually did it. So, sometimes it works out even if it doesn't feel that way in the moment.

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