Dr Biden, 71, who has kept her job as a full time English professor while taking on the role of First Lady of the United States, opened up about the ways she makes time for her work and family in a new interview with Real Simple.
Dr Biden said she knew when her husband Joe Biden became president that she would be able to continue teaching full time because she had done so when she was second lady.
However, despite her insistence on becoming the first first lady to have a paying job outside the White House, she was met with skepticism from many.
“I think people were a little skeptical. Could I truly do it, since I was the first one to try it? But I knew I wanted to teach. And so I said: ‘This is what I want to do. We have to figure it out,’” Dr Biden recalled of the convincing her choice took. “I knew I could do both. I’d done it as second lady, and at that time 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 figure out how to do it now.”
While Dr Biden has managed to successfully maintain her role as a professor at Northern Virginia Community College, as well as her responsibilities in the White House, she said it hasn’t been without the occasional guilt about the limited time she has for her family and her individual students.
“You’re always thinking: ‘Did I spend enough time at his game?’ Or, ‘Should I have said that?’ You’re 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 give that student enough attention?’” she said.
Dr Biden says that she knows the guilt is “just part of human nature”.
“You want to make sure you do a good job at anything you do,” she added.
For the first lady, this means “showing up,” a value that she encompasses in each aspect of her busy life.
“I found that as a mother, as a friend, and especially as first lady, no matter what happens in this country, it’s important to show up,” said the mother, stepmother and grandmother. “It means so much to people when you show up in the tough times as well as the happy times. And I think it’s important to do the unexpected thing. The little kindness.”
As for how she ensures that she’s on top of everything when it comes to her family, Dr Biden says she relies on Post-it notes to help her delegate tasks when the “big family” comes together.
“It started because the Bidens are a big family, and we have a lot of gatherings,” she explained, adding that she uses sticky notes placed on the cabinet above her kitchen counter to inform family members of tasks that need to be done, such as as preparing the salad or lighting the candles, without having to take the time to explain.
The method is useful because it allows each family member to choose the role they want to do during family gatherings without having to ask questions.
“Everybody knows their role,” she explained of the get-togethers, which typically include 13 or 14 family members but can reach 30. “I do the main. Everything else is up for grabs.”
The first lady said she also relies on her Post-it habit at work. There, she uses the notes as reminders to herself and as a way of leaving the occasional note for her husband, which she places on his mirror.
Dr Biden said the notes for President Biden include missives telling him she misses him to encouraging ones.
The Bidens share daughter Ashley, 41, while Joe is also father to three children, Hunter, Beau, and Naomi, who he shared with his late wife Neilia Hunter. Beau died from cancer in 2015 at the age of 46, while the president’s daughter died age one alongside her mother. The president and first lady also have seven grandchildren.