Jill Biden says she didn't doubt that she could keep teaching as first lady and overcame the skepticism that she could handle both jobs by instructing her staff to “figure it out.”
In a new interview in the September issue of Real Simple magazine, the first lady describes how she uses Post-it notes to manage her large family, and offers marriage advice to newlyweds hoping to celebrate 45 years of marriage as she and President Joe Biden did on June 17.
Biden is the first first lady to continue her career outside the White House.
“I think people were a little skeptical. Could I truly do it, since I was the first one to try it?," she said. “But I knew I wanted to teach."
She said she told her staff, "This is what I want to do. We have to figure it out.’
Biden continues to teach English and writing at Northern Virginia Community College, which is where she taught during the eight years her husband was vice president. Her staff back then also doubted that she could teach and serve as second lady, but she managed.
"I saw it work then, and I knew we could figure out how to do it now,” she said.
Northern Virginia news, events and updates
Biden doesn't like to use “juggling” or “balancing” to describe how she handles her responsibilities.
“You can’t do anything in a haphazard way," she said. "You have to have purpose while you’re doing it, and it has to be organized. That’s the key to it.”
To that end, she relies on Post-it notes to manage her family gatherings and save herself from having to explain things over and over. She sticks instructions — like “fill glasses with ice” or “light candles” — to her kitchen cabinets so family arriving will know right away how to help.
“Everything is set up so when somebody comes in, they do what they want to do,” she said.
The first lady also uses Post-it notes to communicate with the president.
“If I want to get a message to Joe, I put one on his mirror," she said. "It may be a nice ‘I missed you’ or ‘I hope you get whatever it is you’re working on.’”
She said it's taken a lot of work for her and the president to get to 45 years of marriage. Both were married previously.
Joe Biden, 79, lost his first wife and infant daughter when the car she was driving collided with a truck in Delaware just before Christmas 1972. His two young sons were gravely injured. Jill Biden, 71, was divorced from her first husband.
“You have to work in any relationship, but especially in marriage. It’s not always 50/50," she said. "Sometimes you lean on him, sometimes he leans on you. Sometimes he’s super busy and I have to pick up a lot of it, or vice versa.
“The goal is that we’re not in the same place at the same time, so we can count on one another when we need to,” she added.