CAMBRIDGE -- What a difference a week or so makes. As President Clinton's secretary of labor, Robert Reich needed three full-time assistants just to organize his 15-hour-a-day schedule. Another staffer's sole duty was to prepare his bedtime reading: a thick brief on the next day's happenings. The 50-year-old former Harvard lecturer commanded a department of 18,000 troops, controlled a budget of $35 billion and had the ear of longtime amigo Bill Clinton.
He's also home trying to control the antics of his family's mother-and-daughter beagles, Waffle and Zooey. He's home doing his level best to understand the latest computer tricks of his 12-year-old son, Sam. And -- most unthinkable of all -- he's home sitting down to a casual weekday lunch in the big and busy kitchen of his just-off-Brattle Street Victorian house with 15-year-old Adam, his other son. "I can't remember the last time I did that," he muses after the soup bowls had been cleared.
But this is exactly what Reich (pronounced Reish) wanted when he decided he wanted out of Washington, submitting his resignation in November. The man who was instrumental in securing the Family and Medical Leave Act is taking his own family leave. Permanently. It's his response to what his wife, Clare Dalton, says was the fear that dogged him during much of the four years he spent in the Clinton administration: "That the boys would grow up and remember him as an absent dad."