WASHINGTON — President Obama cast the need for flexible workplace policies and paid family leave in personal terms Monday, recalling the days when he and the first lady juggled children and career.

Speaking at the White House Summit on Working Families, Obama highlighted the issues that he said working families face each day, including a lack of affordable child care or paid maternity leave and the reluctance of many employers to allow parents to work flexible schedules.

“Family leave, child care, workplace flexibility, a decent wage – these are not frills, they are basic needs,” Obama said. “They shouldn’t be bonuses. They should be part of our bottom line as a society.”

Speaking to a crowd filled with more women than men, Obama also said the challenge was not “a women’s issue” and mattered to him personally. He referred to his mother, who pursued graduate studies and a career, and to his grandmother, who worked at a bank. “I was raised by strong women who worked hard to support my sister and me,” he said.

“I take this personally because I’m the husband of a brilliant woman who struggled to balance work and raising our girls when I was away,” Obama continued. “And most of all, I take it personally because I am the father of two unbelievable young ladies.”

Obama signed a presidential memo Monday directing the federal government to expand access to flexible time for workers and directed Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to head a $25 million initiative to help people who want to enroll in job-training programs but do not have access to child care. He said initiatives such as those addressing the minimum wage and expanded pre-kindergarten are aimed in part at helping those who struggle to afford child care.

In 31 states, Obama said, the cost of child care exceeds the cost of in-state tuition at local colleges and universities.

The president endorsed a bill sponsored by Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., that would protect pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace. The measure would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, such as providing a stool or water for them, and would protect women from retaliation if they ask for these accommodations.

“Many of these issues, they’re not partisan until they get to Washington,” Obama said.

Obama also bemoaned the fact that the United States is the only developed nation not to offer paid maternity leave But he did not endorse the leading Democratic proposal in Congress aimed at providing paid leave, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act. The measure would offer workers 12 weeks of leave at two-thirds of their salary up to $4,000 a month and would offset its $20 billion annual cost by increasing the payroll-tax contribution for workers and companies by 0.2 percentage points.

Doing that would effectively raise taxes on the middle class – violating one of Obama’s major 2008 promises: not to raise taxes on any household earning less than $250,000 a year.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the lead author of the FAMILY Act in the House, said that while she would have welcomed a formal endorsement of the bill, she was encouraged by Obama’s focus on paid leave in his remarks.

“The president could not have been stronger in terms of the concept in terms of doing this, and getting this done,” DeLauro said. “For the first time as part of the public discourse, the public debate, we are focused on the economic challenges women face overwhelmingly. And that’s new.”