Raising children in any atmosphere is no easy feat. Living in the White House and facing global pressure only increased the challenges, Michelle Obama confirms. The former First Lady opened up about raising daughters Malia, 22 and Sasha, 19 in the spotlight for the season finale of The Michelle Obama Podcast. During the episode, Obama spoke with her mother, Marian Robinson, and older brother, Craig, about what parenting lessons they learned while growing up in Chicago.
Any guidance grasped was naturally modified when the Obama family moved into the White House in 2009.
‘One of the things that I had to learn how to negotiate was creating these boundaries with my kids in the White House,’ Michelle remembered. ‘I mean, you talk about being raised in a totally different world than I ever knew? It’s like, pluckin’ these little girls out of our normal life on the South Side of Chicago with Craig, and mom, and our way of doing things, and our community, and then, putting them in a historic mansion with butlers and maids, and florists, and gardeners, and Secret service, and then trying to make sure that they understood boundaries, understood responsibility.’
Ensuring that Malia and Sasha led a semi-typical adolescence often required string-pulling from Marian, who lived with the family in the White House. ‘You had to basically upend the system of the White House to get them to make sure these girls had some semblance of normalcy, right?’ Obama said, revealing she’d often sneak her granddaughters ‘a little extra candy’.
Obama also recalled maintaining balance in Barack’s schedule, so that their daughters could appreciate their time at the White House, not begrudge it. “I always tried to make sure that I wasn’t pouting in front of the kids when Barack wasn’t there,” she explained, adding, ‘If I had made a big deal out of it and said, “Oh my god, your dad’s not here again! Oh, he’s missing this” or “I just wish…” then that’s the signal to them, “Well this isn’t normal”.’ She continued, ‘Even as Barack being the president of the United States, he worked his schedule around their schedule. They weren’t waiting until 9 o’clock at night to eat because dad was running late. They never couldn’t not go somewhere or do something because of dad. I never wanted them to resent the presidency, or resent what their dad did.’
One milestone almost every family has to endure—dropping their child off at college. Obama reflected on the trip she and Barack took to Harvard for Malia’s freshman year. ‘Barack and I have two different ways of dealing with that anxiety. I just had a list of things to do. I was unpacking the room, we’re making the bed, we’re cleaning, we’re getting the dorm room ready. We had things. You know, I was occupied,’ she recalled. ‘And Barack, was all out of it, because he really didn’t have a job. So we had to give him a make job. Like, “Hey, why don’t you try to put this lamp together.” The lamp was already put together, you know, it just really needed to be screwed.’
But after all of the unpacking, Obama says she remembered the moment she and Barack got emotional, driving away from Malia’s college. ‘We tried to hold it in,’ she confessed. ‘Then I heard Barack over on the side just, [sniffs] you know that sort of (thing). And Allen, his agent, passed a handkerchief back to him. He was like, “Thanks man.” We both shed some tears,’ she admitted, later adding, ‘because there was just something about the actual leaving her, even though she had been to sleepaway camp, and she had traveled. There’s just something about that baby is now, like, she’s gone. Little did we know they’d be back so soon, given the pandemic’.
Still, despite the hardships her daughters faced in the public eye, Obama says she’s proud of who they’ve become. ‘Both Malia and Sasha have turned out to be wonderful young ladies, and very well-adjusted, given what they had to deal with right at a very important developmental point in their lives.’
Listen to the entire episode, here:
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
In need of more inspiration, thoughtful journalism and at-home beauty tips? Subscribe to ELLE’s print magazine today! SUBSCRIBE HERE
Video: “‘Please stop and let me finish my question’: Voter rebukes Trump when he interrupts her question about Obamacare” (The Independent)