Photo: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images via chatelaine.com
Everyone’s favourite First Lady disappointed a huge crowd over the weekend in announcing she has no plans to run for office. Michelle Obama was in conversation with Tracee Ellis Ross on Saturday at the United State of Women Summit in Los Angeles, and when Ross asked her about her political plans, Obama responded by saying that she doesn’t have any. That’s because Obama doesn’t think a single candidate can change the state of politics—but what she does think about a lot is how to influence people in her own life, particularly her daughters, Malia and Sasha.
“I said I’m mom-in-chief and a lot of women ridiculed me for that, [but] the first, most important job I have is who my girls are going to be,” said Obama. “If I can’t get them right, I can’t get y’all kids right, I can’t work for anybody else.”
And I mean, who wouldn’t want Michelle Obama to be their mom?
In their 40-minute conversation, Obama dropped some serious wisdom on how she helped shape her daughters, the lessons she learned from her own mother and what fathers should be doing to support their daughter’s dreams.
How she taught her kids to become who they want to be “Life is practice...I tell my girls this every day. You are practising who you are gonna be. So if you’re getting up late and you’re trifling, and you’re not getting your homework done, that’s what you’re practising,” Obama says. “Do you want to be dependable? Then you have to be dependable. If you want people to trust you then you have to be trustworthy…Practise who you want to be every single day.”
The lesson she learned from her mother “The mother that I am today is a direct result of Marian Robinson,” Obama says. “The thing she always said that I remember is that, she told me and my brothers, ‘I wasn’t raising children, I was raising adults.’ She practised treating us in the way she wanted us to be. She always talked to us like we had sense. She never used baby talk. She would ask you to explain yourself. She would include you in big grown-up conversations. There was never anything that she wouldn’t talk to us about. ”
She tries to be as open as possible with her girls—by controlling her ‘mom face’ “I want them to talk to me about everything. So that means I gotta be open, and I can’t be judgemental. You have to get that ‘mom face’ right—it’s like, ‘Oh, did that happen? OK, tell me more.’ You’re trying to not react so you get the good information ,” she said, nodding with her eyes wide, demonstrating the ideal “mom face.”
And being open with her kids hopefully means they’ll come to her for advice “I try to tell Sasha and Malia, ‘Do not go to other 14-year-olds for information, ’cause all you all are dumb—come to talk to me. You all know nothing. Don’t be sitting around in your little crew figuring out life…Let’s just talk about it. Don’t ask Olivia what she thinks about sex—she doesn’t know.’”
A message she has for fathers to help their daughters realize their dreams “Men have an important role to play,” she said. And it starts with men understanding that what they tell their daughters is possible is connected to how they act in the workplace.
“The times you are sitting at a table where there are no people of colour, no women—if you’re tolerating that, that is the workplace that will be waiting for your little girl…You told her she can be anything. but then you’re not working to make sure that that can be actualized. Men have to understand: things don’t just work out for your little precious pea if you’re not working for all of us.”
A message for kids for who may not have a mom like her “What I tell young kids is that all it takes is one good person…People are always looking for the good kids—they’re looking for kids to mentor,” she said. “You are born with an innate sense of what is possible—that gets either beaten out of you or it gets reinforced…When you know you’re smart, you find the person who sees that in you.”