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Is Michelle Obama a Good Example for Mothers?

Updated on June 16, 2010

Michele Obama is known as many things: First Lady of the United States, volunteerism extraordinaire, and fashion icon. But to Sasha and Malia, she’s simply “Mom”.

Michele Obama has a lot on her plate. Being First Lady is a full-time job in itself, and she still makes time for her many other pursuits. She laid aside her career as a hospital executive to raise her daughters in the White House. She uprooted her daughters from the only life they’ve known to live a life of constant scrutiny in the fishbowl that is the White House. Her mother lives with the family to fill in the gaps that Michelle and her husband, the president of the United States, simply cannot right now. Is Michele Obama a good example for mothers?

Michelle Obama was born January 17, 1964 as Michelle Robinson. She grew up in a one-bedroom apartment on Chicago’s SouthShore. Michelle and her brother, Craig, who are only 21 months apart in age and were sometimes mistaken for twins, slept in the living room with a make-shift divider separating them.

The Robinson family was close-knit; eating meals together and playing board games as a family. The importance of education was instilled in Michelle and Craig at an early age; they both learned to read by the age of four and skipped second grade. Michelle still cites her parents as her role models and proudly identifies them as “working class”. Fraser Robinson, Michelle’s father, worked as a city pump operator and served as a Democratic precinct captain. Even a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis did not slow him down. Suffering from a limp and using crutches he still managed to provide for his family so that mom Marian could stay home with Michelle and Craig until they entered high school, at which time she worked as a bank secretary. Sadly, Michelle’s father died in 1990, two years before she wed.

Michelle took gifted classes in elementary school and attended Chicago’s first magnet high school (public schools with specialized courses or curricula) where she was on the honor roll all four years. She even took advanced placement classes, was part of the National Honor Society, and served as student council treasurer.

Her overachieving spirit continued into college as she majored in sociology at the prestigious PrincetonUniversity. After graduating with cum laude honors in 1985 she attended Harvard where she earned her law degree in 1988, just one year before her future husband, Barack, whom she had yet to meet, earned his.

In Chicago she worked as a lawyer and later a hospital executive. Michelle and Barack’s “how did you meet?” story is now romanticized and retold often. And deservedly so, the story of a high powered lawyer resisting the mentoring of an up and comer, eventually giving in, and then falling in love with him is pretty fantastic. Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson were married October 18, 1992 at Trinity United Church of Christ.

Barack and Michelle waited almost seven years before they had children. Their now famous daughters started out as tiny babies celebrated in much smaller circles: Malia Ann Obama was born July 4, 1998 and then Natasha (who goes by the less formal Sasha) Obama was born June 10, 2001.

When Barack began casting his hat into the political arena, Michelle initially resisted because of the effect she feared such a move would have on their family.  Although she described Barack as a loving father, she worried about the true amount of parenting he was doing. His absences created strain between the couple when their daughters were young, as disclosed in Barack Obama’s own book.

Even after Barack’s election to the senate, the couple chose to keep their daughters living in Chicago rather than moving them to Washington, D.C. Michelle continued her career in Chicago as well. "We made a good decision to stay in Chicago so that has kept our family stable," Michelle Obama told the Chicago Tribune. They were even able to attend Sunday services every week at Trinity United Church of Christ.

When Newsweek magazine trailed her in 2004, the reporter observed a to-do list for her daughters, Malian and Sasha, and was surprised that time was penciled in for “play”. It’s been reported that Michelle is often in bed by 9:30 p.m. and back up at 4:30 a.m. to hit the treadmill. Her amazing level of discipline and drive has no doubt helped her remain confident and dignified in the midst of constantly being in the public eye.

As Mr. Obama’s political aspirations climbed to higher heights and reached the climax of presidential candidacy, Michelle cut her work hours by 80% in May of 2007 to help meet the needs of their family. She has stated that she has no regrets about scaling down her job at the hospital, where she was an extremely productive and respected staff member. However, when her fellow executives created a volume of her accomplishments to mirror one made for Barack Obama’s climb to the senate, she was in tears.

Campaigning for the presidency was a feat that Michelle seemed to take on with her husband. Throughout Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Michelle made a "commitment to be away overnight only once a week—to campaign only two days a week and be home by the end of the second day" for their two children.  At a speaking engagement for the National Partnership for Women and Families on June 20, 2008 in Washington, Michelle said, “I used to get up in the morning and go to an office. Now I get up and go to a plane. ... My kids still don't care where I am. They've always known two parents to work in the household and as long as we're back in time for bedtime, they could care less where we are."

Mrs. Obama captured the attention of the nation during her speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 where her husband was declared the presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. During her speech she declared, “And I come here as a Mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world -- they're the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night. Their future -- and all our children's future -- is my stake in this election.”     

Everyone in the world now knows the happy ending of Michelle Obama’s story. Her husband captured much of the nation’s hearts and was elected the forty-fourth president of the United States, the first African-American president in the history of the nation. The Obama family now resides in the most famous residence in the United States- together. And this is the best part of winning the election for Michelle. "It has been the greatest single benefit of this for us as a family," Mrs. Obama said. "It means that we see each other every day." Malia and Sasha are now able to see their dad every day, which has not been the case for the majority of their lives. When Barack Obama served in the Illinois Senate in Springfield, he was a five hour drive from his daughters. And when he became a U.S. Senator the family was only together on weekends. Campaigning was two entire years of coast-to-coast travel.


Michelle stated in an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that she and the president do not intend to have any more children. And as far as raising their own two girls in the White House, she’s received advice from past first ladies Laura Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Rosalyn Carter.

When asked what she misses most about life before the presidency, she responds with “anonymity”. Michelle and her daughters took the advice of former first families and have found great solace at Camp David; a mountain based military camp in Maryland used as a country retreat for First Families.

Michelle Obama resists the labels “feminist” and “liberal”, but is widely known as outspoken and strong-minded. Her personal philosophy "is that in life you've got to make choices that make sense for you, because there's always going to be somebody who'll think you should do something differently," she said. "So you might as well start with what you like, and what you care about, what your passions are, what makes sense.”. Her "message to women" is to "find your space. Find your spot. Wear what you love. Choose the careers that may have meaning to you, because there's always somebody who will say, 'I wouldn't have worn that color,' or 'Why didn't you work at that job?"'

In Michelle’s own words, her number one priority is making life normal for her children and husband. And it seems she is setting about doing just that, with fiery determination and with her own distinct approach. As the years pass, may she be not only a First Lady the United States can be proud of, but a woman Malia and Sasha can always feel privileged to call “Mom”.

Is Michelle Obama a good example for mothers?

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    • Nicole Winter profile image

      Nicole A. Winter 

      5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Fantastic hub, Sarah Songing, I truly admire Michelle Obama, our First Lady and the job she's doing as a parent. What a shame her father is no longer with her and wasn't able to see his beautiful grandchildren born. He sounds like a phenomenal man, you can see that the First Lady truly had amazing parents, fantastic schooling and was raised in a highly loving home!

    • Sarah Songing profile imageAUTHOR

      Sarah Songing 

      9 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by, RNMSN! Glad you enjoyed it, thanks for commenting.

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 

      9 years ago from Tucson, Az

      good hub Sarah and yes, I agree she is a good example for a parent

    • Sarah Songing profile imageAUTHOR

      Sarah Songing 

      9 years ago

      Thanks for the read and comment, perfumelover. I agree; regardless of her political views, she has definitely made it obvious that her children are her priority.

    • perfumelover profile image


      9 years ago

      She has definitely gone out of her way to make sure that she maintains some sense of normalcy and unity for her family. Kudos to her for taking on such a difficult task, when clearly many before her were simply consumed with the lifestyle of highprofile world leaders.


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