Official White House Photo by Pete SouzaThis past weekend, with fewer than 30 days until the election, to the huge defining day for her family and our country, Michelle Obama hosted a doggie playdate at the White House.
At the urging of younger daughter Sasha, they invited five friends, their parents, and their dogs over to give the Obamas' dog Bo some much-needed (according to Sasha, anyhow) dog interaction. The dogs tore up some flowers and there was some poop on the South Lawn, but the doggie date was deemed a success by all. The rest of the weekend was filled with discussions about an upcoming dance, a big science test, and homecoming.
Firing up the crowd in LeesburgContrast that to yesterday, when Michelle's afternoon was filled with campaign events including a stop in Leesburg, Virginia, for a rally where she gave a stump speech in front thousands and hosted a roundtable with reporters from women-focused websites like CafeMom. The juxtaposition between Michelle's “normal” family life and her carefully orchestrated public appearances is hard to fathom, but she says it's not that different from what any other working mom does -- she's just doing it in a bigger public spotlight. And when you talk to her, you get the feeling that her sentiment isn't spin -- she's really embracing both roles while trying to find balance between the two.
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Christopher Dilts/Obama for AmericaDuring our one-hour conversation with the First Lady, we hit on topics ranging from Barack's debate performance to what it's like for her daughters to grow up in the White House in the age of cellphone cameras and Facebook.
On Barack's debate performance, Michelle was understandably and predictably in her husband's corner:
I'm biased. I think my husband has done a phenomenal job, not just in the debates, but over the last three and half years.
When I asked what it's like to sit in the audience and watch her husband on stage, Michelle explained how hard it can be to keep the poker face expected of her when the cameras are pointed her way.
You can't gesture. You can't [yell] go, baby! Yes! You nailed that one! You can't do any of that.
And it's nerve-wracking watching her husband debate.
... it's watching your loved one perform on a tightrope. And yes, we have two more [debates].
She admitted it's sometimes hard to stay focused for the entire debate. She sometimes finds her mind wandering.
Debates, it's hard to hang in there for 90 minutes.
When asked if she'd support her daughters going into politics ...
I would support my daughters doing anything they want to do. So I always encourage them, think about your passion, think about your gifts. You don't think about what dad does or what somebody else wants you to do. And if it's politics, if it's serving in the military, if it's being a stay-at-home mom, I just want them to have confidence in whatever choice they make.
And she tells her daughters how fortunate they are to be growing up at a time when they can celebrate their intellect and be whomever they want to be. She says it was different when she was growing up ...
I tell them being smart in public school was dangerous. I mean, truly. You talk like a white girl, or who you are with grades? That's how we grew up. You had to be sneaky smart.
But her daughters do face other challenges that are unique to their generation and have not been present for past kids in the White House. As a family, they talk about Facebook and cellphone cameras. Her daughters are acutely aware that people have cameras everywhere and everybody is watching. She warns them ...
You can't go off on somebody. You can't act bratty. Because you may be having a moment, but somebody could use that moment and try to define you forever. So you want to be cognizant of that.
Her words speak to the reality for all kids today. It's a conversation we all need to have with our kids, but the pressure is so much higher when you're the President's daughters.
The ease with which the First Lady can move between discussing family and politics is a big reason she's so popular with moms. In a recent Moms Matter survey, we found her influence on moms' perception of Barack Obama to be hugely positive. Eighty-eight percent of Democrat moms view Barack more favorably because of her, and even 36 percent of Republican moms said they view the President more favorably because of her.
Her life is unfathomably different from ours in so many ways, yet it feels so similar when she talks about her daughters. Do you find her relatable?