Hanging Out With Michelle Obama: 5 Things I Learned

Michelle Obama and CafeMom
First Lady Michelle Obama holds a roundtable discussion on Let's Move initiative and motherhood issues in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, Oct. 17, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Yesterday I had the privilege of spending an hour with Michelle Obama on behalf of CafeMom and The Stir. I was joined by editors of other women-focused websites and together we had an intimate and wide-ranging conversation with the First Lady.

Michelle answered all our questions with a down-to-earth charm that immediately put us all at ease. It felt like having a chat with your girlfriends -- that is, if your girlfriends just happen to come with a professional photographer, fancy china, and everything you say is recorded and transcribed for posterity.  

Before I get into the meat of our conversation, here are the two things you're dying to know:


1. Yes, her biceps really are that impressive. She is extremely fit.

And ...

2. She was wearing a really nice dress from Target. She really does shop there.

Okay, now we can move on.

During our visit, we talked with the First Lady about everything from the first family's television viewing habits (Barack isn't too fond of his daughters Sasha and Malia watching the Kardashians) to how moms can feel empowered to make change in the world. Whether we were talking important stuff or junk food, I found myself nodding in agreement as she dropped little nuggets of wisdom. Here are a few of my favorites…

On raising her daughters in the White House:

... They’re terrific girls. They’re poised and they’re kind and they’re curious. And like any mother, I am just hoping that I don’t mess them up.

Sounds familiar to all moms -- right?

On being happy:

Even when times are tough, in the end, you are as happy as your least happy child.

I never really thought of it in those terms, but so true.

On finding time for herself:

... What I learned early was that I have to be healthy. I have to exercise. I have to eat right in order for me to be able to perform at maximum capacity for my family.

That’s advice I need to take to heart.

On mom needing a support system:

I know how blessed I am [having so much support], and I know how rare it is to live in an institution that can provide you with that kind of support. I believe every mother needs a personal assistant. And a chef, and -- what else do we need?

Was that a rhetorical question? Because I could use a handyman and pastry chef, too.

On how mom can stay motivated to make change in the world:

[Change is about moms] getting up every day doing just what they’re doing -- focusing on family, focusing on self, focusing on the things that we do have control over -- our kids’ schools, our workplace, the other parents in our community. There are hundreds of wonderfully small changes that we can make in our lives if we’re all doing that. That becomes the collage of real change.

And I just think ... we lose sight of the fact that that day-to-day work is really how change happens. So I would urge them: don't get discouraged. Don't get discouraged at all. Because our kids already see the world differently -- today. They're born into a different way of thinking that I think is good. They're more open. They're more curious. The world is different. And each generation, just by the sheer fact that they come on this Earth, is creating change.

Wow, those are some powerful words. Who's ready to change the world with me?

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