As I’ve been feeling particularly mom-ly lately (having given birth for the second time at the end of August), I enjoy reading about the parenting philosophies of others. Besides the fact that she keeps talking about her daughters’ weight in public, Michelle Obama is my kind of mom. Not 100 percent, but pretty close.
A few days ago she chatted with some women at the White House about her Let’s Move initiative, but according to Yahoo! Shine, other topics were also discussed.
She had me at, “Like any mother, I am just hoping that I don’t mess [my daughters] up.”
The Obama White House, like the Bush White House before it (and like my house, which is gray, not white), is home to two young girls. Both Michelle Obama and Laura Bush have operated admirably, I think, when it comes to raising their young girls while also shielding them from the glare of the media (sure, the Bush twins got into their fair share of trouble growing up, but they were older than the Obama girls when their dad was president; let’s see how well Sasha and Malia fare when they get into high school and college).
Mrs. Obama talked about balancing motherhood while also maintaining a semblance of her own life:
“I fortunately came with self-preservation tools,” she says. “And I had developed those long ago, sort of realizing that I have to put myself higher on my priority list to stay sane . . . 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 my maximum capacity for my family. And I want my girls to see the model of a mother taking care of herself because, quite frankly, my mother didn’t do that.”
I read that and I admire it, although often times I get frustrated hearing about all the things I should be doing for myself and wondering who’s going to watch my kids and do my job while I’m out taking care of myself. I work from home full-time with a baby every day, and a toddler two days a week. It’s a nice idea to carve out time for myself to exercise and take care of myself, but my reality is a whole different story.
But at least Mrs. Obama acknowledges she doesn’t do it by herself, and that she is blessed to have plenty of support. And she admits that her motivation to exercise is driven in large part by vanity.
On healthy food and fitness in schools, she encourages parents to advocate on behalf of their kids if they want to see wholesome foods. And I think that’s a realistic means to an end. It’s not asking too much to work with other parents and the school to make positive changes in the cafeteria.
But more importantly, she urges parents to be the change they want to see in their kids by setting a good example, which is something I’m thinking about more and more as my toddler is becoming increasingly observant — particularly at the dinner table.
I love that Mrs. Obama requires her kids to make their own beds and clean their rooms — the White House staff doesn’t treat the girls like princesses. Sasha even does her own laundry. And until their chores are complete, they don’t get their allowances. I always had to make my bed when I was a kid, despite the fact that we had a housekeeper nearly every day. There’s something about having kids do the seemingly small stuff that can often result in larger lessons about respect, empowerment and responsibility.
As for her power as a mom, she says, “The truth is, the greatest power I feel like I have is raising two more intelligent, decent people and putting them in the world prepared to give and contribute.”
I don’t need Michelle Obama — or anyone, really — to make me feel better about myself as a parent, but it’s admittedly kind of nice to look at other families, and the family of our nation’s chief executive, and see so many similarities, as well as so much inspiration.
For more on Mrs. Obama’s conversation at the White House, click over to Yahoo! Shine.
Are you inspired by Michelle Obama? Or is her parenting style nothing to write home about?