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Michelle Obama: Becoming (a parent)

Take one part grace, one part sacrifice, a sprinkle of determination, a dollop of ambition and you may be on the right track to figuring out Michelle Obama’s recipe for Becoming.

Reading her autobiography and attending her show in Vancouver last night, I could not help but think over and over again, “Ohh I could never do that...Another sacrifice?.....Wow another hurdle...You have to got to be kidding me!” She has been by Barack’s side through thick and thin which made me question how she didn’t give up. Their relationship was constantly tested by distance, differing views on marriage, public scrutiny, fatigue, campaigning and the list goes on. Moreover, the subtle lessons on parenting is what stood out to me the most in Becoming. Through all the chaos, Michelle never lost sight of the importance of making sure her children felt seen and heard. The teachings Michelle took from her own mother and father as well as the behaviours Michelle and Barack displayed to their own kin are quite inspiring to say the least. Here are a few of my favourite things I learned about parenting from Michelle Obama.

  1. Take a step back. Don’t be quick to meddle or give your child advice. Michelle’s own mother was a great listener and pragmatic in her approach. Michelle recognized this as a brilliant strength of her mother, allowing Michelle to think for herself and be independent very early on. Sometimes when our children come to us with a problem they are having, we don’t give them enough room to explore and come up with their own solution. This is how resiliency is created; letting children experience adversity and rise back up. She acknowledges her mom was very good at this which is not an easy task to do since children learn at a slower pace than adults. It is often hard for parents to sit back and watch things play out and not intervene.

  2. Offer guidelines rather than rules. As your children grow older, there is a higher need for rules such as when to come home after school, how much money you can spend weekly, or being places without or limited supervision. This is a great time to ask your children what they think the rules should be, make them part of the decision making process which shows them you have trust in them. However, it should be noted guidelines are a good starting point but if a child is taking advantage and the boundary feels not respected or agreed, a rule will then likely need to take place. When agreed upon rules and guidelines are broken, a natural consequence of a firmer boundary need to take place. Children need to know their parents have things under control if need be.

  3. You need to learn how to adapt. I would probably have to say Michelle Obama is the Queen of Adaptation and the average women would not have to adapt as much as she did, hopefully. However, she not only adapted for the sake of her marriage but for the unity and wellbeing of her family. Throughout her book, it is evident that it didn’t come easy for her but she did it anyway. The sacrifice that she endured often left her wrestling with her choices that weren’t truly aligned with what she wanted for herself. For example, Barack running for President wasn’t a joint decision but rather one that Michelle supported Barack knowing how important it was to him and how much of a difference he could make for America. She adapted by supporting her husband but staying true to her needs such as having a proper bedtime routine for her children whether Barack was present or not. She took charge of initiatives that she was passionate about and used her platform for issues that mattered to her most. Change was inevitable in her world causing her to constantly step out of her comfort zone.

  4. Be honest about who you are - Michelle Obama could have dressed up in a suit and come polished to her interview but untraditionally she brought her infant Sasha to the interview. She wanted the person hiring her to know that this is who she was right now, she needed flexibility as she was a new mom, juggling many hats. This is a challenge many mothers can relate to as they try to stay on top of family responsibilities and work life. Understandably, it is no surprise that many women wish to work from home.

  5. Instill Values - Helping children identify values important to their family name aids in the development of personal identity. Michelle has carried her values that have helped her make difficult decisions along the way. "I had a childhood with parents who didn’t have a lot in the way of money, but they had a lot in the way of value and character and love and stability and consistency. And I want parents to understand that I became who I am not because my parents were networked or college educated or had a lot of money or knew a lot of stuff about things that they thought we needed to know. They gave us absolutely what we needed, which was love and trust and the values that they came here with. And THAT'S what kids need. That will get them through."

  6. Stay true to your word- You want to be seen as a credible figure in your child’s eyes not one who breaks promises. Michelle and Barack Obama promised their daughters Malia and Sasha that if Barack won presidency, they could get a dog. That is exactly what happened despite Michelle believing it wouldn’t actually happen.

Michelle Obama gave us a glimpse of her life in her autobiography of being a mother, wife, and of course The First Lady. She has reiterated time and time again, that her most important title was and still is Mom-in-chief! This beautiful - strong - down to earth woman, inspires women to know and believe they can have it all if they work hard and believe they can.

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