Michelle Obama is opening up about life after the White House, bonding over girly matters with her daughter, Malia, and the challenges she faced in the early stages of her romance with husband Barack Obama.
The former first lady gets candid about several aspects of her personal life while promoting her new memoir, Becoming, by answering questions from Oprah Winfrey for the January issue of Good Housekeeping.
During the revealing interview, the 54-year-old mom of two shares intimate insight into the early stages of her relationship with Barack, whom she describes in her book as, “a wind that threatened to unsettle everything.” She also writes in the memoir about how vulnerable she felt when Barack was away and that she had to change her perceptions on love to make the relationship work.
“I feel vulnerable all the time,” she tells Winfrey. “And, I had to learn how to express that to my husband, to tap into those parts of me that missed him — and the sadness that came from that — so that he could understand.”
“He didn’t understand distance in the same way. He grew up without his mother in his life for most of his years, and he knew his mother loved him dearly, right?” she continues. “I always thought love was up close. Love is the dinner table, love is consistency — it is presence.
So, I had to share my vulnerability and also learn to love differently. It was an important part of my journey of becoming. Understanding how to become us.”
Michelle goes on to say why she felt it was important to share such relationship struggles with the public, noting that she’s aware the two are often viewed as the perfect couple.
“A lot of the reason I share this is that I know that people look to me and Barack as the ideal relationship,” she said. “I know there’s #relationshipgoals out there. But whoa, people, slow down — marriage is hard!”
The couple tied the knot in 1992 and have two daughters — Malia, 20, and Sasha, 17. Although the girls spent their teenage years in the White House, Michelle points out that they still faced many of the same experiences she did growing up.
“Malia and I were talking recently about all the little things we’d stress over in junior high and high school — whether we’re wearing the right clothes, a snarky comment somebody made about us, the boys we crushed on,” she says.
“We laughed about how many hours were spent inside our heads, hoping a boy would ask us to dance, or stewing over a big test, just doing everything we could to avoid even the most minor embarrassments.”
“When I was younger, I often wondered whether this kind of obsessive thinking was unique to me and my girlfriends, but I realize now that it was something every girl feels,” she adds. “What’s inspiring to me is that so many of the young women I’ve met are triumphing in incredible ways.
Unlike my generation, they’re not as held back by the societal belief that girls and boys can’t do the same things. They’re charging forward in sports and math and science and technology. They’re speaking up and speaking out. They’re confident, unconcerned with old stereotypes, and there’s no telling what they’re going to accomplish in the years ahead.”
Michelle also talks about her transition from the White House to the “real world,” recalling her first night alone after the family moved into a brick home not far from 1600 Pensylvania Avenue at the end of Barack’s presidency.
The peaceful evening was the first time she was able to reflect on the family’s incredible eight years in the White House, where life moved at “such a breakneck pace,” that there was no time to look back.
“The kids were out — Malia was on her gap year, I think Barack was traveling, and I was alone for the first time. As first lady, you’re not alone much. There are people in the house always, there are men standing guard … and you can’t open your windows or walk outside without causing a fuss,” Michelle says, noting how Sasha and Malia once opened a window before the family were called and told to shut it.
“So, here I am in my new home, just me and [our dogs] Bo and Sunny, and I do a simple thing,” she continues. “I go downstairs and open the cabinet in my own kitchen — which you don’t do in the White House because there’s always somebody there going, ‘Let me get that. What do you want? What do you need?’ — and I made myself toast.
Cheese toast. And then I took my toast and I walked out into my backyard. I sat on the stoop and there were dogs barking in the distance and I realized Bo and Sunny had really never heard neighbor dogs. They’re like, ‘What’s that?’ And I’m like, ‘Yep, we’re in the real world now, fellas.’”