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How Michelle Obama Tries to Make a Normal Life for Her Kids

10/19/2011 at 08:00 AM ET
Mark Sullivan/WireImage

Her circumstances are extraordinary. But for Michelle Obama, the challenges of parenting will be familiar to moms everywhere.

“Like any mother, I am just hoping that I don’t mess them up,” the First Lady, 47, admitted with a laugh Tuesday at a White House roundtable discussion about motherhood and her “Let’s Move” project to fight childhood obesity.

“They’re terrific girls,” she says of daughters Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10. “They’re poised, and they’re kind, and they’re curious … But you have to carve out space and hold it sacred for them.”

That means getting them out of the White House bubble, going on vacations, and paying attention to their lives despite the often overwhelming spotlight on their father’s.

“What’s true for you all in your homes is the same for us,” the First Lady says. “It’s really the interaction that we have as a family that makes it feel like home. It’s sitting down at the dinner table and having Barack’s day be the last thing anyone really cares about.”

Mrs. Obama also revealed to PEOPLE at the event that she and her husband closely watch their children’s TV habits — President Obama has a particular aversion, it seems, to Keeping Up with the Kardashians. And they are allowed to use their computers mostly for school work, not for idle chatting with friends.

“Sometimes I have to come into the room. It takes a couple of times to be, like, ‘That didn’t sound like math to me,’” she said. “They can have limited access on the weekends, and then I try to fill up their weekends with a lot of stuff like … sports and games. It’s like, ‘Oh, it’s bedtime. So sorry you didn’t get your TV time in.’”

The First Lady does find time for herself, too, and focuses on exercising — which is a theme she’s been pushing for kids through her “Let’s Move” program.

“It’s vanity for me. That’s the start,” she says. “It’s like a picture in the newspaper that looks crazy is my motivation. It’s like, ‘Oh my God, is that me?’ … So, that can be motivating. And it was even before I was here. It’s like, how do I want to look? How do I want to feel? It’s just personal.”

But beyond vanity, there’s the health issue, too. “I’m now at that point where if I’m not eating [right] or exercising, I feel badly. So, I’ve gone from vanity to now necessity.”

– Tim Nudd

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Showing 67 comments

me on

The Obamas seem like a great family and the two girls seem wonderful. While Michelle seems to be a great mom, I don’t agree with not letting their girls chat with friends?:S What’s that about? Malia is a teenager and I really think that if you don’t want to ‘screw her up’, keeping her so controlled is not the answer. Just sayin

Mel on

I don’t think it’s necessarily control, I think it’s good parenting. Teenagers spend HOURS on Facebook and chatting with their friends and it’s pretty detrimental to their development (I’m a teacher, I’ve seen it firsthand). Kids lose their ability to hold a human conversation, not to mention all the potential bullying and drama that can happen online.

Mrs. Obama is smart to limit it and get the girls engaged in other activities. They’ll be much better off for it.

SweetDiva on

When I was a teenager I went to an academically competitive high school. I imposed my own telephone restriction.

No social calls after 8:30 – schoolwork, study calls only.

I needed time to finish my own work and to just decompress from school.

Not every student is motivated like that and parents should step in and call the shots.

KarenB on

If her kids want to chat with friends, they can do so – in person, on the phone. Using social media to chat with “friends” is risky. It’s not a real friend if you’ve never met them and have no idea who they really are. And in their position, god only knows who would try to pose as friends to them.

Quite frankly, I wish I were as disciplined about controlling my kids media activities (I’m good about online control). It’s something I need to work on. I think no matter your politics, you have to admit that they are a really great, functional family. Kudos to them.

Mimi on

“me” you must have missed that little girl who was just taped and had a video of her online posted. She was giving a boy oral sex behind the school. It’s all over the net, i’m sure if her parents watched her a little closer she would never be in that position. Thing is sex, and influence are oozing out in huge amounts when it comes to out children.

I grew up in a crazy part of DC, and mother did the same thing, but we also didn’t have the things that they have now, FB, Twitter, all these things that can get a hold of your child without you knowing. Don’t be fooled, these kids are growing up faster then they should. I don’t blame her, her kids should be focused on school work, and staying active. Our children are failing in school compared to our international counterparts. More parents need to do this! Especially with the children coming from my part of town.

If kids want to talk to friends, then they can glady come over, or plan a playdate or whatever at their house. I’m sure of that. Parents need to meet the kids who are around their children and have an understanding with the parents their kids talk to.

Alexia on

Great move on limiting the TV and social networking. TV’s not as valuable as those other activities. I’m sick of seeing people even in professional school (law, med, business, etc.) living their lives through Facebook. When people ask “didn’t you see my last FB post?” I want to scream “OMG, get a life, why do I have to get on FB to communicate with you?!?!”

Mary on

Mr. Obama just won my vote, talking down the Kardashians. Good move, these nonsensical reality programs are ruining our society.

MontanaMom on

I think it is great that she limits their computer and TV time. I for one will not allow my daughter to have a facebook page, do online chatting, etc. My daughter is 10 and I don’t feel there is any need for all this online facebook stuff and instant messaging. That is why we have a phone. If she wants to talk to a friend, she can call them on the phone.

There is sooo much unknown out on the internet (ie child predators out there scouring for victims, etc). I don’t see it as controlling, I see it as privilages and at 10, they are still to young to know the dangers of internet chatting and such. As well, I think some are still too trusting of those they chat to and some kids end up giving out information that should not be given.

All in all, if I want to avoid these issues, then I just don’t allow facebook or chatting.

Guest on

I think it’s awesome Michelle wants to take her family on vacation and maintain a normal family lifestyle. I mean, 5 vacations a year, to South Africa, the Cape a few times, Spain and many other extravagent vacations sounds to me like the ‘normal’ Main Street American Family vacation, right? Can’t wait for the election in a year when the Obama’s can have their ‘normal’ lifestlye outside of the WH.

Jester on

I give much credit to parents these days that are raising impressionable children. Raising children has never been easy, but with all of the new technology in communication we have today, monitoring your children must be extremely trying.

I agree with Mel, the teacher who commented about the HOURS our youth are spending on FB, Twitter, etc… How can this not be detrimental? Every where I go, I see kids hooked to their ‘smart’ phones, etc…even when they are in a group. Nobody is talking to each other. They are so fixed to their screens.

I think the Obamas’ are setting a good example and I wish them much luck. The older the girls get, the harder it will be to monitor them.

ds on

Dont tell me they are like any other family by getting out of the white house on vacations. Alot of people cant afford a vacation but the taxpayers pays for yours.

Anonymous on

“President Obama has a particular aversion, it seems, to Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

FINALLY something we agree on…

JDMedia on

One would think it would be too difficult to write with your head so far up the Obama’s collective marxist @ $ $

Anonymous on

ds check your facts. The Obamas’ have to pay for their own vacations … we tax payers pay for the secret service agents etc (as we have done with every other president). The Obamas’ were millionaires before they reached the White House, so just because the economy sucks right now, doesn’t mean that they should alter their way of living …

Krystle on

So president obama doesnt like the kardashians, but he invited kim to a white house dinner last year? makes perfect sense.

want to like you but I don't on

if she wants their life to be normal then she should stay home more and stop using the country’s money as her personal piggy bank there to fund vacations for her and her children – which is more than just airfare – it’s secret service, 1st class accomodations, audiences with the pope – stay home and while you are at it tell your husband to take advantage of the technology of Skype too – he can meet with any world leader that way and would certain make me believe he means it when he talks about the budget.

JCH on

Vacations are MORE fun when someone else pays!

hehe……..Typical “entitled” Democrat parasite

JCH on

Obama: Democrat parasite

Ashley on

Ha ha, anonymous!!!! I’m with you

Roll it on

In another 15 months her kids will really be able to have a normal childhood.

Hea on

@ Mimi – I hadn’t heard about that video. How awful.

ERICA2 on

ds, STFU! The Obama’s are great parents and it reflects in the way Malia and Sasha conduct themselves….no sticking out tongues to the press…underage drinking, properly dressed etc.

FYI The Obama’s were highly educated (Harvard/Princeton) millionaires (check the revenues for Barack’s books plus Michelle’s 300K+ annual salary) before they stepped foot in the white house…they can afford to foot the entire bill for an all-expense paid vactaion whenever and where ever they damn well please. The government pays for the family to travel with the President when he is on official business, it has always been that way and the Obamas are no exception.

On a side note, I live in DC and it is flooded with tourist year round contrary to your belief Americans are still taking vacations. I just returned from Barbados and Hawaii and saw plenty of American when I was there! And please tell me who in the hell vacationed more than George W?

Bzey on

No matter what I think of her husband’s politics, I respect and admire her. She sounds down to earth and it’s funny that she has the same struggle with her kids that everyone else does, and the same body issues that most women have. Good to see some normalcy in the White House!

Jester on

@Erice2: RIGHT ON!!!

Nan on

Woof—what a dog she is. Kids are ugly too….

:) on

It is a FACT that George W. has the distinction of taking more vacations than any other president (including Obama). He took one a couple months after 9/11. It is funny how ones can complain about this president and worship the last one we had. (and I am for neither one so don’t call me names. I am not a REP or DEM. I vote for who I feel best will help the country, whether it be a Rep or Dem).

Tam on

While I agree with most of what Mrs. Obama said, I have to disagree about filling up her daughters weekends with sports and other activities. I was in activities during school but on the weekends my mom let me chill out and relax. She never filled up my entire weekend with more activities. During that time, I did puzzles, coloring, crafty hobby stuff, watched a little TV, and most of all slept in!

I think it’s important to give kids a couple days off. I’m not a parent yet but I definitely will give my child their “me” time on the weekends.

mg on

@erica2 – I believe that GW took most of his vacations in Texas at his ranch, not jetsetting all over the world. LOL. And when Michelle went with him to try to get the Olympics gig and Michelle took AF One over to Paris for a little shopping…how many times did Laura Bush do that? Ummmm…none. Just sayin.

Carroll on

Mom Dad do you not know how to turn off the TV???? My 4 childern were not raised with a TV in the house. So they learned cooking, canning, taking care of each other, school, and MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL ATTENDED CHURCH EVERY SERVICE WITH PARENTS!! I kept mine so busy they never got bored and tried to keep up with HELLIWOOD!! They were so active in church, and school, they went to bed early!! Try it it does work, but you must be sold out on this and stedfast…. thank you a successful MOM….

mg on

…and where did GW go on most of those vacations? To Texas. Where did the Obamas go? I rest my case. How many times did Laura take side trips in AF One to go day shopping in Paris? None.

A. Goodwin on

DS – Actually, its widely known that the Obama’s pay for their OWN vacations. Just like Bush did.

Carroll on

Stop cutting my post off and post it!! This is America and we still live by the consitution!!

A. Goodwin on

nan – My guess is that you are no looker either. I happen to think the entire family are good looking people. What a narcissistic a s s you seem to be.

Carroll on

VOTE RON PAUL…VOTE RON PAUL….VOTE RON PAUL!!!!!!!!!

Grace on

Wow there are a lot of bitter people in this comments section. It’s actually kind of amusing to see the way some people will take an article about a wholesome family and try to make it into something horrible. Hilarious.

m on

So refreshing! I don’t like Obama as a president, and I’m conservative, but I love them as a family. Good work with the kids, Obamas!

Angel on

Intelligent people like to travel, and see the world, and enjoy doing so with their children. Security must travel with Heads of State and their families to protect them, and to prevent international incidents.

The Obamas earned a great deal of money before he became president, including his income from writing books, and as a U.S. Senator, and her position as an hospital executive, and have every right to enjoy it. They have accomplished a great deal in their lives, and work hard every day, and I hope you can say the same about yourself. And there will be five more years for President and Mrs. Obama to accomplish even more while he’s in office.

sara on

It’s so pathetic that people who don’t like her husband can’t think of anything to say about his wife and children other than to launch personal attacks. Very classy. But it shows the desperation of people who know that Obama is going to be easily reelected in part due to the absurd clown show that is the Republican Party, who can’t manage to find a single candidate who isn’t a complete joke.

J-Lin on

Nan- what a whorish comment. Michelle is beautiful and so are the children. I would love for you to post your picture.

Erica2 – Right on. Most folks aren’t use to intelligence and what intelligent people do with their children.

ds – sorry you can’t afford a vacation. Just came from a cruise with over 6000+ people. Sucks to be you. Maybe you and JCH can complain together over mason jars of moonshine.

Me – Facebook and Twitter are not human rights. People can live without them fairly well.

Nancy on

I definitely dont agree with some of the things Michelle has said publicly and I do not agree with her politics, however she absolutely needs props for some of the positive things she is doing.

Politics aside, I love how she raises her children. I get scolded by parents who say that I am mean because I refuse to give my 9 year old a cell phone, flat screen tv, an IPOD and a DS.

I love how Michelle has brought fashion back to the White House–I think she is a beautiful woman.

Thirdly, I love her initiative to bring awareness to eating healthier.

want to like you but I don't on

ERICA2 – not a GW fan but he did get a bad rap for vacationing – because his family home is a grand ranch and he spent a lot of time there – he was an idiot of course, but I don’t recall any president being as ‘spend’ happy as this one. It a shame too – I try to defend them but there is no defense for them taking separate planes somewhere – yes they have kids but then she should stay home with them not cost the country tens of thousands of dollars to gas up a second jet not to mention staffing it and protecting here. stay home Michelle! start using Skype Mr.President! Maybe if you both do that I will vote for you next time…maybe!

bebi on

Why are so many people injecting their personal politics into this discussion? The article is talking about trying to raise normal girls. It’s not a travel article. I know people who are ‘struggling’ in this economy and they have taken 3-4 trips in the last year. They may not be going out of the country but they are still vacationing nonetheless.

I don’t think this is the site to bash the Obamas politically. Go to Fox News, CNN, MSNBC for that.

fuzibuni on

Michelle Obama’s team has been working hard on the publicity lately. Last week the white house released press on how Michelle shops at Petco and Target “just like us.” Photos showed her pushing her cart around the aisle’s like she was on a regular shopping trip… ignoring the fact that she took associated press photographers with her to take pictures and that secret service had set the whole trip up before hand. It was a big photo op to convince us that she’s a regular person like us!

They are trying really hard to make her relatable to regular Americans because Barack’s campaign is faltering. They are trying to get the female vote by making Michelle the focus. Good to know that People magazine is helping them with that. I thought People.com had a policy not to cover politicians children on this website?

Fiona on

The kids were listed as “Senior Advisors” for the South Africa trip. Nice. Also, I don’t condone the personal attacks on ANYONE regardless of political party. But I have seen other post about Fox news contibutors (Megan Kelly, for example) that have turned into nasty political diatribes. So Democrats need to learn to take what they dish out.

Halley on

I bet the person who called Barack Obama a marxist cannot even define the word. Just a soundbite you heard somewhere, I’m sure. And the Obamas pay for their own vacations/wardrobes/groceries, etc just as the Bush family did before them. So, the taxpayers arent footing any vacation bills.

The President does make a great salary (as did the others before him) but he and his wife are both Harvard educated lawyers, they had the potential to make good money even if he wasnt president. Before he became president, he was a best-selling author. Nobody is mad at JK Rowling for the money she made from Harry Potter, not sure why he’s any different. Both of the Obamas grew up poor and worked hard to get where they are. Not sure how thats “elitist.”

Love or hate them, their children seem to be lovely young women, and they seem like concerned and loving parents.

Anon on

I usually do not comment on these things but I must say something here. Do people really feel that calling a woman a dog and saying that her children are ugly to be appropriate? What is wrong with you? They are children!!!!!

Kina on

Um, a bunch of bitter betties on here. When I went to the Dominican Republic I saw a ton of Americans so apparently the Obamas aren’t the only ones taking vacations. And do we really have the right to tell the Obamas where and where they cannot take vacation??? Seriously get a life people.

jeepers on

So amusing that you are complaining about the cost of sending their family on a jet somewhere, but the amount of money that George W cost our country by sending us into an unneeded war with a country that didn’t attack us was, what, insignificant? Not to mention the economic crisis that his administration caused with all the deregulation of the financial industry, etc. causing a major recession, which cost ALL of us significant amounts of money.

I am not saying that Obama is perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but perhaps a little education would go a long way with many of you. It is quite obvious that many of you don’t read much beyond People.

abby on

I’m with the First Lady. You should closely moniter what your kids do. All of the FB and Twitter stuff is a waste of time and unnessary. It only causes problems, if your not careful.

@Mimi- feel bad for the parents of that little girl

Jennie on

All that education and she still can’t talk without using the word “like” in every other sentence. It’s painful to read.

Carroll on

Vote……………… Ron Paul……. Vote Ron Paul !!!!

del on

Those girls will have a normal life until they put on the least amount of weight and then BAM, the press and people will never let them live it down since their mother is a proponent of weight and fitness for all young people. Not an Obama fan but sorry for those two sweet children.

Shannon on

Beautiful. The Obama girls are just lovely.

Anon on

I didn’t think I had anything in common with the First Lady, but Barack’s day is the last thing I would want to think about at my dinner table too!

ecl on

You know, she was the main breadwinner in the family until he wrote his book and became president. So she should stay at home and be quiet why? Because she’s a woman and a wife and a mother? No thanks. She gets to have a life, too!

del on

When speaking about vacations, the Bush family stayed in Crawford or vacationed in Camp David. Vote for Herman Cain!!!

heather on

i’m shocked that People mentioned that someone didn’t like Keeping up with the Kardashians considering People has such a hard on for Kim and anything Kardashian.

maddie on

At least they are not sleeping in tents, drinking wine coolers and getting pregnant like Bristol Palin. Every President goes on a lot of vacations why just condemn the Obamas. George Bush stayed on vacation.

maddie on

At least they are not sleeping in tents, drinking wine coolers and getting pregnant like Bristol Palin. Just think what it would be like had McCain /Palin had won. The Obamas are a family America can be proud of.

TH on

st the end of the day for the Anon ppl and jennie if all you can come up with is how many times she used like in her sentence or that you don’t have anything in common (im sure the menial work u do isn’t as tadking as it is to be the President)with the First Lady, your missing the overall focal point?! Im sure that you probable haven’t had half the education that she has yet your putting her down for using the word “like” excessively?

You all seem to nitpick over the most simple things. She is entitle to raise her children however she chooses to b/c their her chidlren. She wanted to share some insightful ways to keep your children occupied outside of FB, twitter, Wii and xbox but if you broadened your horizon to see past the simple stuff you would see that. I leave you with this and its still proves to be truthful now more than ever. “if you don’t have anything nice to say then keep your comments to yourself”

Ashley on

LOL at Maddie. WHATEVER.

mary on

Some of you must get your info on FOX.

This article was about a mother and her girls, NOT about her or her husbands politics! ARGH

And for those who feel compelled to attack ones looks either on this story or other stories must harbour an inferiority complex! Get yourself some help, ASAP!

goodfor him on

Good for Barack Obama. I can’t believe Michelle approves of grandma Kris Jenner (and other family members) using the “F” word’ telling one another to “F” off; using filthy sex talk in front of young impressionable girls like Kylie and Kendall. Does Michelle know this family is famous for Kim’s sex tape which is graphic and for which she still benefits financially – that’s supporting pornography. Shame on your Michelle. Your husband is right.

J-Lin on

The Bushes vacationed in Crawford and Camp David because they are rednecks. Rick one’s, yes, but rednecks. I live in the South and the only place most of these people want to go to for vacation is the panhandle Florida which is just about as southern as you can get.

showbizmom on

@Nancy Very well put. Differences in Politics and Social issues doesn’t have to end in a ugly way. I love what you said and how you said it. I’m a liberal who isn’t 100% on Pres. Obama’s side of things, but I put those feelings away when reading this, because it’s not about politics. It’s about being a mommy, something most of us can relate to. My kids are too young for the show but I would never let them watch that junk in my house.

Jeride on

Love to see the First Lady of America rocking the fashions as a modern, independent, super fine mother of two.

Vicky on

No one needs to watch the Kardashians! As far as chatting with friends on the internet… that’s too bad. It’s not like they can go to the friends house or to the mall and visit. But I’m sure she’s trying her best, like all good moms try to do.

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