While she was shaping her sons, she added, they were shaping her. "My boys had a way of putting their emotions and their disputes on the table. And more important, they had a way of leaving them there, of walking away without worrying about the things that might distance them, or letting hard feelings fester and grow. That directness and forgiveness shaped me into who I am today."
Family is about caring and it stretches past the front door. Her charity work, according to Breed, has included being a volunteer instructor at Boston's Mother Caroline Academy for middle school girls and directing a foundation that encourages inner-city girls not to use alcohol or drugs or engage in sex.
In her recent speech to the Republican National Convention, Romney noted that they do many of their acts of charity without fanfare. "We are no different than the millions of Americans who quietly help their neighbors, their churches, and their communities."
Middle son Josh Romney wrote of his mother in "Life Lessons from Mothers of Faith": "On one occasion, she was asked to speak at a women’s conference, where other accomplished women also spoke, many of whom were lawyers, doctors and business professionals. She initially felt sheepish about being included with such a group of distinguished career women. She questioned how those in the audience would think that she measured up, since she was “only a housewife.” She stood before the audience and reported proudly that as a mother, she practiced psychology, nursing and business and had become skilled in a host of other professions, all of which she learned on her own without any formal training. The audience responded enthusiastically with the loudest cheers of the day."
At the Democratic National Convention, Obama, mother to Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11, gave herself a new nickname. Stephanie Hanes in the Christian Science Monitor wrote that she "talked of her worries about uprooting them for life in the White House, for instance, and said, emotionally, that 'my most important title is still mom in chief. My daughters are still the heart of my heart and the center of my world.’ ”
It is a role Obama said she learned from her family, the Robinsons. In a profile of Michelle Obama for a Princeton newsletter, Peter Slevin wrote: "Barack Obama has written that visiting the Robinsons was 'like dropping in on the set of Leave It to Beaver.' As someone who felt he had 'bloodlines scattered to the four winds' ... he found an anchor at the Robinsons, where he said 'there were uncles and aunts and cousins everywhere, stopping by to sit around the kitchen table and eat until they burst and tell wild stories and listen to Grandpa’s old jazz collection and laugh deep into the night.’ ”
Salon’s Rebecca Traister quoted Barack Obama's description of the personal choices and challenges his wife has made in his book, “The Audacity of Hope”: “In her own mind, two visions of herself were at war with each other. The desire to be the woman her mother had been, solid, dependable, making a home and always there for her kids, and the desire to excel in her profession, to make her mark on the world and realize all those plans she’d had on the very first day that we met.”
It's not a task Obama has taken lightly. When her husband was elected president, she turned to women who had lived through it to help her figure out the impact on her girls. Obama got advice from Laura Bush, Rosalynn Carter and Hillary Rodham Clinton on, as Newsweek's Suzanne Smalley put it, "how to raise daughters in the national spotlight, how to keep them out of it as much as possible and keep them normal as much as possible."
Right after the 2008 election, Michelle Obama's role as a mother was highlighted repeatedly in the media as reporters covered not only the quest to decide where the girls would go to school, but also what message it might send. The Washington Post reported at the time that "Although Mrs. Obama has said that public schools were under consideration and consulted with D.C. school officials, the decision narrowed this week after she and the girls visited Sidwell and the private Georgetown Day School. Malia, (then) 10, and Sasha, (then) 7, visited classes and met with students while their mother talked with administration officials and parents. Mrs. Obama also visited both schools last week when she came to Washington with her husband to tour the White House and meet with President and Mrs. Bush."
Some of Obama's motherhood challenges relate to raising children in a very public situation. In the Newsweek article, written in late 2008, Smalley wrote that "the Obamas may enforce a bit of normalcy by making the kids do chores and make their beds — advice that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis gave to Hillary in 1992. But the Obama family will grapple with issues that former first kids haven't had to face. Chelsea Clinton, the last girl of a similar age in the White House, grew up well before the era of Facebook and cell-phone snapshots. Banning Facebook entirely could risk alienating the Obama girls from their peers, but restrictions will almost certainly be necessary for their own protection. Schools that were once valued for their ability to protect famous kids from prying eyes are now wide open if their students choose to post photos or status updates."
Obama, too, has been passionate and involved with causes and trying to improve the lives of others. For instance, an article in the New York Times noted that "she has shimmied, skipped, hopscotched, hula-hooped, jumping jacked and potato-sack-raced her way through her tenure as first lady, using not just her position but her body to push for more exercise and better nutrition for children. (She is fighting an obesity crisis and trying to convince corporations to change products and advertising, yet she sticks to a Mom in Chief tone.)"
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