There were two big revelations from First Lady Michelle Obama’s new memoir, Becoming Michelle Obama (Crown; $19.48). First, is her revealing her miscarriage. The second is her daughters, Sasha and Malia, were conceived by IVF (in-vitro fertilization).
It’s this candor that makes Michelle Obama so beloved and such an inspiring figure particularly for women of color. Throughout the book, Obama shares insights of a life of pomp and circumstance as a first lady, yet one also filled with the everyday worries, anxieties, and self-doubts so many women who hold it down as mothers and working professionals face. Obama’s balancing acts are just as commonplace and practical as many women charged with managing both worlds and realities.
From her new memoir, here are seven ‘real-life’ moments Obama shares to which so many black women can relate:
Her husband’s great idea didn’t seem so great to her as a wife – which speaks to the pragmatism of many black women.
When the opportunity arose for Barack Obama to run for Illinois Senate, she “didn’t think it was a great idea,” and thought her affable husband would “get eaten alive” by the political world. “But maybe I can do some good,” he said with a “bemused shrug.”
Barack Obama, perhaps as many wives and partners complain, was reluctant to try couples’ counseling after his entry into politics began to take a toll on their marriage.
“He was accustomed to throwing his mind at complicated problems and reasoning them out on his own…..Sitting down in front of a stranger struck him as uncomfortable, if not a tad dramatic.”
She felt uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings as a black woman.
In the book Obama writes Washington was confusing “with its decorous traditions and sober real-regard, its whiteness and maleness, its ladies having lunch off to one side.”
She wasn’t an instant cheerleader for her partners ambitions, but rather, a cautious pessimist.
Black women often show reserved caution toward loved ones’ ambitions, knowing how hard the world is on people of color. She thought Obama would not win the presidency. “Barack was a black man in America, after all. I didn’t really think he could win.”
As do many women, she placed blame on herself, even when not actually warranted.
For instance, she blamed herself for the ‘First time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country’ controversy. “In trying to speak casually, I’d forgotten how weighted each little phrase could be. Unwittingly, I’d given the haters a fourteen-word feast.”
She, as so many black women, had to deal with the “angry, black woman” stereotype.
“I was female, black, and strong, which to certain people, maintaining a certain mind-set, translated only to ‘angry.’..…I was now starting to actually feel a bit angry, which then made me feel worse, as if I were fulfilling some prophecy laid out for me by haters…”
She needed to stay connected with her sisterhood tribe.
On occasional retreats with her old girlfriends from her Chicago hood: “They gave me a lift anytime I felt down or frustrated or had less access to Barack. They grounded me when I felt the pressures of being judged, having everything from my nail-polish color to the size of my hips dissected and discussed publicly.”