I’m so happy the Obamas remain in the spotlight, I miss them when they aren’t in the news. As People pointed out, they are out there living their best lives, with the exception of having to endure the Oaf in the Oval Office. When Michelle Obama was the First Lady *stares wistfully in the distance thinking of those happier times*, her First Lady cause was children’s health and fitness. She has never abandoned that cause and now she’s expanding her message to include women. Michelle attended the Essence Festival last weekend and while she was there, she sat down with Gayle King to encourage women to consider their own well being as much as they do everyone around them.
If Michelle Obama is living her best life — best-selling memoir, glamorous travel with family, freedom from politics — count her as determined to help other women live theirs.
“We [as women] have to own our health. It’s one of these things that no one can take from you,” the former First Lady said at the Essence Festival in New Orleans over the weekend.
That message crystallized in her headliner’s appearance at the festival on Saturday. Interviewed on stage by her friend (and CBS News anchor) Gayle King, Obama said that women need to “un-train” each other when it comes to putting their wellness last.
“When it comes to our health as women, we are so busy giving and doing for others that we almost feel guilty to take that time out for ourselves,” Obama said, getting personal about her own experience when her two daughters were babies and she and Barack were in marriage counseling.
“A lot of mothers will understand this, because I found myself looking around after I had my kids, and I didn’t have time for me, but my husband was at the gym every day. And I was like, well, how are you going to the gym? He was like, ‘I make time for the gym.’ I was like, what?”
“This was right when we started going to counseling, y’all, so this was one of our issues, you know? But I found myself getting mad at him because he was doing what he needed to do for him. And I think for us as women, many of us, we have a hard time putting ourselves on our own priority list, let alone at the top of it,” Obama said.
Obama pressed women to start a conversation — “with ourselves, with our own daughters” — about what keeps them from putting themselves first.
“We’re living in a world where we, as women, are so devalued, we have trained ourselves to think we don’t deserve it, that we don’t even deserve to take care of ourselves,” she said.
The crux of Michelle’s message is retraining, or un-training as she puts it, and I think she’s spot on. I saw a lot of my own behavior in her words and I know I assumed that much of the workload because I saw my mother doing it. Honestly, I think my mom worked twice as hard as I do. But I remember her staying with us during a visit and it was laundry day. My mother always washed, folded and put our clothes away whereas I wash, but everyone has to grab their own stuff, fold it and put it away. I was expecting my mom to sniff about my delegating but instead, she enthusiastically said, “Good for you. I should have done more things like that.” It lifted about 10 pounds off guilt off my shoulders. The conversation Michelle suggests is important, primarily because discussions lead to actions. Just hearing that it’s okay to think of ourselves breaks down the guilt and frees us up to start actually tending to our own needs. As the flight attendant reminds us at the start of every single flight, “Please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.”
Photo credit: WENN Photos