6 Takeaways For Parents From Michelle Obama’s New Book 'Becoming'
In her book, the charismatic Michelle Obama speaks about the challenges of being America’s First Lady and also, a parent of young children. Use insights from her life story to become better parents.
By Ashwin Lobo
It’s not easy being the First Lady of the United States of America, the world's biggest economy and super power. It requires an individual to display grace and character. When her husband Barack Obama became the President of the USA in 2008, Michelle Obama took on the responsibilities of the First Lady in her stride. It wasn’t always easy, but she managed in an admirable manner. In her recently launched memoir 'Becoming', she discusses her life and challenges, with characteristic wit and wisdom.
Considering the fact that, alongside her duties as First Lady, she also raised two daughters, this is a book every parent should read. We bring to you six key takeaways from the book:
1. Never give up: Few know how accomplished Michelle Obama is. Before she met and married Barack Obama, she had already earned degrees from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. However, her road to the Ivy Leagues wasn’t easy. While discussing the admission procedure with the counsellor at Princeton University, she was told, “I’m not sure you’re Princeton material.” But Michelle didn’t give up on her dream. She got into Princeton, earned good grades and successfully graduated in 1985.
- Like Michelle Obama, all of us face challenges in our daily lives. And, as parents, our biggest challenge is to deal with the various issues related to our children — throwing tantrums, doing poorly in academics, making bad choices or getting into trouble. At times such as these, parents may be tempted to give up. But, it’s important to remember that children will make mistakes, and that doing so is a part of growing up. So, don’t give up on them. For, neither are they failing themselves as children nor are they failing you.
2. Support each other: As a young couple, Michelle and Barack Obama were eager to start a family. And, when they came to know that Michelle was pregnant, the couple were elated. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned and Michelle ended up having a miscarriage. The couple were heartbroken. But, they decided to stay strong and keep trying. Eventually, they went on to have two beautiful daughters — Malia and Sasha.
- This incident highlights the importance of parents supporting each other during times of crisis and working together as a team. As parents, it's okay to have your own styles of functioning and differences in opinion; when it comes to goals for your children, you need to find common ground and work together. Hence, parents need to be mutually supportive, agree to disagree, share decision-making and step in for each other. During times of trouble, you need to stand together and accept responsibility instead of blaming each other.
3. Show empathy: In her book, Michelle says that she could feel Hillary Clinton's pain and disappointment at losing out in the 2016 presidential election. Her heart went out to Hillary who was vying to become the first woman President of the United States. This incident shows how empathetic a human Michelle is.
- Empathy lies at the heart of all relationships. When you empathise with your children, it makes them feel that they are understood. It also helps bring children and parents closer and is vital for their healthy emotional development. Moreover, when your children experience empathy from their parents, they learn to practise empathy with others as well.
4. Understand yourself: Michelle reveals that the early years of their marriage were not as rosy as one may think. Barack Obama was a star in politics and hence, forever busy. Because of this, the couple could not spend much time together and needed to go for marriage counselling. The sessions helped Michelle understand her vulnerabilities better and express it to her husband in a way that he too would understand.
- As a parent, it is necessary to understand your strengths and limitations. Parents who understand themselves well are more stable and make their children feel secure. But, understanding oneself requires self-reflection. You need to become aware of how you are playing the role of a parent and the life experiences that shape the kind of parent you are. When you understand all that, you can decide how you want to learn and grow as a parent.
5. Be tolerant: The last presidential election in the United States was remarkable for the acrimonious exchanges between the various candidates in the fray. Being a feminist, Michelle Obama found it hard to agree with the views of Donald Trump. However, once the results were announced, both she and Barack Obama gracefully greeted Donald Trump on his win.
- As parents, we need to take a leaf out of her book when it comes to tolerance. Accept the unexpected or hurtful mistakes your children make, although it may not be easy to do so. Show tolerance towards their friends and respect their choices. Be open-minded regarding your children's thoughts and opinions, no matter how radical they may seem as times. Remember, children enjoy challenging the status quo. This is their way of discovering themselves, exploring others' reactions and learning to defend their beliefs. At the same time, know when to step in and act.
6. Take a leap of faith: Michelle Obama never imagined that her husband would one day become the American President. Even when he was in the running, Michelle thought it highly unlikely that people would vote for him. “Barack was a black man in America, after all. I didn't really think he could win,” she writes in Becoming. Despite her misgivings, she put her faith in her husband and supported him wholeheartedly throughout the campaign.
- Faith is very important, not just in ourselves but also in those around us. Have faith in yourself as a parent, especially when things go wrong. Trust your children as well — they may not always make choices that you think are wise but give them the space to make mistakes and learn for themselves. Things may not always go as planned; however, but remain optimistic, and everything will fall into place. And, even if things don’t work out, that’s fine too, because ultimately, you will all have learned something together.
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