Oprah Talks to Michelle Obama
Oprah: Okay, so that's settled. Back to exercise. You do treadmill?
Michelle Obama: I do treadmill, I do weights—
Oprah: I think anyone who saw you on the cover of Vogue knows you do weights. Those arms!
Michelle Obama: I also do some jump rope, some kickboxing—and I'd like to take up Pilates, if I could figure out whether there's time. After I had Malia, I began to prioritize exercise because I realized that my happiness is tied to how I feel about myself. I want my girls to see a mother who takes care of herself, even if that means I have to get up at 4:30 so I can do a workout.
Oprah: When you first told me that a few years ago, I was like, "You get up at 4:30 to work out?"
Michelle Obama: Well, I just started thinking, if I had to get up to go to work, I'd get up and go to work. If I had to get up to take care of my kids, I'd get up to do that. But when it comes to yourself, then it's suddenly, "Oh, I can't get up at 4:30." So I had to change that. If I don't exercise, I won't feel good. I'll get depressed. Of course, it's easier to do it here, because I have much more support now. But I always think about women who don't have support. That's why work-family balance isn't just a policy conversation; it's about changing the expectations of who we have to be as women and parents.
Oprah: What you mentioned earlier is key: We have to ask for help. You can't do it all. It's impossible.
Michelle Obama: That's a conversation I'd love for us to have as a society. How do we set expectations that are attainable?
Oprah: And how do we change the perception of what women should be able to handle? Parents have always needed help—but our generation decided that women should somehow do everything. Yet for thousands and thousands of years, parents had kids so that the kids could help them!
Michelle Obama: And we once lived in small enough communities where people could help each other. Families were together. That's how I grew up. My grandmother lived around the corner, my grandfather lived two blocks away, they each lived with aunts and uncles. My paternal grandparents lived maybe ten blocks away. It was rare to see a family where one person was trying to cook, clean, watch the kids, do it all. You always had a community. But nowadays people have to move away from their community just to find a job. And then they're leaving their support base. So we have to acknowledge that that's going on and ask what it does to the family structure and what it means in terms of how we have to reengineer support.
Oprah: Your saying that out loud is so powerful for women. And liberating. You're a mighty force. You know, I've wondered: Do you feel the glare of the fishbowl?
Michelle Obama: I don't pay attention to it. There isn't a bigger fishbowl, but I don't own the glare.
Next: How the Obamas make marriage work