Mama Obama: The Real Reason We Love Michelle


Published: April 30, 2009

The world is coming to an end.  Not because of global warming, the Pope’s mishandling of the AIDS crisis, or North Korea’s new “satellite” blowing us all to smithereens—no, the world has been murdered.  It’s been struck through the core with Cupid’s arrow and there’s no recovery in sight.  The diagnosis is in: the world is in love with Michelle Obama.

While the First Lady has hardly ushered in Armageddon, there is no denying that there have been changes—big changes—in the way the world is dealing with America’s first couple.  For starters, the world actually likes the Obamas.  The Queen of England extended an unprecedentedly physical hand to Michelle, sparking international debate over who hugged whom first.  Even French President Nicolas Sarkozy was fluttering about like a lovesick hummingbird when the Obamas arrived at the Palais Rohan.  This is truly a new era in American diplomacy, a new world in which the only newsworthy shoes are on the first lady’s feet—not flying toward the President’s face.

Though it is obvious that many of these changes in international attitude can be attributed to the new president, it seems no one is able to ignore the prominent role that Michelle has played in improving perceptions of the U.S. abroad, and it’s not hard to see why the first lady has won so many hearts.  She’s young, fashionable, physically fit, Harvard-educated, married to the man everyone is counting on to fix the world—and she still has time to raise her kids.  As it stands now, Michelle can’t go wrong.  The world wants to love her.  The world wants her to be its own first lady—everyone’s wife, everyone’s mother, everyone’s J. Crew-sporting Madonna.  And she knows it.  Michelle wants to be the world’s mom, too.

Even before her husband was elected to the presidency, Michelle began speaking out about the importance of good parenting.  At a Women for Obama luncheon in April 2007, she said, “Barack and I measure how well we are doing by saying, ‘How are the girls?’ And they are just fine.” Now, Michelle’s no stay-at-home mom.  Clearly, she doesn’t have a lot of free time on her hands, but she still manages to care for her children—a task with which countless professional and single mothers are struggling everyday.  By making an example of her parenting, the First Lady gives hope and motivation to all of those women to do the same for their own families.  If Michelle Obama can work, campaign for her husband, speak at the Democratic National Convention and still get her daughters off to school every day, everyone else’s parental responsibilities seem just a little less daunting.

To top all that off, she can balance her infinite demands and still stay fit and beautiful.  Michelle is the counterexample to the theory that motherhood means total self-neglect for the good of the rest of the family.  She has admitted to frequent workouts and indulging in the occasional manicure.  She hasn’t resigned herself to the drab pantsuits of first ladies past—she decks herself out in designer sleeveless dresses to show off her finely sculpted biceps.  This is a woman who pulls off every mother’s dream: to find the time to take care of her children and herself—without any superpowers!  Though her flawless time management might make her seem a bit otherworldly, the fact is that Michelle is the epitome of the 21st Century woman.  She proves that it really is possible to do it all, and because she’s doing it in front of the world, the world will follow suit.

Of course, the honeymoon is going to end at some point.  Four years is a long time, and right now, we’re still trying to get to know Michelle. Everything she does leaves us foaming at the mouths with curiosity.  Eventually, however, her day-to-day routine of hobnobbing with head honchos and classic first lady humanitarianism is not going to command the constant coverage that we’ve seen throughout the Obamas’ first months in the White House.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t still love her. Though we might be analyzing her stardom with a Hubble-level telescope for now, soon enough we’ll be content just watching from the ground as she shines.  As long as Michelle remains a supermom, people will pay (perhaps more quiet) attention. If she continues to use her fame to be a model for motherhood, she can turn tired moms around the world into wonder women.  Maybe she does have a superpower, after all.