Careers

Michelle Obama shares the No. 1 lesson she learned from her mom

Photo courtesy of Getty

Michelle Obama was raised on the South Side of Chicago in an apartment with her older brother Craig Robinson and their parents, Marian and Fraser Robinson III.

As a Harvard Law School graduate and former first lady, she has spoken openly about her humble beginnings and the impact her parents have had on her success.

In a recent talk with actress Tracee Ellis Ross at The United State of Women Summit in Los Angeles, Obama specifically thanked her mom for teaching her a lesson that she says helped her become the woman and mother she is today.

"The mother that I am today is a direct result of Marian Robinson," said the 54-year-old. "My mom is one of the smartest people with just plain old common sense. The thing she always said that I do remember is that, she told me and my brother, 'I wasn't raising children. I was raising adults.'"

Obama says her mom always treated she and Craig like the adults she wanted them to be, and she never belittled them in conversation because of their age.

"She always talked to us like we had sense," she added. "She never used baby talk. She would ask you to explain yourself. She would include you in big grown up conversations. There was never anything that she wouldn't talk to us about."

Obama says she's put some of those same lessons about raising adults, not children into play with her own daughters, Sasha and Malia.

First lady Michelle Obama and daughters, Sasha Obama and Malia Obama arrive during the presidential inauguration.
Getty Images

"Life is practice," she says, "and I tell my girls this every day. You are practicing who you are going to be. So if you're getting up late and you're trifling, and you're not getting your homework done, that's what you're practicing."

Obama has always emphasized that no matter her role, raising her family is her first priority.

"I said I'm 'mom-in-chief,' and a lot of women ridiculed me for that, but the first, most important job I have is who my girls are going to be," she explained. "If I can't get them right, I can't get y'all kids right, and I can't work for anybody else."

As her youngest daughter, Sasha, completes high school in Washington, D.C. and her oldest daughter, Malia, continues her studies at Harvard, Obama says she wants her girls and other young people to know that you have to start now with creating good habits.

"Do you want to be dependable? Then you have to be dependable," she says. "If you want people to trust you, then you have to be trustworthy. And you have to start those habits very early."

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Don't miss: Michelle Obama: If you're afraid to use your voice, give up your seat at the table

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