The 1 piece of advice Michelle Obama has always given her daughters

As the 44th President of the United States of America Barack Obama takes the stage, with his daughters Sasha and Malia and wife Michelle at his side, at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, on Tuesday, November 4, 2008.
Nikki Khan | Getty Images

Today Barack and Michelle Obama are empty nesters: Their daughters, Malia, 21, and Sasha, 18, are both away at college.

And Michelle, for one, is enjoying it: "[Life] is so good," Obama, 56, told Oprah Winfrey on Saturday during Oprah's 2020 Vision: Your Life In Focus tour in Brooklyn, New York.

But when the Obamas moved into the White House in 2009, Malia was 10 and Sasha was 7. Raising kids in the public eye was tough, Obama told Winfrey.

"Every weekend was hard following these little girls around," Obama said. "We had to worry about what parties they were going to, whether there was alcohol, I had to know who the parents were, so every weekend for me was hard."

When asked by Winfrey if there was a "running theme" of advice Obama had for her daughters while they were growing up, she said it was to live their own lives.

"What I tell them is ... that they have to walk their own walk," Obama told Winfrey.

"They cannot define themselves by looking at each other or looking at me or their dad. They have to take the time to get to know themselves — give themselves a moment to figure out who they want to be in the world, not who they think I want them to be, not what the rest of the world says about them, but to really think about how they want to shape their lives and how they want to move in this world.

"So, I don't want them measuring themselves by external influences, and for young girls, that is hard to do."

In addition to the big life stuff, now that Malia is a junior at Harvard and Sasha is a freshman at University of Michigan, Obama said she also texts her daughters daily reminders, like, "Did I ever tell you to remember things like are you eating some green things?" Obama said.

"Gosh, I give them so much advice that they are sick of me."

With no kids at home, Obama said she has energy and time to spend figuring out her next chapter in life.

"[Barack and I] have more emotional time, emotional energy. It's just me and him and [the family dogs] Bo and Sunny and dinner. And they don't talk, the dogs."

"Marriage is hard and raising a family together is a hard thing; it takes a toll," Obama said.

"But if you're with the person, if you know why you're with them, you understand that there is a friendship and a foundation there — that may feel like it goes away during some of those hard times, but it's something that we always come back to. And we're coming back to that point where we see each other again."

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