Michelle Obama made sure her girls made their own beds & knew how to do laundry

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Yesterday Netflix started streaming the Michelle Obama documentary, chronicling her book tour promotion for her memoir, Becoming. I haven’t seen it yet, but I am excited for all the stories that will come from it, even if we’ve heard them before. As we know, Michelle spoke to theater-sized crowds during her tour, being interviewed by people like Oprah, as she shared stories about her life. One of the stories that resurfaced was this one about how Michelle insisted her two daughters, Sasha and Malia, had to make their own beds every day and learn to do their laundry, even though they had housekeepers whose job it was to do it for them.

As it turns out, though, that wasn’t all the “Becoming” author changed. She also claimed that she had to “beg” the housekeepers not to make Sasha and Malia’s beds. “These girls have to learn how to clean their own rooms and make their beds and do their laundry because they will not live here forever and I’m not raising a girl who doesn’t know how to make their own bed.”

Obama spent a lot of time thinking about how she would make the “mansion” into a nice home for her two little girls and all of these adjustments were a part of that plan.

[From Us Magazine]

I vividly remember this story when it first came out. Pres. Obama had just taken office and Michelle gave an interview in which she mentioned that she made her girls make their beds every day. She said something to the effect that it didn’t have to be perfect, they could just pull the blankets up, but they had to make their beds every day. I got so hung up on the fact that they didn’t have to do a good job, I completely lost sight of Michelle’s point about the importance of the act and the life lesson being learned. Malia was just 10 when the family moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and Sasha was seven. Michelle was absolutely right to train these young ladies to look after themselves. I doubt either will ever want for much in life, but even at Harvard, I doubt Malia has someone come in to tidy up her place (actually, I don’t know, do they have housekeepers at Harvard? That might actually be a thing at Ivy leagues). My point is, eventually her children were going to emerge from their bubble, and it would be a rude awakening if Michelle hadn’t prepared them properly. She’s a good mom and a good role model.

Slightly tangential but speaking of famous kids at school, I remember a story in the local paper when the Clintons dropped Chelsea off at Stanford. Hillary apparently took her to the nearby Target to get contact paper for the chest of drawers in her dorm room and then they fussed at each other about what should go where, like we all did with our moms on move-in day. She introduced herself as simply “Hillary” to Chelsea’s roommates’ parents and cried a little when she had to say goodbye to Chelsea. I always think of that story when people talk about how cold Hillary was on the campaign trail. No she’s not, she’s just professional when she needs to be professional and a mom when she needs to be a mom.

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36 Responses to “Michelle Obama made sure her girls made their own beds & knew how to do laundry”

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  1. Eleonor says:

    “No she’s not, she’s just professional when she needs to be professional and a mom when she needs to be a mom. ”
    This. And this happens to all (I think all but correct me if I am wrong) women when we are not smiling because, you know, professionalism: when a woman is renowed for her competences, and is doing her job she’s cold, but it it is a man: a professionist.
    I recently saw Hillary and Chelsea talking about Peppa Pig, at the Graham Norton and it was amazing .

    • Esmom says:

      Exactly. I could not for the life of me understand why anyone would think Hillary was cold. Her warmth, even as she was a consummate professional, was always evident to me. I do think she can very guarded, but who TF could blame her given the decades of right wing smearing she’s had to endure? She is incredibly strong, not to mention extremely gracious.

      • Aang says:

        Yes. Hillary seems professional and capable but also kind and helpful. The kind of woman who you’d love to have as a mentor. She would build up other women not keep them down out of jealousy or fear of being overshadowed.

    • whatWHAT? says:

      I had a relative who worked closely with HRC (and Condi Rice before that at State) and had the good fortune to meet her. She IS warm, and she IS supportive and she is also a perfect professional.

      re: the laundry thing…I learned how to do my own laundry around age 10, I think. when I started college, I COULD NOT believe how many people in my freshman dorm didn’t know how to do laundry. there were guys who would PAY girls in their dorm to do it for them. SMDH.

      • WTW says:

        I didn’t know how to do my laundry when I arrived at college at 17. If your parents never taught you or did it for you, why would you learn? Also, I didn’t have a washing machine/dryer in my apartment growing up, which is one of the reasons I never learned. We had a shared laundry facility in our building, and my mother did my laundry and hers. That said, I could iron, dust, polish silverware, clean a bathroom, etc. Laundry can be learned in a matter of minutes. I do wish I had been taught to cook (and not just out of boxes) before going to college.

      • whatWHAT? says:

        why would you learn?…

        to be independent? to work toward being an adult? for me personally, so I could wash something I wanted (or needed, like a sports uniform for a game the next day) to wear when Mom was too busy or tired or sick to do the wash for me.

        understandable that it wasn’t as accessible for you if you didn’t have facilities in your house, of course, but it’s a life skill that people should know. the fact that you ironed (also learned that at an early age as I needed to iron my field hockey/lacrosse kilt) dusted/polished/cleaned is a testament to your parents knowing you needed to know how to do those things as an adult. laundry took a back seat, understandable. but the kids I’m referring to didn’t know purely out of privilege. they always had mom or the housekeeper to do it for them. they never learned because they figured they’d never have to. not having someone to wipe their azz for them was a shock to their system. and, as noted, they’d rather have PAID a fellow student than learn how. you’re not in the same category at all.

    • adastraperaspera says:

      So true! I think both Michelle and Hillary have great laughs. They’re just the best of us in every way, and they’re helping us get through this.

  2. Lightpurple says:

    Both Michelle and Hillary are great moms who have raised capable, confident, compassionate women, who clearly appreciate their parents.

    • Esmom says:

      Indeed. What a contrast to the current WH occupant’s family, who embody every terrible quality I can imagine.

      • WTW says:

        We don’t know what kind of moms Michelle, Hillary, and Melania are. And we can’t assume Melania is a bad mom because of who her husband is. I’ve heard Ivana Trump be applauded as a good mom, so there’s that. The fact is we don’t know any of these people, and looking at a child’s life and seeming success and determining the parent was a good one is actually pretty harmful. People could’ve looked at me and said I was an intelligent, successful, attractive young woman and therefore had a good mother. In fact, people did say these things, but I had an abusive BPD mother. Not implying that any of the women above are abusive, just that it’s wrong to see someone’s public image and how their kids turned out (schoolwise and professionally) and assume that means they parented well.

      • Bettyrose says:

        We do what kind of moms Michelle & Hillary are because their children grew up in the public eye and all became decent people and functional humans. Sure that can still happen with bad parenting, but there’s only so many secrets their families could’ve had.

        We see much less of Melania and Baron, but I suspect that’s in part because she is a good mom doing her best with a special needs child. Melania & Hillary both made questionable choices of men to procreate with, but the moms and kids are fine, IMO.

  3. Mellie says:

    I’m going to watch it this weekend, that’s my Mother’s Day present to myself…some quiet time watching TV. Too much togetherness right now. haha.

    • Also Ali says:

      I watched last night after putting my youngest to bed. It was excellent. I teared up at parts.

    • Tate says:

      I watched it yesterday. It was very good. The kindness and compassion of the Obamas stands out even more now in contrast to the outright cruelty of trump. Little things struck me… like when Michelle was walking through a kitchen leaving an event. As she is walking out she is saying thank you to all of the workers. I found myself smiling and crying throughout

  4. line says:

    For me these are the most important bases for children because it teaches them to be responsible and to organize. My parents’ rules were also the same when you got up from your bed, cleaned your’s room and did the laundry, ironing and sorting clothes. I am currently at university and was shocked by the many of my classmates who are unable to do these things, especially laundry.

    • Esmom says:

      My college age boys do laundry and keep their rooms tidy and also do chores like mowing the lawn and vacuuming. But my big regret is not having them participate in cooking with me more when they were little. We would bake cookies together but I wish I had taught them to be more self sufficient about all aspects of cooking. They are both not great around the kitchen and prefer to rely on us parents to cook or to get takeout. I can’t imagine how they will live when they have their own apartments. It feels like a massive failure on my part.

      • Dee Kay says:

        I didn’t learn to cook until after I graduated college — in college I relied on dorm food and pizza. But once I was living on my own, I learned how to cook really quickly out of necessity!!! I consider myself to be a very good home cook today, I taught myself from a few good cookbooks and internet recipes and found I really enjoyed it. So don’t worry about your boys, everyone can learn how to cook who is motivated enough to do so.

    • JP says:

      I was so weepy! I was sad at how much we’ve lost in role models, from Barack and Michelle to Donald and Melania. The Obama’s were inspiring on so many levels- from what they’d each personally accomplished, as a strong example of a partnership, as parents. I was surprised at how sad I was at what we’d lost as a country.

  5. TiredMomof2 says:

    Having cleaners depends on which dorms you are at at Harvard. For sure, the dorms that have the bathrooms in the hallway – those are cleaned by cleaning staff. My daughter was in Lowell – she did not have anyone cleaning her dorm room but herself.

    • Esmom says:

      My son is not at Harvard but this is how his university works. He purposely chose a dorm with a community style bathroom down the hall because he knew it would be cleaned every day by a staff person. A shared bathroom between four people does not get cleaned and I have heard horror stories of the conditions the students leave them in.

    • Mara says:

      Interesting insight. My mum and I both went to average level universities. She had her room cleaned by halls staff but I didn’t because by the time I went to university, Government funding had been cut hugely (still at least I got in before the tuition fees hiked up massively to £10K a year)

  6. Anothertiredmom says:

    I can’t speak for all Ivies, but when I was an undergrad Harvard had a student-run “Dorm Crew” cleaning bathrooms en suite and in hallways. I did it for a bit – it was good money, and I will forever be able to tell my children “I cleaned toilets to pay for Harvard so stop complaining about having to XYZ.” However, we were on our own for all other dorm room cleaning. :)

  7. Ann says:

    I read somewhere that when Obama was in the Senate commuting to and from Chicago and DC on weekends, Michelle would remind him to take out the trash so that he remembered that he had responsibilities in their household, too. Bless that woman and her family!

  8. schmootc says:

    Kudos to her for making sure her kids have some basic life skills. I think this is something a lot of kids miss out on these days and that schools could do better on. It’s all academics and athletics, but it wouldn’t hurt kids to have a little of what used to be home ec so they can sew on a button or fry an egg or budget their money. It sounds old-fashioned, but it helps when you leave home and are able to take care of yourself! (I was in 4-H myself, so I learned that way.)

    • lucy2 says:

      I know someone who teaches a mandatory high school class and it’s all about how to write a resume, answer a professional email, etc. It’s so valuable for the students, and I agree some basic life skills classes would be great, especially about household budgeting.

      • schmootc says:

        You’re right, those are also really good, basic skills to have when you’re getting ready to go out into the world. Glad to hear that some high schools out there are doing that kind of thing!

  9. Tiffany :) says:

    I’m so excited to watch Becoming, but I am saving it for a time when I need a good cry. I know it’s going to make me ugly cry.

  10. Teel says:

    I was supposed to go see Michelle Obama live on March 30. Then COVID19 happened. The ticket is still on the side of my fridge *sniffles*

    • schmootc says:

      That stinks! I’m so sorry! I’m in Portland and when she was supposed to be here, we had some weather issues and the event was cancelled. I was worried it would be rescheduled when I was planning to be out of town and was really bummed, but luckily it wasn’t, so I got to go. Fingers crossed you get to see her in the future!

  11. anony7 says:

    Michelle needs to run for president in 2024 or ’28. That’s all I got.

  12. Anne says:

    I can’t speak for Harvard, but no housekeeping for private rooms at Princeton (communal bathrooms, yes). Oxford, however, did have a housekeeping staff, and someone tidied dorm rooms on at least a weekly basis. To be honest, I found it really awkward, as I was raised to clean up after myself.

  13. Jessica says:

    I just watched the documentary and cried the way through it. I just miss the Obama era so much. Seeing her and her family is a start reminder of how dark and divided this country has become. I hate Trump and every single one of his followers. I suppose that is division. But hopefully some people who voted for him before will not fall for the con again.

  14. No Doubt says:

    Such a lovely family. I miss them so much. It still hasn’t sunk in what has happened to this country since Obama left office.

    I’m glad she had the girls doing little chores around the home. It teaches kids to have pride in their home and their belongings.

  15. L4frimaire says:

    I haven’t read “Becoming“ but just saw this documentary today. It really moved me and was so good. I bought the book after seeing it. Highly recommend it. She really is extraordinary.