Michelle Obama: "I Am Having a Ball"

First family not stressed out by life in the White House

By Mike Celizic
|  Thursday, Feb 4, 2010  |  Updated 11:00 AM EDT
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Michelle Obama: "I Am Having a Ball"

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First Lady Michelle Obama told the "Today" show's Matt Lauer that she hasn't changed, even if her life has.

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You would think that the pressures of the presidency and the intense public scrutiny that comes with living in the White House would be tough on a marriage. Not so, says first lady Michelle Obama.

“We haven't found this to be stressful on our family,” Mrs. Obama told TODAY’s Matt Lauer in the second half of an extensive White House interview that aired Thursday.

The first lady credited a number of factors for keeping the tension level down, starting with the fact that her mother is living with the family in the White House to help out. Then there’s all the staff she has, from housekeepers to chefs, to make daily life easier.

“You have so much support. First of all, my mother lives with me,” Mrs. Obama said.

‘Don’t jinx it’
Lauer mentioned that Marian Robinson, Mrs. Obama’s mother, had moved into the White House last year only to help her daughter with the transition to her new life.

Mrs. Obama smiled and put a finger to lips. “Shh,” she cautioned playfully. “Don’t jinx it.”

Having her mother around is a big help when she’s dealing with her official duties and her daughters, Malia and Sasha, are doing homework, Mrs. Obama said.

In addition, the White House staff are there to lighten the load of household chores. “I count those blessings,” Mrs. Obama continued. “I'm not doing laundry. We're not worrying about who's going to cook the meal. I mean, the stresses of everyday life just pound on families, and a lot of that stuff is gone. Now, there are broader, international, national crises that are pressures. But that's outside. Internally — we feel pretty blessed.”

Home for dinner
When her husband was campaigning for the presidency, family time was tough to come by. Now, Mrs. Obama said, she can count on seeing her husband every evening for dinner.

“Surprisingly here, we have more time together than we've had in years because the pace of a campaign is just ridiculous,” Mrs. Obama said as she led Lauer on a walking tour of her famous residence. “He’s home at 6:30. And he may stop and do a little work. But we have dinner as a family.”

The biggest drawback is that going out together as a normal couple is nearly impossible.

“The thing that we don't get to do as much is go out and do our date nights as much, because it just causes more commotion,” Mrs. Obama told Lauer.

The First Couple tried to do it when they first moved into the White House, but the logistics and security requirements are daunting. And when the president took heat for taking his wife out to dinner in New York, they started to rethink it and decided to stay in more.

“Our lives are very conducive to this, because we just are sort of boring anyway,” Mrs. Obama said.

And when you come down to it, the White House isn’t a terrible place for a date, she added.

“The chef is great there. You can do all kinds of things. We weren't really going-out kind of people. I mean, we're the kind of folks who go to the kids’ games and we have friends over, and we watch movies. We find our ways.”

What she wears
Lauer asked Mrs. Obama whether she could ever have imagined the breathless attention that is paid to what she chooses to wear.

“No,” she replied.

“Do you get up in the morning now and stand in front of a mirror and say, ‘What am I going to wear, and what are they going to write about it?’ ” Lauer asked.

 

“Sometimes I do,” the first lady admitted. But, she added, she doesn’t have time to worry about it. She does have assistants who help pick clothes, and she tries to plan it all in advance so it’s not a daily issue.

“I'll figure out what I'm going to wear over the course of a week or two even so that I don't have to think about it,” Mrs. Obama said. “So I don't think that much about the response to it. I've learned wear what I like, wear what's comfortable. And that really depends on the occasion.”

She tries not to pay attention to the reaction to her fashion choices.

“You don't want comments like that to influence who you are,” Mrs. Obama said. “You can't feed on any negative. I just sort of find a way to keep that out. And if there's any criticism that's helpful, I take it in.”

‘Having a ball’
It was time to end the interview.

“Last question,” Lauer said. “Is this fun? Is fun even a word that can be used to described what you're living through right now?”

“I am having a ball,” Mrs. Obama said emphatically. “I really am. I mean, I love people, first of all, and I think it would be hard to be in this position if you fundamentally didn't love people. So, I come to this with a certain level of just joy in hugging — I'm a hugger.”

She ticked off all the things that are right in her life.

“My life is filled with these wonderful interactions with Americans all across the country. That's what I do every day. My staff is terrific. My kids are healthy. My husband's fine. He's got a hard job, but he can handle it.

“I’m having a ball, and, hopefully, I'm doing some good in the process. Check back with me in a year. But right now, I'm doing all right.”

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