Referencing a journal entry during the early days of their relationship, Michelle Obama writes, “I was deeply, delightfully in love with a guy whose forceful intellect and ambition could possibly end up swallowing mine.”
Michelle Obama’s Becoming is an illuminating and beautifully written autobiography of the first black First Lady of the United States.
There are two kinds of Becoming readers. Some enjoy the story more before Barack Obama’s arrival. Some tolerate that section and then gobble the book when the aloof but charming genius arrives like the reward they deserve after struggling through the first section.
I preferred the section before Barrack’s arrival when the only sacrifice Michelle made to achieve her dreams was working hard.
Consequently, she is an excellent student, graduates from Princeton and then Harvard and works at an esteemed law firm.
However, after she met Obama, Michelle was not only working hard to excel in the workplace but also fighting the risk of falling behind professionally because of the responsibilities that came with being Obama’s wife.
She takes on most of the parenting responsibilities since Obama is working as a senator in Illinois.
She starts to work part-time to keep up, describes how much she hated the experience and then goes right back to doing the same later when she has to work the campaign trail on Obama’s behalf.
She earned her position as First Lady, and not just through a wedding certificate.
“Our decision to let Barack’s career proceed as it had — to give him the freedom to shape and pursue his dreams — led me to tamp down my own efforts at work.
“Almost deliberately, I’d numbed myself somewhat to my ambition, stepping back in moments when I’d normally step forward,” she writes.
“I was always aware of everything I could have followed through on and didn’t … You hear all the time about the trade-offs of being a working mother. These were mine. If I’d once been someone who threw herself completely into every task, I was now more cautious, protective of my time, knowing I had to maintain enough energy for life at home.”
In contrast, she says this of Barack, “He was a serial over-committer … taking on new projects without much regard for limits of time and energy.”
Don’t let my possibly myopic reading fool you though. Ms Obama achieves a lot even after her marriage, first through the grassroots education and health projects she drove to empower her community and then for the health of children battling obesity in the US.
Additionally, despite her disavowing politics, she enjoyed spending time with Americans on the hectic campaign trail, specifically the US military families for whom she effects welfare policies as First Lady.