In Michelle Obama’s new Netflix documentary Becoming, the former First Lady discusses the many inspirations and influences that shaped her into the woman that we know and love today. The documentary follows her national book tour promoting her 2018 memoir, introducing us to some of the most important people in her life. The usual suspects are present, of course — her mother Marian Robinson, her brother Craig Robinson, and husband former president Barack Obama — but Becoming also gives us a brief but stirring glimpse into Michelle's evolving relationship with her daughters Malia and Sasha.
When we first met the Obama girls, they were tiny little things who were simply along for the ride. Malia and Sasha were only 10 and seven years old, respectively, when they were thrust into the spotlight as the First Children. Even with their new social status, their parents endeavored to raise the girls to be as normal as possible; in Becoming, Michelle shared that she specifically instructed the White House housekeepers to not pick up after her daughters so that they would learn to take care of themselves.
"[Sasha and Malia] will not live here forever, and I am not raising kids that don't know how to make their beds," she shared with moderator Stephen Colbert and the crowd during a tour stop. "These girls have to learn to clean their own rooms, and make their own beds, and do their own laundry."
Michelle and Barack's grounded parenting style was a means of protecting their daughters and making sure that their children were equipped to face a world that would not always treat them kindly. As the first Black First Children, Malia and Sasha couldn't afford to be spoiled or to misbehave in our outside of the White House; the scrutiny that they would face because of their parents would be much harsher than that of their predecessors. Realistically speaking, the Obamas likely would not have been able to bounce back from a public scandal like that of the Bush twins Jenna and Barbara during their father's presidency. The rules were just different for them.
Thankfully, the Obamas have since left the White House and are living the majority of their lives out of the public eye — except when the press leaks pictures of Malia — and they're adjusting to their new normal as not-so-private private citizens. For Michelle, that new normal comes with being an empty nester as Malia and Sasha have both started college. The little girls are now young women, and their perspective of their parents has developed along the way.
Appearing on-camera in Becoming, the Obama girls cheered on their mother during her many tour stops. "You did so good!" Malia praised Michelle backstage, hugging her affectionately. "You see that huge crowd out there? This has demonstrated that those years weren't for nothing."
"I'm excited for her to be proud of what she's done," Sasha of her mom's achievements. "I think that's the most important thing for a human to do: to be proud of themselves."
"No longer facing that same scrutiny, being able to let all of that leave your mind...that creates so much more space," added Malia.
The Obama girls are all grown up now. Where did the time go?