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Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama held at The O2

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From the looks of things, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, did her thing selecting the women who would be featured in the pages of the upcoming issue of British Vogue. With names like Yara Shahidi, Laverne Cox, Adwoa Aboah and more, there is bound to be some wisdom within the pages.

Markle also spoke to Forever First Lady Michelle Obama about motherhood and what she’s learned raising two daughters who couldn’t be more unlike one another.

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In the upcoming issue, Mrs. Obama said, “Malia and Sasha couldn’t be more different. One speaks freely and often, one opens up on her own terms. One shares her innermost feelings, the other is content to let you figure it out. Neither approach is better or worse, because they’ve both grown into smart, compassionate and independent young women, fully capable of paving their own paths.”

Obama spoke about the lesson of learning to let go as a mother.

“Being a mother has been a masterclass in letting go. Try as we [moms] might, there’s only so much we can control. And, boy, have I tried – especially at first. As mothers, we just don’t want anything or anyone to hurt our babies. But life has other plans. Bruised knees, bumpy roads and broken hearts are part of the deal. What’s both humbled and heartened me is seeing the resiliency of my daughters. Motherhood has taught me that, most of the time, my job is to give them the space to explore and develop into the people they want to be. Not who I want them to be or who I wish I was at that age, but who they are, deep inside. Motherhood has also taught me that my job is not to bulldoze a path for them in an effort to eliminate all possible adversity. But instead, I need to be a safe and consistent place for them to land when they inevitably fail; and to show them, again and again, how to get up on their own.”

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She talked about the advice she has for her daughters, given what she wished she’d known at their age.

“Don’t just check the boxes you think you’re supposed to check, like I did when I was their age. I tell them that I hope they’ll keep trying on new experiences until they find what feels right. And what felt right yesterday might not necessarily feel right today. That’s OK – it’s good, even. When I was in college, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer because it sounded like a job for good, respectable people. It took me a few years to listen to my intuition and find a path that fit better for who I was, inside and out. Becoming who we are is an ongoing process, and thank God – because where’s the fun in waking up one day and deciding there’s nowhere left to go? That’s something I wish I’d recognised a little earlier. As a younger woman, I spent too much time worrying that I wasn’t achieving enough, or I was straying too far from what I thought was the prescribed path. What I hope my daughters will realise a little earlier is that there is no prescribed path, that it’s OK to swerve, and that the confidence they need to recognise that will come with time.”

Obama shared, interestingly, that if Sasha and Malia were boys, she would offer the same insights.

“When I was still in elementary school, my dad bought my brother a pair of boxing gloves, but when he came home from the store, he was carrying not one, but two pairs of gloves,” Michelle explained. “He wasn’t going to teach his son to punch without making sure his daughter could throw a left hook, too. Now, I was a little younger and a little smaller than my brother, but I kept up with him. I could dodge a jab just like he could, and I could hit just as hard as him, too. My father saw that. I think he wanted to make sure that my brother saw that as well.”

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And then she explained what her 15-year-old self would think about her life these days.

I love this question. I had a lot of fun when I was 15, but when it came right down to it, teenage-me was pretty by the book – straight As, through-the-roof standards for herself. So I imagine that she’d be proud of how far I’ve come – but she wouldn’t let me off the hook, either. I feel like she’d give me one of those silent nods of recognition, you know? She’d remind me there are still too many girls on the South Side of Chicago who are being shushed, cast aside or told they’re dreaming too big. She’d tell me to keep fighting for them. If I’m being honest, she’d probably smile about how cute my husband is, too.

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