Barack and Michelle Obama: The Full Interview
Can This Marriage Be Saved?
LHJ: Let's talk a little bit more about your marriage. One of our signature columns is, "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" Senator, you write in The Audacity of Hope that even during your Senate days, your wife was, quote, "pretty fed up with raising our children alone and beginning to question my priorities." Which is fairly serious language. And so I have to ask, did you ever have a "Can this marriage be saved?" moment?
Barack Obama: Sure. I mean, you know, look. We had --
Michelle Obama: We did?
Barack Obama: Oh, I mean -- well, I haven't read the column, so I don't want to characterize the -- no, no. No, no, no, no. But, there's no doubt that there were some strains there. I think most married folks can relate to this. If you've got two working parents, you've got small kids and one of the spouses -- in this case, me -- is gone a bunch of the time. And the other spouse, Michelle, is home, expected to work and look after the girls. And occasionally help me. That's a big burden. That's a big stress. And at that time, we were still paying off student loans and we'd be short at the end of the month sometimes.
I still remember when I was a state legislator and Michelle called close to tears because our wonderful babysitter had quit and decided to go back to nursing. And Michelle's thinking to herself, "What am I going to do?" because she had depended so heavily on this person to kind of hold it all together. And she was, frankly, mad at me. Because she felt as if she was all alone in this process.
LHJ: How did you manage those moments?
Michelle Obama: Part of it was time. Our kids got older, and then they're in school. Their needs are different. Those early years are a whole lot of work. But the truth is that everybody struggles with it -- we just don't talk about it out loud. And then also I had to change. Because there were a lot of things time-wise that he couldn't provide, because he was not there. So, how do I stop being mad at him, and start problem-solving, and cobble together the resources. I also had to admit that I needed space and I needed time. And the more time that I could get to myself, the less stress I felt. So it was a growth process for me individually and for us as a couple, too. [Turning to her husband] Did you grow? Have you grown any? [Laughter]
Barack Obama: Not as much as Michelle did, of course.
LHJ: You've written, Senator, about the fact that the black nuclear family is in crisis in this country. Do you both feel additional pressure that you wish you didn't have, to be the role models of the black two-parent family?