Michelle Obama is My Soulmate.
by Shari MacDonald Strong
As a progressive, feminist mother with three young children and a passion for changing the world, but no time in which to do it, I get a bit frustrated at times. I keep an eye on the casualties in Iraq, and I drive my boys to Kindergarten. I watch footage of the bombings in Gaza, but make sure the channel is changed and the TV off before meeting my daughter at the bus after school. I plan to write to my congressman, but discover that my stamps have been used as stickers and my printer paper was used up in the making paper doll chains.
I am that unique creature: Political Mom in Need of an Outlet. No -- that’s not it. There are hundreds of organizations and opportunities to which I could devote my energy, if I had any. But grocery shopping, laundry, school drop-off and pick up, housecleaning, budgeting and bill-paying, writing and editorial projects, teacher conferences and snow days leave me prostate on my couch. How do other moms who care about the world manage to do anything to bring about change? Last year, I edited an anthology of essays by politically-inclined moms, just so I could be inspired by their stories. And I was. Still, I long for a media-noticed role model I can look to, day to day, for inspiration and motivation. A brilliant, involved, political woman who loves her children and carves out a life with some semblance of balance – one that looks not only possible, but maybe even enjoyable.
Enter Michelle Obama.
Like so many others, I first fell for the other adult Obama. When he first saw the Barack-promoting music video by Will.i.am, a conservative friend of mine said he thought: “Uh oh.” The song itself was a work of genius (props to Will.i.am), but it was Barack Obama’s words that made the video something truly meaningful. Much more than a cultural artifact, it was (and is) a snapshot of a desperately longed for future. A reason to keep fighting the good fight. A prayer. It was Barack Obama’s words that hooked me. He had me at “Yes, we can.”
For her part, Michelle Obama had me at “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country,” which she famously uttered early in 2008. The media, of course, tore her to pieces for the sentiment. But as a mother who has anxiously wondered what kind of a country my kids are growing up in, I thought I understood. Because it’s one thing to be nationalistic, to think of one’s country as the “best,” without deconstructing what that means. We all have the capacity to do that. It’s a whole other thing to think critically. In my own social circle, I’m irresistibly drawn not to people who think they’re perfect, but to the ones who know they’re flawed, who admit their failings, and who work hard to improve themselves. I long for that same sense of self-awareness, of “we can do better,” in our society. Though I would never presume to speak for her, I got the feeling that this is, in part, what Michelle was alluding to that February day.
But it was her words at the Democratic National Convention that sealed the deal for me. She began simply by telling us all who she was: Sister. Wife. Daughter. And Mother. Always when Michelle speaks, she reminds us that she is a mother. Not because she is matronly (far from it), but because her daughters are the center of her world, and her words attest to that fact.