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Michelle Obama On the ‘Lovely’ Way Her Role as a Mom Has Changed: ‘I Think I Didn’t Mess Them Up’

Michelle Obama‘s daughters are now in their 20s (yup! Makes you feel old, right?) and her role as a mom has not only changed in the physical sense (Malia and Sasha now live 3,000 miles away in California), but in a logistical sense. On the first episode of her new podcast, The Light Podcast, the former First Lady spoke to The Today Show anchor Hoda Kotb about her recent title change.

“I’m on the other side of parenting,” she said. “I’m moving from mom-in-chief to advisor-in-chief.”

Think of it as going from being a director of operations to a consultant. Michelle is still there to offer guidance when called upon, but she isn’t managing the day-to-day. Of course, the change is bittersweet, but Michelle has found the silver linings.

“That’s a lovely thing to be able to watch my girls fly and have the relief that, ‘Okay, I think I didn’t mess them up.'”

She is now making a conscious effort to “greet” her kids with what she feels rather than what she sees. There was a time, she said, when Malia came into her hotel room and was actually — unbeknownst to her mom — looking for a steamer.

“Whatever she had on was very wrinkly,” Michelle shared. “I was like, ‘You’re wrinkly. You’re going to do something about this.’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah, mom, I’m going to…'”

Michelle realized that instead of just telling her daughter to come sit on her lap and give her a kiss, which she said is what she really wanted, she was critical and trying to fix things.

“They don’t need us to point out the thing that’s wrong first,” she said.

And while she still talks to her daughters about healthy eating and bedtimes, it’s no longer about dictating their schedules and teaching them about square meals. It’s about making sure they take little steps (that have a big impact!) to better their mental health.

“Make room for your mental health,” she told listeners. “Prioritize it. Eat right. This is what I tell [my daughters]. [I ask], ‘Are you eating vegetables? Did you go to sleep? You just might need a nap.'”

A hallmark of Michelle’s parenting priorities — one that becomes more relevant by the day — is reminding them that romantic relationships don’t define their worth. She acknowledged the infuriating reality that society does a “disservice” to young adults, “particularly women,” by constantly asking if they are married. Michelle wants them to know that marriage and other mainstream milestones are not a prerequisite to happiness.

“I want my daughters to have a broad view of what happiness can look like,” she said. “I just tell my kids there’s so many ways to be happy, there’s so many ways to find joy in life, and you’re just starting the journey.”

Before you go, check out Michelle Obama’s best quotes about being a mom.

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