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Why Michelle Obama is done with trying to “have it all”

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Susan Devaney
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Michelle Obama is tired of women being fed lies about relationships and careers. 

From teaching us to face our fears during her farewell speech as first lady in 2017 to inspiring us to follow our dreams during the Democratic National Convention in 2012, Michelle Obama has delivered some of the finest pieces of advice for women during her tenure in the public eye.

But since leaving the White House, we’ve not had as many nuggets of wisdom from Michelle as we’d like. Thankfully, since she embarked on her Becoming book tour, she’s (once again) been telling us exactly what she thinks.

Case in point: during an appearance at Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, one of many stops on her Becoming tour, Michelle addressed the modern concept of people trying to “have it all”.

“Marriage still ain’t equal, y’all. It ain’t equal. And I tell women that it’s not equal — that whole ‘so you can have it all’? Nope, not at the same time,” Michelle said.

“That’s a lie. And it’s not always enough to lean in, because that s**t doesn’t work all the time.” Apparently the crowd erupted at hearing the former first lady say “s**t,” and Michelle quickly apologised. “I forgot where I was for a moment!”

Of course, Michelle’s referring to the ‘lean in’ method created by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Published in 2013, the book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, calls on women to ‘lean in’ in the workplace.

She continued: “But sometimes, that stuff doesn’t work. So often, it’s not equal, and you feel a bit resentful about it. And so then it’s time to go to marriage counselling.”

Michelle, who has openly spoken about her and Barack attending marriage counselling in the past, revealed more details.

“What I learned in counseling was that I was responsible for my own happiness,” Michelle said. “And that was part of my frustration. I expected my husband now to not only just be my partner, but to fill me up in ways that were my responsibility.

“Counselling helped me to sort of take a step back and look at, ‘how do I take control of my own happiness within our marriage?’ And how to prioritise myself because that’s what we do as women. We’re so busy putting everyone else before us. And then we burn out. We’re like, fourth on our list, or fifth on our list.”

Michelle has since rescheduled a few of the stops on her book tour, to make time to attend George H.W. Bush’s funeral.

However, she’s due to return today (Monday 3 December) to the London girls’ school, Elizabeth Garrett, that inspired her focus on education when she was US first lady, as part of a one-day UK tour.

You can read some of the greatest things we learned from Michelle Obama’s autobiography here.

Images: Rex Features / Instagram

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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