Michelle Obama: The Light We Carry

In her latest book, Michelle Obama offers the tools to navigate the turbulences in uncertain times. As a daughter, mother, wife, black woman, and First Lady, she faced many challenges. A handful of them, including the political turmoils, she had shared in her memoir Becoming; therefore, the book is somewhat repetitive. Nevertheless, I find her personal stories on relationship and parenting to be helpful. Ms. Obama writes about her relationship with her husband:

Our love is not perfect, but it’s real and we’re committed to it. This particular certainty sits parked like a grand piano in the middle of every room we enter. We are, in many ways, very different people, my husband and I. He’s a night owl who enjoys solitary pursuits. I’m an early bird who loves a crowded room. In my opinion, he spends too much time golfing. In his opinion, I watch too much lowbrow TV. But between us, there’s a loving assuredness that’s as simple as knowing the other person is there to stay, no matter what. This is what I think people pick up on in those photos: that tiny triumph we get to feel, knowing that despite having spent half our lives together now, despite all the ways we aggravate each other and all the ways we are different, neither one of us has walked away. We’re still here. We remain.

My wife and I have been married for almost 15 years and neither one of us has walked away. We’re still holding our hands to walk together on this road of life. Ms. Obama’s parenting experience also hits come to home. She shares:

As a parent, you are always fighting your own desperation not to fail at the job you’ve been given. There are whole industries built to feed and capitalize on this very desperation, from baby brain gyms and ergonomic strollers to SAT coaches. It’s like a hole that can’t ever be filled. And as a great many parents in the United States struggle with the high cost of childcare (which can consume about 20 percent of an average worker’s salary), the stresses only grow. You can become convinced that if you pull back even a little, thanks to one tiny advantage you didn’t figure out how to provide or afford, you’ve potentially doomed your own child.

I’m sorry to say that this doesn’t end with any one milestone, either. The desperation doesn’t go away when your kid learns to sleep or walk, or goes off to kindergarten, or graduates from high school, or even moves into their first apartment and buys a set of steak knives. You will still worry! You will still be afraid for them! As long as you are still breathing you’ll be wondering if there’s something more you can do. The world will forever seem infinitely more sinister and dangerous when you have a child, even a grown one, walking around in it. And most of us will do nearly anything to convince ourselves that we’ve got even a modicum of control. Even now, my husband, the former commander in chief, can’t help but to text cautionary news stories to our daughters-about the dangers of highway driving or walking alone at night. When they moved to California, he emailed them a lengthy article about earthquake preparedness and offered to have Secret Service give them a natural-disaster-response briefing. (This was met with a polite “No thanks.”)

Caring for your kids and watching them grow is one of the most rewarding endeavors on earth, and at the same time it can drive you nuts.

The Light We Carry has the self-improvement aspect to it. I find it a bit of a drag to read at times, but it also offers some useful advice. I am not going to pick up knitting anytime soon, but I’ll try to relax a bit on parenting advice. I hope the kids will turn out OK.