Michelle Obama And Julia Roberts On Family & Relationships: “You Define What ‘Having It All’ Means
Mrs. Obama and Julia Roberts, recently shared some insights on family, relationships and work-life balance during the Obama Foundation Leaders' talk in Malaysia. (Image: theAsianparent/Roshni Mahtani)
Is it possible to “have it all” as mums? How can women achieve work-life balance? What defines a successful marriage?
These and many other questions were the main topics at the Obama Foundation Leaders Asia-Pacific Program which saw former First Lady Michelle Obama and Award-winning actress Julia Roberts, share reflections from their recent trip to Vietnam with the Girls Opportunity Alliance, as well as lessons from their own leadership journeys and trailblazing careers.
Women Empowerment: “No One Has It All”
In a session moderated by the founder of non-profit organisation Fugee, Deborah Henry – Roberts and Mrs. Obama shared that it is unrealistic of society and other women to think that women should “have it all”.
Roberts also mentioned that mums have to define what “having it all” means.
“What fulfills me is different from what fulfills another mum who lives in my street. Having it all and doing it all is different for everyone. The thing that this woman [Mrs. Obama] does in a day, is my year’s agenda. I don’t feel bad about that.”
But more importantly, Roberts urged mums towards the understanding that “having it all” is just a myth—simply an idea to make them feel overwhelmed and live up to the world’s impossible standards.
“It’s just to make us crazy cause it’s a headline created to challenge and distract us from what we are supposed to do,” she added.
Mrs. Obama agreed to Robert’s sentiments and even went on to call the phrase “stupid.”
“It has become an interesting mantra but it’s so stupid, no one has it all and why should we and doesn’t that sound selfish?” she questioned.
Mrs. Obama also said that sometimes more than society, women tend to judge each other by saying things like “you’re working with three kids?” or “you’re a stay-at-home-mum?”
Instead of focusing on “having it all”, Mrs. Obama urged women to focus on accomplishing their goals by doing the things that bring them joy.
In order to be there for her two daughters, Mrs. Obama revealed that she only worked three days at the White House when she was the First Lady.
She did this to keep her kids grounded especially in an overwhelming environment like the White House.
But it did come at a price, as she worked 18 hour days during her three-day workweek.
“When I was working, I was hustling. But I learnt that well before I got into the White House.”
On her days off, Mrs. Obama would be either taking care of her daughters, at a school function or working out.
This to her was essential because doing something for herself allowed her to cope with her hectic schedule.
Anybody Can Be A Role-model: “Our heroes are all here”
When asked about role models, both Roberts and Mrs. Obama agreed that society should not only look up to famous and celebrated people but also to individuals around them like parents, teachers, and neighbours.
Roberts said she still considers her mother and sister as her greatest role models because they never showed their woes and worries despite holding a full-time job and running on a tight budget.
Their endearing qualities were what inspired her to become the person she is today, which is why Roberts said: “our heroes are all here.”
Mrs. Obama also quipped in by sharing that people should look no further than their own community when it comes to role models.
“Is it necessary to have a role model? Yes. But the question that people get wrong is who that role model should be. Truth is the real heroes with the greatest impact, are those that are surrounding children. It’s your mum, your neighbour, your teacher.”
Mrs. Obama: “Marriage is hard”
When asked about the secret to her marriage with former President of the United States, Barack Obama, Mrs. Obama laughed and said it was hard work.
“Marriage is hard–it’s worth it but it’s really hard because it’s two individuals raised differently to come together and raise a family.”
She also brought up an important point that youths nowadays do not think of marriage as a hard concept, because all they just see is the “wedding ceremony and dress.”
Mrs. Obama recalled that she and her husband understood the complexity of marriage, and this especially helped when they were in the White House.
“We both learnt that we’ve to work through challenging times and be forgiving. That’s how Barack and I were forgiving with each other.”
Mrs. Obama also added that building a family is not a “solo expedition” and that the community also helps to raise a family.
The Obama Foundation Leaders Asia-Pacific Program is a one-year leadership development and community engagement program that seeks to inspire, empower, and connect emerging leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region.
200 emerging leaders from 33 nations and territories across the Asia-Pacific region gathered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the program. theAsianparent Founder and Group CEO Roshni Mahtani is one of selected group of leaders to form part of the program.
Attending the talk in Malaysia, Ms. Mahtani said: “It was life-changing to hear about how powerful mothers like Michelle Obama and Julia Roberts juggle marriages, motherhood, work, and life while still giving back to society. They serve as an inspiring reminder that everyone of us can do our part to contribute to the community and help underprivileged children, especially girls, worldwide.”
Over the course of the five-day convening that started on Tuesday 10 December 2019, Mrs. Obama, other prominent speakers, and thought leaders, will join the select leaders for discussions around progress and opportunity in the Asia-Pacific region and values-based leadership.
You can catch the full session on Facebook here.