“Being a mother has been a masterclass in letting go,” Obama told the Duchess of Sussex in an interview for British Vogue released by the magazine on Monday. “Motherhood has taught me that, most of the time, my job is to give them the space to explore and develop into the people they want to be. Not who I want them to be or who I wish I was at that age, but who they are, deep inside.”
She also said that raising the two young women “has also taught me that my job is not to bulldoze a path for them in an effort to eliminate all possible adversity. But instead, I need to be a safe and consistent place for them to land when they inevitably fail; and to show them, again and again, how to get up on their own.”
Meghan served as a guest editor for British Vogue’s September issue, selecting a group of trailblazing women spotlighted as “forces for change.” The magazine hits newsstands on Aug. 2.
Obama, in her interview, also told Meghan that she has advised her daughters to focus less on adhering to a path and more on “trying on new experiences until they find what feels right,” a process she wrote about in her best-selling memoir, “Becoming.”
“Don’t just check the boxes you think you’re supposed to check, like I did when I was their age,” she said. “As a younger woman, I spent too much time worrying that I wasn’t achieving enough, or I was straying too far from what I thought was the prescribed path. What I hope my daughters will realize a little earlier is that there is no prescribed path, that it’s OK to swerve, and that the confidence they need to recognize that will come with time.”
Obama said that if she had sons, her advice “would be exactly the same.”
In her introduction, the duchess praised Obama for her “authenticity,” saying she had not expected the detailed and candid answers to her questions.
“A few ‘simple questions’ (which she could have answered with a sentence or two) were returned to me as a thoughtful, reflective and beautifully curated narrative ― a gentle reminder not of how but of why she has become such a globally respected public figure,” wrote Meghan, who gave birth to a son in May.
“Had I known Michelle would be so generous in making this a comprehensive interview my questions would have been lengthier, more probing, more engaging. I would have called her and included the banter on these pages ― the laughs and sighs and ping-pong of dialogue as I chimed in. But to re-engineer that now would rob Michelle’s words of their authenticity, which, for me, is at the crux of what makes this piece special.”