Michelle Obama Says She Felt The ‘Sting Of Gender Roles’ Post Childbirth And How It Changed The Equation Between The Couple
Former First Lady of America, Michelle Obama, is an inspiration to many women around the world. Her marriage to former POTUS Barack Obama, which will complete 28 years next month, is often admired by many as major #CoupleGoals. The way he talks about her, and the way she stood by him during his stint at the White House has been written about plenty. With their two daughters, Malia and Sasha by their sides, the Obama family portrait is perfect in every way. But if you thought that it was roses and rainbows all the time, you’ve got another think coming. In a recent episode of her Spotify podcast, Michelle Obama was in conversation with talk show host Conan O’Brien, and she spoke about relationships, particularly the difficult patches in her marriage with Barack Obama, and how she felt ‘the sting of gender roles’ for the first time in her marriage, after the birth of her daughters.
We all know that a woman’s life changes phenomenally when she becomes a mother. It’s one of the biggest reasons why women are often preferred to be less ambitious and more flexible when chosen as life partners, because when motherhood comes knocking, sacrifices will have to be made. And who’s going to make them if not women? Sexism aside, it is the woman who gives birth after all. Her body changes, so do her emotions and her life goals, when she becomes a mother. Speaking about this, Michelle Obama revealed how the birth of her daughters was the first time she ever felt the gender inequality rear its head in her marriage. Calling children “disruptive cute little creatures” she spoke about how their arrival could upend the balanced division of labour in a marriage because a woman inevitably has a much bigger role to play in child-rearing than a man.
Speaking about the birth of her daughters Malia and Sasha, Michelle said, “I would not trade them in, but whew, they can mess up a marriage. The division of labor in a marriage also becomes real clear when a child comes, because if your wife is breastfeeding, if she has a career, she’s gonna have to make a different set of sacrifices than you do. Just the act of giving birth creates an inequality in opportunities…physically the whole structure means that, you know, he’s got sort of a leg up because he didn’t have to do any of this. At least in my marriage, that was the first time I felt the sting of gender roles.”
It’s natural for women, especially those who have never encountered inequality in their marriages to be stumped by this disruption. Before pregnancy, she and her husband did everything together, and were like partners. When she got pregnant, she was treated like a queen, being serviced, brought everything, and getting a mandatory break from chores and work. But once the baby arrives, things change. Not only are all the old responsibilities back on, there’s also a whole new, albeit adorable, bundle of responsibilities in their arms, that their husbands can’t really help with!
Michelle said, “And I had to be there, and I had to go, and it was my body, and my husband was still sort of bopping around, living his life…. The resentment starts to build up, or it started to. It’s like, well, what happened to the unit? What happened to my best friend? What happened to my buddy, who’s at the gym? It’s like, ‘How the hell are you at the gym?’ You know, dude… I’ve got cabbage on my breast.”
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Clearly, parenthood is a huge test for marriage! And these days, a lot of couples find their relationships strained considerably as they stumble under the staggering weight of work, marriage and new parenthood. Talk about crying babies, unkempt households, barely any time or energy for sex, and the spark’s just gone out the window! And if you thought the perfect couples don’t go through all these tough times, then Michelle Obama’s got an eye-opener for ya.
“There were times that I wanted to push Barack out of the window. I say that, because it’s, like, you gotta know the feelings will be intense. But that doesn’t mean you quit. It’s not the time to start grading your marriage paper. These are unique times, but a lot of times young couples, they hit these hard periods, and because they’re short-tempered or they’re tired, the sex life is gone or the romance is out of the picture, they give up, because nobody told them that this time is hard.”
It’s true, isn’t it? Since before the advent of Instagram #CoupleGoals, the idea that only the happy parts of a relationship need to be celebrated out in the open has been a norm. As opposed to talking about your marital problems… oh no, that we’d have to sort amongst ourselves. Even now, going to couple’s counselling or therapy is not that mainstream an idea, because why would we want to talk about the failures and glitches of a match that is made in heaven, right? And that, Michelle Obama says, is precisely why young couples, instantly start thinking that a period of trouble in their marriage means they’re broken. And to those couples, she says, don’t walk away just yet.
“I just want to say, look, if that breaks a marriage, then Barack and I have been broken off and on, throughout our marriage, but we have a very strong marriage. And if I had given up on it, if I had walked away from it, in those tough times, then I would’ve missed all the beauty, that was there as well.”
In fact, she’s even got a very cool sports analogy to help make sense of how couples can work towards better marriages! It’s got a lot to do with how we pick basketball teams.
“If you’re looking at a team, the people you want to win with, then number one you want everybody on your team to be strong… If we looked at marriage as a real team, you want your teammate to be a winner, then you want LeBron [James, the LA Lakers star].”
Oh the wisdom in all this!