Michelle Obama Gets Real About the ‘Sting of Gender Roles’ as a New Parent


On the sixth and most recent episode of Michelle Obama’s podcast, the former first lady and Conan O’Brien talked relationships, marriage, and what it takes to make both work. In a candid conversation, Obama and the comedian also discussed what happens to a marriage after kids enter the equation.

Obama talked about how “disruptive these cute little creatures” can be to the routine of 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,” she said. “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. 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?'”

Obama went on to say that she’s observed that a lot of young couples, who are becoming parents for the first time, often struggle under the pressure of parenthood. “It’s not the time to start grading your marriage paper,” she advised. “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.”

She added, jokingly, that “there were times that I wanted to push Barack out of the window.” She went on: I say that, because it’s, like, you gotta know the feelings will be intense. But that doesn’t mean you quit.”

On her successful tour for her 2018 book, Becoming, Obama talked openly about some of the challenges that she and the former president have faced in their marriage—infertility chief among them.

In an interview with Robin Roberts for ABC, Obama shared some of the emotions that came along with that time in her life and marriage.

“I felt lost and alone, and I felt like I failed because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were, because we don’t talk about them,” Obama said. “We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken. That’s one of the reasons why I think it’s important to talk to young mothers about the fact that miscarriages happen.”

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