Sunday, December 29, 2019

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I really enjoyed listening to Becoming by and read by Michelle Obama. I can't say I knew all that much about the Obama's before this book, but I can say, if I knew her in real life, I'd want to be her friend. I loved in the book how she so clearly identified the struggles of being a woman/wife/mother sometimes. We obviously have chosen different life paths with her being a career woman and me being a stay-at-home mom, but our thoughts and frustrations are often the same. I love that she had such a desire to be a mom! She loved her dolls as a kid, and helped kids in an after school program in college, and always knew she wanted her own children. If I'm completely honest, a big part of us having kids was we felt we should, so we did. We were so logical and practical, that it was easy to see that kids would make life harder. I wish I'd been born with more of those maternal desires like Michelle! (I am happy I'm a mom and wouldn't have it any other way, so don't think I'm miserable or anything :) We have great kids that bring us a lot of joy!).

I saved a few quotes from the book. I don't know if I got the punctuation right as I was typing what I heard, but you'll get the idea.

(Chapter 2 around 1:04) Now that I'm an adult, I realize that kids know at a very young age when they're being devalued---when adults aren't invested enough to help them learn. Their anger over it can manifest itself as unruliness. It's hardly their fault. They aren't bad kids, they're just trying to survive bad circumstances.

(Chapter 4 around 2:18/19) Just as I never wondered what it was like for my mother to be a full-time-at-home mother, I never wondered then what it meant to be married.  . . .My mother would tell me that every year when spring came and the air warmed up in Chicago, she entertained thoughts about leaving my father. I don't know if these thoughts were actually serious or not. I don't know if she considered the idea for an hour or for a day or for most of the season, but for her it was an act of fantasy. Something that felt healthy and maybe even energizing to ponder, almost as ritual.  I understand now that even a happy marriage can be a vexation and it's a contract best renewed and renewed again even quietly and privately, even alone. I don't think my mother ever announced whatever her doubts and discontents were to my father directly, and I don't think she let him in on whatever alternative life she may have been dreaming about during those times... I don't know [where she imagined herself], but I don't think it matters. . .  (about 2:22) [And then, as you're doing your spring cleaning year after year] . . . It allows you to think, to wonder if you've missed out on other possibilities by becoming a wife to this man in this house with these children. Maybe you spend the whole day considering how to live before finally you fit every window back into it's frame and empty your bucket of Pine-sol into the sink, and maybe now all your certainty returns because yes, truly it's spring, and once again you've made the choice to stay.

(Chapter 13 8:23) I wanted a family, and Barack wanted a family, too, and now here I was alone in the bathroom of our apartment, trying in the name of all of that want to screw up the courage to plunge a syringe into my thigh. I twas maybe then that I felt a first flicker of resentment involving politics and Barack's unshakable commitment to the work. Or maybe I was just feeling the acute burden of being female. Either way, he was gone and I was here carrying the responsibility. I sensed that the sacrifices would be more mine than his. In the weeks to come, he'd go about his regular business while I went in for daily ultrasounds to monitor my eggs. He wouldn't have his blood drawn. He wouldn't have to cancel any meetings to have a cervix inspection. He was doting and invested, my husband, doing what he could do. He read all the IVF literature and would talk to me all night about it, but his only actual duty was to show up at the doctor's office and provide some sperm, and then if he chose, he could go have a martini afterward. None of this was his fault, but it wasn't equal either, and for any woman who lives by the mantra that equality is important, this can be a little confusing. It was me who'd alter everything, putting my passions and career dreams on hold to fulfill this piece of our dream. I found myself in a small moment of reckoning. Did I want it? Yes. I wanted it so much. And with this, I hoisted the needle and sank it into my flesh. [Eventually we got pregnant] Suddenly the responsibility and relative sacrifice meant something completely different. . . now everything appeared perfectly in place. I walked around with a secret inside of me. This was my privilege, the gift of being female. I felt bright with a promise of what I carried.

(Chapter 14 around 8:52) [When their caregiver got a new job] Her investment in my family had allowed me to maintain my investment in my job.

(Chapter 14 around 8:57) Our afternoons [with her mom-friends] taught me that there was no formula for motherhood. No single approach could be deemed right or wrong.
[I think young kids do best with their own mamas, but I also believe everyone has their own circumstances to work with and their agency. I love that Michelle supports everyone in how they want to do it.]

(Chapter 14 around 9:13) I now tried out a new hypothesis. It was possible that I was more in charge of my happiness than I was allowing myself to be. I was too busy resenting Barack for managing to fit workouts into his schedule, for example, to even begin figuring out how to exercise regularly for myself.
[Oh the struggle is real.]

(Chapter 15 around 9:50) At least in some spheres, I was now Mrs. Obama in a way that could feel diminishing: A Mrs. defined by her Mr.
[My husband has gotten a new job, well two this year, affirming his value in the workplace. The longer I'm away from collaborating with others, and the more I give up my hobbies and thoughts, the less value I feel in myself. I'm trying to dig myself out of this place. It's crazy the opposition in how he can feel such value and I feel so isolated.]

The rest of the book is more into their terms in office, and it's fun to remember the events mentioned, well, except I'm still sad about the gay marriage stuff when you're trying to keep God's law. It really is true that when you know someone, you don't judge them so much. I bet if a lot of the haters read this book, they wouldn't be so harsh and would see the Obamas as people, which they obviously are. I didn't vote for Barrack back then, but I'm glad to know their family story and learn more of their struggles, goodness, and dedication.