Michelle Obama shared the sweetest notes in honor of Mother’s Day 2019 this past weekend. Not only did the former First Lady pen an essay in recognition of the holiday, but Mrs. Obama also shared new photos of her daughters, Sasha and Malia, with her Instagram fans.
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With #MothersDay just a couple days away, I find myself thinking a lot about the way my mother raised me. And even though our family was crammed into a tiny apartment, one of the greatest gifts she gave me was the freedom to explore and develop into my own person. For instance, even though we didn’t have much money, she and my dad cobbled enough money together to send me on a high-school trip to Paris, which opened up the world to me in so many ways. And now that I’m raising kids of my own, I wanted to pass that lesson on to my own girls. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to travel with Sasha and Malia all across the country and around the world—experiences my mother never would have dreamed of back when I was their age. But though the settings may be different, the message is the same, and it’s one I hope mothers everywhere pass on to their daughters—in seeking out new perspectives and reaching outside of our comfort zones, we can discover more about ourselves.
Of course, Mother’s Day 2019 would not have been the same for Michelle had she not honored her mother, Marian Shields Robinson. “Growing up, every time I’d come home from school with a story to share, my mother was there with a snack and a listening ear to hear about what was on my mind,” Mrs. Obama wrote online.
“When I came home with a tale about my disastrous second-grade classroom, she marched into the school to figure out what was going on. And as I grew older, including up through my years as First Lady, she was always there for me as a guiding light through whatever fog was clouding my path. She’s always listened more than she lectured; observed more than she demonstrated. In doing so, she allowed me to think for myself and develop my own voice.”
It was the wisdom that Mrs. Robinson exhibited when rearing Michelle and her brother, Craig Robinson, that has helped the former First Lady learn how to give Sasha and Malia their independence in life.
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As we prepare for #MothersDay on Sunday, I wanted to take a moment to shine a light on those women in our lives who may not be our mothers, but have nonetheless played an important role in nurturing us. I’ve been grateful to be surrounded by so many strong, intelligent, warm-hearted women who, along with my mother, have made me who I am. They include my soft-spoken grandmother LaVaughn, whose work managing a Bible book store showed me some of my first glimpses of a woman in charge. I sparred with my Aunt Robbie, who lived below us, during piano lessons—but her teaching showed me the importance of hard work and preparation, and she was always there for me when I needed her most. My mentor at Princeton, Czerny, saw potential in me and did her part to get me to step outside of my comfort zone—to be a little more bold, a little less cautious. And then there’s Eleanor Kaye Wilson, who we call “Mama Kaye.” She’s sweet-hearted and deep-rooted, a second mother or grandmother for all four of us—Malia, Sasha, Barack, and me. She’s been there to help with mealtime, craft time, been to all of our events over so many years—a wonderful friend and confidant to my mother. We love her, just like we love so many supportive women whose stories and contributions often go unrecognized, but who deserve just as much appreciation and love this time of year. So if there’s a Mama Kaye or a Czerny, a Grandma LaVaughn or an Aunt Robbie in your life, make sure to show them some love this weekend, too.
“[My mom] and my father, Fraser, were wholly invested in their children, pouring a deep and durable foundation of goodness and honesty, of right and wrong, into my brother and me. After that, they simply let us be ourselves,” Michelle shares in an exclusive essay written for PEOPLE.
“I see now how important that kind of freedom is for all children, particularly for girls with flames of their own — flames the world might try to dim,” the former First Lady continues. “It’s up to us, as mothers and mother-figures, to give the girls in our lives the kind of support that keeps their flame lit and lifts up their voices — not necessarily with our own words, but by letting them find the words themselves.”
Malia Obama began her first year at Harvard University in 2017 after taking a gap year. Sasha Obama is reportedly thinking of attending the University of Michigan in the coming months. Stay tuned for more celebrity family news!
Photos: Michelle Obama/Instagram