A Look At The Struggles Michelle Obama Faced During Her Childhood

Michelle Obama has an astoundingly successful life. In addition to being a former first lady, Michelle is a world-famous author and public speaker. She's worked hard to achieve these successes. In contrast to Malia and Sasha Obama's childhood in the White House, Michelle grew up in a much smaller home than her daughters. Michelle, her brother Craig Robinson, and their parents lived in her great-aunt's and great-uncle's home on the South Side of Chicago. While the entire house is 1,345 square feet, Michelle's family lived on the top floor. To give each other some space, Michelle and Craig sectioned off their shared bedroom. 

Even though they didn't have a lot of money, Michelle's parents gave their kids essential tools for dealing with life's difficulties. "What they gave us was a feeling of importance, a belief that our voices mattered at a very young age," Michelle informed ABC7 Chicago. "It's been the foundation for everything I've been able to do in my life."

Michelle was born in 1964,  and during her early years, she noted that her neighborhood was very diverse. Her family moved to her great-aunt's home so Michelle and her brother could take advantage of improved educational opportunities. Unfortunately, as time went on, Michelle realized that people were moving away due to racism. In addition, she noticed the schools and parks were falling apart as local resources dwindled. "I feel a sense of injustice," Michelle stated during an Obama Foundation Summit. "You know people are running from you."

As a high-achieving student, Michelle sometimes struggled to fit in

Michelle Obama learned resilience when she faced failures and difficulties at school. Both her parents and one of her grandfathers emphasized the importance of education as a way for her to shape her own future. Due to her academic excellence, and with some help from her mother, Marian Robinson, Michelle was able to skip second grade. Michelle and her mom have a close relationship, and Marian took her daughter's concerns seriously when Michelle told her about the chaos of her second-grade classroom. After Marian spoke with the school's principal, Michelle was able to take some tests and move into third grade.

However, sometimes Michelle found it hard to balance her scholastic success with fitting into her neighborhood. When she was ten, her cousin criticized Michelle's polished speaking style. "You could get your butt kicked going to school if you look too uppity, or if you were studying too hard," Michelle divulged to ABC News. "People couldn't figure out who I was with how I talked and who they thought I should be."

Even so, Michelle persevered and earned significant academic accomplishments. She took advantage of French and biology classes provided by her school's gifted program. In high school, Michelle qualified for a place at the Whitney M. Young Magnet High School. While she benefitted academically from the school's extensive catalog of advanced courses, Michelle had an hour-plus commute that started at 6 a.m. each weekday. 

Michelle's family worked together to navigate large and small challenges

Michelle Obama's father, Fraser Robinson III, was in his thirties when he learned he had multiple sclerosis. Over time, his health deteriorated, and he needed assistive devices like crutches. Despite these difficulties, he was determined to keep working. Fraser's diligence and persistence made a strong impression on Michelle and her brother Craig. Punctuality was also important to Fraser, and the family cooperated by getting ready early so they could arrive on time. Despite his mobility difficulties, Fraser was a steadfast attendee at his kids' sporting events. "We had to make adjustments and be very adaptable as a family to make sure he could get to and from places," Michelle explained to ABC7 Chicago. "We also saw him fall and get up and keep going." 

Besides big life lessons, Fraser and Marian Robinson also worked with their kids to resolve everyday problems. Her parents encouraged discussions, and in one instance, Michelle decided to delve into breakfast foods. As a kid, Michelle wasn't fond of eggs, which were ubiquitous at her family's morning meal. After her parents explained they offered eggs as a protein-rich choice, Michelle suggested peanut butter as an alternative.  Since they also had toast and jelly, Michelle petitioned for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead of the dreaded eggs. Marian saw the logic in Michelle's argument, and, for nine years, PB&J became her signature way to start the day.