Michelle Obama's daughters 'tested limits' as teens. She feared life in the White House messed them up.

For eight years, Michelle Obama worried about her daughters growing up in the spotlight amid their dad's US presidency.

From 2009 to 2017, Michelle and Barack's two daughters - Malia and Sasha - were in their young mouldable years, figuring out their identity and becoming teenagers, all while the world watched on. And according to Michelle, it was a stressful time for the whole family.

This week, an extract of the former First Lady's new book was published in The Guardian, unpacking what it was like to raise two teenage girls in one of the world's most famous buildings - and it sounds like it wasn't all rosy. 

When Barack first became President of the United States of America, Sasha was seven and Malia was 10.

"Our girls morphed from wide-eyed elementary schoolers into teenagers in full bloom, intent on achieving independence and the privileges of adult life. As teenagers do, they tested a few limits and did some dumb things," Michelle wrote.

"Someone got grounded for missing curfew. Someone posted an eyebrow-raising bikini selfie on Instagram and was promptly instructed by the East Wing communications team to remove it. Someone once had to be dragged by Secret Service agents from an out-of-hand, unsupervised high-school party just as local law enforcement was arriving."


Michelle also said one of the girls had a fight with "the President of the United States" when he asked how she could possibly study for school while listening to rap music.

"An episode of even mild disobedience or misbehaviour from our adolescent daughters would set off a ripple of unsettling worry in me. It preyed upon my greatest fear, which was that life in the White House was messing our kids up."

In a recent podcast episode, Michelle elaborated on this fear - saying that establishing clear boundaries from the get-go of their time in the White House was how they managed to raise two girls with good values.

"I mean, you talk about being raised in a totally different world than I ever knew? It's like, plucking these little girls out of our normal life on the South Side of Chicago and our way of doing things, and our community, and then, putting them in a historic mansion with butlers and maids, and florists, and gardeners, and Secret service, and then trying to make sure that they understood boundaries, understood responsibility."


And as these challenging moments and small rebellions took place, Michelle said that's when the mum guilt started to kick in.

"I would instantly and ferociously start scanning for my own mistakes. Had I been too tough on them or too indulging? Had I been too present or too absent? Was there some parenting book I'd forgotten to study 15 years earlier? Was this a bona fide crisis, a sign of bigger problems? And was it too late now?"

Through it all, Michelle said her own mum Marian Robinson - then in her 70s - lived in the White House with them, helping to keep them grounded.

Watch Michelle Obama's powerful speech at The Democratic National Convention. Story continues below.

Video via PBS News.

"My mother was the rock of our family. Since the time our daughters were babies, she’d helped us out around the edges of our regular childcare arrangements, filling the gaps as Barack and I often improvised and occasionally flailed our way through different career transitions. My mum ended up staying with us in the White House for the whole eight years," Michelle wrote.

As the girls got older, Michelle said the woes of the terrible teen years started to slow down - but then Malia and Sasha were soon off to college. 


Reflecting on that moment, Barack said it was one of the hardest things he ever had to do - letting go of his daughters.

"For those of us who have daughters, it just happens fast. I dropped Malia off at college and it felt a little bit like open-heart surgery. I was proud that I did not cry in front of her but on the way back, the secret service was looking straight ahead pretending they weren't hearing me as I sniffled and blew my nose. It was rough," he said in a speech for Joe Biden's foundation in 2017. 

Michelle would like to impart some "golden rules of parenting" to others who are feeling unsure about the job they're doing, via her new book The Light We Carry.

"I wanted Sasha and Malia to feel both seen and heard - to always voice their thoughts and to never feel like they had to tiptoe in their own home."


Today, Sasha is 21 and Malia is 24. They now both live together away from their parents in an apartment in L.A., which Michelle said she was thrilled to see. Malia is a TV writer and Sasha is a junior at the University of Southern California.

"I think they realise they have a unique bond because they're the only two who know what they just went through - growing up in the White House with the brightest spotlight in the world on you as you were going through adolescence and puberty. I think they have become even closer now that they're out on the other side," Michelle said to PEOPLE this week.

"Now, they have boyfriends and real lives. They have grown up right before our very eyes and they're doing well." 

Reflecting on where her daughters are today in their lives, she said: "Both Malia and Sasha have turned out to be wonderful young ladies, and very well-adjusted, given what they had to deal with right at a very important developmental point in their lives."

Feature Image: Instagram @michelleobama.

Are you actively taking steps to improve your health and general wellbeing? Take our survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher.