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Lessons From the Obamas: Living With Your Mother-in-Law

The first mother-in-law is digging her new White House digs, and who can blame her? After some initial apprehension, Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson, is settled into DC life, attending White House dinners and Kennedy Center performances. She doesn't have to clean the house or babysit too much, but she gets to sit in on fun stuff, like reading stories on Easter.

Whether you're leader of the free world or just head of your household, living with your mother-in-law — or your mother — isn't always easy. Especially a MIL as active as Robinson, who once worked as a bank secretary, raced in the Illinois senior games into her 60s, and now practices yoga. To see what the Obama family can teach us about how to make it work,


  • Give mom her own space. Though they live in the same (big) house, Michelle Obama told Oprah: "There are many times when she drops off the kids, we hang out and talk and catch up, and then she's like, 'I'm going home.' And she walks upstairs."
  • Make sure she knows the rules. Robinson says she tries not to say too much about how the Obamas are raising their kids, but when she's at their house, she follows their rules. (When they're at her house, they can follow grandma's rules.)
  • Don't assume you have an automatic babysitter. Yes, in-laws usually love to watch the kids, but don't book them without asking. Even Barack and Michelle have hired a babysitter when Robinson had plans.
  • Let her bond with the kids. Robinson reads the kids stories and drops them off at school.
  • But don't leave her out of the fun. Don't relegate the MIL to child-rearing duties. Marian Robinson also gets to entertain guests, attend state dinners, and check out performances by the Alvin Ailey dance troop.

Have you ever lived with your mother or mother-in-law? Share your coping tips below.

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