HMB Book Club :: January Recap and Future Books

With the new year came a new format for our book club meetings—what did you think? Jennifer and I had a lot of fun getting together at her house  to discuss Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. We are so grateful for the wonderful comments we received from those of you who tuned in to our Facebook Live. But if you didn’t make it that night, don’t beat yourself up. We totally get it. Mom life is unpredictable and busy. We’d love to see you another time—that’s the glory of our virtual book club meetings, you can show up in your PJs, or with headphones on while you’re holding a crying baby, or tune in late or leave early and you can always catch the replay on Facebook and read recaps like this. We’re here for you, friend, hoping you are getting a chance to read a good book when you can!

January’s book could’ve kept us talking all night! There were so many great things to talk about. Jennifer did a fantastic job leading the discussion and she really brought out excellent highlights.

What Did You Think About the Title?

She started our discussion with the title :: Becoming. The book is divided into three sections:: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More. I admitted my love of words had me intrigued as soon as I saw the title—so many possibilities! But I shared the quote from the end of the book, p. 419, “For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere, or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion. A means of evolving. A way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end. I became a mother, but I still have a lot to learn from and give to my children. I became a wife, but I continue to adapt to and be humbled by what it means to truly love and make a life with another person. I have become, by certain measures, a person of power and yet there are moments still when I feel insecure or unheard. It’s all a process, steps along a path. Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done.” 

What Did you Think About the Book as a Whole?

Jennifer pointed out the part in the book when Mrs. Obama writes in her journal about how she needs to get a better handle on herself. Don’t we all??  Though this book was autobiographical, I think it lends itself to lots of self-reflections.

Gigi commented that the book is written like a fiction story that draws you in so easily. Even though the book is mostly in chronological order, there are times when the story works with a flashback or a flash forward. She continued her comment by saying that she loved the real-ness of dating, working, and being a mom. It pushes the idea of a dynamic ‘becoming’ life that we should live.

Yes! We both agreed how very real she was throughout the novel. It is so easy to feel connected to her.

Becoming Me + Becoming More

The first section of the book is “Becoming Me.” She describes her childhood in the South Side of Chicago and experiences she had that helped her figure out who she was and what she wanted to do. Michelle Obama shared many details about how she was raised—we can always learn from other parents! And it is easy to see how those things influenced her own parenting decisions later in her life.

Raising Adults

Jennifer pointed out how Michelle Obama’s parents always emphasized that they were raising adults, not raising teenagers, not raising kids. We took a minute to discuss this. It is so easy to get caught up in where our kids are right now, in the moment that we forget that our end goal is to help them to become successful adults one day. It helps keep things in perspective when focus on how temporary childhood really is. It may even motivate us to teach our children in those very inconvenient moments. None of us is perfect, but keeping that perspective can help when nothing else can. We had some great comments come in supporting the idea of teaching kids how to be adults. 

Teaching Respect

We talked about how Michelle Obama’s mother taught her to respect adults even when she didn’t necessarily agree with them. She taught her to listen to her teachers and learn from them regardless of how likeable they were {or weren’t}.  This is a very adult concept and learning to listen and work with someone you may not necessarily like is a skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Nicole commented that parenting with adulthood in mind shifts our parenting to a broader perspective. 

We concluded that it is crucial to teach our children to show respect to the educators and bus drivers and cafeteria workers and janitors, etc. We are doing our kids a great service when we take the higher road and refrain from speaking negatively about adults in their lives. Kids will grow their own opinions but will learn to navigate adulthood more successfully when they see responsible respectful behavior modeled in us.

A Strong Foundation

Michelle Obama’s parents didn’t raise her in a household with a lot of money or privilege, but they were very steady. Their steadiness gave her a strong foundation that gave her the stability to build a future on. She had family all around her and she knew who she was from a very early age.

Jennifer pointed out that her parents’ parenting style was “trust but verify.”  Another effective method that seemed to work well for her family. 

People Pleasers or Intrinsically Motivated?

We were both surprised to learn that Michelle Obama considers herself a people-pleaser. More so as a child, of course, when she told adults she wanted to be a pediatrician simply because she liked their approving responses. It made me consider how often my kids may be doing the same thing: giving a response that they think other people want to hear and not necessarily how they truly think or feel.

Gigi pointed out in a comment that Michelle Obama was very self motivated. She said she often thinks about how to place that value in her own son’s life. YES! We always want our kids to be intrinsically motivated. I shared how I had just had an opportunity to be very proud of my youngest son who is currently in kindergarten. But instead of gushing to him about how very very proud of him I was—and am—, I asked him if he was proud of himself. He was. I told him he should be! As much as I want my kids to know that I am proud of them in moments like that, I feel like it is even more important to help them recognize their own goodness and live in such a way that they will feel proud of themselves because that is what truly matters.

Being an Advocate

Mrs. Robinson—Michelle’s mom—was an incredible advocate for her kids. She stood back and let her kids talk and joke with their friends, but when bigger problems arose, she worked behind the scenes to make sure her daughter’s needs were met. Her humble approach helped solidify Michelle’s strong childhood foundation. Instead of going publicly to the school and causing a scene and embarrassing an inept teacher in front of her students, Mrs. Robinson pushed to get Michelle tested and moved to another class.  This probably helped to teach Michelle that she could work her way out of bad situations. 

Parenting Examples

Jennifer pointed out a similar problem her oldest daughter was having with her bus driver. Jennifer was frustrated with how curt and rude she was {we may have the privilege of reading a blog post about it one day…}. Her daughter wanted to start being rude to the bus driver, justifying that she should because the bus driver was rude to her mommy. Jennifer had to teach her daughter that she still needed to be respectful to the bus driver and that it wasn’t acceptable for her to be rude.   She said, “Sometimes I think we need to step in and advocate for our kids. We need to let them know that we are on their team.” 

Gigi shared an example from her own childhood. She said her dad told her to clean the dishes and she didn’t want to, “so I left them in the sink overnight. The next day I came home to find the sink empty. I thought the dishes had been cleaned by someone else. They weren’t. They were in my bed. I found out as I stepped into my bed that night.”

Moms Have a Powerful Influence

Like Michelle Obama, Jennifer points out that she, too, learned a lot about marriage—yes, even sex—from her close relationship with her mom.  As moms, we can be so empowering and uplifting for our children now and well into the future.

We both pointed out the relatability in Mrs. Robinson’s desire to leave her family once a year as the brutal Chicago winters gave way to Springs. Sometimes you fantasize those escapes, even if you would never ever act on them.  As parents, it is also important for us to take time away to reconnect and recharge in order to be more available and more present for our children.  Later in the book Michelle points out how much more challenging it became for them to go out on a “simple” date just the two of them. 

Michelle pointed out the importance of connecting with other moms and the Houston Moms Blog totally agrees! We love this community and the opportunity it provides for us to connect and share our struggles and lift each other. Everyone feels inadequate and like a failure sometimes. It is such a gift to be able to have friends who will walk with us through those challenging times. 

Michelle points out how crucial it is for kids to feel valued. She points this out from her own childhood, with her own kids, and the countless kids whom she observed in schools all over the world. Maria commented, “As a teacher now working with kids that have an incredible amount of trauma and lack of belief in themselves…us teachers have got to BELIEVE in them…guide them…tough love…and so much patience…so so much patience and grace.” I talked about how important I think is to even make eye contact. Jennifer shared how important it is to her to reach out to kids as individuals when she helps out at her daughters’ schools. She makes a concerted effort to address kids by name and asks specific questions. Gigi added the value in giving value-specific compliments. Nicole emphasized in her comment the importance of being genuine in our communications with kids. If you are insincere, they will know.

Becoming Us

Our conversation to this point had scattered mostly between the first section—Becoming Me—and the third section—Becoming More. But Jennifer did not let us forget about the beautiful things that happened there in the middle of the book: Becoming Us. She shared this quote from that section, “As soon as I allowed myself to feel anything for Barack, the feelings came rushing. A toppling crash of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, and wonder.” We both laughed when she started a chapter with the words, “Barack Obama was late.” We loved how she didn’t try to portray him as anything but human. Gigi pointed out that “She wasn’t phased by his reputation—her shade for Barack was funny and made me love them more!” 

In one of their very first conversations—on the very first day they met—Michelle learned that Barack smoked and was quick to ask, “Why would someone as smart as you do something as dumb as that?”

Be You

One of the secrets to having a successful relationship we gleaned from the book is to be secure in who you are. We laughed about the ex-boyfriend who became an ex soon after declaring he wanted to be a mascot for a living. Gigi pointed out that this mascot did finally become a doctor. But his childish unsteadiness pushed her away.

HMB Book Club :: January Recap and Future Books

Their Love Story

Michelle describes Barack on page 105: “He moved with a loose-jointed Hawaiian casualness. Never given to hurry, even—and especially when instructed to hurry. I, on the other hand, power-walked even during my leisure hours and had a hard time decelerating.  But I remember how that night I counseled myself to slow down just a little. Just enough so that I could hear what he was saying because it was beginning to dawn on me that I cared about hearing everything he said.” 

She continues, “Until now, I’d constructed my existence carefully, tucking and folding every loose and disorderly bit of it as if building some tight and errorless piece of origami.” She emphasized how much she cared about how her life looked. She continued, “If one corner came untucked, I might discover that I was restless if another popped loose, it might reveal I was uncertain about the professional path I’d so deliberately put myself on. About all the things I told myself I wanted. I think now it’s why I guarded myself so carefully, why I still wasn’t ready to let him in. He was like a wind that threatened to unsettle everything.”

Gigi commented—and we agreed—” When he asked her if he could kiss her—I melted!” So sweet!

What Would You do?

For me, one of the most jaw-dropping parts in the Becoming Us section comes just five short weeks after their marriage when Barack decides to go off to some remote cabin on a tiny island for a few months to write a book. Even though I, personally, wonder if I could have handled such a thing so early in our relationship, we all agreed that this spoke VOLUMES about Michelle and the strength and commitment she brought to the relationship. She recognized who she was and was secure enough in that that she could do the same for him and allow him the space and the opportunities he needed in order to achieve the things he needed to achieve. 

What About their Daughters?

Jennifer wondered about the Obama girls, Malia and Sasha. She wondered if the girls—knowing what they know now—would still want their father to run for President. She also pointed out the incredible balancing act it must have been to be constantly concerned for her children and their safety while still trying to raise responsible adults. I brought up the dream Michelle shares when the exotic cat petting zoo shows up on the White House lawn for them and subsequently large, wild cats are attacking her family. To me, this example gave me a glimpse at the incredible pressure this momma was under to keep her children safe while still wanting them to be children all while trying hard to not be a detriment to her husband’s career. I think of my own desires and struggles as a mother and imagine how amplified they were for her as her once private life was now more closely resembling a fishbowl. When the time came, she couldn’t even walk through college campuses with Malia because they were too recognizable together. Instead, she had to send someone else to go with Malia while she sat waiting in a basement. 

How Is It Done?

Jennifer asked a big, juicy mom question that comes up in some way/shape/form in every book club discussion: How do you teach your kids to avoid the pitfalls that surround technology throughout those teen years and how do you prepare them to make those tough decisions? 

Michelle Obama never comes right out and says so, but we would guess that she would be a big proponent of having tough conversations with your kids early on so that when the time comes, they can make those decisions having considered the various outcomes and knowing where you stand on similar issues and why. 

We Need Each Other

Michelle Obama values relationships and always surrounded herself with other strong women. She says,“Friendships between women, as any woman will tell you, are built on a thousand small kindnesses swapped back and forth and over and over again.” Jennifer loved this idea and described it as maintaining a circle of strength. I shared how I—just that very day—had received a “kindness” from a dear friend {—thanks, Bethany} who texted me to tell me she was making me dinner that night. She had no idea that it was EXACTLY what I needed that day. I am so grateful for her! We really do need friends who are looking out for us when we are too swamped to look out for ourselves.

Gigi shared that it is hard to make friends when you are older, but so needed. She continued, “it makes me feel proud wen my friends succeed—because I feel like I’m next! My friend and I have friend days—we pick a day per month to either hand out or give each other a gift.” Isn’t that great?

What did we miss?

There were so many things we wanted to discuss that we never got a chance to bring up during our book club meeting. What were your favorite parts?

Thank You

Whether you participated live, watched the replay, or simply survived this long recap, thank you for joining in on the discussion! Reading is so beneficial, we hope you’ll do yourself a favor and crack open a book {or download one} again soon! If you need some motivation, our future book club books and dates are ::

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani {February 21}

BearTown by Fredrick Backman {March 21}

HMB Book Club :: January Recap and Future Books

HMB Book Club :: January Recap and Future Books

We hope you will join in on the conversation when you get a chance!

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Alissa is a wife to her best friend {since 2003} and a grateful mother to four boys {2009, 2009, 2010, 2012) and one girl {2015}. And if you're going to be friends, you should know she has a deep and abiding love of chocolate. She's survived infertility, IVF, two NICUs, cloth diapers, a food allergy, and so much more! In 2017, she officially began writing and publishing children's books and LOVES it! When she's not writing or picking her kids up from school, she'd like to be reading/singing/laughing/napping/traveling/crafting/learning something new. But in reality, she's probably grocery shopping/cleaning something/telling her boys to stop fighting. She lives in Katy, blogs at, and occasionally visits Instagram {@alimcjoy}, and Facebook {@alimcjoy}. She is a big believer in living life--especially mothering--with intentionality. If she's learned anything it's that accidental success is a myth: decisions determine destiny. She will also be the first to tell you she is not even close to perfect, but she's giving life her best shot one jam-packed day at a time.


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