Michelle Obama: 'Normal Is Now Relative'

First lady vows to keep the family grounded in the White House.

ByNadine Shubailat and Christine Romo
January 20, 2009, 12:34 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2009— -- As Barack Obama took the oath of office to become the 44th president of the United States, his wife Michelle, became the first lady -- with a long to-do list.

"It's a bit surreal, but it's exciting, because I think there's a lot that can be done with this platform, and I'm ready to try to do some good things," Michelle Obama said in an interview with ABC News' Bob Woodruff.

Her good work begins with her commitment to military families -- a cause she has championed along the campaign trail.

Woodruff spoke with the first lady Monday night at the Kids' Inaugural: We Are The Future, a special concert, hosted by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, honoring families of the men and women of the American Armed Services. Obama said the concert was important to her as a way to "focus on the families that were serving this country."

"We wanted to open up this concert, particularly to the families of our troops because they deserve some fun," Obama said. "They've made the sacrifice."

While campaigning for her husband, Obama met with military families, learning about the challenges they face. She felt that not only were their struggles not often remembered, but the voices of military spouses were not heard.

"You hear the stories -- a lot of young mothers with small kids trying to work and balance and pay the bills. They're dealing with their loved one on their second or third tour of duty or coming home with a physical disability, or a mental disability, without the support that they need," she said.

The first lady emphasized that President Obama's push to improve the economy and create new jobs wouldresult in "jobs that'll be available to men and women who were serving [when] they come back and [are] looking for work."

In addition, the president's plan for the nation's health care system will include more mental health support, which will directly benefit military families dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder as well as support for the caregivers themselves.

The president has also pledged to address the multiple and extended deployments, which Michelle Obama said can stress military families to the breaking point.

"Reducing the time of deployments and allowing more time for training and for people to get adjusted so that the time between deployments is longer" is a part of President Obama's platform, she said.

Daughters Still 'Focus of Our Worlds,' Michelle Obama Says

As President Obama and the first lady begin to take on the tasks that come with the office, she vowed she will do everything she can to keep life normal for her family. She said their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, keep the family grounded.

"We came to D.C. early so that they could start school at a normal beginning time. The first weeks that we were here, we were taking the kids to school, picking them up, getting them to play dates, doing homework," she said. "And I'm hoping that there'll be that same level of normalcy. We'll live in the White House. Dad's office will be close."

The first lady added that life has been more normal for them during the transition than it was on the campaign trail.

"We have dinner with Barack every night, and we haven't done that for two years," she said.

To help keep the family on track during the transition, Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson, has moved into the White House.

"My mother jokes. She said, 'You know, when I, I taught you and your brother to push beyond your comfort zones, I didn't expect you to drag me with you,'" Michelle Obama said about her mother's teasing.

The first lady thanked her mother for her help keeping Malia and Sasha grounded during the campaign and now, in the White House. She acknowledged that both she and her husband could not have done this without Robinson.

"We are grateful that she's going to be here, helping the girls, helping me get acclimated to the changes that we'll be facing," Michelle Obama said. "I can breathe a little bit easier, knowing that if I'm out late, or have to travel, that the girls have Grandma."

As for their first day in the White House, both the president and the first lady are giving their daughters the day off from school.

"We're going to have an open house on Wednesday, open up the White House to the public," she said. "I think it'll be good for the girls to see, to see that, and be there for that."

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