White House Life is 'Wonderful,' Says First Grandma

Filed under: Celeb Kids, In The News, Books for Kids

First Lady Michelle Obama's mother has settled into her new digs and discovered that living with her granddaughters, Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8, in the White House is "wonderful."

The revelation came from a beaming Marian Robinson, 71, after she gave a reading of the children's book, "The Napping House," for the Education Department's weekly summer-reading series on July 22. The Grandma-in-Chief answered more than a dozen questions from a group of Maryland elementary-school students -- one of whom asked her if she was rich -- about life at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. at the department's outdoor plaza, reports the Associated Press and NBC.

Among the Obama family details Robinson divulged to a rapt audience were Malia and Sasha's one-hour television time limit and that Robinson is beginning to "feel left out" as the girls mature and prefer reading and playing with each other over time with Grandma.

Robinson's move from her modest family home in Chicago, where the First Lady grew up, to the White House has been of particular interest to the public because she is the first mother-in-law to inhabit the mansion since Mamie Eisenhower's mother, and the independently-minded elder initially expressed hesitation over the change. President Barack Obama and the First Lady asked Robinson to join the family in Washington, D.C. to help raise Malia and Sasha while they tend to their full-time duties.

"I'm able to take care of my two grandchildren when their mother's busy and she is pretty busy these days, and I am glad to be taking care of them," Robinson said.

And Heres To You, Mrs. Marian Robinson

    President Barack Obama kisses his mother-in-law Marian Robinson during his inauguration as the 44th President of the United States. On January 20, 2009, Obama became the nation's first African-American president, and Robinson, the first African-American First Grandma. In an interview with "60 Minutes," he referred to his mother-in-law as the family's "unsung hero."

    Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

    Michelle Obama, wife of President Barack Obama, stands beside her mother, Marian Robinson, at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on August 26, 2008. The First Lady continues to entrust her children to her mother. Grandma says Sasha and Malia get an hour of TV per day.

    Ted S. Warren, AP

    Marian Robinson, mother of first lady Michelle Obama, chats with children at the "Read to The Top!" summer reading program on July 22, 2009, at the Education Department in Washington, D.C. Grandma says her granddaughters, Sasha and Malia enjoy reading.

    Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP

    President-elect Barack Obama hits the stage with his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, during the giant-size election-night gathering at Grant Park on November 4, 2008 in Chicago, Ill. Obama defeated Republican nominee Sen. John McCain by a wide margin. As the results were coming in, Robinson sat on a couch with her son-in-law, holding his hand.

    Joe Raedle, Getty Images

    During the inauguration, Grandma Marian Robinson kept a watchful eye on granddaughters, Malia and Sasha Obama. Maya Soetoro-Ng, Barack Obama's sister, stood with the First Family. While the kids were bedecked in J. Crew, Grandma Marian had her own classy ensemble for the big day.

    Jae C. Hong, AP

    First Grandma Marian Robinson was right behind Malia and Sasha and an unidentified friend as they deplaned from Marine One after an overnight trip to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains on February 8, 2009.

    J. Scott Applewhite, AP

    Grandma's no tag-along. She's an important member of the First Family, doing much of the child care as President Obama and First Lady Michelle tend to official duties. Here, they travel through Chicago's O'Hare Airport on February 16, 2009.

    Lawrence Jackson, AP

    Grandma Marian Robinson never seems to take her eyes off her granddaughters, Sasha and Malia Obama. The trio attended a performance by Sweet Honey in the Rock, a Grammy-award winning, African-American female a cappella ensemble, at the White House on February 18, 2009.

    Ron Edmonds, AP

    Marian Robinson, First Lady Michelle Obama's mother, read aloud to the young participants at the 2009 White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn. Too bad she didn't cook for the crowd. In an interview with the Boston Globe, Robinson chatted up her fried chicken recipe, which includes crumbled Ritz crackers, soaking the chicken in ice water before frying, and using salt and oil with wild abandon.

    Saul Loeb, AFP / Getty Images

    A proud mother. Marian Robinson, the mother-in-law of then Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, listened as her daughter Michelle spoke at a Women for Obama luncheon in Chicago on July 28, 2008. As for her own races, Robinson ran 50- and 100-yard dashes at the Illinois senior games, well into her 60s.

    M. Spencer Green, AP

The extended Obama family unit is not unlike 15 percent of American families who benefit from grandparent caregivers while parents work, according to a 2002 AARP study. The 2000 Census revealed that approximately 2.5 million grandparents are primary caregivers for their grandchildren.

"Marian Robinson's role in the White House is really validating and bringing to public view the role that grandparents play with their grandchildren," said Amy Goyer, grandparenting advocate of the AARP, whose new book, "Things to Do Now That You're ... A Grandparent," hits shelves in August.

Goyer, who attended the Education Department's event with Robinson, calls the Grandma-in-Chief a "typical grandparent" because she provides "stability" and "security" for her granddaughters while the family adjusts to new careers, a new school, a new town and an entirely new life. And there's a bonus, Goyer says: "Grandparents are so great with unconditional love."

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