Amazing Mom: Marian Robinson
Marian's Family: Husband: Fraser Robinson, married 31 years, died in 1991; Kids: Michelle Obama, Craig Robinson
Marian Lives In: Washington, D.C.
Why Marian Is Amazing: If it wasn't for Marian Robinson, Barack Obama would probably not be President. While the Obamas were barnstorming across the country campaigning, Michelle's mom retired from her part-time job as a bank secretary to hold down the fort at the Obama's Chicago home, in effect becoming Malia and Sasha's surrogate parent. She took them to school, ferried them to piano and dance classes, ran the baths and cooked their meals.
"I am standing here breathing in and out with any level of calm because my 70-year-old [mother] is home with my girls," Michelle told voters in Ohio on one of the dozens of campaign trips she made in 2008. "There's nothing like Grandma."
And her mother concurred. "If somebody's going to be with these kids other than their parents," Marian told The Boston Globe, "it better be me."
And then when the first family moved to Washington, the Grandma-in-chief moved as well, albeit reluctantly, to help her beloved granddaughters with their transition.
"They're dragging me with them, and I'm not comfortable with that," Marian told CBS 'Sunday Morning' last year. "But I'm doing exactly what you do. You do what needs to be done."
Although the move was supposed to be a temporary one, it seems that the first grandma is enjoying living at the White House. She still accompanies her granddaughters to school, helps with homework and baby-sits when needed, but has lamented that now that Malia and Sasha are growing up, she's "beginning to feel left out," according to The Associated Press.
To fill the time, Marian attends the plethora of White House functions, including the annual Easter Egg Roll, and traveling with the Obamas to Russia, Italy and Ghana last year, her first time overseas. She's also been spotted at the Kennedy Center enjoying the Alvin Ailey dance troupe.
Marian also keeps her living quarters a bit away from the rest of the family, with hers on the third floor of the White House and the rest of the clan one flight down. But she doesn't eat with them every night because, she says, "Michelle's family" should have time together.
Life at the White House is certainly a far cry from her humble beginnings. Born one of 10 children in heavily segregated Chicago, Marian showed her independence early by choosing to become a secretary rather than a teacher, her parents' preference, although she only started working full time when Michelle was in high school.
The Robinson home was working class. The family lived in a four-room apartment and Michelle and Craig shared a bedroom until they were teenagers. She was a no-nonsense, yet loving mother, who encouraged her children to aim high. She brought home math and reading workbooks to ensure her children were ahead in school and insisted on chores to promote discipline and responsibility.
"My mom's big mantra was making sure we felt good about ourselves. The values they taught us were honesty and integrity," Craig Robinson told The New York Times.
All the hard work paid off. Both went to Princeton; Craig went on and earned an M.B.A and Michelle graduated from Harvard Law School.
"She talked to us endlessly about any and everything with a level of openness and fearlessness that made us believe that we were bright enough to engage with an adult," Michelle says admiringly of her mother to Essence magazine.
Marian's Daughter Michelle Obama Says: "She has a very full social life, so much so that sometimes we have to plan our schedule around her schedule," Michelle said of her mom during a luncheon last year for Congressional spouses.
Fun Facts: Mrs. Robinson is one fit grandma. She ran the 50- and 100-yard dashes in the Illinois senior games when she was well into her 60s and also practiced yoga taught by her younger brother, Stephen Shields, 57.
Surprisingly, she's not as strict with her grandchildren as her daughter is. "I have candy, they stay up late -- come to my house, they watch TV as long as they want to, we'll play games until the wee hours," Marian told The Boston Globe. "I do everything that grandmothers do that they're not supposed to."
Marian's Grandma Advice: She says that bedtime at 8.30 for her granddaughters is "ridiculous," and TV for one hour, "is just not enough time." And as for Michelle's insistence on organic and healthy food, well don't even get Grandma started on that one.
"That's not my thing," she told the Globe. "Well, see, I grew up when you had good food, right? I can't change that at this late day and time."
The secret to her fried chicken is crumbled Ritz crackers in the batter, dunking the pieces in ice water before frying and copious amounts of salt and oil.
"If you're going to have fried chicken, have fried chicken."
Related: Amazing Mom: Melinda Gates
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