The Executive Mansion allows the family to be together for the first time in years

By People Staff
Updated May 21, 2009 08:30 AM
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The White House has bestowed a surprisingly calming influence on the First Family, according to Michelle Obama – who says the residence has been a particularly positive experience for daughters Malia 10, and Sasha, 7.

When it comes to living in the Executive Mansion, the First Lady tells Time magazine for its latest issue, on sale Friday, “It has been the greatest single benefit of this for us as a family. It means that we see each other every day. And that hasn’t happened for most of the kids’ lifetime.”

As the wife of Illinois’s junior senator, Mrs. Obama was once asked if she would consider a move to Washington, D.C. “I was like, no,” she remembers. Now, she’s enjoying having the man of the house at home.

“It’s rare [for most families] to have dad at home for dinner, to see him in the mornings, to have him there when you go to bed at night, just to be able to have the casual conversations that happen about life at dinnertime,” says Mrs. Obama. “That’s been terrific. It’s normal. It’s more normal than we’ve had for a very long time

President Takes ‘Michelle Time’

Still, it is the White House. On maintaining their perspective and keeping the family intact, Mrs. Obama says, “We stay 100 percent in their world all the time. And I don’t know if you understand that, but their lives are very disconnected from this [place]. You can do that with kids when they are young, because they just don’t care.”

The Chief Executive agrees. “Among the many wonderful things about being President,” Barack Obama tells Time, “the best is that I get to live above the office and see Michelle and the kids every day. I see them in the morning. We have dinner every night. It is the thing that sustains me.”

He also takes work breaks for what he terms “Michelle time,” when retreats from his office to the residence. Every now and then, his wife shows up in the West Wing with family dog Bo or the kids for what the magazine calls “a brief but lively interruption.”

“And if the kids really, really need to see him, they can,” she says. “They’re free to walk in. They’re welcome wherever they want to go around here.”