Michelle Obama has tried to savor the silver lining of having her girls back at home this past year because of the pandemic.
The former first lady and former President Barack Obama went from empty nesters to a full house when daughters Malia, 22, a senior at Harvard University, and Sasha, 19, a sophomore at the University of Michigan, came back home after college campuses shut down last spring.
Obama spoke with Jenna Bush Hager on TODAY Tuesday about having that unexpected time with their daughters during a trying period across the world.
"I feel for them because Malia is a senior, this was her last year in college, and Sasha has essentially missed her second year in college," Obama said. "But for Barack and I, we have cherished this time. It's even fun just peeking in and hearing them in their online classrooms.
"It's like, 'Oh, you actually did your reading. Ah, you have an opinion.' I like that."
They were privy to little details that they normally wouldn't have witnessed, like how much a growing young man needs to eat, as demonstrated by the boyfriend of one of their daughters.
"We didn't raise boys, and so they eat a lot, and sometimes we'd forget that he'd need to eat," she said. "He'd need to eat often. The poor boy would be sitting around waiting for the next meal. It's like we weren't thinking about lunch."
The former first lady also spent her time during the pandemic producing and starring in a new Netflix children's series being released Tuesday called "Waffles and Mochi." The educational show promotes healthy eating for kids, a cause she championed during her time in the White House.
The show has also teamed up with the nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America with a goal of raising funds to feed a million families.
"This has been a hard year for millions," Obama said. "There are a lot of people who have lost work, there are people who are struggling to keep food on their table, there are families in this country today that are going hungry. Our goal is to feed a million families in need."
It's been a particularly difficult year for mothers, two million of whom have left the workforce to care for their children during the pandemic. Millions of other moms have had to help their children with remote learning in addition to working.
"Mothers, we're already hard on ourselves," Obama said. "And this is a time where we have to give ourselves a break. What's most important for our kids is that they know we love them, and that we try to be as consistent as we can, but we can't get everything right. Find some time just to get a moment by yourself, even if it means going into the bathroom, locking the door."
The former first lady herself shared last year that she was dealing with "low-grade depression" because of quarantine and the racial strife amid the protests last summer.
"The darkest points were when we felt bombarded by everything," she told Jenna. "A virus that felt out of control with no real clear solution, the country shut down, racial unrest, seeing young people despair — it was a lot and it continues to be a lot."
She recently joined a group of former presidents and first ladies to promote getting the COVID-19 vaccine, which has offered hope after such a dark year.
"I have taken it, and I would encourage everyone to take it when they have the chance to take it," she said. "I believe in science. We are blessed to have people who are chemists and scientists and doctors who are doing the right thing, but we have to do our part."