Michelle Obama on Daughters Sasha & Malia Having Their First Kiss & Sleepovers During Time in the White House

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Michelle Obama
Josh Brasted/FilmMagic

Michelle Obama is opening up about what it was like trying to give her kids a normal life against the backdrop of living in the White House.

The former first lady sat down with Gayle King at this year's Essence Festival in New Orleans on Saturday for a sprawling, hour-long interview that touched on many different aspects of Michelle's life, career and family.

When the conversation turned to her and Barack Obama's two daughters -- Malia, 21, and Sasha, 18 -- Michelle reflected on the family's unexpected rise to prominence and how they tried to keep their kids grounded.

"I credit my own upbringing, me and Barack," she shared. "We were regular folks, up until he gave that speech at the convention and it was like all of the sudden he was shot out of a rocket."

Once they took center stage as the First Family of the United States, they did everything in their power to not let it go to their kids' heads.

"Our focus was to make sure they did what they needed to do, and that meant pretend like all the craziness around them wasn't happening," she explained.  "For eight years we were like, "Yup, your dad's president. That doesn't have anything to do with you. Take your butt to school. Yes, you have security, just ignore them, they're not here for you.'"

"'Your goal is to go to school, come back, get some decent grades. Don't act up. Don't embarrass us,'" Michelle added, reflecting on the values they tried to instill.

Despite these teachings, the normal things all kids experience while growing up were decidedly unusual for the Obama daughters, if not for the fame than simply because of the ever-present secret service agents.

"My kids had armed guards with them at all times," Michelle shared. "Imagine trying to have your first kiss [around] a bunch of men [with guns] and ear pieces."

"Imagine having Malia and Sasha come to your house for a sleepover. This is the call: 'OK, we're gonna need your social security number, we're gonna need your date of birth. There will be men coming to sweep your house. If you have guns and drugs, just tell them. Because they're going to find them anyway. Don't lie. They're not gonna take 'em, they just need to know where they are. And by the way, there will be a man with a gun sitting on the front porch all night. Let him come in and use the bathroom, it would just be nice.'"

"I mean, I'm surprised my kids have any friends, you know?" she added.

However, with both of her kids now out of the house and away at college, Michelle reveled in the fact that her and Barack are now "empty nesters." Not only do they have more time for themselves, their stress levels have decreased significantly.

"Not only were we parenting teenagers, but we were parenting teenagers who, every Saturday night, you had to worry about whether your kids are going to end up on Page Six," Michelle said. "It's stressful."

With their time alone in their home, she explained that she and her husband of almost 27 years are "rediscovering each other."

"This is the beauty of finding a partner you really love and respect -- because after all the highs and lows, the ups and downs we've been through, we have each other, which makes the journey worth it," Michelle reflected.

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