International Day of the Girl: First Lady Michelle Obama's Advice for Her Daughters

When it comes to raising her girls, First Lady Michelle Obama says that she's much like any other parent.

"My life is no different from any other mother's. Mine is just more public," she told Yahoo! Shine before a rally in Leesburg, Virginia, this week.

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While other parents don't have to deal with being in the spotlight -- during the Democratic National Convention, Mrs. Obama said, she was sitting in the audience urging her daughters to smile and "just look like you're listening!" -- she insisted that she faces "the challenges, the worries that we all have."

"We are really all working for the same thing, fundamentally," the first lady explained. "I just don't think that we're that far apart when we get a chance to sit down and actually talk to each other."

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On Tuesday, Yahoo! Shine caught up with the first lady to do just that. While the conversation touched on political issues, the first lady also talked about her hopes for her own daughters. Here's what she wants them to know, just in time to mark the first-ever International Day of the Girl:

"I would support my girls in doing anything they want to do," Mrs. Obama said. "I always encourage them to think about your passion, think about your gifts. Don't think about what your dad does, what somebody else wants you to do. If it's politics, if it's serving in the military, if it's being a stay-at-home mom, I just want them to have the confidence in whatever choice they make."

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She doesn't want them -- or any child -- to limit themselves to only the things they're interested in or good at right now, she said. "Keep yourself wide open," she said. "You don't know who you'll be at 24, or 44. We're different every decade."

Grades are important, but experiences are even more so. "I find myself telling Malia 'Do not become a box checker.' If you're putting your best in, don't worry about the A. Because you might get a C taking a course that you're really going to grow in," she said. If kids are only taking courses they're good at, "Then the education we've fought for becomes confining instead of liberating."

Having grown up in an era when it was difficult to be smart, black, and female, she relishes the opportunity her daughters have to embrace their education.

"When I went to school, being smart in a public school was dangerous. I mean truly. 'You talk like a white girl.' 'Who do you think you are, with grades?'," she recalled. "You had to be sneaky-smart, because you had to get home safe from school."

When it comes to education, 11-year-old Sasha is a bit laid-back, but 14-year-old Malia takes after her mom. "She takes her academic work very seriously, and I was that kid," Mrs. Obama quipped. "Barack, as you know, didn't become that kid until he was in college." (Malia's response to that? "He still made something of himself.")

"I tell them how fortunate they are to be able to fully celebrate their intellectual beings," the first lady continued. "You can love Shakespeare and talk about Toni Morrison and you can correct vocabulary. You can just be whoever you want to be because you've got that freedom. So enjoy it. Don't waste it. Don't confine yourself. And hopefully that extends to how they think about their careers and themselves and the world."

Girls these days have many more options than they did just a generation ago. "The one thing that I'm really an advocate for these days is making sure that my girls, and girls in general, know that they can have a broader definition of who they can be," she said. "If you find that person that you love, and you want to get married and you want to have kids, great. If you don't, you know, I don't want you to be that person who spends a lifetime with somebody that they don't love because they think that they should."

"That's one of those liberating things for women," she added. "You've got to embrace whoever you're going to be. And we're supporting you every step of the way."