Does Michelle Obama's Mother Get A Pension After Living In The White House?

As one of the most talked about families in U.S. political history, the Obamas are no stranger to a rumor or two. Several rumors regarding former president Barack Obama and his family have had to be debunked over the years, including the suggestion Michelle Obama's mom, Marian Robinson, is entitled to a pension after living in the White House with her family.

This claim got traction back in 2016 when the now defunct fake news outlet The Boston Tribune reported Robinson was entitled to a government pension worth $160,000 a year for her White House work. But, as it turns out, that's just not true. As per The Former Presidents Act, the only member of the Obama family who's entitled to any monetary compensation from their time in the White House is Barack, who gets an annual payout.

The false rumor appeared to stem from the fact that Robinson moved into the White House to help out the then president and first lady, particularly with childcare for their daughters Sasha Obama and Malia Obama. Michelle's spokesperson confirmed in 2009 that Robinson would be moving from Chicago to Washington, D.C. in a statement issued to the Associated Press (via CBS News). It revealed Robinson's primary goal was to get Sasha and Malia adjusted and explained she'd make a decision about staying or heading back to Chicago after a few months — but we know she stayed a while.

Marian Robinson had an important job in the White House

While Marian Robinson referred to her role in the White House as a job at least once ("My job here is the easiest one of all: I just get to be Grandma," she told Essence in 2012), it's not clear if Michelle Obama and Barack Obama ever compensated her. Robinson clearly played an invaluable role during the Obamas' White House stint though, and she's opened up about how much she enjoyed living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Robinson told Essence she attended all Malia and Sasha's plays and sporting events, but joked she'd step back when the former first daughters had friends over. 

She also shared how fulfilled she felt being able to support her daughter, revealing Michelle would often ask for parenting help. "I just tell it to her straight: There's no textbook that tells you how to be a good parent. The truth is, most of the time you don't really know what to do. You just try to do your best," Robinson explained. That advice clearly worked out well, as Michelle has since dished some parenting advice of her own.

But paid or not, Robinson was willing to earn her keep while in the White House. In a 2018 "CBS This Morning" interview alongside her daughter, Robinson admitted she did her own laundry the whole time she lived there. Michelle even revealed Robinson taught Sasha and Malia how to do their laundry, too.

Michelle Obama clearly appreciated having her mom on hand during Barack's presidential stint

Michelle Obama has spoken out about how important having Marian Robinson in the White House was, particularly for Malia Obama and Sasha Obama. "I wanted them to come home to family," she said of her daughters during her and Robinson's "CBS This Morning" interview. "There [were] just parts of the girls' lives that I just knew were going to be okay because Mom was there." And, clearly, the rest of the White House staff were just as happy to have Robinson there. Michelle joked Robinson was the most popular member of the family in the building, admitting people would often stop by her room to talk. "Grandma's room was like the confessional. They would come by and unload," she recalled.

It's not clear if Robinson, who's obviously close with her daughter, is entitled to a work pension relating to her career pre-White House, though even prior to taking up the important role of supporting her presidential family, Robinson's work ethic was evident. Michelle's mom worked as a secretary in her younger years, holding down jobs at the likes of Spiegel, the University of Chicago, and a bank. She then became a stay-at-home mom to take care of Michelle and her brother, Craig, so it's safe to say she had plenty of experience taking care of little ones before moving to Washington, D.C. with her family.