October 26th, 2010
08:27 PM ET
Los Angeles, Calif. (CNN) – A surprisingly candid first lady Michelle Obama discussed her initial fears about going out on the campaign trail alone to promote her husband's 2008 presidential bid in remarks before a women's conference in Long Beach Tuesday.
"I was scared. I was worried that I'd say that wrong thing. I was nervous that someone might ask a question that I didn't know the answer to. I have a tendency to do that thing that a lot of women do, where you get 99 things right, but spend all your time beating yourself up about the one thing you messed up."
Today she spoke at the annual Women's Conference in Long Beach, California hosted by California's outgoing First Lady Maria Shriver. The gathering of 14,000 women provided her with the kind of friendly audience receptive to Mrs. Obama's confessions.
The audience applauded when the Mrs. Obama confided "it took me a while to get out of my own head to set aside my own fears and self interest and to focus on all the good that I believed a man like my husband could do as President."
The first lady admitted, when she first took on a public role, she wanted to stay in her comfort zone, to take on the issues that were familiar.
"I decided that I would focus on what I knew. And as a working mom, I thought I knew a thing or two about the challenge of balancing a full-time job with the round-the-clock needs of my family juggling the recitals and conference calls, making those endless to-do lists that I never got through, and often lost feeling like I was falling short both at work and at home," Mrs. Obama said.
But the first lady confided that she had much to learn about the additional pressures on military spouses.
When Mrs. Obama initially went out on the road she said "I did my homework. I read my briefing books from cover to cover. I thought about all the issues that might come up. I thought through the answers to every question I could imagine. And for the most part, I was prepared. For the most part, in the stories of the women I met, I recognized my own story. But there was one group of women whose stories were new to me – and whose questions I often didn't have answers to...They were military spouses – mainly women but a few good men as well – whose spouses were serving our country, putting their lives on the line to keep us safe. And let me tell you, their stories took my breath away."
The first lady credited those military spouses and the vice president's wife, Jill Biden, for getting her up to speed. During the campaign in 2008, Biden saw her son Beau off to serve in the Iraq war.
Mrs. Obama implored the women in the audience Tuesday to do their part to help military spouses thrive, and offered a self-effacing confession.
"While most of us don't experience these struggles to the same degree as military spouses, that feeling of being pulled in all directions, that nagging sense that you're falling short both at work and at home, that tendency to worry about, and care for, everyone but yourself – these things are universal."