Michelle Obama on Date Nights with Her Husband

07/30/2008 at 09:00 AM EDT

Michelle Obama on Date Nights with Her Husband
Barack and Michelle Obama
Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty
Ask Michelle Obama whether she offers her two cents on her husband's presidential campaign policies and she sounds a bit like Saturday Night Live self-esteem coach Stuart Smalley. "I guess I could," she says. "I'm smart enough, I'm trained enough."

But the wife of the Democratic presidential nominee is also realistic enough. "I can't do everything," she told PEOPLE recently. "I am not going to be the policy expert on every opinion and position that Barack has because I don't have the time to do it, quite frankly."

As part of PEOPLE's recent cover story on Sen. Barack Obama's family life, the candidate's wife, Michelle, 44, sat down in Pontiac, Mich., to talk about being a mother in the midst of a presidential bid, her role in her husband's campaign – and the importance of "date night."

When you think about the future for your children (Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7), what do you worry about?
Michelle: There are the small worries, micro-worries, about whether we're doing all we can to let them be fully themselves, trying to make sure they have the space to be who they are and that they feel loved and supported. Then, there's the macro worry about, 'Okay, if we do our jobs and they turn out well as individuals, what kind of world are they going to be in?'

Did you ever think you'd be in this place?
Michelle: Never. Not until last year when Barack announced he was running. It feels sometimes like you're on a runaway locomotive. My survival tool is trying to create calm in the storm, because if I'm calm and my girls' lives have some order to it, that locomotion is running and it's moving, but they won't feel the bumps. So part of my composure is a protective mechanism for my girls because if I'm out of control, freakin' out about everything, that's the energy they would feed off of.

Do you ever have a "pinch me" feeling about all of this?
Michelle: Oh, yeah. I mean, we're still Michelle and Barack, so meeting Bill Cosby, it's like (gasp!), 'We LOVE you, Bill Cosby! What do you mean you're honored to meet me? You've got to be nuts. You're Bill Cosby! C'mon, now.'

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