Oprah has no regrets about not marrying and not having any kids


As we mentioned yesterday, Oprah Winfrey covers People this week, talking about the five moments that changed her life. I’m thinking about doing this myself. I know my life’s path isn’t going to inspire anyone, but just a personal exercise to ask myself where I think my life got defined. Anyway, everyone cares what made Oprah into OPRAH so we’ll talk about her instead. She’s been with the same partner, Stedman Graham, for over 30 years. Although they did get engaged, they never married. Equally, they decided not to have children. But since Oprah’s a woman, she has to justify those choices all the time because every woman is supposed to want kids, right? Wrong. Not only did Oprah understand herself enough to keep her life the way she wanted it, she’s never regretted those decisions. Can I get a ‘holla!’

On deciding not to have kids: I realized, ‘Whoa, I’m talking to a lot of messed-up people, and they are messed up because they had mothers and fathers who were not aware of how serious that job is. I don’t have the ability to compartmentalize the way I see other women do. It is why, throughout my years, I have had the highest regard for women who choose to be at home [with] their kids, because I don’t know how you do that all day long. Nobody gives women the credit they deserve.

On not marrying Stedman: I used to think about this all the time, that I was working these 17-hour days, and so were my producers, and then I go home and I have my two dogs and I have Stedman, who’s letting me be who I need to be in the world. He’s never demanding anything from me like, ‘Where’s my breakfast? Where’s my dinner?’ Never any of that, which I believed would have changed had we married. Both he and I now say, ‘If we had married, we would not be together,’” she adds. “No question about it — we would not stay married, because of what that would have meant to him, and I would have had my own ideas about it.

On standing by her decisions: I have not had one regret about that. I also believe that part of the reason why I don’t have regrets is because I got to fulfill it in the way that was best for me: the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. Those girls fill that maternal fold that I perhaps would have had. In fact, they overfill — I’m overflowed with maternal.

[From People]

I get what she’s saying about marrying Stedman. Sure, some people see marriage as just a piece of paper but there are folks who attach a different ideology once that ring goes on. I know couples who lived together forever, but when they finally married, everything changed. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer, I just think you both need to want the same thing. And how great that Oprah and Stedman knew that about themselves before they got married.

As for babies, remember that Oprah lost a baby at the age of 14 when her premature son died soon after he was born. That’s taken a lot of healing for her to process. I love that she sees her academy as her maternal fold. You can love and prop up kids without wanting your own. Clearly, I don’t think Oprah owes anyone an explanation about these choices. That said, I do like that she’s putting this out there and letting women know that she’s always been confident in her decisions. Everyone needs to know that not becoming a parent is a valid and reasonable choice and I cannot for the life of me figure out why society makes it seem otherwise. Please make the choice that’s best for you and don’t let anyone tell you it’s the wrong choice.

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62 Responses to “Oprah has no regrets about not marrying and not having any kids”

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  1. Jess says:

    Good for her. She shouldn’t have to explain but the more women who speak up about not wanting kids or marriage, the better. I did both but now I’m divorced with a long time boyfriend and I’m amazed at how much pressure I get from some other middle age women to get remarried. It’s nuts. On a related note, I’m gonna have to think about the five moments that defined my life!

  2. Lisa says:

    Good for her for knowing herself and being confident in her decisions.

  3. Skyblue121 says:

    I knew when I was sixteen that I would never have children. I remember telling my dad and his reply was, “you’ll change your mind”. I never did change my mind. I also never figured out how to operate within the boundaries of a relationship. I truly don’t understand the intricacies . For the most part I have embraced and loved my single life. I’m thankful no one within my immediate family has ever pressured me. Friends on the other hand are often mystified and can’t understand what they perceive as my “lack of the love of a good man”. Good grief. Let us single ladies be!

    • ReginaGeorge says:

      I had a child early in my life and one was enough for me but I never got married. I get everything from “you NEED to have another one so the first won’t be lonely” or “why don’t you have more”. Questions like that are rude and intrusive. You don’t know anyone’s financial, reproductive or mental/emotional situation, etc. In my case, I was a single mom early on and my kid was way too much of a handful in so many ways and that was enough for me and my one income. (dad wasn’t in the picture in any way shape or form except to be a douchebag). Also, I never got married and now in my 40′s have to constantly deal with “you’re such a great catch. How is it you’re still single?” Why are you still single?” And somehow my response of “Because I CHOOSE to be” doesn’t seem good enough or believable for them. I’ve had bad experiences in relationships both my own and seeing what many of my friends have gone through and I just don’t want to bother. I’m receptive to changing that if I met someone worth the risk, but I haven’t and so I stay single. Why is that such a problem for some people to digest?

      • Lady D says:

        I’ve mentioned being single is my choice only to be asked if I am gay, lol. Like you, I’m receptive but not seeking, actively or otherwise. I’m happy with my choice but it sure makes some uncomfortable.

    • ME says:


      LOL they’re just jealous !

    • SamC says:

      I’m the same. Kids were never on my radar and I’ve long joked that God forgot to give me a biological clock because I’ve never even had a single pang to have children. Like them, for the most part, and adore my niece and nephew, but also glad to send them home.

      Being single never bothered me until the last few years, when I moved from an urban area with a great, diverse group of single and paired off friends to a small New England town where everyone is coupled off, even the few that moved there around the same time and were also single have now paired off. Pairing off isn’t a priority but also get tired of going to events alone and even neighbors, and think it’s unintentional, don’t think to include me when they are all going out rafting up, informal group dinners, etc. Have had a few long term relationships that I’ve enjoyed and wouldn’t mind having a sigother for vacations, someone to take to events, etc. but also have said long distance or sharing a duplex would be perfect.

    • No Doubt says:

      I agree so much with this. I don’t like how I change when I’m in a relationship. I feel like I get too wrapped up in the guy and forget about my own life and what’s important to me. I’m just not good at it! I prefer living alone and being independent. I’ve never been interested in children either. I have furbabies and that’s where my heart is! I’m often baffled at how people can jump from one relationship to another and have no idea who they are or how to be single.

      • Savannah says:

        @NO DOUBT

        Are you… me? Cause that’s EXACTLY what I’m feeling and thinking.

        How ever, I do think it’s possible to do some work mentally about the part of losing oneself in another person/relationship. Should probably go to therapy and learn something about why I act like that, but WHY?! Lol
        Sounds exhausting.

        No man is going to complete me like I complete myself anyway.

  4. Myrtle says:

    Today is National Coming Out Day.

  5. ReginaGeorge says:

    Marriage and children are not for everybody, and some people only realize that after experiencing either one or both. So good for her on recognizing that before making serious and life changing decisions she would eventually end up regretting.

  6. The Other Sarah says:

    I, for one, am very interested in the 5 turning points of a more “normal” person. I’d love if people would share theirs here. For me, I’m thinking that so far, they are:
    1. Deciding to delay grad school by a year and retake the entry exam. The re-test put me in the 99th percentile and hugely expanded my options, leading to:
    2. Deciding to move across the country for grad school, to a large city I had never been to, leading to:
    3. Moving states and changing jobs while 2 months pregnant.
    4. Starting therapy.
    5. Meeting my husband, who is kind and lovely and supportive and handsome and thoughtful and funny. He supported me through career highs and lows, changing jobs, multiple moves, and pre-partum depression.

  7. ME says:

    I know so many people who are married and have children who are completely miserable. They put up a fake front on social media but in real life they regret it all. A lot of people think they have to get married and have kids because it’s “just what you do”. NO IT’S NOT. What I really hate are people who try to pressure others into marriage and kids. Misery loves company I guess !

    • Luna says:

      I don’t think attributing misery to marriage and children is necessarily accurate nor fair. Sometimes people are just miserable regardless of their psycho-social situation. I know plenty of miserable single folks without kids, if we’re running on anecdote.

      • ME says:

        But the image put out there is always “happily married with children” and “lonely single and childless”. I’m just saying that sometimes the reverse it true more times than not. I’m going by what I have witnessed with people I know. Being married and having kids doesn’t always mean happiness nor does being single and childfree mean you are lonely and depressed.

      • perplexed says:

        There are some people who have seemed happy in their relationships on social media….and then they get divorced.

      • Lori says:

        I don’t think ME is saying marriage and children leads to misery at all. It’s about making conscious choices for yourself instead of going along with expectations. If you’re iffy about marriage and/or having children but go along with it anyway because it’s expected then there is a chance you wind up regretting it. If marriage and/or having children is something you truly want then chances are you’ll be happy with your decision.

    • jenner says:

      @ME- I agree! It’s a false illusion that getting married and having kids is the key to eternal happiness. It’s the fairy tale ending that we all grasp at. The reality is that marriage is hard and takes work, and raising another human being requires emotional and mental maturity that many do not have.

      • guest says:

        Your last bit is such a bizarre thing to say. Maybe really young girls might be a bit immature and not ready for the task, but grown women in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, certainly do have the the mental capacity and maturity to raise kids. It’s a journey and most women learn as they go along.

      • Bosandi says:

        Maturity has nothing to do with age. period.

      • Rose says:

        Yeah, I had family that used the fact I didn’t want kids as some kind of evidence that I was lacking moral character and maturity; in their eyes I’m still not a “real adult”. 🙄

      • Lori says:

        @ guest I think you don’t understand what Jenner means with emotional and mental maturity. You can be 100 and still be emotionally and mentally immature. Just because you’re technically an adult and should be able to take care of a kid doesn’t mean you can or should.

      • perplexed says:

        It requires mental and emotional maturity to raise children. Whether a lot of parents actually have this, I’m not sure. There are obviously fine parents out there —- I’m not sure if they make up the majority though.

  8. Keekee says:

    Years ago I used to thinkay she was simply protecting her fortune but her message has never changed so…

  9. stepup says:

    About 10 years ago, a former friend told me I was “selfish” for not wanting a kid. Another told me it was “dumb and pointless” to marry my husband if I wasn’t going to procreate. They were both gloriously wrong. We love being married without children — and he does all the cooking and grocery shopping!

    • Lizzie says:

      only a selfish person would be so rude and cruel to say something like that to a friend. sounds like that relationship was dumb and pointless and i am so glad for you that they are a former friend!!!!

    • pk says:

      How is not having kids selfish? People have kids for very selfish reasons all the time. They want someone to take care of them in old age. Single people with no children don’t go around telling married people they should be single yet married people (many not all) have no issue going around pressuring everyone to get married and have kids. Why do they feel the need to do that?

      • jenner says:

        @pk– came here to say the same. People have kids to make a mini-me, to chase the illusion that having kids will make them happy, or simply because they are supposed to. Yet that is not considered selfish? Good grief.

      • stepup says:

        She had a kid…so, ya know, she had to come up with a reason why not having kids was “bad.” I vaguely remember something about denying my parents grandkids.

        She was a nasty piece of work. The type of woman who would talk shit behind everyone’s back, and whose impetus for do-gooding was being able to throw things back in your face.

      • Lady D says:

        Sometimes women who have sworn off children get pregnant despite using spermicides, condoms and the pill. I did not want children or marriage and I took all the steps (short of celibacy) to prevent pregnancy. I can only conclude he was meant to be.

    • pk says:

      oops comment posted twice !

    • No Doubt says:

      Recently a family member said that having children is “life’s purpose!” Ummm…for HER maybe it is, but not for me. I have no regrets not having children.

    • BW says:

      My mother used to say I was selfish for not having children. I never did get the logic in that. I’m thrilled that I live in a time when I could control whether I had children or not. I have never regretted it.

      1. Before I married, I asked all the married women I knew, “If you had it all over again, what would you do differently?” They ALL said, “I would not have children. I love my kids, but they were not worth all the effort.” Even my mother-in-law said this, in front of her son, my fiance’.

      2. As great as my husband and I get along and share the load, I would not marry again. We lived together briefly before marriage because his lease ran out before mine did. We split all the bills, no problem. I was working and he was a grad student. Right after we got married, I bought something and he said, “I don’t think you should be spending OUR money on that.” EXCUSE ME? I thought it was my money. Anyway, we agreed to discuss all major expenses after that, and I still buy whatever I want when I want it. But, boy that married mindset? I don’t ever want to deal with that again.

      • LAR says:

        Yikes, BW, really on #1? I don’t think that it should be taken for granted that people want or need children. People should do what makes them happiest, whether that is staying blissfully single, getting married but not having kids, having kids, or doing various combinations of that. I get that the responses on this thread arise from the ridiculous cultural expectations that people are required to get married, pop out kids, and have the white picket fence to be whole people.

        Some people do have kids because they like family life, though, even when it sucks, not just because it’s something they have been deluded into doing to their regret. I had kids because I wanted them, despite the real effort it takes, and wouldn’t do things differently. If I hadn’t had them or had been unable to, I would be able to do more cool shit like travel, focus on my hobbies, maybe be somewhere completely different in my career, and that would have been a fulfilling awesome life. But I personally want my munchkins instead. I’m surprised that ALL of the women you polled regretted their kids.

        Perhaps it’s partly because I had the privilege of picking when I had them (in my mid and late 30s). I’m sure that there would have been (personally) a lot of regrets if I had them at 22.

    • Marisse says:

      They hate their lives and want you to be miserable just like them. See it all the time.

  10. Alice says:

    I am 37 years old and have been terrified of having children my whole life. Where I live, having children is a must and not having them can feel isolating. Most of my friends are childless or single and that’s because they are the only friends that are available to me. All my other friends are just not available. We talk on the phone maybe once in 10 days but forget even meeting for coffee. Parenting has taken over all my friends lives. No room for a social life outside of other school mom’s. After kneeling down to family and social pressure I finally relented and my husband and I tried for a child. I got pregnant very quickly but once I found out I was miserable. Two months or so later I found out that something was wrong with the pregnancy and I had to abort. I was horrified at myself for being relieved. A year later I decided that perhaps this time I was ready and we tried again for a baby. Just as before, I got pregnant really quickly but had that sinking feeling again. It just didn’t feel right. Another few months later and I found out the fetus had abnormalities and I had to abort. Again, I felt relieved but this time I felt even worse about the fact that I was relieved. I wanted to want a baby but couldn’t get there. It also didn’t help that the young women in my family were getting pregnant and glowing from happiness. I felt like I was in an identity crisis. Not sure why I am different than other women and I may not ever learn why but I want to believe that I have a purpose to fulfill that is not in any way less important than having a child

    • stepup says:

      This is incredibly brave to share. Hugs to you.

    • Classicmoviecat says:

      Sending virtual hugs :)
      And…you matter! You’re worthwhile and important and this fact doesn’t depend on any outside factor ;*

    • CherHorowitz says:

      Thanks for sharing.

      This is not particularly similar but i empathise. At 25 I had one child who is now 5, who was the result of a 5 year abusive relationship, which ended with a restraining order and thankfully have not had to deal with him since and have moved several times. My now fiancee, who when we got together had been one of my best friends for 10 years, became my daughters dad when she was 1. We decided this year we didnt want any more children, and were quite happy with that decision. Have had many bizarre, intrusive and rude comments and questions when people have asked and I’ve answered. Why should we have to have more? We cant afford it and we don’t want one.

      Unfortunately, in July i fell pregnant – despite being on birth control – and before i even took a test i could just feel it, and i bawled my eyes out to my friend on the phone, terrified my partner would want to keep the baby. I was seriously terrified of what would happen if he expressed he wanted it. I felt so sick about wanting to terminate the pregnancy, with the other aspects of having a child already exacerbating the profound guilt, as well as having 2 friends that had recently had miscarriages. I knew i couldnt tell anyone. Thankfully, my partner felt the same way as me, and whilst the whole experience was traumatic i haven’t once doubted it was the right decision for us. I now just have a persistent and nagging anxiety of getting pregnant, which combines horribly with guilt of feeling that way when other people would love to get pregnant.

      Sorry, what a rant.

      • Alice says:

        @CHERHOROWITZ Actually this does sound similar emotionally. Thank you for sharing, really. It’s very comforting to know that I am not alone in this.

        I am sorry you had to go through that. Guilt can be absolutely debilitating and I feel you.
        I am slowly learning that if we stay true to ourselves and what feels right then we are doing nothing wrong. What’s wrong is succumbing to pressure that goes against our own nature.
        The insensitive comments that we as women receive about child rearing/ conceiving is obnoxious and sometimes really cruel. Now that I have had some time to heal and reflect I am realizing that not having children really threatens some people’s sense of reality. A lot of women don’t even consider the possibility of not having children and when they are confronted with women or couples who choose differently, I think it really freaks them out deep down. Not everybody enjoys child rearing and I have some friends who are so worn out and stressed that perhaps they may have chosen differently if it was more socially acceptable.
        Either way, I think you are very brave for terminating your pregnancy. Really. Much braver than I was. We are all trying our very best at all times even if we feel we are not good enough, we absolutely are.

      • CherHorowitz says:

        Thanks for such a lovely response. And isn’t perspective funny – from my perspective you seem braver for attempting to continue the pregnancy! Everyone’s reactions are different when actually put in the hotseat of actually being pregnant.

        I felt like people would look at me and say ‘well you’re in a happy, stable relationship, you’re engaged, you both have jobs…. how dare you have an abortion’ if i told them. And as much as i am SO thankful I have my little girl and am very glad i had her, having her puts me in the position of knowing precisely how another child would affect our lives, all three of us who are already here.

        Yeah i agree people often don’t even consider the idea of not having them, as though they will DEFINITELY have a gaping hole in their life if they don’t. I just don’t agree. Some would have a hole, others not at all. But it’s still tabboo to talk about what having kids can take away from you, leaving other holes. For me personally, i needed my daughter to trigger so many other positive developments in myself, yet i feel certain another baby would have a negative impact on my life. Each to their own i suppose!

    • Green Desert says:

      Alice – Don’t feel guilty at all and don’t let society or particular people dictate your choices in life. There is nothing wrong with not wanting and not having children. You matter! I love what you said in your response to Cher…I agree that not having children threatens some people’s sense of reality. I think one reason why is that SO MANY women have children even though if they really considered it, they don’t actually want to. It scares them to see women who aren’t afraid to say that’s not the life they want. Keep doing you. :)

  11. Lizzie says:

    everyone knows oprah’s story and i think continually asking her about her choice not to marry or have kids is extremely or her weight is painfully lazy journalism. no one seems to consider also that she did have a child when it wasn’t her choice and it ended traumatically. perhaps that is a contributing factor as to why she doesn’t want to carry another child? people are just so relentless about that subject and it upsets me.

    she’s a self made billionaire – surely there is something more interesting to ask at this point?

  12. Classicmoviecat says:

    I believe her, and that’s also the reason I don’t want to have children. More people should think about the weight of possibility that their mistakes as parents might eff up their children for life or scar them badly.

  13. perplexed says:

    I think most women, single or married, understand her lack of regret about marriage. Everyone has a different path, and you accept it for what it is.

    I suspect it’s some men who have been able to view life through only one lens who don’t get it. If Matt Lauer were still in a job, he’d probably be asking irritating questions.

    I think we’re aware that there’s no way Oprah could have accomplished all that she has in terms of monetary success if she had married and had kids. To achieve that level of financial success, at least as a woman, with no help from family and friends (i.e Gwyneth Paltrow) you do have to march to your own drummer a bit.

  14. usedtobe says:

    I find that nowadays so many women just have babies. Like it’s not a big deal to just get pregnant. I know multiple women who have had 2+ babies with 2+ men (doesn’t matter if their married or not because marriage, in my opinion is not important). I know one who got pregnant at 22. Relationship was over before the baby was born, got married and had a baby at 24. At 26 the marriage was over and she had a boyfriend right away, oopsie, got pregnant shortly thereafter, had another baby. I just feel like women don’t use birth control unless they know for sure they don’t want kids. Too many women having oopsie babies like babies and children aren’t a huge responsibilities and are possessions instead. I wish I could explain it better. I know sometimes relationships don’t workout and I get that but I know WAY too many women in their 20’s and 30’s who have oopsie babies multiple times.

  15. usedtobe says:

    I find that nowadays so many women just have babies. Like it’s not a big deal to just get pregnant. I know multiple women who have had 2+ babies with 2+ men (doesn’t matter if their married or not because marriage, in my opinion is not important). I know one who got pregnant at 22. Relationship was over before the baby was born, got married and had a baby at 24. At 26 the marriage was over and she had a boyfriend right away, oopsie, got pregnant shortly thereafter, had another baby. I just feel like women don’t use birth control unless they know for sure they don’t want kids. Too many women having oopsie babies like babies and children aren’t a huge responsibilities and are possessions instead. I wish I could explain it better. I know sometimes relationships don’t workout and I get that but I know WAY too many women in their 20’s and 30’s who have oopsie babies multiple times.

  16. sandra says:

    I used to want kids but last year I learned it was physically impossible. I actually don’t mind anymore. I started enjoying my life without them and my boyfriend doesn’t want them either. He’s nearing his mid-forties and I’m 35 so we’re kinda like, eh? Would it really be so great to change everything now? I sort of believe in destiny when it comes to this sort of thing. That said, I adore my nieces and nephews to pieces.

  17. jenner says:

    I’m glad Oprah is speaking out. It is a huge myth that people who do not want children will regret it later. I have many child-free friends inching towards 50, and I have never heard one of them say they regret it. I’m child-free by choice myself, and no regrets here.

    • horseandhound says:

      I know two child-free women in their fifties who regret not having children. but they’re both single and I think that might be the real problem in their situations.

  18. No Doubt says:

    How many times is she going to be asked this question? By now, it shouldn’t be such a shock that a woman or a couple do not want children. It’s definitely becoming more common. I can see her point of view about marriage too. The expectations that go along with it…plus a divorce would be awfully messy with her wealth. I actually thought they were secretly married.

  19. meli-cali says:

    miss oprah, you are wonderful just* as you are,,,been watching and loving you dear lady, since my first oprah winfrey show. may God keep you/yours safe in his Hand, and Bless you all with good health, and happiness, ♥

  20. Hello It’s Me says:

    I’m 57 never wanted children or to be married. Don’t understand why people are puzzled that I’m happy. Not everybody want children besides I prefer fur babies.

  21. Lucy2 says:

    No regrets for me either.
    I held an adorable infant the other day, and…nothing. I just don’t have the baby urge, never had, never will.

    I forgot Oprah had go through that trauma at 14. 14! No wonder she never wanted to do it again.

  22. Lori says:

    I feel being childless is somewhat more accepted here than being single. If I get asked about having kids it’s usually in a broad sense and I rarely get the feeling the person asking doesn’t accept my answer. Now relationships and marriage are completely different. You wouldn’t believe how pushy people get when asking if I’m dating yet and if I shouldn’t consider getting married sooner rather than later. Multiple people have actually said that they didn’t understand how I could still be single “because I was still young and pretty” as if to say that I still had a chance to find me a man until I cross some kind of imaginary line where I become old, haggard and unlovable. When I was in a relationship within literally weeks of dating people started asking when we were moving in together. It’s like if you’re not tightly coupled off some people don’t get how you can exist in the world. It’s the weirdest thing.

    • ME says:

      Those people don’t understand that being single or in a relationship is a CHOICE. No one has to get married. There is nothing wrong with being single your entire life if that’s what you CHOOSE. F*ck anyone who thinks it’s ok to pressure others to do as they did. We don’t all need a man/woman to fulfill us !

  23. Jaded says:

    I never wanted children and actually had 2 abortions when I was young and in an abusive relationship. Never told the guy either, just packed up my stuff and left one night when he was out. I’ve been given the “why did you never marry and have kids” lecture so many times I can’t count. Maybe it’s because I had a less than perfect childhood, maybe because I had a few awful relationships that were so difficult I couldn’t see bringing a child into them.

    It is each and every woman’s right to NOT marry or have children if she so chooses. It doesn’t make her an outcast or aberration or social misfit.

  24. Molly says:

    Glad Oprah is speaking on this, but sorry she has to. Am 50 and very happily married for almost 20 yrs. We both opened ourselves up to the possibility of children and it never happened. Also, there was no way I could make a commitment to IVF at that particular career juncture and we just didn’t want it bad enough. We have zero regrets. Our dogs make our home complete. I have never for a second felt a void for not having children. I love my life. My mother was very much the “Angel in the house” of Victorian culture and perhaps I am being allowed to live the (professional) life she could not. I admire all my friends who have kids. I don’t know how they do it all. I’m also glad that I seem to have reached the age where people no longer ask me if I want kids.