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.
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.
Photo credit: People, WENN Photos and Getty Images