Given how affable, caring and open she is with her fans, it may feel like Oprah Winfrey is everyone’s ideal mother figure. But recently, Winfrey explained, the “mothering instinct” was never within her, and it wasn’t until she began working with the students at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa that she understood that motherhood can take many different forms.
Speaking to People magazine on Wednesday, Winfrey began the discussion about her role at OWLAG and her relationship with the students Winfrey wanted to help rise up out of poverty. “I wanted to build a school for girls who are like me,” Winfrey explained, going on to say that the girls at OWLAG “have been in the heart and heat of poverty” elaborating, “Poverty itself is a traumatic event, just trying to be able to have food on your table every day. Most girls have lost one or another really close relative, sometimes both mother and father.”
It would seem that this deep connection with and understanding of the OWLAG students and graduates bonded Winfrey to them, especially since they reportedly came to consider her a mentor. As Winfrey recalls, that bond shifted the way they treated her and, in turn, changed Winfrey’s opinions about motherhood and whether she could be a maternal figure in a child’s life.
“When the girls started calling me Mom O, I did not want their mothers or their legal guardians to think that I was stepping in and trying to take over the role their mom mom holds in their lives. I’m very much aware of who I am and what my role is for them,” Winfrey noted.
But happily, Winfrey says that these students of OWLAG are “the daughters I did not have,” going on to say, “I never thought that that mothering instinct was something for me. I like babies, but I like them like, ‘Hi baby, okay, now go over there.’ I like children when they can actually speak to me and tell what is the problem. This is how having children was supposed to manifest for me.”
It’s certainly a touching, generous idea, but that’s also because it is coming from Winfrey, who is herself the epitome of touching and generous in our cultural landscape. Reading Winfrey’s comments about these young women, who she has no doubt positively impacted, may lift your spirits and maybe, just maybe, might make you look at one of the world’s favorite mother figures in a whole new light.