Oprah Winfrey has accomplished so much in her life, and she has so much more to give. The mogul has several impressive titles, including venerated actress, talk show host, journalist, spokeswoman, and philanthropist — and while she has a never-ending list of accomplishments, that hasn’t spared her from scrutiny over her private life and relationships: specifically, her choice not to get married to longtime partner Stedman Graham and her choice not to have kids.
As soon as Oprah’s star began to rise in the late ‘80s, the public fascination with her love life grew right along with it. And Oprah being Oprah, she’s provided some clear and thoughtful answers to her fans over the years about why she’s made the personal choices that she has, and why she and Graham have made the decisions they have around their relationship.
Oprah has long been known as a career woman, but we know that she encapsulates so much more than just her work — just ask longtime BFF Gayle King, who will happily volunteer the many ways Oprah has enriched her life. By being a beloved public figure who’s open about her choices not to pursue the expected path for women — marriage and kids — Oprah has helped demystify and destigmatize that path, and her answers over the years have been as illuminating as they are relatable for those curious about her path.
Of all the things Oprah is known for, speaking her mind and being honest are among her greatest qualities (and the woman has MANY great qualities). So let’s celebrate Oprah and the choices she’s made in her life by looking back at her own words. Check out some of Oprah’s best quotes on not getting married and not having kids below!
Looking back at her life, Oprah knows that people will always wonder about her decision to not get married to her longtime love or have children. But what matters is most how she feels about the decision, and Oprah does not have one regret.
“I have not had one regret about that,” Oprah told People in 2019 about not getting married or having kids. “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.”
Oprah & Stedman Already Feel Like They’re Married
They might not have the piece of paper or rings on their fingers, but Stedmand and Oprah already feel like they have the same dynamic as a lot of longtime married couples. “We’re like an old married couple,” Oprah told People in 2013, via Parade.
Oprah Admitted She Might Not Have Enough Patience As A Mother
Any maternal role Oprah felt she needed to fill has been done through her Leadership Academy. During her conversation with Good Housekeeping UK in 2017, Oprah admitted there’s one key quality she might not possess in order to be a mother. “For me, it was perfect, because I didn’t want babies,” she said of working with her girls at the Leadership Academy.
“I wouldn’t have been a good mum for babies. I don’t have the patience. I have the patience for puppies, but that’s a quick stage! But this is so rewarding.”
Oprah Didn’t Want a Marriage, She ‘Wanted To Be Asked’
Some might not know it, but Oprah and Stedman were actually engaged for a time in the mid ’90s. Immediately after Stedman asked Oprah to marry him, the longtime talk show host had doubts. “In 1993, the moment after I said yes to his proposal, I had doubts,” she explained in her 2020 essay.
“I realized I didn’t actually want a marriage. I wanted to be asked. I wanted to know he felt I was worthy of being his missus, but I didn’t want the sacrifices, the compromises, the day-in-day-out commitment required to make a marriage work. My life with the show was my priority, and we both knew it.”
Oprah’s Not Convinced Kids Would Like Her
In all of Oprah’s infinite wisdom, even she is aware that having children would have been a potential strain — affecting their would-be relationship more than anything. “If I had kids, my kids would hate me,” Oprah told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013. “They would have ended up on the equivalent of the Oprah show talking about me; because something [in my life] would have had to suffer and it would’ve probably been them.”
Oprah Already Has A Fulfilling Maternal Role
Among the many foundations and charities Oprah is responsible for, her Leadership Academy holds a very special place in her heart. “I have 172 girls, and 20 are in college in the United States and use my home as their home base,” she told Good Housekeeping UK in 2017.
“It is more rewarding than I would ever have imagined. I was doing this to help them, but it has brought a light to my life that I can’t explain… When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10 or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.”
What Oprah & Stedman Have Works
In January 2020, Oprah penned her own essay on why she and Stedman never walked down the aisle, and why their relationship as it is works so well for them. “Our relationship works because he created an identity beyond being “Oprah’s man” (he teaches Identity Leadership around the world and has written multiple books on the subject),” she wrote. “And because we share all the values that matter (integrity being number one). And because we relish seeing the other fulfill and manifest their destiny and purpose.”
Oprah & Stedman Don’t Want ‘Traditional’ Roles
During her August 2017 profile with Vogue, Oprah reiterated what she would later recall in 2019 — but with added context. Part of the reason she and Stedman never got married is because of how he views the roles of husbands and wives. “We would not have stayed together, because marriage requires a different way of being in this world,” she explained. “His interpretation of what it means to be a husband and what it would mean for me to be a wife would have been pretty traditional, and I would not have been able to fit into that.”
Observing Other Mothers & Their Children
In the same People profile, Oprah noted how a lot of her work on The Oprah Winfrey Show influenced her decision not to have children. “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,'” she told the outlet.
“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.”
Everything Would Have Changed For Oprah & Stedman
For her 2019 cover of People, Oprah chatted with the outlet about her decision not to get married or have children. One observation she made was how different her relationship would have been with Stedman had they married.
“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,” she explained.
“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.”
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