Life is full of hard choices; some with bigger payoffs or sacrifices than others. But as Oprah tells People, not choosing to “have it all”—“all,” in this instance, meaning career, marriage, and kids—hasn’t felt like a sacrifice to her; not that she didn’t consider it.
But in People’s Oct. 21 Women Changing the World issue, she gets more revealing about her 33-year relationship with Stedman Graham, including their one-time engagement.
“At one point in Chicago I had bought an additional apartment because I was thinking, ‘Well, if we get married, I’m going to need room for children,’” Winfrey revealed.
But neither marriage nor children were in the cards for the couple, in part due to Oprah’s revelation about “the depth of responsibility and sacrifice that is actually required to be a mother” while meeting the challenges of speaking to a global audience daily on The Oprah Winfrey Show. (And notably, the 65-year-old mogul has previously revealed she was a mother at 14, due to a rape. Her premature son died in infancy.)
“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 People. “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.”
She ultimately realized (as some of us do) that she liked her life—and marital status—just as it was.
“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.”
Now, she says the two agree they made the right choice for their still-enduring relationship.
“No question about it—we would not [have stayed] married, because of what that would have meant to him, and I would have had my own ideas about it,” she said.
Know thyself, Oprah. And as she’s said many times before, she’s channeled any residual maternal instincts into supporting the students at her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.
“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.”