No Kidding: Barbara and Oprah Admit it Ain't Always Easy

Brittany Shoot
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Back in December, Oprah sat down to chat with Barbara Walters about fame, love, friendship, and even children. Since fellow blogger JDTress already covered the lesbian rumors and relationship talk in this segment of the interview, I’ll pick up where she left off, where Oprah and Babs talk about how tough it is to have kids as a working woman—or in Oprah’s case, the unambiguous lack of regret in regards to opting out. Skip to 7:30 in the video, where the discussion about having kids starts. Here’s a transcript too, if that’s your steeze. Barbara: And no regret at not having children? ‘Cause when I talked to you all those years ago, you wanted children. Oprah: And you actually, I would have to say, planted that seed with me. You said, you know, “Don’t let the time get away, even if you have to adopt.” So you are Barbara Walters saying that to me, so I’m thinking, “Barbara said…” And I know you had your daughter. Barbara: OK, let me tell you something. I totally understand. I adore my daughter. She’s a grown woman now. We went through so much that was difficult, in part, because I was working, because I was traveling, because she felt I wasn’t there, because I was famous. I’m telling you this now; it’s the best thing I did and the most difficult. So if you regret it, ever, at any time, day or night, call me. Oprah: OK. For a while there, every time I went to Africa—and Stedman says this too—every time I went to Africa, he didn’t know when I got off the plane if I was gonna have one or two or ten children. Really. I could not… first of all, could not have had this life and lived it with the level of intensity that is required to do this show the way its done. I’d be one of those people with their kids coming and saying, “Mom, you’ve neglected me.” So I have no regrets about that. I have none, not one regret about not having children, because I believe it is the way it’s supposed to be. What I find especially refreshing is about this exchange is that it doesn’t gloss over how tough it can be to balance career and motherhood. Sure, tons of folks don’t do it, but Oprah takes it one step further here, acknowledging that in some ways, her career did come first, no doubt to the chagrin of many who think that sort of mentality is “selfish.” But regardless of what you think of Oprah—I’ll again point you to fellow blogger JDTress’ The Long Goodbye series for more analysis regarding Ms. Winfrey—you probably don’t think of her televised gift-giving and charitable work in Africa as selfish. It’s also crucial here to point out what many people know: that Oprah did, in fact, have a child. When she was 14, she had a son who died soon after his birth. While I don’t think Oprah was intentionally misleading in her interview with Barbara Walters, it’s important to point out that she has, in fact, had a child. Oprah has been a mother, in whatever sense she could choose to claim that role, label, or identity. She may not be actively mothering in the traditional sense today, but that shouldn’t negate her experience, however brief, as a parent. The reason I bring up this interview is that it surprised me. The content itself didn’t—I clearly spend a lot of time thinking and talking about not having kids—but I feel like conversations about the complexity of choosing to not have children are rather overlooked, if not actively swept under the rug. It’s one thing to talk about the difficulties of parenting, and there are seemingly endless resources available for parents looking for solidarity. But when it comes to acknowledging that parenting can be a difficult choice fraught with complexity, a path one ultimately decides not to take, it’s another story entirely. Commenter b. intimate even mentioned this in the first thread of this series when she said:

My whole lifestyle is a celebration of choosing not to have children, so I’ve intentionally been giving myself the opportunity to mourn this choice, too. Its a funny thing to feel my body desire just the pregnancy and know that my heart and mind are telling me, “hell no!” So I grieve this contradiction like grieving the loss of something dear to me. While I have more emotional and spiritual work to do here, I’ve had some great catharsis and emerging wisdom about myself and how to craft my future.

Oprah’s definitive stance at this juncture, that she feels no regret, is a sentiment I think we hear too infrequently. (I’d also argue that you don’t have to achieve Oprah’s level of success and wealth to feel like not having kids is a valid choice.) Instead, famous women often end up apologizing for not having or being able to have kids, a la Jennifer Aniston and Jillian Michaels. Why do you think Oprah can make a public statement about not having kids without causing a media shitstorm? Why are other famous women held to a different standard? What do you make of Barbara Walters’ confession that having her daughter has been tough? Were you surprised that Oprah admitted that she had no regrets?

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6 Comments Have Been Posted

oprah--no regrets children

My sister, who as a child said she's have lots of kids, and I as a child said my career would always come first. I have two kids and my sister none. What is tough, is defending oneself as to why they chose not to have children, not that it's really anybody's business, She has never regretted it thusfar, and I admire her for that. I, on the other hand, a career woman, and single mother, juggled family, career, and going back to school full time. She admires me for that. Different lives, different circumstances... having had children, if I had chosen not to have any, I probably would have regretted it later in life. I admire those who can admittedly say that they don't regret it.

Complex Decision

Both having or not having kids are valid choices, especially if they are conscious choices. I have raised two headstrong, independent, wonderful daughters who I am very proud of. But my choice to start having kids was made when I was only 18 and was based on emotions, not analysis. Perhaps its better this way, because if people fully realized what it really takes to raise a child - emotionally, physically, etc - most would have probably opted out. If I knew that the husband who talked me into it would leave me penniless after a couple of years, I would have made a different choice. But I am a big believer in destiny and glad that I did what I did.

Anyway, people shouldn't have to apologize for not having kids. There are many ways to live a full life, and being a parent is only one of them.

I found that moment in the interview compelling...

I found that moment in the interview compelling, too - an honest give and take between two successful women who had made different choices. For me, when you're in those "child bearing" years, and decide not to have children biologically, the feedback I sometimes get is that you're turning your back on an experience that is uniquely female: from being pregnant, to nursing, to whatever it is the person you're talking with describes. And those messages can sometimes translate into: I'm not living the full female experience. What you pointed out is that Oprah is very unambiguous in articulating her feelings in that decision-making process (post-giving birth at 14): no regrets. And that's refreshing.

Not a Complex Decision for Me...

I read with interest the women who have actually felt the pull, maybe the biological clock (?) to get pregnant. To have your body actually crave it. I can only imagine how deeply confusing that must be when your heart and mind completely contradict what your body feels.

I've never felt that desire - not even a twinge. So while I can sympathize with the confusion, the feeling that one's body is betraying a woman's rational mind or heartfelt emotions, I can't empathize. There was nothing complex for me to sort through; I've just never wanted kids. Period. End of story. No drama; nothing to mourn.

I do think it is terrible that female celebrities and public figures can't make choices and just live their life the way they see fit - without everyone dissecting everything about them - often in very cruel ways.

I wonder if the reason Oprah has escaped the more nasty fallout of being a woman with no wedding, with no children is because she is 1) seen as being "mother-like" on a grander scale; promoting self-improvement, education and resources for the less fortunate and 2) she is black. Jillian Michaels and Jennifer Anniston are both very pretty caucasian females. And while I might think Oprah very attractive, the public at large doesn't seem to have the same sense of ownership of overweight women of color that they do with slim white girls.

No Regrets

I've never regretted not having children...although I would sometimes wonder if I would come to regret it later. I never have. I think Oprah gets away with it because she's larger than life. She's also her own woman; Jennifer Aniston still seems like she's trying to please

If it was selfish to not have

If it was selfish to not have kids all the nuns would be selfish...

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