Oprah Winfrey doesn’t have regrets about how she’s lived her life.
The 65-year-old billionaire mogul opens up about not marrying and not having children in this week’s issue of PEOPLE which celebrates extraordinary Women Changing the World.
Winfrey, who met her longtime partner Stedman Graham at a charity event in 1986, tells PEOPLE she once did think of becoming a mother after she and Graham, 68, became engaged.
“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,’” says Winfrey.
While that never came to be, Winfrey did say she saw “the depth of responsibility and sacrifice that is actually required to be a mother” during her years on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
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 says. “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 continues, “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.”
It remains a decision that she stands by.
“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,” she says. “Those girls fill that maternal fold that I perhaps would have had. In fact, they overfill — I’m overflowed with maternal.”