Why Oprah Would Make a Better Parent Than Most People

It has nothing to do with the fact that she’s rich and everything to do with the high standards she has for parenthood.

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Oprah Winfrey

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey is known for succeeding at just about everything she tries: talk show host, actor and, despite a somewhat bumpy start, now as a network owner. But she might just deserve her greatest credit for the one feat she has not tried yet: parenthood.

In a revealing interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Winfrey said, "If I had kids, my kids would hate me. 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."

Winfrey deserves credit for acknowledging something publicly that few people do: Not everyone is meant to be a parent. Though child-free people have begun to gain traction in society in the last two years, with articles in Time and the Daily Beast highlighting their growing numbers, people without children are still in many ways viewed as societal oddities, though they should not be. Based on the number of children who suffer from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and neglect—across racial and class lines—a strong argument can be made that far too many people have children who should not, meaning the decision not to have kids should theoretically be viewed as the default position, as opposed to the position that needs to be justified, defended or explained.

I have lost count of how many people have been stunned when my friends or I have said we are not sure if our lives are compatible with being a good parent or frankly have the desire to become one at all. The usual reactions toward anyone who questions the idea of pursuing parenthood even today are as follows:

1. That’s selfish.

2. Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?

3. You’ll change your mind.

But what Oprah nailed so eloquently is that there is nothing more selfish than bringing a child into the world you can’t or won’t care for properly. If you are not financially stable, in a stable relationship, emotionally stable or simply not selfless enough to put someone else first, you can certainly become a parent if you have the right biological equipment to do so. But you probably won’t be a very good one.

Additionally, the notion of creating another person not so you can take care of him but so he can one day take care of you is an inherently selfish argument. And the odd thing about when people tell child-free people “you’ll change your mind” is that if someone doesn’t want pets, no one says, “you’ll change your mind,” because no one wants a poor puppy stuck with someone who may not really want it. Yet when it comes to children, people seem to think a child should be stuck with anyone who is capable of procreating.

I disagree, and apparently Oprah does, too.

If only more people followed her lead, just think of how different our world would be: a world in which every child is raised by someone who loves him, wants him and wants to put him first. Not raised by someone who has a child because society expects her to, or her parents expect her to, or because she is looking for fulfillment.

As Oprah has proved through her school in Africa, fulfillment can come in many different ways. For some it may come from raising one child of your own. Or as Oprah has shown, it can come from changing the lives of hundreds of children, something she is able to do through her career and philanthropy.

All of which she would likely have not been able to accomplish had she become a mother herself.

The clarity with which Oprah Winfrey views the commitment required to be a good parent shows she is an incredibly self-aware and selfless person.

There are some parents who could probably learn a thing or two from her.

Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

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