First it was Stedman.
Now they’re harping on Oprah for not wanting kids.
Over a lunch of “root vegetable soup and lobster Cobb salad” at her California estate, Oprah shared her stance on being childless (or “child-free,” whichever you prefer) with the Hollywood Reporter’s Lacey Rose last month.
Rose wrote that Winfrey was “stunned” to discover how much the students at her South African school mean to her, “especially given that … being a mom held little appeal.” (Some strange logic about the capacity of non-moms and moms to feel empathy toward children, but never mind.)
“If I had kids, my kids would hate me,” Winfrey told the interviewer. “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.”
But it was Oprah’s line about her best friend Gayle King, a mother of two, that sent some mommy bloggers frothing at the mouth: “Gayle was the kind of kid who, in seventh grade Home Ec class, was writing down her name and the names of her children,” Oprah recalled. “While she was having those kind of daydreams, I was having daydreams about how I could be Martin Luther King.”
Predictably, those somewhat smug comments quickly spun into an online screaming match about the merits of having or skipping kids. Jenny Erikson, a blogger at The Stir felt compelled to pen an open letter to the tycoon. (The irksome headline: “Newsflash for Oprah Winfrey: Good Moms Can Work Too!”)
“Why do you think that women can’t be successful and have children at the same time?” Erikson wrote. “I have to commend you for making the decision that you did, since you knew that you were too selfish to shuffle things around to make being a working mom work. You knew that your kids would always come second to what you wanted for your life.”
This is pretty much what Oprah acknowledged in the piece, but no matter. The real kicker from Erikson: “Oh Oprah, only you can take something like being too selfish to have children and turn it into a selfless virtue.”
The “S” word: it’s a typical stance from those lashing out in this debate, those who don’t always appear confident in their own personal choices as they blast others for not propagating.
Oprah’s comments on children constituted two graphs in a larger profile, but it’s what readers picked up on. Wrote one commenter at The Hollywood Reporter: “Not everyone needs to have kids to be fulfilled and that’s ok. And it’s great that she can be honest about it (as she often is), and say that her children would have suffered. We see that all the time, people who are way too busy to really raise their children.”
Over at Mommyish, blogger Carrie Murphy offered a rebuttal to Erikson’s open letter: “Oprah didn’t want to reproduce. She owns her choice. What’s the problem?”
Despite Oprah’s mega-wattage, personal choice is at the heart of it. “No woman owes anyone a baby or an explanation as to why they chose not to have one or can’t,” wrote a Mommyish reader. “And I’m sure Ms. Erikson would have been just as distraught if Oprah was male and made the same decision.”