Oprah Winfrey says she doesn’t regret not marrying or not having children

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 05: Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham attend Tyler Perry Studios grand opening gala at Tyler Perry Studios on October 05, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images)

Oprah Winfrey has dedicated her life to giving back and helping others and she’s content with how that’s worked out for her.

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The billionaire media mogul says she has “not one regret” about choosing not to have kids or not getting married to her longtime beau Stedman Graham, in PEOPLE’s extraordinary Women Changing the World issue.

Winfrey admits that while she once thought about tying the knot and having babies early on, she believes if she had gotten married, she and Graham, 68, wouldn’t be together today.

“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.

But she says her work hosting The Oprah Winfrey Show gave her insight into the lives of others and saw “the depth of responsibility and sacrifice that is actually required to be a mother,” which served as the catalyst that helped change her mind about motherhood.

“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.”

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“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.”

Winfrey said her satisfaction comes in serving others.

“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.”