I grew up on Oprah Winfrey. She spoke to my mom and me every afternoon via her iconic daily show and over the pages of her refreshing magazine. My mother is a big advocate in taking care of your mental and emotional health, and she passed this down to my sister and me, and Oprah was our go-to therapist. She may not be a mother in the traditional sense, but Ms. O is one of the wisest women I know when it comes to “mothering”—loving, caring for, and guiding those around you.
Over the years, I’ve accumulated quite a collection of wisdom from the queen herself, and more often than not lately, find myself referencing her words as I raise my three little boys. She’s got quite the library of lessons for us and has yet to let me down.
Read on for six motherhood lessons I’ve learned from Oprah.
1. You do you
Oprah may just be the queen of embracing the motto “You do you,” and I love taking that energy with me as I lead my boys. I strive to be the mother that is truest to myself, instead of trying to be like any other moms. Society may have wanted Ms. O to marry her longtime partner, Stedman Graham, and start popping out little ones, but she stayed true to herself and listened to her gut. She knew marriage and babies weren’t the paths that were best for her, and she trusted it.
There’s a whole lotta noise about how to be the best mother these days, from the working versus stay-at-home dilemma, breastfeeding versus formula, and more. It’s easy to let the noise cloud your own judgment, so when in doubt, take in Oprah’s words from her 2007 Commencement speech at Howard University: “Your calling isn’t something that somebody can tell you about. It’s what you feel. It is the thing that gives you juice. The thing that you are supposed to do. And nobody can tell you what that is. You know it inside yourself.”
2. Books are treasures
Oprah’s love of books is a passion she has shared with her followers since the days of The Oprah Winfrey Show and the creation of the OG book club. Since she recently re-launched her club with Apple, she has continued to spread the joy of reading to more people, and her excitement over a new book is contagious in the best of ways.
This love for reading and adoration of books is a quality I hope to instill in my own children. Not only do we read daily, but we care for our books and we respect them. And we get really excited about a new one too. There are so many worlds for my boys and I to discover, and we’ve only just begun (with dinosaurs primarily at the moment)! And as a busy mom, I understand that route to relaxation via an amazing book and look forward to diving into my own novels once the boys are in bed and I can relax a bit. It is my ultimate form of self-care.
3. Use your Oprah voice
Whether it be her latest WW meals or a new book, or of course, her annual list of “favorite things,” Oprah loves to shout her excitement from the rooftops—and I’m all for it. As a mom, I’m loud and proud right along with my boys’ joys and accomplishments (“WOOHOO, you peed on the potty!”).
We get excited about it all, from learning about a new dinosaur to getting a special cake pop from Starbucks. When we try new food and it’s delicious, we literally jump for joy. Life is short and meant to be celebrated, so I’m happy using that Oprah voice all the time!
Oprah loves to shout her excitement from the rooftops—and I’m all for it. As a mom, I’m loud and proud right along with my boys’ joys and accomplishments. Life is short and meant to be celebrated, so I’m happy using that Oprah voice all the time!
4. Value yourself
Since the early days of The Oprah Winfrey Show when she vowed to no longer indulge in sensational shows, Oprah demonstrated her belief that everyone matters, that everyone deserves respect and has value. Us mamas should all take note; we need to stop belittling ourselves and all we do. You are never “just a mom.”
And in the same vein, I like to take this lesson and transfer it onto my two boys. They may be little, but I believe they still deserve my respect, and with that respect, they can better grow, learn, and love.
5. Create the life you want
Anyone even a bit familiar with Oprah knows her encouragement to “live your best life.” This is one of her most famous mottos and one of her magazine’s go-to slogans. Everything is a choice, and when it comes to motherhood, it truly is up to us to create the life we want for ourselves and our children. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be realistic. You can’t work 50 hours a week, be the most involved parent at school, have a spotless house, cook organic dinners nightly, exercise daily, and throw parties worthy of Pinterest. And that’s all OK. So, pick your priorities for the season you’re in, and be confident in those choices. A happy mom is the best mom.
6. Really, truly listen
My all-time favorite Oprah lesson is based on her quote “Everybody just wants to be heard” from an interview with Parade magazine in 2010. It all stemmed from an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2000, where Toni Morrison says “When your child enters the room, does your face light up?”
I strive to be a lot of things as a mother, but if I only succeed at one, I hope it’s that my children know they are seen and heard and loved. They are seen for who they are, not who I or society may want them to be. They are heard always, no matter what, and they are loved unconditionally. Oprah proclaims this as the universal desire, and I can’t imagine any better lesson out there.
This article was originally published in February 2020. It has been updated for timeliness.