Friday, November 2, 2012

The Oprah Problem

By vargas2040,
Cropped by OsamaK
via Wikimedia Commons
Not too long ago a woman who chose to be childfree was suspect in our society. But now, thanks to celebrities, that's all changing. Just like Lindsay Lohan made drunk driving and shoplifting cool again, celebrities like Helen Mirren, Eva Mendes, Ellen and Portia, Cameron Diaz, and Rachel Ray are making it hip to be childfree. Even Jon Hamm is joining in. His longtime girlfriend recently told the press they're quite happy with their life as is and aren't interested in having kids.  Unfortunately this one just left me feeling depressed; if there's anyone who should be contributing to the gene pool it's Jon Hamm.

Of course there is one childfree celebrity that stands out among the rest.  She is our flagship, so to speak, and she is Oprah.

You would think I would love Oprah for this, but the truth is I'm totally annoyed with her for setting our bar ridiculously high.  Because here's the thing: when you are a childfree woman of a certain age there's an unspoken expectation that you're actually supposed to DO SOMETHING with your life. Oh you know, like start a television network or educate all the girls in South Africa or publish a magazine with your picture on the cover every month.  And I feel bad about this. First of all there's the gender inequality of it. George Clooney is our most famous childfree male celebrity and all we really want him to do is show up on the red carpet with a supermodel on his arm (to the extent that the public seems almost visibly annoyed when he reminds us there's a genocide going on in Darfur). But mostly I feel bad about this because with all that spare time and money I have on my hands because I don't have to buy diapers, all I really want to do is drink wine. I know I should be out there shattering glass ceilings on behalf of all my women friends with kids who are just too tired to do it themselves, but instead I'm quite content to scale mount mediocrity when it comes to my corporate career. Just as long as I make enough to buy the wine.

I am willing to concede Oprah, but to all you other childfree celebs out there, here's my plea. Could you please just be a little less spectacular in your achievements? It would make it a lot easier on the rest of us.


  1. Don't feel bad! Remember that you're helping to save the planet, because being child-free means your carbon footprint ends with you.

    Now sit back, and enjoy your expensive wine, in full knowledge that if you have a hangover, you can have an undisturbed lie-in.

  2. Thanks, although you endow me with way too much class by assuming I drink "expensive" wine :-)

  3. I think you are right on with this. It truly is an expectation, whether it is said outright or not, that people who are childfree not only have the time and the resources to do something "great," but it is our duty to fulfill and we should also have the motivation. (I agree with none of that) People who have children are seen as doing this simply by reproducing. Which is sad. :-(

  4. Hear hear - I agree totally with this post. I hate those articles about child-free "role models": the multi-millionaire actresses, super-successful Oprah types et al. They just make me feel 100% inadequate, weepy and hysterically panicky. Not fair that people who can easily plop out kids can find the meaning of life instantly and can be OK with a rubbish part-time job forever, when I feel like I should be writing the next Harry Potter or running my own amazing business.
    "I'm quite content to scale mount mediocrity when it comes to my corporate career" - THANK GOD for that line, it made my day: think I'll adopt it as my motto.