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Oprah Taught Me to Walk the Walk as a Mom

Oprah and her best friend Gayle helped me see what my purpose is and how to start being a role model for my kids.

Now that two of my kids are driving, I don’t spend half the amount of time I used to spend in my car racing from one activity to the next, the children eating french fries in the back seat.

Back then, I really could have used XM Radio to fill those mindless hours with the Gayle King Show, my super-guilty pleasure, on Oprah Radio. Just ask my kids, they’ll roll their eyes and concur that whenever they get in the car with me, I try to persuade them to let Gayle stay and keep us company (it's a hard sell against Z100).

Gayle, if you’ve been living under a rock, is Oprah’s best friend and I find her hilarious, providing the perfect combination of hard news items blended with whatever's caught her fancy, like her recent infatuation with Justin Bieber (nicely paralleling my own life as I spent last Saturday night working on Patch and lying in bed with my 8 year old watching Never Say Never).

Gayle, who can get confused at times, is also the source of my children’s nickname for me, “Nana,” which they use often and with relish (like when I was trying, to no avail, to get into a locked car after a baseball game recently only to hear a car honking and my daughter yelling, “Nana! It’s the wrong car!”)

As you can imagine, Gayle has been talking a lot about the final season of the Oprah Winfrey Show,  giving us the inside scoop on how the Big O was handling the end of 25 years and all that the show has meant to her.

Because Gayle’s radio show plays live on weekday mornings, and is then rebroadcast at various times throughout the day, I often end up hearing the same bits in one day and sometimes that evening or into the next day, which happened on Monday.

Gayle was talking about Oprah’s comment that her talk show has defined her for the last 25 years, and then Gayle asked her “favorite listeners” what has defined them.

I immediately thought: being a mom. And while that might sound corny and old-fashioned, I think that being tasked with another human's life--physically, mentally, emotionally--is an incredible responsibility. You could really mess someone up.

And for as much as I love my job and writing and being all about Amy, being a mom has been my top priority for almost 19 years. Every decision I make is imbued with my mommy-ness, from what cereal to buy to making the painful decision to end my marriage.

Don’t get me wrong—there’s a big part of me that can’t wait for the kids to grow up and move away so I can concentrate more on my own interests and drive a small car and live in a small house and pay much smaller bills.

But when Oprah said on her last show on Wednesday that my real job in life is to find out what I was called to do, what my purpose was, I knew that it was to be the best mom I can be for my children.

And watching the Oprah Winfrey Show for the last 25 years has helped me do that and start becoming the role model I always wanted to be for my children. She helped me to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk.

The lessons Oprah shared with her audience on the last show, I learned from watching her over many afternoons and have tried to model to my children. I want them to know that you need to take responsibility for your own life. And I hope they see through me, that that they shouldn’t wait for someone to fix, save or complete them.

And I want them to know that life is full of hard work and tough decisions but in the end, there are bits of sweetness that make it so worth it.  

This past Valentine’s Day, I received handmade cards from my two teenaged daughters that almost brought me to my knees with love and gratitude.

The 13 year old cut words out from magazines and pasted them on a sheet of white paper—hostage-note style. But this was not a letter meant to intimidate. She wrote: “Mom you are successful, extraordinary and a winner!”

My older daughter used a more old-school approach: blue ink on lined paper—to show me her love. “You are the strongest person I know. I admire you in every way.”

I know.

So, I may be a doddering fool trying to break into strangers’ cars and I might say embarrassing things and make unreasonable demands on their lives, but I know in their hearts that in some small way, they get it.

And when the kids pile in the car and immediately take over the radio controls, calling me Nana and banishing my pal Gayle to solo drives to the food store, I let it slide. They just need to watch me.

Shannon K. Winning May 26, 2011 at 07:58 PM
Stop it. I'm crying again. Beautiful.
Patricia Hart Zackman May 27, 2011 at 12:44 PM
Another great piece of writing!
Susan Coene May 27, 2011 at 01:30 PM
Oh please - it has been all about Oprah this week at our home. My husband willingly watched one of the final episodes I taped until I banished him because he couldn't help making jokes throughout the episode. Oprah taught me to believe that my decisions were right for me at that moment. I am still teary. Thanks again Amy for a wonderful article!
Marjorie Smith May 27, 2011 at 04:24 PM
I never watched an Oprah except for a news snippet when Tom Cruise was jumping on her sofa. What measures has she taken to support all of her bereaved fans? Is there a special counseling hour on her television network devoted exclusively to Oprah Withdrawal? Tee hee. Just kidding fans.

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