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Gayle King, Oprah, and the Difference Between Motherhood and Friendship

How similar is friendship to the mother-daughter bond?

A guest post from Dana Rousmaniere:

Have you seen the previews for Thursday night’s Barbara Walters interview with Oprah Winfrey? (A Barbara Walters Special: Oprah, The Next Chapter airs Thursday, December 9, 9:00 – 10:00 pm ET, on ABC.) In a preview video, Oprah is asked to describe her relationship with her best friend Gayle King and says through tears:

“She is the mother I never had. She is the sister everyone would want. She is the friend everyone deserves.”

Oprah has spoken very little in public about her own mother, Vernita Lee, who was an unwed teenager when she became pregnant with Winfrey. Oprah has stated that she respects her mother for choosing to go ahead with the pregnancy, even though it was difficult, but she has widely credited her father, Vernon Lee, for helping to raise her and make her the woman she is today. She once commented that she had chosen not to be a mother herself because she had not been mothered well.

Oprah and Gayle King have done countless segments on the show about mothers and daughters, and the tenuous relationship that often exists between the two. It’s a complex relationship, to be sure. So, what is it about Gayle King’s relationship with Oprah that’s strong enough to make her the mother Oprah never had?

Ironically, Oprah.com recently ran an article on why mothers and daughters should never be best friends, and why a relationship with a best friend could normally never achieve the same status as a mother-daughter relationship:

“A best friend is different than a mother-daughter relationship. It requires having common experiences: You raised your kids together, you went to the same college and you’re in the workplace together. Mothers and daughters are never in the same stage of life at the same time, so the relationship is never equal. The other thing that’s important is that unconditional love exists only in the parent-child relationship. You’d put your body in front of a truck for your daughter; you’d probably call 911 for your best friend.” — Susan Morris Shaffer, author of Too Close for Comfort? Questioning the Intimacy of Today’s Mother-Daughter Relationship

Judging from the way Oprah choked up while speaking to Barbara Walters about her BFF, I’m guessing that she would actually throw her body in front of a truck for Gayle King. It sounds like unconditional love to me—the foundation of any good mother-daughter relationship.

What makes a good mother? Share your thoughts below.

Photo Credit: PR Photo

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