True Love Before Children

Laurie GraffLaurie Graff, author and actress, talks here about her No Kidding essay, “First Comes Love,” and her choice to prioritize finding true love with a partner before becoming a mother. Laurie’s novels include the best-selling You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs, Looking for Mr. Goodfrog, and The Shiksa Syndrome. She’s a contributor to The New York Times Complaint Box, Live Alone and Like It, It’s a Wonderful Lie, and Scenes from a Holiday, and has penned several short plays and published monologues. Laurie lives in New York City. Visit her on Facebook or on her website.

In your essay that appears in No Kidding, you write about your choice to find true love before choosing to bring a child into the world. And consequently things didn’t turn out the way you thought they might in terms of marriage and children. Yet here you are a best-selling author with a successful acting career. Would you do anything differently if you could go back?

Well, my mom is in the hospital now, quite ill. It is dicey and scary, and I don’t have a partner or a grown kid to help or support me. In times like these you do miss that, even though being married or having a family does not guarantee that people will be there for you.

So last week I contacted a college beau who’s a doctor—he’s married with kids, but has always been available to me for things like this. And I thought, that’s the kind of guy you want to be married to in these situations. But at the time we were dating he didn’t want me to act or live in New York City, and so my dreams—not his—would have been compromised. And I know I couldn’t have put myself in a situation that didn’t allow me my freedom just because one day I’d need the security. I believe in my life that the things I let go of were not right for me. So while there are more things I’d like to have had happen for me, it’s not over yet, and I want to move forward. Not back.

“A baby may be love, but it is not romantic love. A baby is not a partner. It is a life that deserves to begin its journey in a home with two parents who are in love.” Laurie GraffThose of us who don’t have kids have many different reasons for—and feelings about—being non-parents, whether we got here by choice or not. The variety of perspectives in No Kidding bear that out. Do you find many others who believe love should come first and who stick by that, even if it means forgoing parenthood? Or do you feel your choice is not a very common one?

I think everyone believes love should come first. But I don’t know that it always happens that way. Or maybe people just think it’s good-enough love to fulfill their dream of having children. Women who are driven by the desire to have children will say that desire is a pretty big thing.

What about men: Do you think there are many men who opt for true love first, even at the expense of never producing children? Or do you think men are more likely to place emphasis on being a father at the expense of finding a soul mate?

cover of You Have to Kiss a Lot of FrogsMy brother is having his first baby this month, a few weeks shy of turning 55. In his late 40s he got really interested in finding a wife; he’d been somewhat of a playboy before. He bought a house and planted the seeds and, as if by magic, met a woman who became his wife. And I do feel it is a love match. I will often hear from some men, “Oh, I was at an age and decided it was time to settle down and marry.” It’s hard to say whether that’s because they really wanted to be a father, or if it’s because they were really not romantic souls to begin with.

I just saw a college friend I hadn’t seen for 30 years, and she’s been married about 27 of those years. Her youngest son just went off to college, and she just left her husband. All that time she stayed “because of the kids,” and says she never felt great about the marriage to begin with. But each person’s “fill-in-the-blank” is different. By the way, I know I sound as if I think everyone is unhappily married, but I realize that’s not the case!

I love the analogy you use in your No Kidding piece of how building our lives is like painting a picture, and how women who want a child above all else make the child their picture and learn to “paint by numbers” in order to create it. Can you elaborate a bit on what you mean by that?

It’s similar to the question above about men. I think many people get to an age or a point in their lives where they feel “it’s time.” And the next person they meet they paint into that picture they have in their head of marriage and family. I think most people when they marry do believe they’ve met a soul mate. And sometimes they may have, but mostly I think it’s not the case.

In your essay, you make the excellent point that one can leave a legacy in forms other than offspring—for example, a great acting or writing career (or both, in your case). Yet, toward the end of your essay, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist and writer you mention seems to deeply regret not having been a father. Do you think he really grasped the fact that he may not have had such success if he had been a father?

That journalist was actually held captive in Pakistan by the Taliban for 45 days in his quest to learn and write about what was really going on over there. It was a daring thing to do, to say the least. He was told not to cross the border many times, but he did. So if he’d had a wife and kids at home would he have taken that risk? Is that the question? No. I think, despite what he said, the ability to take those risks was more important to him than having a family. I think that was where he felt his passion.

Maybe it’s just human nature to idealize the path not taken, no matter who we are and what our path?Laurie Graff reading from You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs

I do think it’s really okay to feel regret for the road not taken, even as one has embraced the road they are on.

~Laurie Graff

Readers, what about you? Are you one who will not compromise in finding true love before having children, even if it means being childless/childfree? Did you hold out for a soul mate and now wonder if you should have settled for “good enough” in order to have a family? Tell your story below!


No Thoughts for What She Doesn’t Have

Andrea Carla Michaels

NK writer Andrea Carla Michaels at the June 6 reading in San Francisco.

Andrea Carla Michaels, author of NO KIDDING essay “Mother to No One,” doesn’t waste time thinking about what she doesn’t have.

The storyteller, former Los Angeles stand-up comic, game show writer, and now naming consultant clearly leads a full life.

In her essay and appearances, Andre shares funny insights about getting older, suddenly being mistaken for people’s mother, and the realization that she’s somehow become the “cat lady upstairs.”

Although some of the writers in NO KIDDING did at one time want kids, Andrea never did (though she loves them and says she wouldn’t have minded having them).

But she’s baffled by why people would ask her and others of us why we never had children, when they wouldn’t think of asking a mother, “Why did you have kids?”

Andrea and fellow NO KIDDING writer and KGO talk show host Maureen Langan will read from their essays tonight and lead a question-and-answer session about these issues and more, tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Books Inc. Palo Alto, 855 El Camino Real.

Last week, nearly 50 people turned out for a NO KIDDING panel reading and lively discussion at Books Inc. Opera Plaza in San Francisco. Don’t miss tonight’s event with our Books Inc. friends at the Palo Alto store. And mark your calendar for the next Bay Area events:

Wednesday July 17: Throckmorton Theatre, Mill Valley, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday July 18: Books Inc. Alameda, 7:00 p.m.

What would you like to ask Andrea, Maureen, or any NO KIDDING writer? Leave a comment below!

AndreaCarlaMichaelsANDREA CARLA MICHAELS is a storyteller, former Los Angeles stand-up comic, and game show writer who now names companies and products for a living as the founder and sole employee of ACME Naming. Andrea has written for Designing Women and has created dozens of crossword puzzles for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, TV Guide, and The Wall Street Journal. She spent her most memorable years as a chaperone for The All New Dating Game. Andrea loves playing/teaching Scrabble, learning languages, and traveling (when her cat allows). The highlight of her life, thus far, was winning a motorhome on Wheel of Fortune (actually, that highlight is now tied with petting a kangaroo outside Brisbane). Though she grew up in Minneapolis, Andrea has resided in San Francisco for the last two decades and is mother to no one.

MaureenLanganMAUREEN LANGAN is an award-winning comic and broadcast journalist. She headlines at clubs and theaters throughout the United States and has been featured at festivals in Ireland, Canada, and England. She’s appeared on HBO, FOX (sorry), ABC News, CBS This Morning, Comics Unleashed, The Joy Behar Show, the Paramount Pictures film Marci X, and in many national commercials. She hosts a weekly talk show on KGO Radio in San Francisco. Maureen lives in New York City and Los Altos, California. She grew up in Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey, where there is no lake.

Where do you stand? Take the poll.

You are far from alone: nearly one in five of today’s women reaches her mid-40s without having children.

As with the No Kidding writers, our paths have often been winding and our reasons for bypassing parenthood many and varied.

What about you? Did you ever want kids? Would you do things differently given the chance? Take the poll below and see where you stand compared to others.

Welcome to the No Kidding blog!


Hi and welcome to the blog!

This is where you’ll hear from the book’s contributors about their unique experiences not having kids. More than that, this is where you can share your own thoughts about the choice to bypass parenthood—whether you yourself have chosen that path or not.

There were various reasons why I never really thought about having kids, but the main reason was it just wasn’t at the top of my list of things to do, and it had certainly never been on my bucket list.

Pulling together this book has forced me to think about it. But when I stop and ask myself why I never had kids, it just feels blank. Kind of like thinking about buying an airplane, or pondering the workings of my digestive system (although, come to think of it, getting older does prompt more and more pondering of my digestive system).

But there are many women who have never considered not having kids. And many are so driven to have kids they can’t bear to face the prospect of doing without. What is the difference between these women and those of us who never thought about it, or forgot to get around to it? Hormone levels? Societal pressure?

The part that astounds me is how so many of the No Kidding writers have said they felt a little freakish about not procreating. And even more freakish that they thought about it deeply and still didn’t want to do it.

But how much of the freakish feeling comes from outside pressure and how much is the result of our biological alarm clocks? As for me, if outside sources were pressuring me, I didn’t feel it. And there isn’t an alarm clock in existence—biological included—that can wake me (I have to set three).

What do you think: Is the pressure to have kids real or imagined? And if it’s real, does it come from external sources or internal—biological or emotional? Or all of the above? Please share your thoughts in the comment area below.

Thanks a lot for coming to this site and for sharing! Please check back here or sign up to follow this blog for more perspectives on bypassing parenthood from other book contributors and people like you.

~ Henriette Mantel