Chelsea Handler's Child-Free By Choice Rant Is a Reminder to Stop Judging

The comedian had words for people who judge her decision to skip motherhood. But that's the choice of so many people—and it's a completely valid choice.

Three woman having fun

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It's 2023. You would think we've moved beyond viewing women as baby vessels. But with last year's overturning of Roe vs. Wade, it probably doesn't come as a surprise that child-free women still face stigma.

Comedian Chelsea Handler is one of those people who is child-free by choice—because everyone should have that choice. When she recently guest-hosted an episode of The Daily Show, she had words for people who judge her decision—and anyone else's decision—to skip parenthood.

"In America and everywhere, motherhood is treated as a woman's central purpose in life, as if our destiny is to let a tiny stranger rip a hole through our Pikachu from the inside out," Handler said.

Handler is no mom-hater. "I have infinite respect for moms, but motherhood is hard," she said. "It's so hard, it even broke Marie Kondo. Tidying up was her life's work. Then she had kids and was like...'living in squalor is fun.'" (For reference, while on a book tour in January, Kondo admitted she's sort of given up on keeping her house tidy since having her third child.)

Handler wasn't done. "It really shouldn't be surprising that some women aren't signing up, but many people aren't just surprised," Handler went on. "They're horrified. Childless moms are seen as unfilled, unhappy. Even the Pope has slammed us, saying that not having children is selfish."

Listen. As a mother of two, I can tell you that my boys are the two biggest joys in my life. I love them, and I do consider motherhood my central purpose in life. And I hate the hot take that "kids ruin everything." They don't—if you have the desire and make the choice to be a parent.

But Handler is right. Being a mom is also the most challenging thing I've ever done—no thanks to a capitalist society that doesn't value parenthood in the slightest (but oddly judges people for not wanting to dive into it).

America is the only industrialized country without paid parental leave. Lawmakers couldn't even push a measly four weeks of federal family leave across the finish line in 2021—birthing people may still be in diapers at that point, still bleeding from birth. Don't even get me started on the costs of childcare and the pressure to work like you don't have kids and parent like you don't have to work.

And then there's the fact that we've endured a polarizing global pandemic that's still going on, witnessed an insurrection play out in real time, and have existential dread about climate change—all issues that affect our children as they grow.

It's not surprising birth rates are declining and likely won't get much better. According to recent a recent poll from the Pew Research Center, nearly half of non-parents ages 18 to 49 say it's not very or at all likely they'll have kids.

You know what? Even if none of the above weren't issues, it would still be perfectly fine for someone not to want kids. In fact, people don't need a reason to skip parenthood, and they certainly don't need to explain their reasoning. It's their bodies and their lives.

Parents hate being judged for their choices, from infant feeding to sleep training to how many kids they have and how far apart. We cannot have it both ways—to want support for our parenting choices but to refuse to recognize the validity of someone else's. It can come up in little ways, too. For example, those without children are often told things like: "children complete you" and "parenthood is the greatest joy in life."

No. "Children completed me." "Parenthood is my greatest joy." Words matter. To be honest, sometimes, the best words are none at all. There's a middle ground between "you're not living a full life without kids" and "kids ruin everything." It's called mind your own business, especially if you have a platform as wide-reaching as, I don't know, the Pope.

With absolutely no due respect to His Holiness—who cannot birth a child and took a vow of celibacy—It's not selfish to forego parenthood. If anything, it's selfless to buck societal pressure and recognize it's not for you. Kids deserve to be wanted and loved. If someone recognizes parenthood is not for them, that's a good thing.

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  1. Pew Research Center. Growing share of childless adults in U.S. don't expect to ever have children.

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