Chelsea Handler (Photo by Rob Latour/Variety/Penske Media via Getty Images)
Variety/Penske Media/Getty Images

My Friends Without Kids Have Been A Gift To Me & I Know Chelsea Handler Is Not The Enemy

I have four kids and lots of my friends have zero. Those friends have given me back myself.

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Chelsea Handler doesn’t want you to give up your kids. If you watched her “Day In The Life Of A Childless Woman” video and immediately felt attacked, watch again. She’s not asking you to “trade” your children for a glorious child-free life. Relax. She’s celebrating her own life as a childless woman. Satirically, it behooves me to note, though I imagine there’s some truth to it.

I don’t know her but I have many Chelsea Handler-adjacent friends and they never told me to give up my kids or made fun of my life or my extra wrinkles from sleepless nights or bragged about their intact pelvic floor. I’m pretty sure my friends like their lives. I know I like their lives. I know they helped me like my life a hell of a lot more once I let them in.

If you haven’t seen Handler’s video, here’s my summation: She wakes up in the morning and remembers she doesn’t have to get any kids off to school, so she “takes a edible, masturbates” and goes back to bed. She eventually wakes up at 12:30, throws on a pair of heels and flies to Paris for a croissant, meditating on the plane because she doesn’t have any “screaming kids” to bother her, and eventually inventing a time machine to kill Hitler. People got mad, deeply mad, at her video. Especially men like Tucker Carlson and Ben Shapiro who, I guess, really wanted her to have a baby or something. Moms got mad, too, and I think I know why. We’re all part of this club and we want people to want to get into the club like it’s so exclusive and special. And when someone says “nope, I’m good” it’s like, How dare you actually choose something different? No, instead we want you to spend the rest of your life reassuring us that we made the right decision and constantly qualifying that yes, you really wish you could have had children. It just didn’t work out because XYZ. You better look suitably lonely and brave, so brave, for venturing through this life without precious sweet angel children to make everything better.

I’m pretty sure my friends like their lives. I know I like their lives. I know they helped me like my life a hell of a lot more once I let them in.

I have four kids and lots of my friends have zero. This does not, in fact, make us natural enemies. They almost never fainted when confronted with my brood of boys and I rarely stormed out of the room in a rage when they kept on not having kids. Even when I pointed to my kids and screamed “but look how cute!” it just never convinced them. It was weird how my life in no way impacted their decision. How I was never able to bring them low, to force them to see the error of their ways, by a short video of my adorable 4-year-old son’s lemonade stand at the end of our driveway.

I wasn’t able to bring any of them into the club but they gave me a guest pass into their club. And I have to tell you, the perks have been outstanding for me. Adult perks like dinner parties and movie nights and once even an entire Thanksgiving dinner made for me when my kids were away. We sat outside around their fire pit and ate dessert balanced on our knees, all wrapped up in blankets, listened to new music and talked about books I hadn’t read. Books they loaned me. I felt like me again. They forced me to feel like me again.

All they ask in return is that I not be an asshole.

Because this is the secret Chelsea Handler was too polite to share: parents can be assholes sometimes. Especially when it comes to their child-free friends (see all of Twitter exploding with rage over Handler’s video). We cancel plans “because kids” and we show up late “because kids”and we act like we can’t possibly be expected to be present or engaging or interesting “because kids.” We diminish our child-free friends and their complicated lives “because kids” even though we know we are sometimes afforded a free pass that they are not. Because kids. So when we cancel plans at the last minute no one is really allowed to be mad and maybe this is a bit of asshole behavior. Fine not all of us but definitely me. Definitely I’ve been an asshole and definitely it took a child-free friend or two to, well, never actually call me an asshole but to imply something similar.

They gave this to me, the gift of me to myself.

I’m thinking of a particular weekend at the lake, a perfect split between moms and our child-free pals. We split the duties so perfectly that weekend, a well-oiled machine all sun dozy and tipsy from our mimosas at brunch. What we didn’t split was the conversation. We moms held the floor. Especially me, I’m mortified to tell you. I wanted to get away from my kids so I could talk about my kids all weekend, this is the truth of it. I told stories all weekend, about report cards and classroom rifts and that one kid who just would not stop trying to push my son off the slide. I’m still mad at him 20 years later, but still. I wouldn’t let up. My child-free friends listened for awhile then got up and went for a kayak. Didn’t come back for hours. That’s how boring my stories were. That was their polite way of hitting the buzzer on my one-sided conversation. They like my kids, a few of them even love them. But they sort of aren’t always the point, which is the point.

And so I got a little perspective. Stepped outside my bubble and remembered I was still in here somewhere.

They gave this to me, the gift of me to myself. Gently pulling the conversation back to something other than that little menace on the slide (that kid, ugh). I read the books they loaned me. I ate the meals they fed me. I went for coffee on Saturday mornings and talked about dating, about work, about other friends who weren’t eating bacon and egg sandwiches with us. I danced in their living room when my kids went away to their dad’s for the weekend and they tucked me into their spare bed, sort of like parents.

My kids are all grown up now, things are different. I’m 50 but I’m hoping you can’t tell from that one time I got Botox. I flew off to Vienna last winter for the Christmas markets, no kids. I sat beside a lovely man with his lovely little girl who hated flying so so much. I gave him that sympathetic side smile that makes us all feel better about our kids. And then I ordered a glass of wine. Put in my headphones, and watched Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris. Because I don’t have kids on the plane.

You see? We all get our turn to become Chelsea Handler. So stop being so mad at her.

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