In a classic Seinfeld episode, Elaine is surrounded by friends with children, and they accost her with the now-famous remark, “You’ve got to have a baby!” We can only suppose that millions of women were watching, shaking their heads and wondering: What do you say when society asks when you’ll reproduce and why you haven’t?
Even though more millennials opt to postpone or avoid having children, the demand for women to bear children remains strong. The media is paying more attention to celebrity “baby bumps,” and young women say they feel a lot of pressure because of society’s strong link between being a woman and being a mother.
Many women desire children, while others are adamantly opposed, and still others are unsure. However, regardless of a woman’s views about childbearing, the decision to have children is solely hers, to be made for her own reasons. And no woman should have to put up with society’s constant probing on the subject.
Here are 12 women’s responses to the dreaded baby question.
1. Cameron Diaz
Diaz confessed in a 2009 interview with Parade magazine what many childless women already know: children aren’t always the route to a fulfilled life.
2. Jennifer Westfeldt
When surrounded by a sea of joyful mothers, it’s natural for the worry of regret to sneak in. However, Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm’s longtime partner, told The New York Times in 2012 that she doesn’t allow the “what ifs” to influence her decision.
3. Zooey Deschanel
Deschanel, who later had two children, reminded everyone that inquiring about a woman’s child-free status does not become more appropriate if the lady desires children. In 2014, the actress told InStyle magazine how irritating it was to be repeatedly questioned about her babies before she had them—a habit, she remarked, that is fundamentally sexist.
4. Marisa Tomei
Is a woman’s entire potential realized if she does not have children? Some individuals are certain that the answer is “no.” Marisa Tomei, however, questioned the cliché in a 2009 interview with Manhattan magazine.
5. Chelsea Handler
Handler, who has openly discussed having an abortion at the age of 16, revealed on The Conversation With Amanda de Cadenet in 2013 that she not only does not feel she would be a good mother, but she also does not want to experience childhood again. It’s a raw but honest confession from a woman that we don’t often hear.
6. Oprah Winfrey
In a society where women are frequently forced to choose between having children and working, Winfrey has always been forthright about her desire to prioritize her profession. She told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013 that although her closest friend, Gayle King, aspired to be a mother, she aspired to be Martin Luther King Jr., and she recognizes that children would have come second in her life.
7. Ellen DeGeneres
There’s a reason why parenting is dubbed the “most difficult job in the world,” and DeGeneres and wife Portia de Rossi acknowledge they don’t want to do it. “You have to want to have children, and neither of us did,” de Rossi told Out in 2013. In a 2014 article for People magazine, DeGeneres reaffirmed what she had said and reminded readers that many childless couples think about the pros and cons of having kids as much or more than many parents do.
8. Margaret Cho
While there is a limited study into why certain women do not have a biological need to procreate or a strong maternal instinct, anecdotal data suggests that such women are not as uncommon as we may expect. Margaret Cho, who said in her 2003 film Revolution that she’d rather adopt a 50-year-old “baby by choice” than have a kid, is firmly in that camp.
9. Sarah Silverman
As Silverman reminded The Daily Beast in 2010, there is no age restriction for being a parent. Silverman has other reasons for not wanting children right now, one of which is a concern about passing on her sadness, but her point about not rushing if you don’t have to is a much-needed viewpoint.
10. Kim Cattrall
The fact is that raising children can be tiring. Kim Cattrall told The Advocate in 2008 what most parents already know but probably don’t want to dwell on.
11. Jennifer Aniston
Aniston has spent her career battling rumors about her personal life, from her divorce from Brad Pitt to (probably most frequently) her lack of children. She’s hit back repeatedly, including in a 2014 interview with Allure magazine in which she reminded skeptics of a simple fact: Why a woman doesn’t have children is no one’s damn business.
12. Gloria Steinem
Steinem stated that, after a tough childhood spent caring for her mentally ill mother, she did not want to spend any more time caring for others. And, as she recently told an Indian audience, she hasn’t regretted it “for a nanosecond.” Jennifer Aniston noted at the MAKERS Conference in 2014 that the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s taught her that being married with children is not the only way to live, a concept she reaffirmed on Chelsea Lately in 2011 with an ironic comment.