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And wherever you’re listening right now, I hope you'll hit subscribe if you haven’t already so you never miss an episode. Next week, our episode is looking at living with chronic illness. I talk with former professional rock climber Mason Earle about his chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME/CFS, in a series of phone calls while he laid in bed.
MASON EARLE: When life is just sort of -- is going your way at every single turn, you start to think, Oh gosh, you know I'm in control here. And, uh, that's just not the case.
I can’t wait to share this story with you next week. Today’s episode is a special one that we made along with our friends at The Cut podcast from New York Magazine. Enjoy.
Avery Trufelman: Man, this feels like therapy. This--
ANNA SALE: [Laughs] I know, how do we start? But it's more complicated than therapy because it's unclear who's in charge. It's unclear who's the confessor. And who's the question-asker.
AT: Oh, I'm the question-asker to you. You know what it's like to not have kids. I don't know what it's like to have kids. You are on the other side of a threshold that I don't know if I'll ever get to. I mean, I cannot imagine you would have questions for me.
In collaboration with The Cut from New York Magazine, this is Death, Sex & Money.
The show from WNYC about the things we think about a lot… and need to talk about more.
I’m Anna Sale.
And I’m Avery Trufelman, host of The Cut.
Anna: Why don't we just start, Avery by, like -- today, when you think about the question about whether you want to become a parent, what comes up?
AT: Um, yeah, so I, I'm about to turn 30, and like ostensibly, yes, I can -- I don't have to play by anyone's rules. I don't have to get married. I don't have to do the things that we've been told we have to do in our thirties. And yet in this like crushing, embarrassing concession to biological and hormonal differences, I am a cis woman. And I am strictly, entirely on the fence about whether or not I want to have a kid. And like, I kind of have to decide this decade. And that's a huge decision that changes and affects the rest of your life. And I guess I wonder, you were almost in the exact same position that I'm in, like working as a podcaster, being in media. And I'm curious how you went from my position to your position. Like what, why did you make the plunge?
AS: Okay, I'm going to dive into this answer. For me, I, like, what's so strange is that I always thought of myself as a person who, for whom work, uh, and my work identity and work achievement and ambition was very integral and it still is. I -- that's never been a question. I also always knew that I wanted to, to be a mom, to have a kid.
AT: How did you know? How did you always know?
AS: I just, I - like it's. So, um, I can remember having this conversation with, with some other journalists who did not know whether they wanted to become parents. And all I can -- like that, that was the question. Like, "How do you know? What's the feeling? Like, what's the knowing?" And it was like, to me, I just like put my arms in like a little cradle and was like, I don't know. But I just know, and I like cradled my arms back and forth, like, that this is something that I want to do. Like I want to hold my child.
AT: I wish, I wish I had the sort of certainty of that desire. I guess that's like, it leads to this more existential question of like, is it more painful to know exactly what you want or is it more painful to not know anything and just be adrift?
AT: I am adrift at the moment. And so we are focusing this episode of The Cut AND Death, Sex and Money on this idea of how, or when, you're supposed to know… if you should be a parent. And yes, there are ethical and environmental reasons not to have a kid. And there are financial and logistical considerations for whether or not to have a kid.
AS: And of course, not everyone gets to make the choice. Sometimes becoming a parent or not is just decided for you. But today we are focusing on the sets of questions that come up when you think about parenting and ambition and identity. I am raising two kids with my husband, but we are also going to hear about people who have approached the question of whether, and how, to parent from really different angles.
Avery and I first talked about this a few weeks back.
AT: I mean, this is going to make me sound like an absolute maniac, but I guess -- this shows you where my priorities are now -- like, what was the, do you remember the first time that it, that being a parent really ate into your ambition? Where you were like, I would like to do this meaty story or interview, but I can't right now because I have a baby to raise.
AS: Yes. Yeah. I mean, I, for me, it was like, "Oh, travel is not, travel is not something I want to do." Or if I do have to do it, I need to be really strategic about how many nights I'm away, what it's for, and be really clear what I'm going to get out of the time away, because it has a cost. I have a job that, like, I've been able to like make flexible so that I haven't don't feel like I've had to, um, give up my identity a professional person, and as a working person, or as a creative person. I still feel like I have that part of me. And I feel like becoming a mom has just, like, it's as if a whole other side of my body has been, like -- I picture like it blowing up with muscles that I didn't know I could have, which is like, how to soothe. How to, um, teach. How to comfort. How to, like, how to argue with a kid and get really emotional and then come back around so you both like apologize when you get frustrated. Like, there's just parts of me that I feel are so much more full.
AT: But I guess I wonder, like, what your relationship is with your own ambition right now because I'm so embarrassed to admit that I'm just like a fiery ball of ambition.
AS: Is there part of you as someone who like self-identifies really deeply as an artist, is there part of you that worries that you will be a less interesting artist if all of a sudden you're an artist and a mom?
AT: Oh my God. Get your foot off my neck, Anna. Oh my gosh. That's it. You got it. That's the, mmhm. That's totally the fear. I don't know if I have any right to identify as an artist. But yeah, like when I think about my models for motherhood, I think of like Yoko Ono and Vivian Westwood. And I don't think they were like the best moms because they were balancing a lot of other things and, um, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think it, I worry that it might mean sort of a King Solomon style splitting the baby and not being very good at either art or motherhood, you know, when you, when you, when you dilute the two. And so, that's why it's so nice to talk to you about it. Cause I, I really wonder what this has done to the quality of your work or the kind of work you do since becoming a parent.
AS: Yeah. I wonder about that too. It's like, what would it be like -
AS: Well, yeah. It's like, it's changed. The way I work has changed. And so like the work has changed and I still think I'm like making stuff that I'm really like excited and interested in and proud of, but it's different. Um, I mean, I, the thing that you say about Yoko Ono and Vivian Westwood, it makes me also, I just want to like name it. Like, I do also think that by and large, we don't think moms are hip. We think there's a certain, like, there's like a flattening to it.
AT: Okay. You've just touched on one more, like very core insecurity that I have around motherhood, which has kind of, um, I can't think of a more polite way to say it. So I'm just going to sound mean and I'm so sorry, but, like, the sort of basic-ing that happens.
AS: Oh yeah. Oh, I love that verb. Oh my God. That's a really good verb.
AT: You know what I mean? Like you, you are someone who has worked so hard to develop an acumen for what is new and what is interesting and what you know is missing from the conversation and needs to be said. And I know so many other brilliant, rigorous journalists who have become not only mothers, but just parents, you know, who, who really held up an eye for a story. And then suddenly they're sharing, you know...ugh.
AS: No. Say it. I want to hear your most mean self. I'd, just say it, get the "it" out. Like, I just want to hear it. We -- judgment-free zone. I'm not taking it personally. Just say it.
AT: They're showing me pictures of their kids and, like, I don't care. And they send me, like, a picture of their kid, whatever, like covered in food. That's actually kind of gross. Like, I don't actually care. Your, your vision of what is interesting gets so warped. Uh, I sound awful.
AS: Keep it, keep it coming. I love it. I want to hear it like a firehose.
AT: No (laughs). But do you know what I mean? I've spent so long curating, fine-tuning. Like, what is interesting? What is interesting to other people? What is a good story?
AS: I mean, I think an important thing to know is, like, do you, when you're around kids, are you, like, magnetized towards them or not?
AT: You know, that's an interesting thing. I loved kids. Like that was my ma-- I was, like, a babysitter growing up. But I was like a kid along with them. Like, we would make sundaes. And I remember these two kids I would babysit, we would cover the entire road with sidewalk chalk, like do these big ambitious art projects and just make it an adventure and have insane amounts of fun, like way too much fun.
So I do love kids a lot. And I think I also sometimes live my life for the adventure. I like having stories to tell of like, wild, late nights and weird encounters and, you know, stories heard secondhand at a bar. And I think I just treated kids like that. Like one of those adventures.
AT: I sometimes wish I could be, like, a man in the 1950s, just, like, have some kids, understand the richness and the beauty of having a family, but, like, whatever, mostly moving on with my life. And, um, I think that's the exact, that's, like, one end of the spectrum. And the other end of the spectrum is, right, being like an excellent mother who has to do everything. And I, I can feel myself pulled towards both of those poles -- just wanting to slack off entirely, or just, like, be the best, most incredible nurturer and learn all these new sides of myself. It irks me that I do not know this about myself. It irks me to not know what I want in a big decision.
AS: It is a big decision, yes. And you know, the way you and I think about work is different...not just because I’m a parent.
AT: I don’t think everyone who hosts a podcast wants to call themselves an artist or should call themselves and artist, but I don’t know -- I really do see myself that way. And I don’t know if that’s self-aggrandizing or not. And so I wanted to call up someone who is undoubtedly, obviously an artist. And she’s a friend of mine: Julie Mehretu. She’s an abstract painter -- and an incredibly successful abstract painter. She’s currently got a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum, which you should definitely check out if you’re in New York. And she’s also a mom. She has two sons, now ages 10 and 16. And we spoke over a video call.
AT: Okay. I'm going to start by telling you how absolutely mortified and embarrassed I am to be asking you about motherhood, because it's such a like cliche thing to do to women.
Julie Mehretu: Well, I don't. Why, why do you feel embarrassed to ask though?
AT: You know, it's like that -- like, you don't ask a man about like, "Oh how does fatherhood play into your work?"
JM: We should though. We should. [Laughs]
AT: It was Julie’s wife at the time who pushed them to try to get pregnant, and Julie says she’s grateful for that nudge. Both of them knew they wanted to be moms, and Julie was already making a living as a painter then. But all of my egotistical concerns about losing my edge or whatever... those were not Julie’s primary concerns.
JM: I wasn’t a birth mother, so that’s a very different reality of being a birth mother, but, you know, I was with these children from their conception and making of them. And I think at the beginning, more I was worried about what kind of mother would I be? We want to idealize what we can be and that we're going to make this kind of perfect person. And we want to try our best to like set that up. And that's an impossibility. And so for me, my fear was will I remember to feed them? Will I remember, like, how will I take care of this child? Like, how will I -- how can I even do this? Like such an enormous responsibility. I was more anxious about that than I was about being able to work. And I never worried about my work. I always will -- I will always find a way to do that.
AT: And when their first son was born, Cade, Julie found ways to work with him, literally. Like, right alongside her, there in the studio.
JM: I mean, he was in the Baby Bjorn with me while I was painting. He was like on the floor, it was never going to be something that was, it was, there was a constant fluidity.
AT: Well, okay. Part of that fluidity is because Julie and her partner were living in Berlin at the time. And getting to live outside the U.S. was kind of key. Julie, is originally from Ethiopia and she was very aware that the sort of individualistic, less communal way of raising kids is super American. And that the world has other alternatives.
JM: We went to Berlin and almost everybody had children and all these artists had children -- our family. And yet, kids would like hang out together in the spielplatz and you can drink wine and eat oysters next door. So there's this real kind of like, um, fluidity to being like a parent and being able to really live your life in a very different way and let the kids kind of live their life in this place of risk in a sense, which was really different than having children here. But those early years really changed how we could be parents and be adults at the same time.
AT: I mean, you make it all sound kind of like beautiful and wholesomely integrated with your life and your work and your practice. I mean, what did you have to give up as a parent?
JM: Well. Um, smoking. [Laughs] I don't know, like bad behavior in front of them.
AT: I feel like so much of the mythos of the artist is like smoking and behaving badly. And, um, I don't know, being kind of interesting in that way. Sorry.
JM: [Laughs] Well, I don't know. I mean, I think, I think like, are you, do you have a lot of friends who are uninteresting now that they're mothers? Is that why this is coming up?
AT: I mean...
JM: I feel like most interesting adults I know -- not all, because there’s a lot that have chosen not to parent -- but most have had children. It's, it's kind of like what happens to most people. But I also have to say like having kids and having an, and they have been my biggest teachers. The exuberance with which they make and create. I was watching Cade one time when he was 18 months just painting. And it was so instructive for me. I was like, "Man you’re so uptight. Look at just the freedom with which he approaches this!" And when he was four I took him onto the mural, the painting that I have downtown, and I had finished it in the studio in Berlin and I was going to continue working on it back here. But before we left I took him to make some secret marks into the painting wherever he wanted. And he approached it so freely. And then I came back into the painting actually trying to make after his marks, because there was this like amazing, um, he had just exuberant freedom that the kids make from, and they experience life from that place. So for me, there's this constant, like, you know, way of kind of interacting and learning from them.
AT: And not just with art -- Julie gets inspiration from her kids in just the way they think and the ways they approach the world.
JM: I can tell you that the way that my children think about gender, think about politics, think about race. The way they think about the economy. Capitalism. It's unbelievable. They are so, they're so radical and kind of rigorous as different ways of being. Like that made that make me feel like -- I felt like I was like pretty, trying to raise them as free and as openly as I can. But then, you know, these kids come up. They, they, they totally call us out for our, like, the constraints on our imagination of what is free. I feel like there's something about the way that people can have kids and find liberation as well, is important. And so for me, like, there's something about like talking to people about it because no one ever talked to us about it - me about it in that way.
Are you thinking about having kids or not thinking about having kids?
AT: Well, the time is, you know, as you said, like -
JT: The clock is ticking.
AT: I've got to make a decision. Yeah. And with, if I do, or if I don't, it's going to affect my life tremendously. And either choice is a choice.
JM: I think kids are like, you know, whether you have them or -- it's about this kind of like nurturing of something else, right? Your primary place shifts. Your primary relationship to yourself shifts. And that happens I think in a way in meditation too or when you're in a really deep creative flow, right? You're, like, you're lost in this other way of engaging. And I think, like, parenting is very much like that. And, you know, again, I realize that I'm speaking from an immense privilege to be able to really consider parenting.
You want children, Avery.
AT: Oh, but I've --
JM: But you really don't. [Laughs]
AT: I do… but I don’t! I don't know. But if a brilliant, talented artist like Julie Mehretu can find creativity and inspiration, and even liberation, in parenthood -- then what should I be so afraid of? But then again, Julie raised her kids partly in Europe. And I just don’t know if the United States could really support the kind of life where you can be parents and also totally just be autonomous adults.
AS: Coming up, more on that very American brand of family life -- and what happened when one mother decided to do things differently.
MARIA HOUSDEN: I was driving away in the car by myself with only my things. And for the first time in my life, as a person, I was going to have my own bedroom, my own space. I had never had this in the whole of my life.
AS: This is Death, Sex, and Money from WNYC, I’m Anna Sale.
AT: And I’m Avery Trufelman, host of The Cut, from New York Magazine.
AS: Part of why making the decision to become a parent is so fraught...is once you have a kid, you can’t un-do it. You brought a child into the world, who now needs to be taken care of. And there are some pretty rigid societal expectations of how that’s supposed to look -- especially for moms.
AT: Writer Maria Housden is in her 50s now. But back in the '90s, she was a stay at home mom. And then, her life changed. And she realized she wanted to be a different type of parent.
AS: I'm curious, Maria. I was thinking about this. When you're meeting someone new and they ask you, do you have kids? At what point do you tell them about your history with motherhood? What motherhood looked like for you?
Maria Housden: Well, the first aspect of it comes up for me when I have to wonder, do I tell them I have three children or four, right? Because I had a daughter that died.
AS: Maria’s relationship to mothering started to shift after her child, Hannah, was diagnosed with cancer when she was two years old.
MH: We had come to the emergency room with Hannah um, and they had admitted us, um, and to wait for some, you know, tests to come back. So, um, I remember as soon as Hannah was settled, you know, for the night I had picked up the phone and I had called the church, the PTA, you know, all of these things that I had been involved with, you know, over time that I really had thought were an important part of who I was and important part of my responsibility as a mother and a woman in the world. In calling these people and telling them, you know, that my daughter was sick, this was the only thing I wanted to be focused on, I realized kind of in the aftermath -- the concerns I would have had in the past about, you know, "Oh, are these people going to think I'm a bad person for not being able to do this or not being interested?" You know -- all these unconscious motivations that we have. Um, and it was very simple and very easy to let that go.
There's a beautiful line from, um, a poem by written by Jane Hirshfield called “Ripeness.” And she says, "Ripeness is what falls away with ease." It was really from that, that I began to walk more boldly and unapologetically through my life.
AS: Yeah. I love that line. "Ripeness is what falls away with ease."
AS: One other thing that fell away: Maria's marriage. She and her then-husband decided to split up about five years after Hannah died. And when they started talking about how they would parent after they divorced, Maria says her ex suggested that she be the one to move out.
MH: When my ex-husband first proposed this as a possibility when we were divorcing, I was horrified. I was like, what kind of mother would do that? Well, how could you even think of how -- that never even crossed my mind? Right? I just assumed that I would stay in the house and he would get the apartment. 'Cause that's the way everyone does it.
AS: But then, Maria started to consider what it would be like -- to NOT have primary custody of three kids.
MH: It was like a bursting into, like the breaking of the egg. Like a whole new world of possibilities, again, I had never anticipated or considered. And I was desperate for that at that point. It was only five years in the wake of Hannah’s death, and I still had a lot of, a lot of grieving and healing to do.
So one night in the middle of the night out of a sound sleep, I literally sat up in bed with this realization that the only thing I was afraid of was what other people would think. And when I realized that, when I got that, I was like, well, I don't care about that.
AS: After the divorce was final, Maria saw her kids every other weekend, and during summers. And she worked on her first book about her daughter, Hannah. This was in 1998, and Maria and her family lived in a tight-knit New Jersey suburb. She didn’t know any other divorced couples, let alone families where the mother moved out, away from the kids.
MH: I did have a moment with a close friend of mine who was, you know, in my, we were in our moms group together when I was making this decision. Um, during the divorce, she, at one point, um, said to me, "We're all miserable. What makes you so special that you get to do this?"
AS: Wait. I just want to like, sit with that a little bit. Like, what was she saying to you? Like she was saying, like, why do you think you get to ask for this?
MH: Yes. Yeah. Why, what makes you so special that you get to like, go and do this when we're all trying to make it work? But that goes to, you've probably heard that the, um, thing about the crabs in the bucket, right? You know, when you put the crabs in the bucket, as soon as one of them gets almost to the top to climb out the others pull it back down.
AS: That’s a pretty dim view of motherhood.
MH: Well, if you are unhappy in your life, regardless of you know, where you are on the motherhood spectrum or stage of the story, you know, uh, some people are happier than others in, in that moment or in that context. And again each person, you know, is unique and should, and does have a different set of choices. I've known that I was making the right decision for me and for my children and for our family the whole time, I just didn't expect how difficult it was going to be, you know, for anyone else to be okay with it.
So, if someone says to me, you know, should I do this? Do you recommend it? I say, no, you have to know this is best and right for you. You have to know it in such a way that you can weather the storm that is going to come. So, I don't recommend it. But I, I will say that there's no question, it was the right decision for all of us, even if it was painful, even if it was challenging.
AS: You say you don't recommend it? What is it that you don't recommend?
MH: Well, I don't recommend being the parent that moves out, whether you're the father or the mother. I'm just telling everyone if you are that parent, that is going to be difficult in ways you can't anticipate.
AS: Having lived the life you've lived, if you were talking to somebody who was, um, who hasn't had that clarity about being a parent and wanting to be a parent, and -- but instead has a lot of questions and confusion and uncertainty. Um, what would you tell that person about the questions they need to ask themselves?
MH: Well, the first and most important thing is to be honest and true with yourself about who you really are and what you really want. Even if you don't know what you want. You know to give ourselves room, to be honest with ourselves first and then, you know, the big challenge, to be honest with everyone in your life, including, and especially, saying, ‘I have no idea what I'm doing.’
AS: That’s Maria Housden. She wrote a book called Hannah's Gift, about her daughter who died, and a second book, called Unraveled: The True Story of a Woman Who Dared to Become a Different Kind of Mother.
AT: I mean, Anna, can I genuinely like on microphone right now, just sort of ask you, like, what did you think of Maria's story? As a parent, did that sensibility -- I don't know. Yeah. What did you what did you think of her decision?
AS: You know, what it made me think about was, you know, we've talked about the "Mommy Wars," like for decades, as if there's this, like, army of women on one side who stay at home with their kids that are, you know, full time caregivers. And then on the other side are, like, working women who've made really different choices. And the thing that Maria really got me thinking about was like, let's acknowledge that for a lot of people who are mothers, like the mommy war is waging in your head all the time. You know, like that's something that's an internal thing.
AT: Okay, and I think I think that's the thing that that weirds me out about this story that Maria has. I am not necessarily clutching my pearls because she was the non-custodial parent. I'm not scandalized by that. But I am extremely disheartened to be like -- I think I I think I fantasize that once you make the decision, like I will, I will have kids or not, then like that's the decision. And like, you've, you know, you've cast your lot and you've decided it. And this idea that the the the the internal battles, I mean, obviously the internal battles continue. But it's very upsetting to hear that there is no peace with the decision. It just continues to duke itself out in your mind.
AS: Yeah. And I will say, you know, Maria also mentioned to me while we talked about her really close relationships that she has with her kids as adults, and I was glad to hear that. Because I was wondering, what was this like for her kids? You know, what were their feelings about their mom making a different choice than than what they'd seen other moms do?
AT: We have one more conversation to share with you, and that’s with the comedian Margaret Cho. Margaret is extremely candid about her whole life, from growing up with her strict Korean parents, to her queerness to the fact that at 52 years old, she does not have children. And she's been very honest about the way she's gone back and forth on her decision, wanting to be a mother, then wanting not to be a mother.
Margaret Cho: Every time I've been pregnant which is three -- three? three times, yeah -- three times I've been pregnant, I've definitely, um, thought I got to get, get out of this. I can't do this.
AT: But did that change at some point? At one point, weren't you trying to have a kid?
MC: At some point I was trying like later on. But maybe it was almost this kind of thing of like last - the last cry of the hormones, the hormonal, the final hormonal scream. It was like a primal scream of like, "Last call!" It was last call for not alcohol, basically. [Laughs]
AS: So it was hard for Margaret not to consider giving parenthood a try. As a kid she said she'd always absorbed that when you grow up, you will have kids of your own and that’s the way it works.
MC: The future is inevitable that you're going to have a kid -- or do PCP. This is like '70s. So, um, I think that there was this expectation that that was going to happen.
AT: I mean how did that interact with your career as you were growing up? How did your mentality change or not change?
MC: Well, a lot of female comedians have children. And, um, it's like, it's not a big deal. And like a lot of female musicians I know have children, and it's not a big deal. Like Courtney loves set a pretty good example of that I think. Or um, just a lot of like rock stars I would see at like music festivals with babies with headphones on to protect their hearing, which I was like -- it doesn't have to be a big dea. Like your kid can just be part of your journey.
AT: And not only was Margaret not worried that having kids would be a hindrance, it was like… having kids was hip.
MC: Like in New York City, at like parties that I would go to in the early two thousands, the ultimate accessory was a 12-year-old girl and like a jean jacket who acted like a little adult.
AT: But I mean, by that mindset where you're like I gotta get me one of those. Like how did that make you feel?
MC: Kind of.
MC: It was kind of like, well yeah of course. Like in the early 2000s, like you wanted to be arguing with your rockstar ex-husband about custody while you're leaving pilates in your Juicy Couture cashmere tracksuit and Uggs. So that was sort of like the dream of kind of what I thought my life would be. I thought that I would probably -- like my in mind, my, in my in my imagination I would be married to like a rock star. Whether that was Melissa Etheridge or Richie Sambora, who's to know.
AT: The dream is so intricate and planned down to the last detail -- why didn't it happen?
MC: I think because, um I always I always avoided motherhood and marriage, I was I was married for 12 years but um --
AT: Why did you avoid motherhood?
MC: Because I think I didn't want to love anybody more than I loved anything or loved my career or loved any, any -- I was just so afraid of the um expansion of my heart. To me that seemed unbearable, um, even though I know that with that brings a lot of joy and an escalation of celebration of life, it to me was too, um, too much responsibility and too much um of the unknown. I would rather control the capacity of my loving, which is like now it's like in a safe place. Like, now it's in a contained place. Now I can really kind of examine it and enjoy it. But I think that for that (dog barks) parenting isn't for me.
Of course, I have a lot of animals. This is Luchea Catarina.
AS: Margaret have you have you ever identified as a parent - has there been a phase in your life when you thought of yourself as a parent?
MC: Um, I guess in a sense like -- I have like drag daughters, like drag, I have like the House of Cho. So I have a lot of like comedian children and like a lot of gay children and a lot of gay Asian children. And, like, whenever I see younger Asian-American comedians I'm like, "Oh those are my children." That's like, definitely, yes I'm a parent to that. So I have a whole dynasty of Asian-American comedian gay children. And then also all of my animals. So yes. But that's not the same. You know, it's very different. But it is very much a parent in that way.
AS: I mean, there's some ways it's the same. I, I think about, um, there's a quote years ago I talked to the actor Ellen Burstyn and she adopted her son, and she talked about how the act of mothering made her a mother. That, that the verb makes you the noun. And I think about that a lot.
MC: Yeah. I think that's right. I question whether having children is really this, um, gendered imperative that's put onto us by society that has really infiltrated my brain that I really question whether or not it was ever valid. That there's a hormonal response to children, babies, of course. But how much of that is social conditioning, and how much of that is my own desire? I'm not sure. And I, I mean I'm okay with not having them now. And and it feels good. Like, I'm okay right now with not having a partner. I'm okay with living alone, which is like -- to me, um, if I was in my 20s the idea of being alone in my 50s was the most terrifying prospect. But now, I'm 52 and I'm alone and I'm the happiest I've ever been. So I realized that that was social conditioning in my 20s -- being worried about being a middle-aged to older woman on my own, when I realize I am so much better off than I've ever been. I'm, I'm good. It's like that -- like, it's putting your hand over your glass of, like, life. Like, I'm good.
AS: That's Margaret Cho. So, Avery, have you decided?
AT: No, are you kidding me? Of course not. No, absolutely not.
AS: That is Avery Trufelman, host of The Cut podcast from New York Magazine. Thanks for doing this with us, Avery.
AT: Oh, such an honor. Thank you so much.
AS: Death, Sex and Money is a listener supported production of WNYC Studios in New York. This episode was produced by Yasmeen Khan. The rest of our team includes Katie Bishop, Afi Yellow-Duke, Emily Botein and Andrew Dunn. Special thanks to Avery and the whole team at The Cut podcast for making this with us. The Reverend John DeLore and Steve Lewis wrote our theme music. I'm on Instagram @annasalepics. The show is @deathsexmoney on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Thank you to Noa Barkan in Durham, North Carolina, who is a sustaining member of Death, Sex and Money. Join Noa and support what we do here by going to deathsexmoney.org/donate.
And Avery, just so you know, not all moms give up smoking.
MH: I started smoking in my 40s, you guys. I found my way to the original tobacco, the organic, and I highly recommend it.
AS: I love how you're like this is how much I don't care what people think. I'm going to highly recommend cigarette smoking in 2021.
Mh: Totally. I don't -- I don't recommend being the parent that moves out because it's really hard to do, but I do highly recommend organic smokes.
AS: I'm Anna Sale and this is Death, Sex and Money from WNYC.