Photo by Jeremy Sachs-Michaels
In her new book The World Deserves My Children, comedian and actor Natasha Leggero explains she spent two childbearing decades free of children on purpose. “My lack of offspring was no accident,” she explains early on. “It never made sense to me that you were supposed to spend your two most fun decades nursing children and staying out of executive roles in the workplace. Some women may be able to do it all, but I’m lazy. I’m more than happy doing some.”
Out Nov. 15 from Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books, The World Deserves My Children captures the onset of motherhood as the fate of the world feels crumbling and uncertain. Leggero dives into it all: domestic duties, what it’s like being a mom, division of labor with your partner, traveling with a child, crippling fear and learning to live with “Gangnam Style” on repeat. In the process, she unpacks her childhood, journey into the entertainment industry and relationship with herself, asserting universal insight along the way and plenty of laughs.
“There were some things I really wanted to talk about, like freezing my eggs,” Leggero tells LA Confidential. “I think that there's not enough people who understand how that's done and what your options are as a woman because it is a total game changer. And this whole idea that ‘I'm almost 30, I have to have kids.’ That's not really reality anymore. It's expensive to freeze your eggs, but the good news is that you can work at a job and have a career and do all these things before you have the kids so that you can hopefully afford to freeze your eggs and have a little more of a timeline that could suit you.”
Leggero took about three years to finish the book. She says she first started writing a few months into motherhood and by the end, her child was in preschool.
“When I was trying to get pregnant at 36 or maybe it was 38, I didn't realize there's like one day a month or two days a month that you can even get pregnant when you get older. And it's just nobody really talks about it,” the Los Angeles-based comic says.
In addition to truthfully accounting her IVF process and “geriatric pregnancy” for, ideally, women under 38, Leggero says the book is for both moms and fathers. “I’m the kind of person who wants to absorb all the information before I make a decision, so hopefully this book is a little slice into that and will help people weigh and consider whether or not what they would want to do.”
Read on for more from Leggero about the loneliness of writing a book, grappling with fear and how she transformed through motherhood.
The cover is perfectly chaotic. How did this image come to life?
The photographer I've worked with before named Elizabeth Karen is a mom as well. And I think we were barely coming out of the pandemic and we were still in the throes, but it was still like two years into it. There's like different levels of pandemic and I think it was good for the families, but they also ended up [with] an enormous amount of housework and scheduling. There’s so much that we had to do house-wise and I was just feeling kind of oppressed by all these domestic duties… I just had her come into my house and the dishes, as usual, were not done, and so we just added to it and put all the toys that were in one room in the kitchen.
I realized early on [in the pandemic that] no one was going to help you, so you had to get your own information and figure out what to do on your own. So I was just constantly reading articles about the end of the world and how we're gonna get through this in terms of global warming closing in on us and there's still so much racial injustice. I think it was right around all of this culminating, so I was like, “OK, we should have like the world outside be on fire.”
Photo by Elisabeth Caren for Gallery Books/ Simon & Schuster
In the acknowledgments, you say you'll never write another book again. What was the writing process like for you?
Writing a book is very lonely. Writing for TV is super collaborative and I really love that, and stand up is collaborative too, in a way, because every night you can go up and try things out on the audience and see what their response is. It's performative. It doesn't feel so lonely. And I think that in a way it was nice, but it just isn't exactly the type of writing that I feel like I'm meant to do. Well, that's not fair because I really did enjoy doing it. And I feel like the book is really good and funny, but I was able to channel the comedy into a book form because I couldn't go up and do stand up. So I think if I have the chance or the opportunity to have other things I could be writing, I might not have been able to write the book. So I think I'm pretty lucky that I was just in this bubble.
You start the book with your 2016 election night party. Why was that the right place for you to begin this story?
We had this huge party and we turned up our pool and it was just this very liberal bubble. We had Mexican food catering, this playlist of like “We Are The Champions” and there was no world where anyone— at least at my party— thought Trump would get elected. We wheeled a big TV out, everyone's in their floaties and then as soon as you realize, like, “Oh, Trump won Michigan, he is going to be the president.”
I was thinking of starting to get pregnant. And I think that’s when it hit me like, “Oh, maybe I'm not going to have a kid because look at the world.” I think that's a good place to mark where things really accelerated towards something bad. It's a very fair question: “OK so this is the world now. Is it fair to bring kids into it?”
The book is full of autobiographical stories and humor. Ultimately, however, what do you want readers to take away?
I think that just the more we can talk about the uncomfortable things and the sad things, the miscarriages, the eggs that die, the testing of the egg— that's confusing too. I just think just really getting as much information about this as you can if you think you might want to have kids [is important].
My husband's always like, “You need to stop telling people to have a kid.” It's true. You can't imagine yourself without this child and I do think that there are people who could be great parents who just decide to skip it, but I just think it is such a rewarding experience and such a unique experience and getting to be in the presence of a child— I guess I wasn't prepared for that. Just this innocent angel. My kid is four, so she doesn't know who Trump is, she doesn't know anything. The most negative thing in the world to her is she's trying to go to sleep at night and so sometimes you'd be like, “Mom, I can't stop thinking about cotton candy.” And that's her biggest problem is that she's trying to sleep and she keeps getting an image of cotton candy. It's just this amazing, special thing. I don't know. I just feel like if you have it in you to raise kids, we're gonna need more kids to help us. Maybe they will fall in love with the world and be able to help us out of whatever problems we're going to be in. It's not fair to a child to put that much responsibility on them, but it's a hope.
Photo by Elisabeth Caren
At the start of the epilogue, you have a note to your daughter saying she should read the epilogue first. Did you write the book with the hope that she would read it one day?
Well, my kid grew up during the course of writing the book. But now sometimes I'll say in front of a friend something funny that she said and she's like, “Mom, stop telling people things I say.” You start to get worried. And I'm like, “Oh, I don't know if I can put a comedy special out where I'm talking about things she said.” What if she watches it when she's 12 and gets really mad? It's really challenging and I don't want to overstep my boundaries and say things that she said if that's private— I mean, granted, she's four, but it feels like I don't really have the answer for that. I just want her to know how much I love her and how important she is to me and how much better she makes my life. I'm trying to make sure that she knows that because I do say some things that she's told me in the book.
I want her to know how much I love her and all the positive things because I do complain in the book a little bit about breastfeeding and about how your time is no longer your own. And I think that's something that is the hardest thing to get over. Like when I moved to L.A., I would wake up every morning and walk to Starbucks and make myself sit down and write three pages of a comedy idea and then work on it that night and then go up on stage. Your life is just based around your art and getting better and “how can I do this?”Your whole life is like, “How can I feed my art and my self growth?” But with a kid, you wake up in the morning and they need to eat, they need a lunch, you need to pack them a snack. You need to deal with getting them dressed. They're crying. They don't want their hair brushed. Now she's out of the house, but by the time that happens, it's like 11 o'clock in the morning and you're exhausted. If you're someone who wakes up in the morning and wants to do your work or exercise or whatever it is, that isn't really available to you anymore. Maybe there's other ways of doing that and being more savvy. Maybe I should switch off with my husband more. But I do feel like there's just so much change and upheaval in having a kid, and I write about that a lot in the book and I just wanted to make sure that my daughter didn't think when she does read it, that I'm complaining about her.
In the book, you write about your constant worry about your daughter. Did writing this book help you grapple with that in any way?
I interview my husband in the book, who doesn't have that connection to worry. I feel like the mother’s primary importance is like, “How can I keep her safe at all times?” My husband says in the book that his job is like the chief fun officer, so he's like,” How can I always be making things fun?” It often goes against my idea of keeping her safe. He's like, “Let's take her to Burning Man.” I'm like, “No.” That's not that's not an appropriate place for a three year old in my opinion. But did it help? I would say it helped a little just by really realizing that you can protect your child all you want and still something can happen to them. So I guess I don't want to spend so much of my time worrying and worrying about her safety, but it's so hard not to. And yes, I used to be someone who would on a whim go to Africa and get vaccines shot up through my arm and then be like, “OK, I'll be there tomorrow.” I was just the person who would do anything, like whitewater rafting without a helmet. And now all of those things I used to do, I'm afraid now. It's been a journey getting back to the person who I used to be. Where is pre-motherhood Natasha and how can I connect with her again and maybe she's not the same? Maybe she's changed a little bit, and maybe that's OK. In that sense, I feel like it helped me because maybe it won't be exactly the same, but maybe there's a more well-rounded person that can have fun and take care of her family. Hopefully at the other end of it.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Find tickets to Natasha Leggero's The World Deserves My Children Tour.
See also: Anya Taylor-Joy Is A Master Of Her Craft
Photography by: Jeremy Sachs-Michaels; Photo by Elisabeth Caren for Gallery Books/ Simon & Schuster