Patricia Clarkson on never marrying or having kids: ‘I’ve had a great sexy-ass life’

Patricia Clarkson is so good at playing Northern WASPs, I always forget that she’s actually a Southerner. She’s from Louisiana, but she’s lived in New York for years. She apparently lives alone – she’s famously unmarried and childfree. She recently spoke to the Table for Two podcast about her personal choices to focus on her career and her fabulous single, childfree life. At the age of 63, she has no regrets. Goals.

She never wanted to be saddled with a husband or kids: She called herself a “single, straight Southern woman who never married and never had children” while explaining why she decided becoming a mom wasn’t right for her. “I have so many sisters who have beautiful children, and they now have beautiful children. I love being an aunt, I love it more than— probably more than acting, which is odd. They’re on par. But I’m telling you, these are gorgeous children, but that doesn’t have to define every woman. I made a big choice, but I knew it when I was young.”

She did have a chance: Clarkson noted that she considered the possibility of having kids and getting married “with this one artist I dated when I was like 38…I had a window to have a child, but [at] the end of the day I loved working, and I grew up with great parents who sacrificed everything for me. And you have to really be committed to having children. You have to be a great parent, and I was afraid I couldn’t be.”

Fear of failure: She did not “want to fail at being a parent… I’m fine failing as an actor. I didn’t want to fail at being a parent.”

Her fab life: “My mother said, ‘Patty, I just don’t want you to wake up at 50 and be unhappy.’ I woke up at 50 in stilettos and a thong. I’ve had a great sexy-ass life. And it’s not that my whole life is that. I love being an aunt, I love being a sister, I love being a daughter, I love being a great best friend. I’m a very good friend, I think. It’s not what I wanted to define me because I didn’t want to fail.”

[From People]

She said, a decade ago, that she believed she was missing that gene which makes people want to settle down and procreate, and I feel that. I think there are a lot of women missing that gene, and they just go along with the marriage-and-baby life because they were told that’s what “every woman” wants or should want. I relate to all of this, just like I relate to Mary J. Blige’s statement of “I like my freedom. I like being able to get up and go and move and do what I wanna do. I don’t want to have to tend to someone all the time.” Protect your peace, childfree peeps!

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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62 Responses to “Patricia Clarkson on never marrying or having kids: ‘I’ve had a great sexy-ass life’”

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  1. bb says:

    so refreshing. because you know what? there are a gazillion different ways to be a wonderful, happy fulfilled woman. more stories like this please!

    • AlpineWitch says:

      Totally agree! I got married at 40 but even if I love my hubby to death, thete was no reason to marry if I wasn’t an immigrant. We’re childfree and never regretted it.

    • Amanda says:

      @BB: what an absolutely beautiful sentiment:
      “….there are a gazillion different ways to be a wonderful, happy fulfilled woman.”

      • BothSidesNow says:

        Yes!! We can be more than a wife and a mother! And the more women that choose what THEY want, the better!!

        We should still uplift and support women who don’t want to have children and/or marry. Life is more than children and a spouse.

  2. Laalaa says:

    Great words, I feel the same and I am happy to hear this from a woman who is 30 years older.

    • SophieJara says:

      So true BB. My godmother never had kids, and only had a brief marriage in her early twenties, never again. I was with her when she died, and there must have been 100 people who came to see her in hospice. She had time to nurture her friendships, she also lived a big sexy life on her own terms, she created so much with her time here, as her time was her own. Being child free can be a beautiful thing.

  3. Amy T says:

    Absolutely! We totally need more content that doesn’t glorify motherhood as the Holy Grail of Womanhood and celebrates the full array of choices available to us and the the children some of us choose (or not) to bring into the world and/or raise.

  4. Harla A Brazen Hussy says:

    My daughter, from a pretty young age, knew that she never wanted to have children but she did marry a man with kids and she’s very much enjoying being a stepmom. I bet that Patrica is such a fun aunt! I wonder if she’d “adopt” me as a niece??

  5. Jenns says:

    43 here. Never been married and have no children. I never had any desire to be a wife or a mother. And I’m perfectly content with my life.

    One thing I will say is that in my 20s and 30s, I was made to feel that there was something wrong with me. But now that I’m in my 40s, I realize that there is nothing wrong with being single and childless. There is, however, something wrong with people who judge women for making their own decisions about their life. So if it bothers you that a woman choose to be single and childless, die mad about it.

    • North of Boston says:

      Well said!

      I never had a strong desire to have a child or be a mother. I’m pretty sure I would have been fantastic at it, judging how I am with other people’s kids. But it wasn’t a driving motivation for me even when I was young,

      But that’s entirely my choice… my one body, my one life. Other people having an issue with that can take that energy elsewhere, it’s not my problem to deal with.

      • dlc says:

        Someone once expresses surprised that I wasn’t a parent because they thought I.would be a great mom. flattering, but funny. I am maternal, but I caretake my dogs, my own mother, my employees at work, my niece and nephew, etc. That makes me happy. 47, and never a serious urge to have children of my own.

    • Brassy Rebel says:

      Sometimes the best parents are the ones who never bring children into the world because they know they would not be willing to devote the time and energy required. Patricia said this. It’s a lot. And all of this good advice applies equally to men.

    • Kitten says:

      I just got done reading a good book that I recommend to you and others in this thread called “They Never Tell You This”–it’s a memoir of a woman who’s turning 40 and finds herself unmarried and without kids. It really touches on so many of the feelings you describe here but it’s also really empowering to read her journey to not just self-acceptance, but an outright celebration of her life. I was single until 37 and I really related to so much of that book.

      • Andrea says:

        I am 42 never married, no kids and what they don’t tell you is how other women will shame you for not having kids with a crappy partner rather than none at all and are shocked when you say, I just didnt feel comfortable having kids with someone who didnt make me feel safe or would have not been an active parent. I don’t get the mentality its better to have kids with someone anyone than none at all mentality. I stand by my choice. I would love to marry one day, but again, only with someone who treats me well.

      • Ashley says:

        Hi Kitten, i am wondering if you have the author of that book? Would love to find it. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

      • Christine says:

        I think it’s “No one tells you this” by Glynnis MacNicol. I plan on reading it.

    • pottymouth pup says:

      many moons ago, my parents asked me why I didn’t plan to have children. I told them that I’d grown up hearing them say “I hope one day that you have a child just like you” and I have very vivid memories of what teenaged me was like. That was enough. I had a hard enough time keeping things together dealing with their health issues and eventual death as it was. I can’t imagine having to go through that stress while raising kids at the same time.

      I’m happy to be the cool aunt. If my older nephew is no longer with his current GF when he graduates from college in 2 years, he’s thinking of moving out by me to start looking for a job. The youngest has decided to move to Philly this year to go to college. Both kids when from “hey move out closer to us” to stay put until we see if we end up out by you. I think I’m good

      • Reborn Rich says:

        I LOVE this story. I don’t know what I would have done without my aunts! My mother told me her career was only possible because of my childfree aunt and grandmother holding down the home on those days I was too ill for school or when she had to work late or travel.

  6. bisynaptic says:

    She sounds fabulous. I can relate to her sentiments.

  7. Amy says:

    Pushing 50 and child free because I had an abusive, horrible mother and was always afraid I would slip into her.
    Then after a lot of therapy when I thought maybe I could be a mom, husband and I lost our jobs within a few months of each other and our household income went down so far we couldn’t really afford kids.
    My only real regret is that I don’t know who will handle our house and stuff after we die.

    • You could have fun setting up a foundation to handle your stuff after you die. Decide who what where you want your remaining assets to go to.

      I met a trust fund dog one day, his owner was an old lady who loved him but was not well enough to take him outside. When she died she put her money in a trust fund for him, it stipulates that he gets 3 walks a day. I met him on one of his mandated walks.

      You really could pick anyone/thing/cause to leave your money to

    • Kitten says:

      Yes trust or a financial advisor, someone who could function as power-of-attorney. Lots of options.

    • DeeSea says:

      Pay for one hour of a recommended, reputable estate attorney’s time and tell them exactly what your fears and concerns are. They’ll give you lots of options and you’ll come away realizing exactly how much control you have now over what will happen later. After that hour, you might decide to pay for more of their time to help put some of those plans into place. I don’t have children or much family, and I used to worry endlessly about what would happen to my pets, house, etc. if something happened to me. I also worried endlessly about who I could depend on if I need an advocate or representative acting on my behalf if I ever need it. I did a multifaceted estate plan a few years ago, and the peace of mind that it gave me is PROFOUND. I now have a detailed will and all sorts of ready-to-deploy plans that will go into effect if I need outside help, become incapacitated, or die. None of this was as prohibitively expensive as I expected it to be.

  8. smegmoria says:

    Why did nobody tell me this in the 90’s?

    • Granger says:

      Ha! I hear you. I mean, in the 90s I honestly didn’t think I was going to get married or have kids. But then… I did. And of course I don’t regret it — my kids are the best. But I would be lying if I said that I never envy my beautiful child-free besties, who can travel whenever and spend their money however they want.

      And totally agree that I would love to hear more stories about/from women who decided not to get married or have kids. Patricia sounds like someone I would really love to have a few glasses of wine with — in a thong and stilletos.

  9. anniefannie says:

    I was certain I’d be single, child free and ecstatic, then 45 hit, married and pregnant lol ( went off birth control after 21 y and preg in 2 months) Ive honestly seen both sides and can’t picture my life w/o my daughter. Oddly though almost all of my besties are child free and living their best lives.( the BEST Aunties ever) It’s really a matter of desire + opportunity or Holy shite,what just happened?!?

    • Jessica says:

      Wow so interesting! I’m 35 and really wrestling with the decision to have kids or not. I think having 1 daughter seems nice, but I LOVE my life and none of my friends with kids are selling the whole thing. Any advice lol??

  10. Linder says:

    Good for her for knowing what she wanted. I have 3 kids and 6 grandkids and I have never regretted being a Mom. For me it was the best gig ever. And still is. I loved it. And I had a decent career before retiring. I feel badly for children whose parents clearly regret that choice. If you have kids for status, or because your Mom wants to be a grandma or you’ll get a bigger welfare cheque I don’t have anything nice to say about you.

    • pk says:

      I know plenty of people who had kids just because that’s what society expected of them. You can tell they aren’t happy. Why do this to your child? They know they aren’t wanted. I also know someone who just keeps popping out kids for the welfare check. She’s on her third and will probably have a forth. She complains about her kids and tries to dump them on others for free babysitting…gives sobs stories about how hard it is and how she can’t afford anything, but has no issue going to the tanning salon, hair salon, nail salon all the time, plus she goes on beach vacations every year and sometimes leaves her kids with a babysitter at home while she flies off to a sunny destination.

  11. Ameerah M says:

    I am glad to hear more and more women talking about choosing to NOT get married and have kids – and how they are happy and thriving in their choices. We need more stories like this. Because I still think a lot of women get married and have kids because it’s the expectation to do so. Seeing that there is an alternative choice and one can be happy with it is good.

    Also she is quintessentially Southern to me. Especially after her role in Sharp Objects. I can never not see her as a Gothic Southern woman lol.

  12. Sean says:

    I love that being childless is talked about more as a valid life choice. I’ve known for a very long time that I didn’t want children. Sometimes I’d think I might reconsider if I met the right person. However, the older I’ve gotten and the more I’ve observed what parenting is like for my family and friends who have children, the more certain I am it’s not the right path for me.

    I know I’m not alone in feeling this way and I love hearing/reading about childless folks discussing their lives loud and proud!

    That being said, it has made dating harder in a way because most people want children or they think do. The dating pool is definitely smaller and while I don’t want kids, I’d love to have a partner to come home to/experience life with.

    Anyway, yay for being childless! My time is my own!

    • Ameerah M says:

      I was certain I wanted kids for a very long time. But the older I got the less I wanted them. lockdown and seeing what my friends (specifically mothers who are still the primary caregivers) dealt with made me appreciate being child-free and solidified my choice. You never know what life can bring and if I met someone MAYBE I would change my mind. But I am actually really happy and content not only being child-free but single. It affords me so much freedom and I love that.

  13. Kitten says:

    Love her so much, Agree with others that this very valid life choice needs to be discussed more openly. Gone are the days where women who choose to be alone and/or not procreate are considered old maids or somehow worthless to society.

    • Ameerah M says:

      If I could live the life of a rich child-free older woman who does nothing but travel and have adventures. The DREAM!

  14. SIde Eye says:

    I love her. I have been waiting for a bold woman to give this interview and may it be the start of more and more women coming forward to say the same thing.

    BTW she is in this amazing film called “Cairo Time.” She is soooooo good in it as is her leading man, Alexander Siddig. Such a beautiful story and she is flawless in it.

  15. lisa says:

    I never wanted to wish anyone into existence so that they could just pay bills for 50+ yrs. it seems like a mean thing to do. and I’m american so I cant even guarantee them health care.

  16. Twin Falls says:

    She’s the coolest. I will watch anything she’s in.

    Kids lock you down, no doubt. Women, not cowboys like Costner of course, they are still free to roam the open range at will.

    It’s a completely valid choice to not have children and I hope more women who’ve made the choice, will make the choice, are supported in it.

    And not to be a downer but with the state of the climate, I’m not sure what type of future we are leaving our children or our children’s children.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      @ Twin Falls, you aren’t being a downer regarding the climate crisis that we are in and are not making enough progress to stop. You are being realistic!!!

      I must admit that I side eye people who choose to have 5, 9 or even 12 children!!!! I know I shouldn’t be so judgmental but I can’t help but think about how great the ramifications will be as those children grow and produce more children!!! YIKES!!!

      It just seems SO irresponsible for the planet as we cannot feed the current population as it is!!! I certainly understood it 100 years ago when families had farms and they needed as many hands as possible but that is not the case anymore.

      The more that we normalize childfree choices for women the better it is for everyone!!

      I would like to point out that MEN seem to get a free pass when it comes to choosing to be childfree and that must stop as well!! We a must STOP giving men free passes when women are scrutinized and looked down upon for making the choices that are right for THEM!!

      I will step off my soap box now…..

      • Andrea says:

        I know of a woman who had 4 kids and loved being pregnant, all to cheat on her husband multiple times with multiple men once all the kids were born (and she admitted an affair after the first two were here). She told me she kept having kids in the hopes one will be around when she gets old. I was thinking uhh there is no guarantee in life for that plus she hasn’t exactly been mother of the year. The father always made the lunches and did the school runs while she slept in, only after they divorced did she actually have to do those things herself. Some people have children for very selfish reasons and we don’t discuss it enough because we, as a society, think not having kids is the selfish part.

  17. AnneL says:

    I don’t regret having kids at all, but I do wish that being unmarried and/or child-free would have been presented as a valid, healthy choice, one to be celebrated, when I was in my 20s. I was in graduate school, surrounded by high-achieving women, with a strong friend group, and I still worried about hitting 35 without a ring on my finger. Ridiculous.

    One scene in “It’s A Wonderful Life” that always gets me is the one where George finds out that if he hadn’t ever been born, his wife Mary never would have married. She’s presented as leaving the library where she works at the end of the day, looking dejected. She’s wearing glasses (horrors!), because that signified “sexually undesirable spinster with barren womb.” She’s supposedly this beautiful woman who “could have married anybody” (but she wanted George!), but he doesn’t exist so Sad Spinster it is.

    • Mcmmom says:

      I love that movie, but my sister and I laugh at that scene because Mary would have totally married Sam Wainright and been loaded.

  18. Aidee Kay says:

    Yay for childfreedom!!! My husband and I decided not to have children and we are happier about it every day. When I see the struggles of parenthood, especially motherhood, I am like YIKES that is NOT for me. I know what it is to want things with all my heart and I never felt that about becoming a mother. I am so so so so happy and grateful for my freedom.

  19. Renee' says:

    I love her and her message. As an unmarried & childless woman just turning 50, I love this message. I can so relate. Not everyone should or wants to be a mother.

    • ME says:

      I really hate how many people assume that if you’re unmarried and don’t have kids, it’s because you couldn’t find a man. F*ck off with that sh*t. Can’t a woman CHOOSE to not get married and have kids? Why is that so hard to understand for some people? I feel like those that are in unhappy marriages and have unwanted kids judge the most. It’s like they want everyone else to be as miserable as they are.

  20. Lucía says:

    She’s an excellent on-screen mom, that’s for sure! Her and Stanley Tucci were fabulous as Emma Stone’s loving and supporting (if slightly eccentric) parents. Probably one of the best parts of the movie.

  21. tealily says:

    Love this, love her. Honking for Patty!

  22. Rossella says:

    I envy women who feel this way. Who make the active choice to be child free.

    I would love to be a mother and unfortunately at 35 years old, I know it won’t be a reality. I have no one in my life and was told I had infertility issues 10 years ago. So I envy women who have never felt the urge to be a mother. I dote on my nephews and nieces and it is heartbreaking that it won’t be my life.


  23. jferber says:

    Excellent actress. I’ve seen her in SO many movies and she is always magnificent. Surprised she’s hasn’t received a Best Supporting Actress yet. She is the real deal and make no mistake about it.

  24. Well Wisher says:

    I support whatever she envisions for herself.
    I love her talent, one of the few actors that I would choose to watch films that they are a part of without reading anything about the synopsis.
    An excellent talent, whose private life remained relatively unknown to me until this article.

  25. Jessla says:

    Love this story about Patricia Clarkson! And I love reading all these positive comments! I’m 41 and child free and unlike Patricia have a lot of complicated feelings about it because I always thought I’d be a mother. But it really helps me to see women like her living such full and fulfilling lives because I know that can be me too.

  26. Mauven says:

    I have no doubt! I just finished Six Feet Under and she is so sexy.

  27. Tree says:

    If you want to hear more amazing, funny, and moving stories from women who chose not to have children you need to check out the documentary film “MY SO-CALLED SELFISH LIFE” It is streaming On Demand this weekend. Google the title to find the film’s website and look for the link at the top of the home page.

  28. ⁷Tree says:

    At Andrea. So true. Other women are so mean to me once they realize I don’t have children or a boyfriend. I have been lied on so many times because of this. It’s like the Salem witch trials.

  29. Mel says:

    I’m a Mom and I hate when other women act like someone is living a sad life because they chose NOT to have kids. Everyone doesn’t want that and it’s ok. I don’t care if I ever become a Grandma and was judged for that also. I wasn’t that interested I. Kids but I have them and lov them with all my heart but if there’s never another baby in my life, I’m fine with it. Truthfully, I never want to smell, see or change a poopy diaper again.

  30. Rebecca says:

    I always fall a little bit in love with Patricia Clarkson when I see her on screen. She’s just so interesting to watch.

  31. Abbie says:

    This is probably a generational or non-American thing, but for young people in most rich developed countries getting married and having kids is no longer the norm. I’m mid thirties and from Europe but live in East Asia, and women with kids and husbands who are my age or younger are rare as hell. Yes, we date and have relationships but committing assets and bodies permanently is a big no. Why would you when you can be happy single or be in a relationship without tying finances and burdening yourself with responsibilities on a planet that is going to climate hell and is already overpopulated?

    Honestly, low birth rates are constantly talked about in much of Europe and East Asia and even though governments see it as a huge problem, us ordinary womenfolk don’t, lol.
    I think this would have happened eons ago had women had the financial and ideological freedom to really be independent and do what they wanted in life. Instead men forced us to be their free domestic labor and heir provider through social and religious norms and sheer brute force, until we forgot that actually life can be lived in many different ways.