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“How is a woman supposed to do it all?”
This is one of the many central questions within Natasha Leggero’s hysterical new book, “The World Deserves My Children,” a laugh-out-loud collection of essays that falls somewhere between memoir and a volume on parenting advice.
Reclining on a white sofa in the Silver Lake home studio she shares with husband and fellow comedian Moshe Kasher, Leggero expounds on her train of thought. “Like, in the ‘50s, women were cleaning all day long — and were expected to raise the kids. But now we're all expected to have jobs. It's just a lot. And how do you do it? It's super challenging. I think I was trying to process all of that.”
Lest you think Leggero is thinking of joining TikTok’s stay-at-home girlfriend collective (yes, that’s a thing), don’t worry, she’s definitely not. By all accounts, Leggero is busier than ever, hosting the TBS “culinary whodunit” show “Rat in the Kitchen” and a relationship advice podcast, “The Endless Honeymoon,” which she currently records with Kasher. Plus, as of August, she’s currently developing a single-camera comedy called “Buffalo Tens” with her friend and former “Another Period” co-star Riki Lindhome for Fox.
Still, Leggero would be the first to admit that having a kid — and all of the myriad, gender-specific challenges that lie within that decision — can be unfairly one-sided, if you’re in a traditional cis-het partnership. The division of household labor is one of the many subjects Leggero unpacks in “The World Deserves My Children,” along with: freezing your eggs, “geriatric” motherhood (now 48, Leggero became pregnant at 42), traveling with kids (“It’s not a vacation with a baby, it’s paying money to do chores in a pretty location”), opting to have kids in the face of worsening climate change and a pandemic, how not to raise a brat (there’s a particularly funny passage about becoming a “nut-milk sommelier” for her child) and much more.
Best known for her eviscerating stand-up, Leggero digs into all of these topics with the type of wisecracking commentary normally reserved for her take-no-prisoners crowd work, Netflix specials and "Comedy Central Roasts." At the same time, as she does on “The Endless Honeymoon,” Leggero injects every joke and wry observation with a dose of genuine heart and sincerity. Even the book’s cover has a mix of visual gags, with a glammed-up Leggero scrubbing dishes while her daughter plays on the (very messy) floor. Meanwhile, out the window, a fiery atom bomb explodes in the distance.
Though she started writing “The World Deserves My Children” pre-pandemic, Leggero says her book was heavily influenced by her family being forced into lockdown — a stage of COVID-19 millions of parents of small children will be able to relate to. “Before the pandemic, I was planning on outsourcing at least 40 hours a week with my child and having a nanny help me so I could work, or having someone help me clean a little bit. And I wasn't able to have any of that,” Leggero says, adding that had it not been for the pandemic, “Moshe would have been on the road, and then I would have been on the road. Maybe [my child would have] stayed with her grandparents.”
Instead, Leggero and Kasher, who both regularly take their comedy on tour, had to stay put without any help, an outcome Leggero calls “challenging” but is ultimately grateful for: “It was actually a really great time. I'm so glad I got to do it, because I would have never [been able to otherwise]. I think our family is really close because of it.”
“The World Deserves My Children” was actually one of 20 or so potential titles Leggero tossed around when considering how to summarize her book. “When you say the book’s title, I wanted it to be intriguing,” Leggero says. “I was thinking ‘Apocalypse Mom’ or ‘Old Mom.’ But it was all dancing around the same things. Once I had this title, it felt like it encompassed everything that the book was about.”
While she spends a large portion of “The World Deserves My Children” discussing IVF, pregnancy and child rearing in a time of environmental panic, Leggero also devotes time to recounting her own childhood growing up in Rockford, Ill., with a single mother and two younger brothers. She also talks about her early days as a child actor (not “child star,” she is careful to draw a distinction), moving to New York and Los Angeles to pursue comedy and converting to Judaism for Kasher.
“It is one of the better religions,” Leggero cracks. “I mean, it’s intellectual, women can be involved, they ask questions. The rabbis are there to consider things, as opposed to a pulpit that's like [points a finger], ‘this, this, this, this.’ And then all of this sexual misconduct is the undertone of that — it's really dark.”
Kasher actually shows up about three-fourths of the way through “The World Deserves My Children.” Near the book’s end, Leggero transcribes a dialogue where the couple interviews each other around how their parenting roles differ (Kasher calls himself the “Chief Fun Officer”) and whether or not Kasher could’ve handled pregnancy, among other things. As to why she wanted a back-and-forth with Kasher in the book, Leggero says it offered her husband a chance to “redeem himself.”
“With me ragging on him for the entire book — a lot of that stuff was stuff I was feeling, and the book was a way to get it out,” Leggero muses. “We were basically in a house together that neither of us could leave for two years. It was driving me crazy, and I was making fun of him a lot. He's so articulate, I knew he would be able to articulate the difference between the mother and father, and him saying that he's the Chief Fun Officer.” (Leggero, for her part, looks at her own heightened anxiety around keeping their daughter safe.)
“It's true in a way,” she adds of Kasher’s “CFO” designation. “I feel like I learned from him in that interview. He said, ‘There's absolutely no way that if you're completely fearful that something's going to happen to your child, that your child is not going to absorb that in some way.’”
When he phrased it like that, Leggero said it helped her realize that it's actually not good for your kid to be in such a constant state of fear. “And the pandemic made [me] even more fearful, because I'm like, ‘Is she allowed to go get a haircut? Is she allowed to touch a railing outside?' I was already feeling scared. And then [the pandemic] happened, and it was really challenging for me,” Leggero said.
The comedian also hopes to clear up (and call out) some of the harsh realities around fertility, particularly when you’re in your late 30s. If you can afford it, she strongly recommends that women freeze their eggs before 38. “Because then, if you do think that it's something you want to do with your life, you don't miss the opportunity,” she reasons. “It really does afford women an extra decade, at least.”
One thing she hopes readers get out of the book is a real-life look at all of the mysterious science behind fertilization.
“You've got to make all these decisions,” Leggero said. “There's, like, 20 things that nobody tells you. … All the science is so new, and it’s still not understood completely. So [I wanted to] help people understand all the different components. And I hope it’s entertaining and makes people laugh.”
Anyone, whether they are parents, want to be parents or have decided to remain child free, will appreciate the way Leggero — who herself considered a child-free life in her 20s and 30s — acknowledges the absurdity in having children in this day and age. It’s the way Leggero deftly considers both angles to the parenting equation before reasoning that yes, the world — though broken — really does deserve her children.
“You hope that you can spark interest in the world and that your kids are going to help be a part of the [solution],” Leggero concludes. “If there is something that's going to make our world better, optimistically, it probably will come from them. I don't know how that's gonna happen. But you can't have only the Christian right having all the kids, right? So, if you’re up for it, why not? Do it. Then try to show them a cool life.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.