Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

And They All Lived Happily Ever After…With Kids, Of Course November 29, 2012

 By Maybe Lady Liz

Last night, I finally saw the 1987 Coen brothers’ cult classic, Raising Arizona. For those of you who, like me, have been living under a rock for the past twenty-five years and haven’t seen it, the first hour and forty-two minutes are pretty solidly hilarious, and I highly recommend them. But (spoiler alert!), as someone who may not ever have kids, it’s the final two minutes of the movie that really ruined things for me.

Career criminal H.I. “Hi” McDonnough (played by Nicholas Cage) decides to walk the straight and narrow when he falls for a local policewoman, Edwina “Ed”. They marry quickly and Ed’s biological clock moves into full swing. After months of trying for a child, Ed is devastated when her doctor tells her she’s infertile. Knowing they’d never be able to adopt with Hi’s checkered past, they cook up a scheme to kidnap one of a furniture magnate’s newborn quintuplets. Hilarity ensues, of course, as the two of them navigate the challenges of a new baby and explaining just how they were able to adopt so quickly. Eventually, Hi’s past comes back to bite him as the baby is “re-kidnapped” by two of his recently-escaped cell mates. In their desperate chase to get the little guy back, Ed realizes that their original kidnapping was a horrible thing to do to a mother, and they return the baby to his parents.

But by this point, Ed and Hi’s marriage is pretty far deteriorated. Ed begins to think it was a bad match from the beginning and says she wants a divorce. But upon returning the baby, the furniture magnate (miraculously not angry at them) encourages her to sleep on it and not make any rash decisions. In Hi’s dream that night, which comprises the aforementioned final two minutes of the movie, he envisions a rosy future for him and Ed. Given the reality of their situation, you might think it would have been the two of them overcoming their differences and going on all kinds of exciting adventures or just enjoying each other’s company. But no. It was a rather cheesy montage that showcased nothing more than a parade of children and grandchildren running and out of their house, or sitting around a huge dining room table.

What’s the message here? That there’s really only one happy ending in life, and it must involve kids? I know I’m viewing the movie from a biased standpoint, and I’m reading far too much into it, but the implication seemed to be that despite all their marital problems, their lives might still turn out okay…as long as they’re somehow able to have children.

I should probably cut the Coen brothers some slack. After all, this was twenty-five years ago, when the term Childfree was still spelled with a lowercase “c” and people had a harder time imagining a rich, fulfilling life without kids. But, like so many other elements of pop culture, it was just a grating reminder that for most, a life without babies just doesn’t lend itself to that Hollywood storybook ending. I suppose those of us who wind up not having kids will just have to make sure we create our own happily ever afters.

Maybe Lady Liz is blogging her way through the decision of whether to create her own Cheerio-encrusted ankle-biters, or remain Childfree. You can follow her through the ups and downs at


13 Responses to “And They All Lived Happily Ever After…With Kids, Of Course”

  1. Leanne Says:

    I’m an avid reader. I love to read Christian fiction. Of course at the time I am struggling MOST to accept my lot in life, the last 2 books (and the current book) I’m reading all have infertility sprinkled throughout them. And all three of them….the resolution has been a miracle baby from God! Now I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, but I have yet to read a book where there is infertility with the outcome of remaining Childless. Yeah, I suppose books may not get as high of a rating, but still…aren’t most novels or movies based on some sort of reality? somewhere? somehow? Sometimes I’d like to chuck the book to the other side of the room. Unfortunately, I’d probably run and grab that book and finish it, because I just can’t leave a book unfinished, or a movie unwatched.

    • IrisD Says:

      I also love to read. For work purposes, I mostly have to read non-fiction. I read classics, literary fiction, young adult, urban fantasy and even some really good and fun-filled romance, for which a happy ending is love, marriage, baby, not necessarily in that order, but usually all of the above in the end. So, I’m always very pleasantly surprised when I read one of these light reads that are meant to be an escape, and I’m not left feeling more anxious. I really like Jennifer Crusie’s writing in this regard. She writes romance, but in a very quirky way with funny characters. Yes, sometimes her characters have biological children, but she doesn’t always follow this pattern as the must be. In one of her oldies, Anyone but You, neither of the main characters want kids. It is an older woman, younger man tale, where the older woman is 40. Her upstairs neighbor is a hip and very in shape senior citizen with a younger man boyfriend, who seems to really enjoy her life. In another of her novels, Bet Me, again, the two main characters do not want children. They don’t have children in their epilogue and one of the supporting characters, does not marry, but enjoys every moment of her life. Wish more authors provided different outcomes to the Happily Ever After. In Sherry Thomas’s, Not Quite a Husband, the lead character appears to have PCOS. There is a happily ever after without a baby. 🙂

  2. Maria Says:

    I recall seeing that movie when I was in college. Back then, there was tremendous pressure on me by my family to get married and have babies (my sisters were married at 19 and 20 and their children soon followed). A lot of my friends got married right after they graduated college at 22. I just offer this information to put the movie in context because back then that was the thing to do and I was very different for pursuing a career.There also was not much offered for infertility treatment back — I think it was right around the time of the first “test tube” baby. So back then people assumed if you didn’t have children, you didn’t want them. But I was rewatching the Sex In the City movie the other day on tv and I was really upset with the way they handled Charlotte getting pregnant. During the TV series, when she was diagnosed with infertility, they really handled her feelings about it very well. In the movie, she announces she’s pregnant and says, “people always say that this happens all the time after you adopt, you’re able to relax.” It made me so angry to see that ridiculous comment in the year 2012. I felt like throwing something through the TV screen. A disgraceful display of ignorance.

  3. Bee Says:

    My husband and I just decided last night to pull our adoption files from the agency and be officially childless. I am in full grief state lulled with Ativan so happily I change channels at stupid things that say “kids are everything.” I would throw the remote but we only have one TV and I LOVE the Charlie Brown Xmas special that current children never relate to.

    Thank you for this website. It would be so much harder to make this decision if I hadn’t been lurking and heard from all of you that there is life without baby. (Although I am likely to adopt a new pet in the next couple of weeks).

  4. Reblogged this on Hail SilverTree! and commented:
    I for one find small children annoying in movies….a whole parade of them would be horrible.

  5. jthorne Says:

    That antiquated notion about what makes a “happily ever after” is just ridiculous. I know plenty of people that didn’t have such a “happily ever after” once they had children. In fact, some of them even seem downright miserable.

  6. jean Says:

    Thanks for posting. I actually had the same reaction to the movie Up, which had a similar ending. I wondered whether I was overreacting, so I’m glad to see that others feel the same way!

  7. Elena Says:

    This is pretty ridiculous but what really hit me was the last 2 minutes of the Harry Potter series (ok that’s my inner teenager here….). The children who went to magic school for four years and have grown into 17-year-olds through the time of 8 movies (which is fun to watch also because the young actors of course grow up in reality at the same time) go through all these amazing adventures in a world where nothing is similar to ours and everything seems possible. Moreover the last 3 movies in the series turn really really dark. As any fantasy movie, in the end the forces of evil are vanquished and the main characters personality are changed to the more mature for everything they went through. And to boot, they have to solve the problems of falling in love for the first time and finding out about very real relationship problems.
    Ok. And then the movie ends with a fast-forward showing us that every single one of the main characters (remember it was a trio of two boys and a girl and that caused a lot of the relationship problems once they became teenagers) have now found partners and are now the parents taking their own children to the magical train for Hogwarts school.
    That was SO unnecessary and cliché and doesn’t even really makes sense given that those young people have led very unusual lives, it would have been more normal if at least some of them would not have turned out in a “normal” family life. It really pissed me off. The same: A happy end is not a happy end if everybody is not having a family in the end.

  8. Susan DeWeese Says:

    I’m new here. Basically I’m a 64-year-old retired schoolteacher who always thought she’d marry, have children and be in the “ideal” family. In my thirties I thought about having a baby without marriage but thought it would not work out. Sorry this is over-simplified – trying to be brief. I go through ups and downs throughout the year. Christmas is the hardest part. When I hear the phrases about Christmas being for children, I feel so sad. I’m here to learn from others as well as share deepest feelings. Hope I fit in.

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