John Mulaney Said He Didn’t Want Kids and Now He’s Having One—So What?

The comedian’s announcement that he and Olivia Munn are procreating caused much consternation in the Twittersphere, but changing your mind isn’t exactly a crime

Comedian, actor, and Saturday Night Live writer John Mulaney dropped a baby bomb Tuesday on Late Night With Seth Meyers, revealing that he and Olivia Munn, whom he’s been dating since his split from wife Annamarie Tendler (and rehab), are now with child. “I got into this relationship that’s been really beautiful with someone incredible,” Mulaney said of Munn during the appearance about the tumultuous last year of his life. “And we’re having a baby together.”

Normally this is the sort of news that elicits well-wishes—and there’s certainly been plenty of that from fans who’ve followed his public struggle with addiction and are rooting for him to stay clean, and are happy to see him happy. But Mulaney also has the sort of fanbase that seems to take it very personally that his marriage to Tendler ended. Whether that’s because it destroys their personal vicarious dork dreams of true love forever or because they think he shacked up with someone else too quickly, certain fans simply can’t get their minds around the concept that Mulaney—uh, a famous person they don’t actually know—might’ve changed his mind.

Sure, some of the anti-baby camp are the usual scolds who see Munn as some kind of home-wrecker Cool Girl fit for a scarlet letter; other critics are self-styled Timeline Arbiters who aren’t comfortable with the speed at Mulaney went from filing for divorce to dating Munn (I’m sure the couple care, deeply).

But the biggest source of consternation for many of the haters: Mulaney made it abundantly, publicly clear in the past he didn’t want kids, and didn’t even like them. In a famous bit off his 2015 Netflix special The Comeback Kid, Mulaney riffs on a realtor who, while showing he and Tendler an apartment, pushed the possibility of kids a bit too far in spite of their explicit protest. (“This is an on-fire garbage can,” he says, imitating the realtor’s nasally, smug presumptuousness, as she shows them the place. “Could also be a nursery.”)

In the minds of Mulaney’s harshest critics, the 180 with Munn proves a jerk’s truism of life: Anyone who says they don’t want kids and then dares to have them is a liar, a bad person, or both. The concern trolls toss in that this is a nightmare for this kid, too, who must now grow up knowing his own father didn’t really want him.

It is staggering to think this must even be said, but here goes: People change their minds about having children all the time. People who know they want children can come to regret them; people who don’t want them can regret not having them. Certainly plenty of folks know firmly they do or don’t want to breed, and never waver from that standpoint—none of which has any direct correlation to whether any of us would be any good at actually raising children.

But to suggest every possibility in between those feelings isn’t as valid as certainty, would be to deny the wild, chaotic tapestry that is human desire and change. I personally (and loudly) never wanted kids, and even wrote as much. Then I had one and instantly loved the experience. Explaining what to say to a child who might one day come across such past public opposition from their own parent isn’t exactly a riddle of the Sphinx, either—all it takes is, “Hey, I didn’t think I wanted kids, but all that changed when I had you.”

Besides, a closer examination of Mulaney’s actual comments about not wanting kids reveals something else entirely than a generalized disdain: He told Entertainment Weekly in 2019 that kids simply didn’t fit his lifestyle of travel, standup, and his relationship. But Mulaney’s lifestyle has changed dramatically, and what one relationship can’t sustain, another just might excel at. In that same EW interview, he discussed filming the kids’ special John Mulaney & the Sack Bunch Lunch, noting that his goal with the children on the show was to “never talk down to them,” something he didn’t understand seeing other parents do with their kids.

Maybe that’s what makes all the judgmental handwringing so irritating. Any parent knows the way Mulaney vibes with those kids on Sack Lunch Bunch is precisely among the greatest assets in good parenting, because it takes understanding the weird, silly ways kids think to best relate to them. It’s a shame so many on Twitter don’t possess that kind of largesse—hopefully their kids or partners, present or pending, will make space for them to change their minds.

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