Parents

'Parenthood' actress Joy Bryant pens frank essay: 'Stop telling me I should have kids'

Actress Joy Bryant, best known for her role on the TV show "Parenthood," has just one message for all the people asking her why she hasn't had kids yet and when she'll be ready to start a family: Stop.

The 41-year-old sounded off in an open letter published on Lenny Letter, Lena Dunham's email newsletter about feminism, style, politics and more. Titled "Stop Telling Me I Should Have Kids," Bryant gets right to the point — she never plans on having children because she doesn't want to.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Joy Bryant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala in 2014

"I don't have the need to breed," Bryant wrote, adding that while her husband would like to have kids, he respects her decision not to.

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She lists the reasons people feel compelled to change her mind: "But you'll have beautiful children!" "But you'll be such a good mother!" "It's so much fun!" None of which, she explains, are valid reasons for actually having a baby.

"I'd be a good competitive eater, too, doesn't mean I should," Bryant wrote.

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
The actress, far left, on the TV show 'Parenthood'

While she might never be a mom in real life, she's often played one on screen. In "Parenthood," which ended its final season last January, Bryant's character had three children.

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"So, yeah, I'm an expert," she wrote in the essay. "The best thing about being a 'parent' is I get to play mom for the day and, when the day is done, give the kid back and go home."

She added that "playing mom didn't make me want to be a mom."

Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP
Actress Joy Bryant, right, and her husband David Pope

Bryant says she politely tells people to "mind their own business" when asked about the matter. "Other than air, food, and shelter, what’s good for you is not necessarily what’s good for me. Your life goals are not the same as mine," she wrote.

"Motherhood, in all its beautiful significance, is a job I do not want," she added. "It doesn’t matter how great my résumé is or how many glowing recommendations I receive. I don’t need to be a mother in order to be fulfilled in my life. I am choosing to put my life energies into pursuing all that my heart desires: designing clothes, writing, traveling, developing projects to produce."

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For Bryant, it comes down to choice. "Not too long ago, we didn’t have that choice, that freedom to say, “I want something different than what’s expected of me,” and then act on it," she wrote. "The women who did were rebels or outcasts. Society dictated a woman’s existence, stripped her of her agency, told her to sit down and be quiet, to put everyone’s needs ahead of her own because her life was not her own, that she could only see the world through the eyes of a man, that she was useless if she didn’t bring life into this world. Her purpose was not of her own making."

Women "don't have to be automatic breeders," she continued. "My womb doesn’t belong to the world. It doesn’t even belong to my husband. It is mine and mine alone, and my womb should be free to live life as MY nature intended."

Bryant's essay, which was sent to Lenny Letter subscribers on April 5, has gone viral with a mostly positive response, sparking conversations about the pressures women face to have children. Many fans posted messages of support on social media.

"I knew Joy Bryant was gorgeous," one woman wrote. "I did not know she was also awesome."

"Thank you to all who read and got it," Bryant wrote on Twitter.

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