Lily Tomlin Once Explained Why She Opted Not to Have Children, ‘I Could Not Possibly Have Shortchanged the Child’

Lily Tomlin has been a trailblazer for decades. The 82-year-old Grace and Frankie star was among the first Hollywood starlets to reveal she didn’t have an interest in having children. She made the revelation on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in the 1970s. Since then, Tomlin has openly discussed that decision, what led to it, and what it has meant for her career.

Lily Tomlin said she wouldn’t have had the career she did if she had opted to have children

Tomlin came up in Hollywood during a time when people were still trying to “figure out” women in the business. In an interview with Metro Weekly, Tomlin recalled the audience falling quiet after Johnny Carson asked her about having children. She said that answering the question was difficult because of the response she knew her honest answer would get. 

Don Rickles and actress Lily Tomlin during an interview with Host Johnny Carson on 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson '
Don Rickles and Lily Tomlin with Johnny Carson | Garry Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Decades later, she is happy with her decision. In 2006, Tomlin told Metro Weekly that she knew she would have never had her career if she had opted to have children. She said, “…there wouldn’t have been room in my life to raise children. I was so involved with my career and I would have had to give up the career in large part because I could not possibly have shortchanged the child.” 

Jane Wagner and Lily Tomlin appear together at an event at the Kennedy Center
Jane Wagner and Lily Tomlin | Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Tomlin has been married to Jane Wagner since 2013. They began their relationship in the early 1970s, though. Tomlin and Wagner have kept their relationship mostly out of the limelight, but in 2020 they sat down with Variety to discuss their decades-long partnership. Tomlin noted she fell in love with Wagner in “two minutes.” She told the publication, “I tell you, in two minutes, I fell in love with her. She had on hot pants, stretchy boots that went up to her knee, and a little backpack. I don’t know what it was, but I was in love.”

Lily Tomlin said she thought she would have made a good mother

Regardless of why she opted not to have children, she seems confident in the decision. One other thing is for sure, Tomlin thinks she would have been good at the job if she had opted to take it on. The famed actor told Metro Weekly that she feels like she would have made a good mother; she simply didn’t want to do it. 

Tomlin’s character on Grace and FrankieFrankie Bergstein, is a fantastic mother. Nurturing, kind, and understanding, Frankie’s free-spirited nature plays perfectly off of Grace Hanson’s more traditional approach to life and motherhood. Fans largely believe Tomlin would have been the same type of mother to her hypothetical children as Frankie is to hers. 

Tomlin has made it clear that she wasn’t exactly ready to say goodbye to Grace and Frankie

Tomlin and her castmates are heading into the final stretch of Grace and Frankie episodes. Netflix will release the last 12 episodes on April 29. The cast wrapped filming months ago, though. The show finished filming in November 2021, after a lengthy hiatus due to coronavirus (COVID-19). 

She wasn’t particularly happy about walking away from the series and her beloved character, though. Before the cast finished filming, Tomlin revealed that she regretted ending the series at seven seasons. A spinoff, however, is still a possibility. Whether Tomlin will appear in that hypothetical series is anyone’s guess. June Diane Raphael penned a script about her character, Brianna Hanson. 

RELATED: ‘Grace and Frankie’: Lily Tomlin Regrets Agreeing to End the Show