Thoughts on Action
"Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live." ~ Nicolas de Chamfort

Childfree Celeb Spotlight: Ina Garten (aka, The Barefoot Contessa)

I don’t know what it is about an episode of The Barefoot Contessa that leaves me feeling like I don’t have nearly enough gardenias, gay friends with specialty cheese shops, or bowls of citrus fruits in my life. There’s something so enviable about ole’ Ina Garten. Maybe it’s her and husband Jeffrey’s matching BMW’s (one-upping all those couples in identical velour jumpsuits). Or perhaps the fact that her Hamptons pantry is larger than my condo.  Could even be her denim shirts or signature black blouse (quit pretending you’re not jealous, it’s unbecoming).

But I suspect for me, it’s something a little simpler than that – namely, that she’s created this amazingly full and rich life without any baby Barefoots running around. Would she have gone as far if she’d added a pair of kids into the mix? I kind of have to doubt it – this lady’s done a lot of random stuff. You all know she’s built a full-blown empire on the Barefoot Contessa name, but I’ll bet you didn’t know that she:

  1. Worked at the White House as a budget analyst in the seventies
  2. Has her pilot’s license (!)
  3. Bought the Barefoot Contessa store with profits made by flipping houses
  4. Has her MBA
  5. Turned down Food Network multiple times before finally agreeing to her first 13 episode season

What a sassy lady, playing hard to get like that! After the wild success of her show, Ina was asked to create her own magazine, chain of boutique stores, and lines of furniture and cookware. She turned them all down flat, saying she didn’t want to further complicate her life. Not many people approached with seemingly lucrative offers are wise enough to say no, with the confidence that they’re already as happy as they can possibly be with their life. What if she’d taken them up on those ventures, or decided to add motherhood to her load of responsibilities? Maybe it would have been great, but maybe she would have been stretched too thin. Maybe her perpetually high school sweetheart-ish relationship with Jeffrey would come under strain. Maybe she’d be too sleep-deprived to bring her trademark jolly laugh to her uber-serene show. Or, most terrifying of all, maybe she’d stop selling that coconut cupcake mix and the jig would be up between me and everyone who thinks I can bake.

Ina’s kept her personal affairs largely guarded from the press (though she did write this little article about how children only belong at holiday parties), so we may never know why she and Jeffrey didn’t have kids. But anyone wondering if there’s anything missing from her life without children needn’t look any further than her thoughts on what family means to her:

We all know that families now aren’t necessarily like Ozzie and Harriet … family has a traditional context, but today it’s not as simple as two parents with 2-3 kids… it’s about relationships… it’s about people who are bound together by love and a sense of being responsible for one another… it’s spouses with no children, like Jeffrey and me… it’s a group of women who meet to cook dinner together once a month… it’s a one-parent family with adopted children… it’s two men who’ve made a life together… at the end of the day, all we have is love… getting love, but even more, feeling love…

As Ina would no doubt say, “How bad can that be?”

33 Responses to Childfree Celeb Spotlight: Ina Garten (aka, The Barefoot Contessa)

  • Katie says:

    And now I must set my DVR for her show. I’ve seen bits of it before and it always seems so calm and happy. And I do love to cook and bake. And eat.

    I love this post because I love to see/hear about successful and (assuming) happy people with full lives, but no kids. Rachel Ray, Julia Child, and Meryl Streep are inspiring to me for this reason. I especially love to hear about couples like this too though. Ray and her husband. Julia and Paul Child.

    This would be a great post topic to do more of!

  • Karin R. says:

    I love reading Susan Branch\’s blog for the same reason… what a wonderfully full and interesting life she leads! I love the stories about her and her husband.

  • Marie says:

    That is so cool that she has her pilot’s license. I wonder if her plane has one of those little flower-cup-holder things like in the new VW bugs??? I think it’s awesome when women find other women to relate to/look up to/envy. And it’s interesting to me that women without children look for ways to justify that their life is fulfilling and rich. I’m a mom (and a working mom at that, and by work I mean I go to a place where I do work for someone else and get paid for it cuz I don’t want to confuse you or readers or Ann Romney lest you all think the work that I do is just being a mom), and I feel like the message that I’m constantly getting from “society” is that woman who choose motherhood give up any chance at a fulfilling and rich life because we are too busy wiping up poop and cajoling homework completion. Like, when you have kids, you can no longer brew fantasticly-flavorful-rich-and-buttery-but-not-too-heavy, chicken stock like Ina can. In fact I thought that was why Rachel Ray did her whole 30 min meals thing. Because she has kids! But she doesn’t! So why must she say EVOO instead of taking the time to say it slowly!

    Women just can’t win.

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      Well, just to make every one feel better, let’s be honest and admit that NONE OF US is going to be brewing fantastically-flavorful-rich-and-buttery-but-not-too-heavy chicken stock like Ina. We could ALL make the time to do it if we wanted to – kids or not – but most of us won’t. And I think that could be said for any time-consuming-but-totally-fulfilling life activity.

  • Joan rose says:

    It is difficult to see just how content a person is when they are playing a character on tv. I’m not so sure if she’s so happy when the camera is off. The strife relationship she has with this “Jeffery” guy is a bit odd. At 75, he is always “away on a business trip” and the majority of her TV friends seem to be gay men trying to claim 15 minutes of fame. She’s obese, which obviously means she has a very low self esteem.

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      Well, to be fair, her obesity may have something to do with the fact that she cooks for a living and has built an empire by carefully testing all her recipes. But I do agree that her relationship with Jeffrey always seems a bit strange. Maybe it just feels too good to be true.

    • vicki phelan says:

      How can you be so one sided, and that side is yours. To me the only people who put other people down are not happy in their own life. Yes I have a daughter and two beautiful grandkids. They are the light of my life, however I have a sister who loves her grandkids but rarely sees them by her choice. That I cannot comprehend but that is her choice. I see mine every chance I can possible get. To me im the luckiest person in the world. Please dont bash someone just because they choose not to have children. Maybe these types of people feel they would not make great parents and thats ok.

  • demelzabunny says:

    I can’t stand her smug attitude and the annoying way she laughs. Having said that, I really like watching her cook, and I pretty much like everything she makes! I just wish I knew why she never had kids – just for the record – whether it was because she didn’t want to or because she(or her husband) couldn’t.

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      I do wish people in the public without kids would be more forthcoming with that kind of info, but we have to keep in mind that it could be for a very painful reason – like maybe she really wanted to and couldn’t. I guess what I wish is that public figures who are deliberately Childfree would be more outgoing about it.

  • Anonymous says:


    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      I love her show too, Anonymous! But Childfree celebs are such a rarity, I think we can’t help but be curious.

      • Anonymous says:

        I find myself wondering why you care why she has no kids. I don’t know the woman – she is not a friend and it is her business. Just watch the show for what it is – a cooking show.

  • Brenda says:

    I truly enjoy watching Ina’s show and have tried many of her dishes which were all very delicious. With that said, why are people so hung up on getting in folks personal life. The fact that she and Jeffry not having is their business and theirs only. They have been married for over 40 year which is more than many couple that saw each other on a daily basis. People please leave them alone and concentrate on making your own house home.


  • Andrea Ritcey says:

    I like Ina but she does have a baby and his name is Jeffrey. Poor Ina has seems to have fallen into that strange netherworld that a lot of childless couples fall into. Ina does have a wonderful interesting life though.

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      Haha – I never really thought of it that way, but she does baby him pretty thoroughly!

    • susie says:

      Oh I do agree with you. I know a few older couples who married but decided not to complete the marriage with children and some do behave in that silly, childish sweetie-pie-kissy-poo manner with each other that Ina and Jeffrey display. They seem to turn into children when together, it is strange to witness and I’m like…they dont want to have babies they want to BE babies! for the life of me cannot understand why a woman would not want the child of the man she loves…I think such couples are selfishly obsessed with themselves and Ina strikes me as being like that. But she’s kidding herself if she sees her and Jeffrey as a family, they dont even have a dog!

  • Danielle says:

    You forgot Oprah. Oprah has no kids and has said several times that she thinks being a mom is the hardest job on earth. She stated that she never had kids because she didn’t think she could devote enough time to her kids and a career.

  • sunita says:

    Ina should just keep her mouth shut about the issue
    Since she refuses to be blank open, so DAT
    People do not HV to come up with fake story as to
    Her reasons, now people wonder wonder,,,,
    Just keep quiet instead of putting ideas in.
    Peoples head, even if u could not HV one say so
    Or do not even raise the issue at all

  • Anonymous says:

    i love the show and all the good food she makes but her laugh is annoying and her obsession with Jeffrey if he comes only on weekends that’s a little funny to me please I think its selfish for people to put careers in front of having a family they cannot be so happy as they act

    • susie says:

      I like Ina’s cooking but find her and Jeffrey very annoying together. Ina treats him like the baby she never had, nothing more irksome than a man-baby who is fussed over to the nth degree by an obssessive wife…’here Jeffrey here Jeffrey, look what your widdle wifey has cooked for you tonight!’ and in comes Jeffrey like an overgrown labrador puppy wagging his tail and panting with delight. Watching these two behaving like geriatric teenagers is painful. And for Ina’s information, if you want to be a family then have the kids – otherwise you’re just a couple who did not go the whole hog with the marriage thing.
      Who will they leave all that real estate and money to when they pop their clogs….?

  • Emma11 says:

    Sound to me like a lot of the commenting people here WISH they had a life half as good as Ina and Jeffrey. What’s the matter? The kids getting to you? Hubby won’t get off his video games and facebook? Dying for a night out talking to adults? Is your house in need of cleaning and decluttering of kids toys all over the place?

  • monique says:

    AGREED, Emma 11,

    While it’s a choice for some to have/not have kids, these commenters saying that “they decided not to go the whole hog with the marriage by not having children” are delusional!

    Does having children cement a marriage? Does it make it any more valid?? In my opinion, certainly not.

    So what if the childless couples act like teenagers towards each other, maybe they want to feel that pure love and fun in their relationship, and not muck it up with the demands of children.

    Some women are not very maternal, or they have seen the worry, spending, strain, boredom, it causes in the lives of their friends who are mothers, and they think better of it.

    Everyone I know without children is more fun to be around, more interesting to converse with, and seems MUCH more content with their husbands or boyfriends.

    Sounds like a whole bunch of sour grapes, bitter “mothers” on this topic!

  • susie says:

    Why do people bother to get married if they dont intend to have children then? why not simply cohabit? I can understand married couples discovering they cannot have kids after marrying, that’s different, but walking down the aisle, putting a ring on someone’s finger and then saying ‘let’s not produce anything out of our love’ to me is like owning a factory that does not make anything – the facility is there but is not being used. They’ve created a lot of wealth and a very materialistic lifestyle…and who will get it all after they’re gone – some cousins? a bunch of ingratiating friends? or maybe these two really have it fixed to take it all with them…they seem to be the types who would.

    • CJ says:

      Wow you have some nasty opinions! Having children is not the be all and end all of marriage, maybe you’re mistaken about what marriage means, it’s a commitment between two people to be committed to each other – nothing more, if the point of marriage, as you say, is to have children, I wonder what your stand on gay marriage is, or do you expect along with the wedding plans should they be factoring in adoption or have a surrogate lined up ready for when they’ve said their ‘ I do’s’?

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