• arekidsforme

Podcast Episode #7 - Catherine O'Connor

In this episode, I speak to Catherine O'Connor who is happily childfree by choice from a young age. We discuss how this hasn't changed for her, what her childfree life looks like, her positive approach to getting older and about adapting friendships when kids come along. 




Episode Transcript:


Margaret O Connor

Welcome to the 'Are Kids For Me' podcast. This podcast is for you if you have ever asked, or are currently asking yourself this question. it's a big question which can be hard to answer for lots of reasons and I am hoping to provide you with some information that can help. In each episode I will speak to people with personal and/or professional experience in this area. My own name is Margaret O'Connor, I am a counsellor and psychotherapist who offers specialist counseling on this topic. I conducted my Master's research on how women in Ireland make the decision to become mothers or not. And I really really love talking about this topic. I hope you find it useful.


Today I am delighted to be talking to my very dear friend, Catherine O Connor (no relation). Cat is originally from the UK and has been living in Ireland since 2007. We talk about lots of different things, including how she is childfree by choice from a very young age, how that hasn't changed for her, what her very full and happy childfree life looks like, her positive approach to getting older and how to maintain and adapt friendships when children arrive. I hope you find it interesting.


Okay, so hi Cat, thanks very much for coming in. It's always lovely to see you.


Catherine O Connor

Thank you.


Margaret O Connor

So I suppose this is funny because we've been friends for a long time and we talk about this quite a lot but now we're doing it formally. (laughter)


Catherine O Connor

Yeah (laughter)


Margaret O Connor

It is absolutely, so and so sometimes we we kind of joke that we know, not everybody knows, we know the exact day that we met, because we started a job together. And so we have a very specific meeting point, but I was just saying to you beforehand, I have no actual memory of us realizing that neither of us wanted to have children and I normally remember that stuff. (laughter)


Catherine O Connor

I know.. well I can't remember either..(laughter) I'd say just during the course of getting to know one another and all our chats, it probably came up at some stage. Yeah.


Margaret O Connor

So I suppose you can tell me because I don't remember..and yeah for you was it like a specific decision or was it just something that you were aware of throughout your life?


Catherine O Connor

I have, I would say I've always known. I've never thought about having kids, because I've always known that wasn't going to be for me. And I think a big part of that is.. I think it's my temperament. I don't think I would cope with kids in my life, I just, I think I would find it very difficult and very hard. And now that obviously people I know, my own family and my friends and I see how much hard work, it is. I totally know that it's the right decision for me, you know.


Margaret O Connor

Ok, ok


Catherine O Connor

So yeah, I've never looked at kids and thought..I've never had that sort of, you know, the maternal feeling that people talk about. I can't say I've ever experienced that. You know I don't look babies and I'm like oh aren't they cute.. I just I don't do that. It's not that I suppose some babies are cute (laughter), but like, it's just not something I would do, you know, that just that I don't know is connection the right word or that, it's just not there for me. Yeah.


Margaret O Connor

Ok. And would you say that was from a really young age, it just, you just remember, it's always been like that for you?


Catherine O Connor

Yeah, I mean, I couldn't I don't know at what age, I wouldn't be able to pinpoint an age that this became, you know, something that I was aware of, but yeah even this like, I suppose like as a kid you know kids, you know like as a little girl you have like your babies in the pram and stuff, I had all of that and everything. I remember I had my dolls to play with, you know. I honestly couldn't say, I just, I just, I suppose, definitely from my late teens going into my 20's, I knew then.


Margaret O Connor

Okay. Did you have a sense that that was quite different? Did you know anyone else that felt the same way or did you talk about it even at that point?


Catherine O Connor

I didn't feel different. I definitely would have spoken about it, like my two best friends back home were really, the three of us are really close. And, yeah, we, I suppose they've always known. So I would have, you know that would have been something I would have openly discussed with them so they've always known. And I suppose, other people. I mean, I don't, I just, I feel like for me, I'm so confident that it's the right decision for me I suppose I haven't really, if it comes up in conversation, I'm happy to talk about it but like, I've never specifically gone out and told, you know never announced the world or anything.


Margaret O Connor

Until now! (laughter)


Catherine O Connor

Yeah until now! (laughter)


Margaret O Connor

Ok, and did you ever even just like for an hour or a day at any point, did you ever consider that you might change your mind or should change your mind?


Catherine O Connor

No. I can honestly say that. Like even when I met my husband now, you know when we were dating and all of that, even and like when I knew that he was the one you know, even then, there was no sudden oh my god, I want to have babies with this man, you know, that just didn't happen.


Margaret O Connor

As great as he is (laughter)


Catherine O Connor

It's like that. It's, I don't know, I don't know if this is the right thing to say but that is missing from me, I don't know.


Margaret O Connor

Ok..No because that's really interesting, I suppose we hear don't we these things that oh and when you get older, and when you meet the right man, then you'll so all this stuff that we expect something to kick off..(laughter) but it hasn't no?


Catherine O Connor

And I'm not expecting it to now at my age (laughter)


Margaret O Connor

That would be a shock to everyone I think, including you! (laughter)


Okay. And did you ever experience, because sometimes people say that, you know, if you say that when you're 20. And then if you say it when you're 30 or when you're 35 or whatever, people react differently, like did anyone kind of say that oh you know you'll change your mind now when you get older?


Catherine O Connor

Oh god yeah, lots of people. Yeah. Oh definitely like, I suppose...I'd say the most time it's ever been spoken about is, after I got married. Everybody then wanted to know, when was I you know, when was I getting pregnant, when was I starting a family, that came up with a good few times, just in general you know, work colleagues or, you know, people might ask, just in other, you know, other people you meet you know. So yeah, it would have come up a lot then and you know I would say oh no we've no plans to start a family and I don't want, I don't want kids, you know, so you know I'd happily tell people and reaction wise, I suppose, a lot of people were a bit like, oh, you know, you'll change and you know when it's your own kids it's different. I got that a lot..


Margaret O Connor

That's always a good one (laughter)


Catherine O Connor

Some people just accepted it and were like oh yeah no bother.


Margaret O Connor

I presume like nobody in your close friends or family did that when you got married?


Catherine O Connor

Oh yeah, because they all knew. The only person that did do it was my grandmother, but we will let her off!


Margaret O Connor

Oh right yes, she's very cool!


Catherine O Connor

She's even still today to me now you know when am I having kids and I'm like no nan, I'm not gonna have kids, you know (laughter).


Margaret O Connor

Your granny is ..


She's 98 now


Okay yeah she can do whatever she wants, its fine (laughter)


Catherine O Connor

She can yeah (laughter)


Margaret O Connor

Does it ever bother you ...


Catherine O Connor

No I couldn't care less what anyone else thinks (laughter)


Margaret O Connor

Amazing! Okay. Brilliant. And do you mind me asking because you and your husband are together quite a while, like how did that come up or when did it come up.. how did you discuss the topic?


Catherine O Connor

So right.. We met when I was 22. He would have been 23, and obviously we had a long distance relationship for a while, I was over in the UK, he was here. And I suppose when we kind of decided, you know, this was serious. And I, the decision made was made that I was going to move here to Ireland. And I thought then, I need to say this to him because if we're going into, you know what we're seeing as a long term relationship, I wanted him to know right from the start that, I suppose, kids weren't for me. And I suppose to allow him the opportunity to say, well actually I do see kids in my future. And now he didn't say that, I suppose he was.. He's very much, I suppose.. He'd have been happy either way I think, if I had said yes I want to have kids he'd be like great we'll have kids. Obviously I said no I don't want kids and he was like okay that's fine too. Now sometimes I think back and think God, like, you know, we were young when we had that conversation. And I wonder, you know, did he even know himself back then, you know, but I have asked him since in preparation for this interview,(laughter) like, you know now how does he feel about that, does he sort of regret not having a family, and he told me that he didn't. He totally sees the benefits and for us it's the right thing, which obviously is good for me to hear. Yeah. So yeah so that's how the conversation..and like I suppose he has, he's from what I would consider a large family, he's one of six. And like I did think back then you know he possibly would want to have kids, so I thought it was very important to be upfront and honest with him before I moved over here, before we embarked on this, you know,


Margaret O Connor

And would it have come up much, apart from that like, would you talk about it, just in passing or was very much kind of that time and then..


Catherine O Connor

On the odd occasion I suppose.. I suppose now what we would talk so more so about is.. like our friends do have kids, you know, and we'd sort of say, Christ..like I said at the start you know, it's bloody hard work, sorry, am I allowed to swear?


Margaret O Connor

Yes! (laughter)


Catherine O Connor

And you know, and we're sort of there at home and we're like, oh this is nice and peaceful here, nice and relaxed, we go off and do our thing and you know, you know we have our hobbies and we live our own lives and I suppose we talk about how we love spending time with our family and with nieces and nephews and our friends kids and you know we have a blast and it's great fun and it's you know all activity and noise and you know great fun. And then we get to come home and relax you know we love that. We love the best of both I suppose


Margaret O Connor

Yes yeah..ok that sounds really good. Yeah yeah I suppose I do really want to get on to your hobbies, hobbies, because you have really interesting ones. And so I suppose with the the time that is free for you because you don't have children what, what do you do with your time, what kind of things do you like doing?


Catherine O Connor

We love to travel. That's a big thing for us, and just the fact that we've got the time to go and see the world, and we very much want to do that. Bit restricted in the moment, with coronavirus but yeah we very much want to see the world, and like even last year we took three months out to go and travel around South America. And I suppose if you had kids at our age, not saying you can't do that but it would make it more difficult to just, you know, get up and go type of thing and do something like that. So yeah, traveling and sort of you know, getting away and experiencing different things, is something we very much enjoy. And then we both, we, we have two separate hobbies. Mine is horse riding. So I ride and Donal has his mountain biking. He's part of a club there and they go off and do spins as they call it, and little trips away and. that


Margaret O Connor

And it's funny, we were just talking before we came on like how empty your diary is at the moment, which is very unusual and sad.. because of because of COVID but apart from that, like you are usually pretty hectic there are things on most of the time, whether you're meeting friends or going to things..


Catherine O Connor

Absolutely yeah, the diary is jam packed (laughter). Yeah, and just with all that sort of stuff. I mean, obviously we both work full time during the week, like everybody else you know we get up, we go to work. Come home in the evening, chat about out day, cook our meal, watch TV, go to bed and then start again. And then the weekends you got two days, Saturday, Sunday we just dedicate that to ourselves, you know. I suppose my job is quite ..I suppose it can be demanding, you know, to be dealing with challenging situations and difficult clients and my husband has a kind of manual job, he's in the construction industry, and I suppose the weekends we come home and we like to just switch off, you know, I think when you have kids, oh my god you're coming home to like another full time job every day and I just feel like you know for us..we love our weekends and at the moment my horse riding, like Saturday mornings I get up, go for my ride come home, get a bit of lunch, read the paper, you know, and then Sunday morning Donal has his ride, he goes off with mountain bike club and yeah so it's what we are at (laughter).


Margaret O Connor

It sounds good! I was trying to think, I think I've absolutely lost track of all the countries ye had been to, like, oh, I know Canada was a big highlight


Catherine O Connor

Yes yeah, we've done a good few of the American states. We love America actually so definitely be going back there. South America, we did Argentina, we did Chile, Bolivia we did Peru, so it was fantastic. Yeah, a good part of Europe. Norway was a highlight for us. We went to Norway and we went right up into Northern Norway into the Arctic Circle, we got to experience the Northern Lights and I just think travel, like, you know, different experiences, different cultures, I love all of that. I love learning about all of that and yeah so we've yet to go, I think Dubai is the furthest east we've gone so we've yet to go that way. But it's on the to do list.


Margaret O Connor

You're not a big fan of mosquitoes though..


Catherine O Connor

No! (laughter)


Margaret O Connor

So you'll have to navigate that, fair enough (laughter)


I suppose I'm saying as well because I know you, I think you're you're a very organized person, and I was wondering like do you look ahead, do you think about when you get older, how things are gonna look?


Catherine O Connor

Oh, I don't. I, I want to have the mentality that you know I'm more than able to look after myself, and I want to be able to look after myself into my later years, and we mentioned my grandmother there earlier she's 98. And, I mean, fair play to her I mean, she is still very independent, you know she cooks her own meals she gets out and about. And, you know, I want to aspire to be like that. I think if you start thinking, you know, I'm going to get to a certain age and I'm not going to be able to look after myself, well then you're not setting yourself up very well. I don't think it's the right mentality to have. I mean obviously nobody knows what's going to happen to us and our health and things like that but I don't think planning to not be able to look after yourself is the right way to go about things. So I personally i, i don't think about that. I'm going to be looking after myself.


Margaret O Connor

Ok yeah..and you are a healthy person, a much healthier person than me..


Catherine O Connor

No..


Margaret O Connor

When it comes to treats, you know that's true! (laughter)


Catherine O Connor

Oh..(laughter)


Margaret O Connor

Okay. And, and this was another thing I know you mentioned it there, that idea of the maternal instinct, so that kind of... I know sometimes people describe kind of like your ovaries twitching at the sight of a child (laughter). It sounds a bit unpleasant and, like, what do you think about that, or how do you see, do you see that in other aspects of your life or do you think about it at all?


Catherine O Connor

Oh god! I can't say that I think about it.. I get it. I see it in other people. Yeah. And I don't know what to say about that. I don't know how to comment on it..


Margaret O Connor

I suppose I was thinking of it and again I suppose ,I like I see you as such a caring person, and I know this might sound strange but like I, I kind of see you like as the mammy of our group.


Oh (laughter)!


Oh, I mean that in a really nice way (laughter). Like you organize us and you make sure that we actually meet up like more than twice a year. And like we might all think about it but you send the text and you organise. You remember everyone's birthday, everyone's anniversary, every special occasion. I know what you're saying you write it down but like you go to the effort of writing it down like so I like see you as a very caring person. Okay, whether I don't think that has to be maternal or not...and you're very close to your family..


Catherine O Connor

Yes, my family and my friends are everything to me, you know, yeah. And obviously you have your family unit you know and then I mean, I really only have a small group of friends you know like close friends, I've got my two best friends back in the UK and then I have yourself, and two other close friends here you know that's our little gang, you know, and yeah there's other people in my life but as for close friends and family. They mean everything to me. And I think as well like having moved from the UK to here I really, I don't, because I really value relationship and friendship because when you're not living with your family.. Do you know what I'm trying to say..you have to put the effort, you do. And I suppose that's just something that.. I'm not saying I didn't. I'm not saying I was different when I was in the UK because I don't think I was but I suppose it's just become, what's the word I'm looking for ..not more important. I can't think of the word I'm looking for but..


Margaret O Connor

It is more of a priority, I suppose, yeah.


Catherine O Connor

Yeah the effort needs to be made. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I don't mind being the one doing it I enjoy it, I actually I love all of that you know. Planning afternoon tea sessions, organizing weekends away. Yeah all of that you know. I enjoy it. Yeah, yeah. And I have the time to do it because I don't have kids, so I'm happy to do it, you know. Yeah,


Margaret O Connor

I just think sometimes maybe we don't acknowledge kind of caring in other ways.


Catherine O Connor

Ok I see your point.. yeah. Good point. Yeah.


Margaret O Connor

I think you definitely do it anyway (laughter)


Catherine O Connor

Yeah. Thank you.


Margaret O Connor

And do you feel, I suppose kind of supported or represented in society, like do you think this makes you different, or that you're left out or treated any differently as a child free person.


No, no, I can't say that I do and again I don't care anyway, I'm sorry (laughter) I don't know if that's a bit of a flippant remark and I don't know what people will think of that but I'm not bothered.


No it's ok, it's how you feel.


Catherine O Connor

Okay, I'm happy with my life. And as I say, I'm happy with my relationship with my husband, my family, my friends, I'm healthy. I'm content I have a good job. I'm very I'm a very lucky person. And I'm just enjoying my life because it's a great one.


Margaret O Connor

Yeah, absolutely, that's brilliant!


So, other people in society..it doesn't impact on me.


Yeah that's great, that's really good. Would you say you feel like that kind of in general, it's not just specific to this topic, are you just a bit like that anyway?


Catherine O Connor

Yeah, yeah (laughter)


Margaret O Connor

Good (laughter)...Would you be able to give any advice to people who maybe are unsure, or maybe kind of struggling with the idea of being child free, is there anything you could say to them that might help?


Catherine O Connor

It's hard isn't it...I don't know if you are like..I know it's easy, like, obviously you've got people like myself. I've always known I'm not gonna have kids and then you've obviously got other people that are like I'm totally having kids you know I can't wait to be a mom and you know that is obviously the best thing for them. And then you've got people that are like stuck in the middle and it's so, such a difficult place to be you know where you're unsure and... I don't know is that the right thing to say, you know if you've got any doubt..should you be erring on the side of caution and not going down that route. I don't know.. I'm sure there are people that have doubted it and said no, I'm going to go for it. I'm going to go for and it's been the best decision of their life, you know, I don't know. I'm sure you've got other people that have doubted and gone ahead and then gone, Oh, what have I done..I find that very hard. Yeah.


Margaret O Connor

And it was maybe even just following on from that point, like how do you kind of separate yourself from other people's opinions, you're like what you were saying that you don't really care, like what people think anyway because you're quite happy in yourself. Have you any idea how you've gotten to be like that, because it sends a brilliant way to be, to just be able to make your own kind of choices and trust in yourself?


Catherine O Connor

How have I gotten to be like that...I don't know! (laughter). It's a good question.. you'd wonder.. I would say I feel like I've always been like that I mean, it's an interesting, it's an interesting question like if you to ask my parents or people who have known me like a very long time, would they say, you know, I started acting like this at a certain time..I don't know..


Margaret O Connor

That's just how you are (laughter).


Catherine O Connor

I feel like that's just how I am. I won't apologize for it (laughter)


Margaret O Connor

God don't, it sounds like a good place to be, I think, it cuts out a lot of stress, it sounds good.


Catherine O Connor

Yeah!


Margaret O Connor

So I'm imagining I know the answer to this but do you have any regrets?


Catherine O Connor

No.


Margaret O Connor

It doesn't sound like it..


Catherine O Connor

No I don't, I mean, there are children in my life. Like, it's not that I don't like kids..babies like really young babies, I'm very, I'd say I'm very awkward around them I find them very. .I don't know (laughter) I'm just awkward around them. I'm like oh babies..you know! But you know, kids like I say my...there are lots of kids in my family and especially on my father, or my husband's side and then obviously friends that have started families and I like, I love, I love all of that, you know, like my friends back home now, the kids are part of the gang, you know, we've been on a holiday together .


Margaret O Connor

You went..not camping..


Catherine O Connor

Yeah caravanning yeah and had a blast you know, so it's just that because I don't just have them myself, doesn't mean that I don't like them. They're, they're great fun you know.


Margaret O Connor

So it's not that black and white, they are in your life they're just not in your home with you all the time basically.


Catherine O Connor

Yeah.


Margaret O Connor

Yeah. Okay, okay. And that's a good balance for you?


Catherine O Connor

Oh I like I said earlier on. Yeah, we like, I'll talk for myself but we love all of that, you know, you know, the hustle and the bustle and the fun and absolutely fine. I wouldn't be able to deal with that all of the time you know if that was my own kids that are, you know, needing me all of the time, you know, I wouldn't be able to manage that I don't think but I'm happy to be involved in all of that and be part of it all, and then come back to my little time yeah yeah..


Margaret O Connor

Okay, well look it sounds really good. It sounds like you're, you're living the way you want to live and getting huge benefit out of it, I suppose. That sounds bad but I was gonna say kind of being of benefit to other people, like you are a great support and help like your your friends and family.


Catherine O Connor

Yeah, I would like to think so, yeah. I suppose even with, like I suppose friends in particular. You know, I've never, again I'd like to think I've never distanced myself from them just because they're having kids. And I obviously want to be a support to my friends and, you know still want to be part of their life just because they're doing something different to me or I'm doing something different to them, we're still friends you know that fundamental relationship is still there, we've got different things going on and that's fine. And you have to adjust to that and you know, they may have different priorities now and in our relationship naturally, because they've got kids to think about, but they're your friends you know and you have to be there for them and they have to be there for you and that's a relationship, you know,


Margaret O Connor

Ok, so you've found a way to work that out.


Catherine O Connor

Yeah...well I would say so yeah (laughter). None of my relationships with my friends have changed or been effected just because they've had kids. Or because I haven't had kids.


Margaret O Connor

Yeah, yeah. Okay, that's pretty good.


Catherine O Connor

Yeah,


Margaret O Connor

Was that a conscious thing or did you just presume that, like do you think it took a bit of effort, or is it just how you approached it?


Catherine O Connor

I think it took effort on my part, I would definitely say like, even though I knew, like friends and family are gonna have kids. It's still a change, it's a big change. And I very much had to..what's the word. I suppose adjust, I don't know I suppose I had to get used to that idea. And I had to get used to there being kids around. And as I say I probably was and still around babies you know I probably did come across as very awkward at first you know because I'd be like, ooh what do I do with this you know (laughter). But over time you you adapt, you adapt that's the word I'm looking for, yeah. And I'm fine, you know..


Margaret O Connor

And I suppose as the kids get older, as well I suppose they get more of a personality you're able to kind of do more with them..


Yeah, like I say, you know, we're all one big gang now you know and it's grand, it's great fun. Yeah.


Yeah. Okay, that's really good. And is there anything else you want to bring up today or do you think we've covered most of what we were going to talk about?


Catherine O Connor

I think..I think we've covered everything Margaret.


Margaret O Connor

Yeah (laughter)


No, I'm just looking there at some notes I had made.. no I think we've covered everything I'm happy enough with that.


Yeah, that's brilliant, well thank you for sharing all of that, hopefully it's of help to people and I definitely think it's interesting. And, yeah, thanks for that.


Catherine O Connor

Okay. All right.


Margaret O Connor

Thanks very much to my guests for taking part and to you for listening. Id love to hear your feedback and any suggestions for other topics you would like to see covered in this series. I would also love to build a community of like minded people. So please follow the 'Are Kids For Me' pages on Facebook and Instagram, if you want to find out more on this topic. I look forward to hearing from you. Watch out soon for the new episode.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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Margaret O'Connor MIACP      ©2018 by Are Kids For Me. 

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