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Season 2 #1 Sheila O'Flanagan

I am launching season 2 of the podcast by speaking to international best selling author Sheila O'Flanagan. Sheila is happily childfree by choice at 63 years of age. We discuss the importance of having positive role models who showed her that this was an option and what being childfree has allowed her to do. We also discuss the impact of social pressure and the importance of prioritising what is best for you over the expectations of others.

Episode Transcript:

Margaret O Connor 0:09 Welcome to season two of the Are Kids For Me podcast, I will continue to speak to people in a range of different circumstances about their personal and professional experience of answering this question. Thank you so much for your positive feedback on season one. And I really hope you find these episodes useful. I am delighted to launch Season Two of the podcast by speaking to Sheila O Flanagan. Sheila is a highly successful writer of fiction with over 25 books and 9 million copies sold worldwide. She is happily child free and is now 63 years of age. We discussed the positive influence of having role models who showed her that this was an option and what being child free allows her to do. We also discuss the impact of social pressure on this very personal decision, and the importance of prioritizing what is best for you over the expectations of others. Okay, so Sheila, thanks a million. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today. Sheila O Flanagan 1:10 No problem. Margaret O Connor 1:12 So I suppose we've lots I'd like to get to but maybe if we could go back and maybe just start I suppose.. whenever the start was for you, was it that you kind of realized gradually or was it a specific decision for you that you didn't want to have children?

Sheila O Flanagan Well, I think I think kind of, first of all, I always find it interesting that we talk about a decision that people make not to do something, you know, nobody ever says to anybody who's had children, why did you choose to have children, and I find that it's it's, you know, it makes me think when you have to justify or explain to people why you haven't done something. I think a lot of it is part of you know, for kind of looking back... I would have been a teenager in the in the 70s. And, you know, when I look back then and I look back at the options that were.. that were placed to us as as young people, the general conversation was that there was a kind of a sequence of events that you you went to school, you got a job. And because in the 70s, really going to college was not an add on that was that was a given, you know, it was I would say less than half the people I knew went to college. So you got you went to school, you got a job. And as a woman, then you spent a couple years in the new job, you met somebody, you married them, and you had children. And that was that was kind of accepted for everybody. I mean, even people who who did go to college, their career was you were going because you were either going to go be a teacher, an academic or going to medical study. So it was a much more at the time that I was growing up was a much more limited vista in front of you. And I used to often think that it seemed an awful waste of time to be having an education. If after two or three years, you were going to go home and get married and have children and it just I couldn't quite square that circle for myself. And I think in my own personal circumstances, though I grew up in a family where where I had aunts who were unmarried. And I had an aunt who was married but didn't have children. So in my circle, despite everything that was going on outside me, it didn't seem anything extraordinary. I was used to having women as older role model women who were married without children, or who were single without children, and who lived perfectly normal lives and who were never, like nobody ever said oh, why is this person not married, nobody ever said there was anything wrong with that, nobody ever implied there was anything wrong. So for me, even though I did feel bombarded by all of this stuff about this is what you should be doing.. I already saw, I knew that there were other ways of being a woman and living your life. And that that didn't necessarily include children. I didn't make this absolute decision that I wasn't going to have children. But I was perfectly prepared to look at whatever, you know, whatever choices were there. Margaret O Connor That's so interesting, because it just makes such a difference doesn't it, because you had you could see what it looked like so you could imagine it then. Sheila O Flanagan 4:38 In fact, they had a great life (laughter). I often say..they.. my aunts who who didn't have children, they were going off on on foreign holidays and everything long before anybody ever did anything like that. I mean, they did that way back in the 60s when we were really small. So you know, yeah. So I think it does come down to what you see and what is around you. And for me, that was always just an option. One of many options. Margaret O Connor 5:05 Yes, yeah. Okay. And is it something you would have come kind of back to again, maybe as you as you got older, or as your life circumstances changed, was it something you thought much about? Sheila O Flanagan 5:17 I did think about it, because obviously, as you grow older yourself that, you know, you are thinking to yourself well which way is my life going to go, and which way, where is my career going to go? And, you know, what do I, what do I want. And I suppose, I would never say that I immediately ruled out having children. But it was never something that was really important to me. And I've also got to say that, you know, when I was a child, I was not a kind of maternal child. And babies did not kind of trigger any sort of emotional response in me other than please stop crying (laughing). I remember my parents buying me a doll, and it cried, it was one of these dolls that cried, and I dismembered it to find out why it was crying. I did the same with a doll that walked, I wanted to find out why it was walking. So I didn't, I kind of feel that I didn't have that gene, or whatever chip it is, that makes you immediately want to pick it up and comfort it and everything. I like children, I like babies, but I didn't have this trigger, saying oh my god, I really want that for me. And I know when I was when I was working, and at the time that I started working, the marriage ban had only just been lifted in the civil service. And in the job that I was in, there were only I think about two married women who were working. But there were a lot who had got married and who had left and then who came in from time to time with their children. And they would bring in the children and everybody would coo over them and I'd be like yeah, that's fine...but it didn't strike anything in me. And so I probably said to myself, you know what, I would not be a good person to have children. And I.. that was the decision I made, which was not about having children or not having children but what I felt as a as a person having a child and I felt, you know what, I don't feel a connection here. And I don't think I would be good at having children. Margaret O Connor 7:30 Okay..okay..I suppose again, I'm just thinking of the time like, I know, you mentioned your your family, but I suppose would you have any ..have had any role models outside of that? Like, did you think did you think you were the only one kind of feeling this way? Or had you anyone else? Sheila O Flanagan 7:48 It wasn't something I have to say that I discussed very much with anybody. And I guess, you know, in my early 20s, all of us were single, none of us were talking about getting married. I mean, I did have some friends who, who got married.. not some friends really more, some more, some work colleagues who got married.. some some of them got married, and then left because they had to because of the ban, and if they wanted to get their their gratuity, which is basically just get their pension, they had to leave. And but there were a younger cohort of people who came in around the same time as me. And none of us were rushing to get married, or none of us were rushing to have children. I suppose at the same time, it was something that was there at the back of your head that it was a likely thing to happen. But we weren't racing for it, despite the fact that I again, remember, when I was at school, the nuns telling us that we should really have our first child before we were 25 because it was better for your pelvic area...(laughter) Margaret O Connor oh ok..lovely (laughter) That didn't do much for you, your face is telling me!...Okay, and, and I suppose then, I'm just wondering, I suppose again, as you got a bit older, or into your 30s or that, I mean, were you ever were you ever challenged on it? You know, family or friends? Sheila O Flanagan Family never never really challenged me about it. And friends never challenged me about it. Once or twice, I was challenged in in work. I mean, I think back then again, people felt it very reasonable to ask a woman going for a promotion or going for a job if she intended to have children. And I am gonna say that it was always men who told me when I said, I said, well I have no plans at the moment and you know, always men said, yeah, but you're going to change your mind. And I do think that that is one of the things that are said to women who don't have children a lot. And if they say, well, you know, I have no plans to or it's not on my radar. You're told that you will change your mind. You're told, you'll regret it. And you're told that you'll change your mind. Nobody in my family ever said that to me, but, and nobody who was close to me ever said that to me, but perfect strangers did say that to me, which I just found very cheeky and insulting. And, you know, I would kind of look at them and say, you know, you haven't a clue about me. How can you tell me that? But yeah, and I know, one guy who I worked with, told me that, because I think maybe I was in my early 30s, at the time, and I said, I don't think I'm ever going to have children, it doesn't bother me. He said, oh, that's the most selfish thing I've ever heard. And I thought what is selfish about saying you're not going to do something that you don't think is a good idea? And he said, well, we all need to have children. You know, I just found that extraordinary. And I found it extraordinary that it was a man saying that to me as well, you know? Margaret O Connor 10:50 Yes..okay. And I suppose it's lovely to talk to you, because I suppose obviously you are a bit older. And I suppose, you know, a lot of the people that I would talk to are in their 30s and 40s. And I suppose they're really in it and they're really trying, you know, they're trying to predict ahead. So I suppose.. absolutely those fears of that they will regret it or that it will be too late, can be really daunting for people. So I don't know if you've anything to share on that, from your perspective? Sheila O Flanagan 11:17 Well, you know, I think, I think you're, you can always regret choices that you make, you know, that's always.. And there is nothing wrong with saying, gosh, maybe I should have done this. Or maybe I shouldn't, I should have done something else. But one of the things that people used to often say to me, again never close people.. Those people who knew me would say to me, well, you know, if I'd say, well, I don't think it's for me. And they'd say you know, and I would say I know, I'm not I don't get that emotional response to babies and people say, yeah, but when it's your own, you really will. And I felt that that was a desperately big gamble to take, not just for me, but for a child. And and I think that's important as well, like, you might regret something for yourself, you know, you might say to yourself, gosh, maybe I should have done that. But then if you have a whole load of reasons for thinking that you don't want to do it, and then you make you roll this dice, and then you have the child and you and you think oh, okay, this is not quite what I wanted, you know, it's a big gamble for somebody else's life, not just your life. And I think that was the strongest thing I ever felt when I was thinking about it, you know, once or twice I did think about it in in more depth, you know, other than this general kind of feeling, which was never anything I wanted to do. And once once or twice, I did sit down at such myself, why? Why do you not want to do this? And oftentimes, I would come back to that thing of somebody saying you will regret it. But if you have your own child, everything will be wonderful. And you will want this and I'm going that is a flipping massive gamble. And I'm not prepared to take that. And so so that was it. But I would also say to people who who are kind of, you know, are saying to themselves, well, I'm very happy now without any children, will I be happy, you know, when I'm 50 or 60? Or 70. I'm perfectly happy, I've never regretted it. My aunts who were without children never regretted. I'm sure they they again, from time to time, they might have thought maybe maybe it would have been.. but they had great lives. I have, again, in my family, I have a cousin who doesn't have children. And she doesn't regret it. I'm sure at every point.. at some points, you think to yourself, what would it have been like? Or maybe this would have been nice, but that's not regretting it. That's just thinking of how other things could be. And so I think you have to be confident in your own self and your choices. And I think a lot of people who who maybe feel that they're regretting something, or who are feeling under pressure, they're under pressure of other people's expectations and not their own expectations. Margaret O Connor 14:06 Absolutely yeah..I think you're spot on actually, that's really, really interesting. It's really.. actually I hadn't thought about it that way before to separate kind of the regret, the regret, potential regret for yourself and the potential regret for somebody else.. that's very..that's really interesting to think about. Okay, so if we move on to I suppose what, what, having a child free life has allowed you to do and I suppose the benefits and advantages of that for you, how has that influenced your life do you think? Sheila O Flanagan 14:34 Well, I think essentially and maybe one of the reasons that I'm a child free person is that I do a lot of living inside my head. And and I, you know, I write for a living, I think, I know lots of of writers who have children and combine their families. For me, I spend a lot of time walking around with other people in my head. And so not having physical real people to worry about has allowed me to to worry about imaginary people, and some people might think that that is a very, very selfish choice or something, but, but it allows me allows me to do that and to have times when, because I do like being on my own a lot. And it allows me time to be on my own and not feel guilty about that. I think there are a million things that you feel guilty about as a female, but not being being on my own and not feeling guilty about that, is not one of them, you know, so that's good. And I mean, if you if you say things that it's allowed you to do, I guess, it allowed me to have a career, a career that I that I wanted for the time that I wanted it, and, and again, without the pressures of having to race home and look after other people. Does that sound like that I couldn't be bothered to look after people, I don't think so I think it just sounds like, you know, I could concentrate on one thing at a time. And, of course, now I well of course, if I'd had children in my 30s, they'd be grown up now so I'd be doing the whole empty nester thing. But you know, from my 40s on it is really allowed me to, to travel a lot. And I, I have a house over in Spain, it allows me to divide my time between two places. And I guess, it allowed me to concentrate on things that were really important to me. And things that were important to me were more important to me than having a child. So, you know, it sounds superficial, in some ways when you say, well, it's allowed me to travel or it's allowed me to do this, but it actually allowed me to be myself and my own person. And that was important for my own mental health and my own well being. Margaret O Connor 16:46 No, I read that in an article, you said that you split your time between Dublin and Spain. I think that sounds wonderful (laughter) just being able to say that, I'm sure you can't at the moment.. Sheila O Flanagan 16:55 Yes not at the moment, I should have been there this week actually (laughter). Margaret O Connor 16:58 It does sound lovely! And yeah, so I suppose there's a flexibility. But also it sounds like it really allows you to like hone in on very specific things that are important to you. I suppose you switched career. So you you moved to writing in your 30s? Sheila O Flanagan 17:18 Yes I was in my mid 30s when I did that. Yeah. And yeah, and like I said, there are many, many very successful writers with families and they build, I think it's a really interesting thing about women writers as well that they have to build their time around their families. And you know, Hemingway and guys like that have made their families build their time around them. It is really, really interesting that it's the women writers who kind of have to work in the time that's available to them. And that.. because I didn't have children to to concern me, I was able to work in my own time. And so that was, and that worked really well, for me. Margaret O Connor 18:01 I suppose even making the switch from the permanent pensionable job in finance to the more uncertain, obviously, kind of writing, I suppose even that, I presume, would have been very different... Sheila O Flanagan 18:13 Yeah, I think that's a really interesting point, I think it would have been, certainly would have been something that I would have had to think about..much more thoughtfully, and, you know, I would have been thinking about a lot of other people rather than than just myself. Margaret O Connor 18:29 Yeah..And obviously, the writing has gone very well. So you have (laughter) you've over was it over 25 books and 9 million sales around the world. So that was a good decision. And I'm it something in your writing? Because I suppose I know, in in your in your most recent book, I suppose there is a theme around kind of this decision of having children or not, is it something you kind of consciously bring in? Or how do you feel about that? Sheila O Flanagan 18:58 I bring it in from time to time absolutely. Not in all my books, but in some of my books, and because I do think that.. that women carry the judgment of so many people about almost every choice you make. And actually that's a theme in the book that I've just finished writing at the moment. But you know, everybody projects onto women, what they expect them to be, even other women project onto them. And it's a kind of reflection out I think, we we're projecting what other people want us to be, we project that onto somebody else. Women just really, really try and can't always live up to a myriad of expectations that are placed on them, not their own, necessarily their own expectations. But you know, the expectations of society and the expectations of the way we've been brought up. We have a lot to process and in my writing, sometimes I bring that out, sometimes in in that area of of having children or having a career or both of those things. Because I do think it's an interesting topic of conversation. And I think it's something that we've all at some point, had to sit back and think about, what do I actually want? As opposed to what do I want to do that will keep my mom happy, or my partner happy, or society at large happy? Margaret O Connor 20:24 Yeah, I think it's lovely.. on your website, it said that you originally you kind of wanted to see or to have books that reflected people like you. So maybe back in the 80s, or 90s, you know Irish books were women on the farm, or they were rurally based, where as you wanted..(laughter) Sheila O Flanagan 20:42 They were a yes, there were a lot of women on the farm books, but also, they were nearly always all told, from the point of view of a male protagonist, you know, that the women there were always helping the man on his journey, you know, in the in the books, and not always, but you know, 90% of the time, and it wasn't their story that was being told, it was his story that was being told, and they were there, you know, to explore that. And I wanted to do it the other way around. And I wanted it to be women stories that were being told, and I wanted the women's choices and the women's decisions to be the key part of writing. So so that was one of the things that drove me into into writing the books that I write. Margaret O Connor 20:44 Which there's obviously an appetite for, which is lovely to see. Yeah, and I thought your your most..well your last books, that was 'The Women Who Ran Away', it was lovely, because you have kind of a younger woman and an older woman at different stages in their lives and kind of seeing that there's pros and cons to both, you know, there wasn't.. not one being better than the other, but just trying to understand kind of each other's experiences really I thought... Sheila O Flanagan 21:48 Yeah, I mean, I think in the case of those two women Deire and Grace, they, they didn't always agree with each other. And I think that was important that didn't always agree with the choices they were making, but they were supportive of each other in the end, in the journey that they were going through. And I think that that is one thing, generally speaking about women that that we are supportive of each other. And, you know, like I said early on, all the criticisms that I got about about not having children came from men. No woman ever criticized me, but again, maybe that's because of the the female environment I was in, you know, maybe it was because of the friends that I made, but no woman ever ever discussed it with me or, or asked me why or anything? Nobody, only men. Margaret O Connor 22:37 Okay..interesting...And I'm just wondering, do you get any particular kind of reactions to to your books or maybe you know, to that as I said that book with with those themes, where people ever contact you? Sheila O Flanagan 22:50 Well I often get emails from from women who say that particular books would have sparked some similarity with their own lives or circumstances or made them think about something or make them feel better. I do love when they when I get ones from people that say, yes, I was in this circumstance, and it made me feel better. And I, there have been a couple of books in which in which women have had to make choices about children, childcare, any of those things. And I do often get him letters or messages or something from women saying, I was in this exact same circumstances, and it was good to read about it. And maybe, you know, we, when we talk, you know, when we have these conversations with women and their life choices, maybe, we always have them in a very sort of polemic way, you know, where you've got two sides to an argument, you know, that kind of thing instead of an actual discussion about how do you feel, you know, and is this good for you? We don't have that, you know, we have a kind of more adversarial kind of discussions about so and, you know, perhaps, I think there, there are lots of women who are not at all judgmental about things. But when you're having this discussion, we always bring in the people who are. Margaret O Connor 23:09 Yes, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Sheila O Flanagan 24:11 Yeah. Sorry. Just before you go on, I mean, I'm thinking about my current environment. And again, obviously, we're all stuck at home at the moment. So it's kind of difficult to talk about that. But in my social circle, I am friends with women who have children and women who don't have children. And neither of neither side has ever discussed why did you do this, ever. We just accept that this is a choice that we've made. So I wonder, you know, it does make me wonder if sometimes these debates are manufactured, and again, manufactured to make, maybe women feel badly about their choice or something. I don't know. You know, in my lived experience, nobody has ever, you know, had an adversarial conversation about it. Margaret O Connor 25:00 Ok no I think it's a really valid point. And I know people , I get feedback from that as well that they kind of think, well, I'm not like, I'm not staunchly, you know, on either side, and you know where do I fit in? I suppose there's so much room in the middle and it's a much better place to be anyway. So and yeah, and, but I think that's why it's so important then to see, you know, or to hear kind of aspects of it in books like yourself, or yours, or there was a book out last year called 'Olive' by Emma Gannon, and and that was very much specifically around the decision, and that was three or four friends and they all have kind of different positions on through the book. So I suppose just bringing that out into maybe more public, public domains. I think it's really important just to get get those get those stories out there. Okay, and I'm just wondering, then maybe do you have any advice? I know, we've kind of touched off a little bit already. But for anyone who is kind of struggling with their decision at the moment, would you be able to give them any advice? Sheila O Flanagan 26:07 Well, I think if you're struggling with a decision, you have to ask yourself, what's the bit that I'm struggling with? Are you struggling with the fact that actually, you're just at a point of your career where it's not convenient to have a child? That's not the same as not wanting a child you know. Yeah, that's not wanting a child now. So then you have to kind of look at your career path and say, well at what point will I, you know, will I be able to do this? And am I leaving it too late, which is always the perennial question for women who delay this. And you know, that's a biology question. And it's a really difficult, I think it's a really mean trick that our bodies play on ourselves. But, you know, that's, that's one thing. And are you struggling.. I don't think that women who decide not to have children struggle with it for themselves, I think they struggle with it for other for other people. So then the question is, how, what's the most important thing to you? Is it what somebody else thinks? And if that's the case, is that somebody else going to be looking after your child? Because you're the person that's having the child so, you know, the struggling with it is, is always, what's the struggle? Why is the struggle there? If you feel that you don't want to have children, that's a that's, you know, that's a strong and a valid choice as I do want to have children. Then be have be sure of your own thoughts. You know, I mean, there's a reason that you feel that way. That's no less a valid reason than somebody who says, oh, yes, I've always wanted to have 10 children, you know, and we never question people who have had four or 5... Nobody ever says, why did you have two children? Why did you have eight children? They always say aren't you great, or gosh, that's unusual now, but nobody says, I don't really think that is a good choice that you made. Did you struggle to make that choice? Nobody. So.. it's the struggle is really within yourself and why are you..why are you conflicted about the choice? If you're conflicted about the choice, and I think this is one, you know, certainly that I can look back on now, you know, because I'm at the age where, you know, people said, well, and one of the guys said this to me.. so well you know, all very well, now you're 32, I think I was 32 at the time.. wait until you're 62. How are you going to feel them when you have nobody to kind of look after you? Fortunately, I'm not in the stage where I need anyone to look after me at this moment. But that's not a really good reason to have child is it, because you are now putting a kind of a burden on what your expectation of their life should be. What if your child decides, you know, when they're when whatever age they are, that they want to go and live in Australia or they they want to, what are you going to say? Well, look, sorry, come home and look after me? Is that why you're having a child? I just find that it's just a really insulting argument. Do you know? Yeah, so again, my, my advice is really to say to yourself, why, what am I struggling about? You can work that out then and say, I'm struggling, because I am actually not sure myself. And that's, that's a different thing. But I'm struggling because I don't want to let other people down, then that's not a struggle. That's something else entirely. And that's something that you you have to work out. Because if the other people are pressurizing you to do something that you do not want to do, then that's not a really a struggle. That's an entirely different argument. Margaret O Connor 29:42 Yeah, I think that's really useful because sometimes I find people come to me and they're, like, 80 or 90% sure that they don't want to have children but it's it's the acceptance or like the admitting.. that almost feels like their admitting something bad and how to deal with what other people is what they actually need to help with. Sheila O Flanagan 30:01 You know, the other people, who are those other people going to be? I think that's the question you should ask. Because generally speaking, I don't think, in life in general, I don't think that many people now are going to query your life choices with you, your family might, you know, that's again, another argument. And you have to say to yourself, well, you know, where do I want to be in my family and what's my.. and I bring that out in my books sometimes, because a lot of family issues in my books, and I do bring that out. But it's really important that you, yourself, know why you're doing something, if you're 80, or 90% sure of something that's, that's fine. You know, you don't have to, obviously, if you're 40, you have to make a decision relatively quickly. But if you're in your 30s, your late 20s, or early 30s, you don't have to choose at this minute and you, you can allow yourself time to decide, okay, if or why you don't want something or why you know, what the decision is going to be. Margaret O Connor 31:04 Yes that's really interesting. Just I know, you mentioned that earlier, that difference between..because again, I think it's a quote, in that article I read last year, is that you're you said you're not a maternal person, but you are a caring person. How do you distinguish between those, because I think sometimes people lump them all in together. Sheila O Flanagan 31:21 Well..the maternal thing is that come what may and regardless, you're happy to have somebody there 24/7, you're going to look after them 24/7, and that your love is entirely unconditional. And that's the end of it. When I, my nephews were younger, and they stayed with me and everything. And that time that they were there, if they were unhappy, if they were ill, if there was anything wrong, I was caring, you know, I mean, I love them in the same as I love my parents, I love you know, and people around me and in any way if people need help, I'm happy to be there, helping them. I think one of the things I often kind of got scared about in terms of, if I thought if I had a child was that I am, I'm a very, what's the word.. It's not, I'm organised, I would treat them..and again, I think I might have used this this in a book, I would treat them like a project, you know, I would say, right, this is what you're going to be and it's hard to forget that this is a person with their own thoughts and their own aspirations, you know. I just didn't feel that I was able to take on that kind of role of being a mother and letting them off to do their own thing. But I could do that differently with nephews.. I don't have nieces, or I only have adult nieces who have married my nephews now...but it's entirely different with other people's children. Margaret O Connor 32:54 Okay, okay. Yeah, and again, I suppose it is very different. So generally, with parenting, I suppose the days that you're getting 100% all the time, but then you don't have that control, I guess, as you said, you know you have to let them go (laughter), at some point, to live their own lives, but then I suppose you have a different relationship with other people. So it may be.. Sheila O Flanagan 33:13 Of course you do, and you can have I mean, I have a wonderful relationship with with my nephew's and I'm grateful to my sisters for having them and for them being in my life. But but at no point when they had children, did I think oh I should have done this.. ever. Margaret O Connor 33:31 Okay. And also I don't think we maybe give enough credit to the role of, like, aunts and uncles in families, you know, that, that children have, like other people to talk to, or, you know, to have that different relationship. I think that's really important. Sheila O Flanagan 33:48 Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I had a really good relationship with one aunt in particular, who was unmarried with no children. I never asked her why, never had that discussion. But we had a great relationship, great conversations with about, all sorts of stuff, topics, all sorts of things. And I actually with my nephews, I can have those conversations too. And I do have those conversations, not necessarily about, about, you know, family issues, although we have had those conversations, actually. And there's been one once or twice where, you know, when my nephew, one or two nephews have said, oh, god, this is happening and, you know, it's really hard and we are able to have a different kind of conversation than the conversation that maybe they would have had with their mother or father. And so, you know, it is interesting, it's a different dynamic. It's a different conversation that, you know, I suppose they're able to have with maybe a trusted adult, you know, but in a different way to with their parents, I love being an aunt to my nephews. But I'm glad that they're my nephews and not my children (laughter). Margaret O Connor 34:56 Okay, brilliant. And that's fantastic. It is just so so interesting to talk to you. I'm just wondering, is there anything else you want to bring up? Or anything you wanted to say that we didn't get to? Sheila O Flanagan 35:07 I honestly don't think so. I mean, I just think it's important for, for women to feel confident in their choices. And because we do second guess ourselves an awful lot. And you know, this, this is your life, and you only have one life. And, yeah, maybe you will regret things. But I don't think on a on something so fundamental. That's not something you're going to regret. You know, if you when you make that decision, you won't actually regret it. I think it's a fear of regretting and that the fear is there, because everybody tells you that you will. Yeah. And so you have to listen to your own self, you have to listen to your own heart. And you have to listen to your own mind. And you have to listen to the voice in your own head that is telling you that something is right or wrong for you. And, and put away all that other noise because that's just people's opinions. These are not facts. These are people's opinions. And your opinion is more important to you than anybody else. Margaret O Connor 36:11 Absolutely brilliant advice. Thank you so much Sheila. It has been fascinating to talk to you. Thanks very much. Sheila O Flanagan 36:16 You're very welcome. Margaret O Connor 36:25 Thanks very much to my guests for taking part and to you for listening. I would 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 and watch out for the next episode soon. Transcribed by

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