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Season 2 #10 Jennifer Moran Stritch

Part 4 of the 'Who will look after me when I get old' series. My guest is Jennifer Moran Stritch. We have a fascinating and wide ranging discussion on the topic of ageing without children. We explore common stereotypes, the power of assumptions and how to catch ourselves from being drawn into them. We explore some concepts such as the adult orphan and the loss of the assumptive world which can help us to understand what we might be experiencing in our own lives. And we round things off by talking about Death Cafes and the rule that there must always be cake!

Jennifer has a background in social care and social work; she lectures in Social Care in the Limerick Institute of Technology and with the MSc in Loss and Bereavement with the Irish Hospice/RCSI. She is a frequent keynote speaker and workshop facilitator on aspects of loss, resilience and growth across the human lifespan. She is also a host of Limerick Death Café since 2015.

This is a link to the Irish Hospice 'Think Ahead' form which we discuss - and to Death Café Limerick -

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/or 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. My guest today is Jennifer Moran Stritch. She is the principal investigator of the Loss and Grief Research Group, part of the Social Sciences Connections Research Institute at Limerick Institute of Technology. With a background in social care and social work she lectures in social care in the LIT Department of Applied Social Sciences, and with the MSc Loss and Bereavement programme with the Irish Hospice/RCSI. Jennifer's international practice makes her a frequent keynote speaker and workshop facilitator on aspects of death education and experiences of loss, resilience and growth across the human lifespan. As one of the founders of Death Café Limerick, Jennifer has facilitated death café events since November 2015. We have a fascinating and wide ranging discussion on the topic of aging without children, we explore some common stereotypes, the power of assumptions and how we can catch ourselves from being drawn into them. We look at some concepts such as the adult orphan and the loss of the assumptive world, which can help us understand what we are experiencing. And we round things off by talking about Death Cafes, and the rule that there must always be cake. So Jennifer, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. Really looking forward to it. Jennifer Moran Stritch 1:40 Well, thank you so much for your your kind invitation. I'm really I'm honored. So thank you. Margaret O Connor 1:46 Lovely, okay, so we are going to talk about aging without children from a kind of a few different points. Where would you like to start with that? Jennifer Moran Stritch 1:55 Ahm...really well, I suppose maybe it makes sense to say a little bit about what I what I do, and why I'm, you know, interested in this. And that is that I'm a lecturer in the Department of Applied Social Sciences and one of the. at Limerick Institute of Technology and one of the elective modules that I teach is entitled Positive Aging. So it's about all aspects of aging, both in terms of you know, kind of your view, your own personal view of aging for the students, but also for the students who are training to become social care workers, how they may end up supporting people who are aging, they may end up working directly with people within some kind of an aging program, or within a nursing home setting. Or, you know, a Family Resource Centre that kind of caters towards, towards has groups for, for older people, or within their own families. So, you know, it's practice, but it's also personal. And one of the topics that we talk about is this idea of aging without children, either by choice, or just by happenstance, by the way that that life works out and what it what is that like, and what does that mean? And what is what are the societal views of that? Margaret O Connor 3:21 Fantastic..that's actually on the curriculum. Oh, that's fantastic to hear. Jennifer Moran Stritch 3:26 Yeah, yeah. It's a it's a niche area. Not everybody is, obviously especially in social care work. Right now in Ireland, the opportunities for employment are, are based a lot more at the other end of the age spectrum, and that is youth work and work with children and work with with young people in, in, in residential and care, but we still have our little, our little niche crew for for working with older people. Margaret O Connor 3:55 Brilliant, ok..and how does that go down? I suppose I'm wondering what's what are people's reaction? Is that a choice or is a part of a kind of...? Jennifer Moran Stritch 4:04 It's, it's an elective, so they get to choose it. And they can choose from a suite of options. And you know, we are a boutique option in that I don't I don't I never get an overwhelming majority of the class. Now, listen, that could be because they know I'm teaching it so they're trying to avoid me as well. But But yeah, it's, for some reason. I don't know what it is really. The majority of our students are traditionally aged college students. So they're about you know, by final year, they're about 20/21/22. So it's almost like they can't even conceive of this idea of aging or that they in fact are aging themselves at that very moment. But but I always get a nice small group of students who are really interested in working somewhere in the eldercare space.. usually because they've had personal experiences of family members that they've been very close to who are older. So like grandparents, great aunts, great uncles, those those kinds of things, those experiences, bring them to that. Margaret O Connor 5:14 And what kind of topics would you cover them within that? Jennifer Moran Stritch 5:18 Oh we cover virtually everything. So we come at it from a biopsychosocial perspective. And it's a year long elective, too. So there's two semesters. So. So it's nice, because we have plenty of time to to explore things, including, you know, concepts like ageism, and where that came from, and how prevalent it is in society. We look at the the nursing home industry and the care industry and the history of it in Ireland and what it's developed to, we spend a good amount of time talking about dementia, and what it's like to live with dementia, and what are sort of the newest, and more creative and more Person Centered ways of providing care and safety for for people with dementia. And we also talk about tough things too, like elder abuse, we talk about the menopause, we talk about end of life care and death and dying, which is very much a reality. And then we have started to touch on what it is, what is it like to reach older age and be either never to have had children, to have had children who are, you know, have died. And so the person is sort of rendered effectively child childless.. to have actively sought to have children, but it just didn't happen within the years of fertility. And that's even interesting now to depending upon how old the person is because, you know, a lot of people who maybe are in their 70s and 80s. Now, who are who are childless, came up during their years of fertility without the fertility support options that we have today. Yeah, so for many of them.. remaining childless, might not have been a choice. But it might also have been a very passive situation for them in that there weren't the medical interventions that that that could advise them on how to increase their options. And there may not have even been the medical diagnostics to be able to tell them what the functional issues were. So a lot of it would be clouded in mystery. I don't know what you think but I think sometimes a lot of people when things are clouded in mystery, and it's coming from a certain point of time, will attribute different reasons to that. So they might just be you're unlucky. You didn't pray hard enough. Something's wrong with you, you know, a higher power didn't want you to have children, you... You know you you didn't work hard enough for it or you weren't, you weren't blessed with children. And I think sometimes that can be a very heavy burden to carry. Margaret O Connor 8:25 Or you're being punished for something..kind of on the other side. Yeah, yeah. Jennifer Moran Stritch 8:30 I'd imagine. I'd imagine that that's, that's what's happening. And also it does show up kind of in the literature, in terms of qualitative studies, with older people and their understandings of that. Margaret O Connor 8:42 It's a really interesting point, because we almost take it for granted, like, all these options are available. There's much more knowledge than there was. And that's a very recent thing about fertility and options. Yeah, when you say it, I hadn't thought about it like that. Yeah, yeah. Jennifer Moran Stritch 8:56 Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, so so we've started to look at that. And that's, you know, that's kind of interesting... I suppose too. So I teach in a social care work program and like most caring professions, it is heavily populated by women. And to choose to not have children or to be affected by fertility in some way is can be a space that again, is is sort of, you know, a woman's arena. So it's interesting to work with these students and get them to start to see about like, oh, that actually might not happen for me. Margaret O Connor 9:41 Okay. Yeah. Jennifer Moran Stritch 9:45 Or..I don't see this a lot yet.. but but you know, them maybe verbalizing like I'm kind of considering a child free life and I think that's probably there for some of them. But it's probably just not, you know, the the elective isn't the place for them to talk about that. So. Margaret O Connor 10:07 Oh, it sounds really interesting. Lots of different aspects. Yeah, yeah. Jennifer Moran Stritch 10:15 Yeah..And, you know, I think the other thing is that the the, the societal view sometimes is that people who have aged, no matter how successfully or freely or meaningfully or creatively, they have aged, no matter what external trappings, you, you know, you can see in their lives or the amount of, you know, thing, wonderful things they've produced in their lives or the amount of, of travel and, and, you know, community connections that they have and social networks and no matter how great their lifestyle is, if they do not have children, or don't have children present in their in their lives that are, you know, genetically theirs, there is, I think, a tendency to go, aaw isn't that sad. They never had kids... Margaret O Connor 11:16 This comes up in and ooh, I can feel my blood pressure rising like as we talk about it (laughter), like it came up in in research that I did, and it's definitely come up in other conversations I've had with people like this idea of consolation. So like, it doesn't matter what else you've get the head tilt, but they never had kids. Yeah. Like, it's like, oh, the burden like that, that can feel like for people. It's like, how do you? How do you win at that? Like, it just feels like it's impossible, to find a way to balance that out... Jennifer Moran Stritch 11:53 Yeah. Yeah. And it's, it's a sneaky old one. Because, because, you know, listen, I'd love to be able to say, well, you know, younger, like, people in their 40s and 50s, we're more woke, and we don't feel that way. We're not judging, but it's so powerful, like it sneaks into your marrow, and that becomes your worldview. Yeah, and I mean, it's probably been that way across the millennia. But But yeah, that's why I think, well, I think your podcast is such a great vehicle to get people thinking and, and talking about that. Margaret O Connor 12:35 I remember, I think, yeah, it was in a particular research paper or whatever.. they were saying that the the choice is there. But, you know, technically or practically the choice is there to have children or not, but like, if it's still seen as the 'wrong' choice, or if it's not regarded as a positive choice..Yeah. You know, there there's a gap there that, you know, we haven't caught up to, you know, you can do it. Yeah. But does it feel like something that is socially accepted or acceptable to do? Yeah, there's a gap there. Jennifer Moran Stritch 13:09 Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Or this idea, which when you think about it is quite unfair. This idea of you it's your responsibility, you actually should have children because you'd be such a terrific mother or father or parents you know, so you're like you're almost doing a disservice to the world if you opt.. so and I mean, the next word that's going to come into there it's selfish you know.. Yes, yeah. So there's there are a lot of powerful but but sneaky stereotypes that come into play here that that you know, where well, we pick them up from everywhere, we pick them up from media and culture and myths and you know, story and societal attitudes but they are in there and they are are powerful so sort of up ending them I think, has to be has to be our our jobs you know, Margaret O Connor 14:11 I think sneaky is a brilliant word because you when you say them out loud I always think like they do sound quite ridiculous but I suppose they're not said out loud. They're they're insinuated and yet they are there and it's more sneaky. Definitely powerful. Yeah, yeah. Jennifer Moran Stritch 14:28 Yeah. The other one and we chatted about this this year in in lecture..the other one is okay, you didn't have children of your own but sure, you know, your nieces or nephews or your pals kids...they're basically like they're your kids they're a replacement. It's like, no, they're actually my nieces and nephews and that is in itself a marvelous and unique relationship that should be valued and seen for what it is, not as a child substitute. Margaret O Connor 15:00 Yeah, the need to put children into your space. Yeah, yeah. Like, what? What's that justifying like that? Jennifer Moran Stritch 15:08 Yeah, yeah. It's like, it's like, well, I can't have hot cocoa with sugar in it. So I'm gonna have diet hot cocoa instead. But that's that that's like my hot cocoa fix. You know, like, so (laughter). Well, I didn't, I either couldn't have kids of my own, or I chose not to have kids of my own, but I've glommed on to the neighbor's kids, and they're my substitute (laughter) Margaret O Connor 15:31 And I don't hate children, you know, I will prove to you that I don't hate them. And I'm normal and great with kids (laughter).. Jennifer Moran Stritch 15:38 Yeah. Yeah, we do a lot. We do a lot of weird thinking and weird, strange connecting dots in our head, because we because we need to have those those connections made. We do a lot of strange, makey up explaining in our heads about things, you know. Margaret O Connor 15:58 Yeah. And I suppose because it is so hard to be different. Like to not, to step outside of that...whatever that is narrative or pattern, that the expected ones so to step outside of that can feel quite heard or kind of stark, I think people, you know, again, maybe the clients that talk to me, they're like, well, if I'm not having children, like, literally, what am I going to do? Like, yeah, it feels like that path isn't obvious, or, again, maybe isn't accepted or acknowledged maybe by other people. So yeah, I suppose having some connection to that base seems to be important for some people, which is fine. Yeah. Jennifer Moran Stritch 16:40 Yeah..I think too, you know, we're, well, I'm obviously not from here, originally. But I've lived here for about 20 years, but I, I grew up in what I would consider kind of an Irish Catholic network in the United States. And, you know, Catholicism very clearly, over the years, made it one of their, one of their, their, their tenets that, you know, go forth and multiply, and it is sort of your duty as a, as a Catholic, to have children. And obviously, you know, the birth control rulings and stuff comes into that. And those are, you know, that the Humanae Vitae was what in the 1960s. So it's within, within, you know, certainly my lifetime, that, that, that that's been around. So, you could see where people would get the idea that if you're not having children, or can't having children, you are violating one of these serious underpinnings of, of your faith. Yeah. You know, never, never mind, you know, getting into the finer details of actually using birth control in order to, you know, prevent that happening, because you're making an active choice not to have children. So that's super powerful, too. You know, and I think that feeds into the kind of selfish stuff. I don't know if I'm, I'm sort of just parsing this right know, Margaret O Connor 18:26 Possibly, yeah. And I suppose. And I know, there's somebody I follow on Twitter, and they've lately they've been doing this thing of kind of reversing the things that are normally said to childfree people kind of, you know, imagining what it would be like to say back to parent to people with children and like, the selfish thing is, is it always feels like it's one way like you're selfish not having children. As if there's nothing selfish about creating life because you want to..literally bringing somebody into the world. Yeah, it's just it's an it's an interesting.. why it seems to stick one direction. You wouldn't call any parents selfish. The narrative doesn't work that Jennifer Moran Stritch 19:05 Yeah. And like, look, you know, here's, let me let me clear my other bias in here too, in that I'm speaking to you as a woman who, you know, has three young, young adult children and chose to have them, wanted to have them you know, kind of can't imagine life without them. Although there are days, Margaret, there are days where I can imagine life without them (laughter). But yeah, but can't so. So. So that's my worldview. You know, and yeah, and sort of becoming more aware of that. My worldview is coming is probably in a lot of ways a majority worldview, but that there are these other alternatives out there that that should be viewed as just as valid and valuable and should be supported in that way. Margaret O Connor 20:06 Absolutely. And that's all.. I think we're, you know anybody's looking for is that, you know, equally parenthood, I always say this, you know, parenthood needs to be valued, it is a hard thing to do, a challenging and rewarding thing to do. But I think that needs to be recognized as much as well not everybody has to do. You know, I think that works for everybody, if we're actually being much more honest and real about the reality of all the different choices that are there. Jennifer Moran Stritch 20:33 Yeah, yeah. It's so funny, I would have lots of friends over my life, that would be involved in the care sector. So they'd either be, you know, nurses, or they'd be care assistants, or they'd be people who would, who would work in residential care maybe for for people who, who have intellectual or physical disabilities. And I, there was always this, this trend when when it would come towards Christmas and would come towards the, you know, signing up for the roster, and, and when are you going to work? And the unspoken, but sometimes spoken rationale around it was well, sure, you don't have kids, so you work Christmas Day. Which on one level, if you're coming to it freely and and if if that's what you're, that you're aware of the needs of others, and you you want to offer that, I think that can be a lovely thing, and a really generous thing, and to really help a team be really cohesive in that kind of work. But but if it's expected, or if you are viewed as the selfish one, because you're like, well, quite frankly, I would like a Christmas Day off whether you know, and the fact of whether I have kids or not shouldn't really enter into it. It's everywhere, and it's powerful. Margaret O Connor 21:56 Yeah, yeah. And it is complicated. You know, I totally get what you're saying. But yeah, it's, I suppose it's very much like what's behind the thinking of yeah, if it's a question or choice or something you volunteer it's very, very different to the maybe more passive aggressive expectation... Jennifer Moran Stritch 22:15 Yeah that, that sort of, you know, I have more value because I happen to have given birth. Or I happen to have given birth to children who, like, let's get down to it. I happen to have given birth to children who have survived. Hmm. Yeah. Which is sort of a lottery in a lot of ways. Margaret O Connor 22:40 Yeah. When you think about all the possible circumstances that can happen along the way. Yeah. Yeah. I often feel that category of person maybe gets lost in conversation, you know like that someone who has had a child and that child has died, you know, for whatever reason, you know, they're a parent, but I often even wonder, how do you categorize yourself? You know, like, if you're a parent without a child, yeah. It's a very hard place to be. Jennifer Moran Stritch 23:07 Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And, you know, that comes up a lot in the literature, too. Like we have words for for widows and widowers, but we don't have, specifically that word for a parent who has lost a child through death. Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, I think, like, I know, I'm aware of an organization in the UK, and I'm sure you are too, Aging Without Children. Margaret O Connor 23:32 Yeah, they're amazing. Jennifer Moran Stritch 23:34 Yes. Yeah. And, you know, they also bring into it, which I think is really useful, the idea that it's not just about people who have never had children, or have chosen to never have children. But it's also about people who would have had children, but those children lived to whatever age they lived, and they have died, or that their children, they had children, the children are still alive, but that their relationship has been that there's an emotional cutoff in the relationship. So they are not in touch with each other. Yeah. Yeah. Margaret O Connor 24:14 Yeah. And I mean, I know they've been really active during COVID and kind of raising and really trying to highlight that because the assumption is that everybody has family to look after them. And family meaning children who are accessible to them and able to provide care and support that may not otherwise be available, and they've been very vocal in highlighting that that's not the case for a lot of people for a wide variety of reasons. Yeah. Jennifer Moran Stritch 24:41 Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And, like in that and like, I'm really taken with this kind of older orphans concept. So like when you are you are a, you know, perhaps a single or a coupled person. And it we see it a lot in, in kind of the LGBTQ activism and also in the literature as well, you, you end up being sort of the last of your line, or the last of your, of your close family connection. So you might have cousins or other things, but you have reached a certain age in which both parents are deceased. And you are now sort of the head of your family. And what is that? What is that, like? Emotionally? What is that like for you in terms of your own identity? And then I suppose that there are the practical aspects that aging without children has really brought up. You know, the idea of so how, okay, so now that I know this, that I don't have these younger people in my life, where there's this assumed duty of care that they are going to care for me. Because I, you know, I took care of you and well, you know, you're gonna pick my nursing home, that old joke, you know. So, I better be nice to you. Because because you'll be picking the nursing home. Like, how do people how do aging adults make plans? Financial plans, practical plans, emotional plans, legal plans? Margaret O Connor 26:31 Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Because I don't think we..I don't know do people not think about it? Or it doesn't feel like there is information freely available on this or that..yeah, I don't know. Again, I know Karen the solicitor was saying there is a taboo if you if you talk about this, you're like cursing yourself or you know, bringing bringing it on you somehow is that I don't know, is that some general thing maybe Irish people.. I don't know if it's just Irish people have about death or thinking ahead or aging in general? Jennifer Moran Stritch 27:06 Yeah, I think probably, I think yeah I know, I hear that a a lot because I do like to talk about death a lot. And I do think there is this idea of like, you're borrowing trouble, if you do start to think about it. I, but I do think some good things have come into play in places like the United States, and, and here, here in Ireland, as well, in that there are advanced care directives that are now coming, becoming much more widespread and have legal value. And there are ways, and I'm sure that, you know, any solicitor would be able to chat with you about these things, but that you can write down in a document what your wishes are around medical care and medical intervention, should you become ill enough that you couldn't speak for yourself. But also, the Irish hospice Foundation has a nice, I think it could be like 25 or 30 pages long, which I know sounds really big. But it's, it's called the Think Ahead form, and people can download it from Irish Hospice, or you can print it out. And it's like a booklet with all your stuff. So who's your lawyer? What are your bank accounts? Who's your doctor? What, you know, what kind of interventions would you not like, if you became sick enough that you couldn't speak for yourself and if your life was in danger. Things like where do you want your funeral to be? Who do you want at your funeral? What you know, is there a particular priest or member of the clergy that you'd like to say it? Are there particular songs that you'd like, where do you want to be buried or cremated? Eco burial, you know, what is it that you want, it's a, it's a nice book that lets you kind of, and you can take your time with it, too. It's not like you have to fill it all out in in one day. And I also think it's the kind of document and there's lots of different versions of it too. So. So you know, but Irish hospice, I think is a particularly user friendly one, and a very complete one. There you like, you can fill the document out and share it with somebody in your life. And that person might be your pal, you know, or it might be your sister, your brother or your niece or your nephew or your lawyer or, you know, whoever that might be so that they're aware of the things that you would like and how you'd like things to go. Not any guarantee that, you know, they're actually going to go that way, but it gives like an impetus for people to talk about this stuff and have the conversations, you know. Margaret O Connor 29:56 It definitely that really seems to be..I suppose kind of the theme coming out of all of these interviews really seems to be that, you know, we do need to be kind of proactive and think ahead and plan ahead and but like in a positive way to try and maintain some aspect of control over what happens to us in a wide variety of possible circumstances yeah.. Jennifer Moran Stritch 30:19 Yeah, yeah, I think so. I think so. And, you know, it's, it's back to well, I'm probably over applying it right. But there is this, there is this way of looking at things. There's this sort of concept from within the loss and grief literature, and it's called the loss of the assumptive world. And it it's saying that, you know, when we are young, and as we move through life, we make assumptions about the way our life is going to turn out. And we make assumptions that, you know, we're going to graduate from secondary school, or we're going to go to UL, or we're going to, you know, marry our high school boyfriend, or we're going to get a great job at the Bank of Ireland, and we're definitely going to be able to build the house in the, you know, fields next door to your parents, and you're going to have 2.4 children, and it's all going to be fantastic. So that's, you know, a lot of the assumptive world, I think that that a lot of society would would say is is the way that life is going to turn out. And then when something happens, so that those assumptions are in some way shattered for you, that is very, very hard for people to take emotionally. Yeah, yeah. And like, though, the shattered assumptions could could, you know, the shattering may come from a sudden or premature death of someone, it could come from the fact that you know, the field next door to your parents house gets sold. But you know, before you ever even get there, it could be that you don't get the points to get into UL to study whatever you want, you want to study at UL, or you don't you don't get the job. But but equally, you know, you could be sitting there saying, well, definitely..I'm 20, I'll definitely have kids, or I'll definitely find myself where I want to have kids. I'm not so sure about it right now. But sure, I have plenty of time to think about it. And then coming up to this pinch point where you go wait a minute, I actually don't think I want kids, I don't think this is what I what I want, or I would, but it's proving very, very difficult. And so, you know, maybe I've tried fertility, and now I need to look at making that decision about stopping. Yeah. Yeah. You know, or if you take it even a step back in terms of assumptions. So like, I've already shared with you that I have three young adult children, there's somewhere in my mind, even though I'm having this conversation with you, there's somewhere in my mind that I assume that the chances are pretty good that I will be a grandmother at some point in time. Yes. Isn't that quite bizarre, that I would make that assumption on behalf of..? Margaret O Connor 33:34 Well, I suppose again, when you say it out loud, but that is the assumption, isn't it? It is it is what we see. And it's what we expect and until we probably question it, it seems quite straightforward, like, yeah, I guess it would be certainly unexpected if for some collection of reasons, none of your children have any children. Jennifer Moran Stritch 33:59 Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But we, you know, so much of what we look at, or what we are exposed to in the world underscores those assumptions about how life is supposed to turn out. Margaret O Connor 34:17 And even just thinking of that, so you've got..I don't know, you might have 15 or 20 years of working off those assumptions. You know, depending on what age or whatever, but like they're, they're from such a young age, so then that even if if they if they don't happen, for reasons outside of your control, or if you decide to take a different path, that's a big shift in perception and thought. Like, it's not easy to move from that way of thinking, I think. Jennifer Moran Stritch 34:48 Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I would agree. And I would imagine I would imagine that that those shattered assumptions sometimes you know, when well, when you hear shattering, sometimes you think of a very sudden and quick impact. But, but sometimes I think assumptions are shattered in a slow, almost like there's a tiny crack in the windshield. And then it just has to grow. And then maybe there's a little tremor. And so, you know, you get a little spider vein or something. Before before the windshield kind of goes completely to dust, it can be a long process for people. And I wonder if it especially, I don't know if this is going to be fair to say, but I'm going to say it, I will take the risk. In Ireland, where sometimes within family spaces, we don't have those conversations. Margaret O Connor 35:40 Oh yeah, I do think that's fair (laughter). Yeah. Jennifer Moran Stritch 35:43 Yeah. Yeah. And not that we're alone in that, there's plenty of other cultures. Margaret O Connor 35:49 Absolutely but yeah, and sometimes that's just because everyone's so busy. And, and even within families, we have this view of oh, yeah sure, you know, we've sensible one, and the one that'll inherit the farm, and we've the one that's a bit wild, but she will settle down there in a while, you know, we have these these, I suppose, quite prescribed views of each other. And yeah, may not always match up to the reality. Jennifer Moran Stritch 36:14 Yeah, yeah. You know, there's also like, a funny dichotomy, I think, in, in, in the Irish culture. And again, you know, gosh, I hope I'm not sort of offending anyone, by saying this, and I don't I, I see myself as sort of, of negotiating a tight, tight, tight rope, like of being in Irish culture, but then being I would fit in enough to be able to make some observations. You know, there's such a funny dichotomy of having children within a marriage and being, you know, blessed with children. And that should be everybody's desire. I mean, it's part of part of the marriage blessing within the Catholic Church, and, you know, so it's a very clear message about that. But yet, yet, having a child outside of wedlock, especially as a, as a younger woman is, you know, or had been in the past, I think we're better about it now, but had been forbidden. So it's like, well, you can do it this way. And this is good. But if you do it that way, if life falls for you that way, then that's, that's bad. So we have like these intricacies about having children or remaining childless that are that are, are are illogical, that maybe the best word. Margaret O Connor 37:43 (laughter) Yeah, that's pretty common. And yeah, yeah. Yeah. But it's brilliant even to be able to name that because I think for a lot of people, it can seem very black and white. Yeah. It's not like, I mean, it's human. It involves humans. So therefore, it's very complex but just breaking it down and seeing yeah, all these forces are at play, different dynamics. I suppose..I hope that's helpful to people that they realize it's not just.. because it can feel very isolating, and it can feel like oh, I'm the only one trying to struggle, you know to find my way through these kind of issues. But, hopefully showing that it's not, it's much wider. But they do land in particular ways for people given their own circumstances. Jennifer Moran Stritch 38:31 Yeah. And can I ask you a question, would you find that in your practice, do you encounter clients who are who are maybe are older, and who maybe are past the window of fertility, so the, so kind of, you know, the, the, the, the, the option may not be as readily there for them, who are coming to it to like, I just want to kind of work out I want to reflect back and look at why I didn't have children and sort of work that issue out for myself. Margaret O Connor 39:06 No, actually, now that you ask it's really interesting. No. Jennifer Moran Stritch 39:12 Is it mostly younger people who are in the middle of that decision? Margaret O Connor 39:15 Yeah, it's very much in the middle of time as a factor. I've been thinking about it for a while, maybe dipping in and out. But now time feels like a very important factor and I need to make a decision..that would be the majority, not everybody but more so. I haven't so far had someone looking back on it. Yeah. Jennifer Moran Stritch 39:38 Okay..Because I wonder you know, there's there's interventions that are used loads of different places, but particularly in in kind of hospice or end of life work and in nursing homes, like you know, a life review. So it's a sort of telling your life story, and then really reviewing it and sort of looking at the places that were really tough places or, you know, times that maybe were really difficult or your you kind of didn't make the best choices or things were really against you, but also obviously looking at the high points, the peaks, times of great success, great joy and sort of kind of knitting it all together for for someone, right. And I wonder, I don't know, it makes me want to go kind of Google this. But I wonder where talk around childlessness, either by choice or by circumstance comes into life, life review work for people. Margaret O Connor 40:43 Yeah, it would definitely be interesting, because I suppose from that other perspective, I suppose.. I have spoken to two older people who chose not to have children, you know, even like, for the podcast, Sheila O Flanagan like, and that's a positive thing to her. There's no regrets. You know, it's it's what, she was never really unsure. You know, it was it was Yeah, she was just very clear on but yeah, I imagine that maybe be different for again for other people in different circumstances.. Yeah. Yeah. I don't know.. There is a research project for somebody if they want it (laughter). Jennifer Moran Stritch 41:20 Yes. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I mean, write that down for for a student. Yeah. Yeah. Margaret O Connor 41:29 And I was just like, I know we were talking about, you're involved in in death cafes. So would you would you mind just explaining that for anyone who doesn't know? Jennifer Moran Stritch 41:39 Sure sure. So Death Café is a concept. It's a it's what's called a social franchise. And it has been around I hope I'm gonna get the years right, I think it's been around for about 10 years now. And what it is, is it's opportunities for people to come together and just talk about all aspects of mortality, including death, dying, bereavement, grief, funerals, burials, the afterlife, everything, and they are social events. They are normally free or, or you know, you you maybe make a contribution to a charity, but they are not for profit is what I'm trying to say. And a couple of years ago, six years ago now, I believe, two pals of mine, Dr. Tracy Fahey, from Limerick School of Art and Design, and the late and very, very, very great Sinead Dineen from Mary I, met at a conference and said have you heard about these death café things? And would would we try one in Limerick, and we did, and it was a joy, to work with the two of them. Sinead, for folks that wouldn't know her, was a lecturer at Mary I . But she was, was also an artist and an advocate around all aspects of both ovarian cancer but also you know, sort of getting us to kind of talk more about life and death and where death falls in life and getting people to be more open and honest and having these these conversations so. So we started doing that about six years ago. And we've continued on with them. And then COVID came and we went to virtual death cafes. And now I'm really lucky I've co-hosted a couple of them with Dr. Aoife McLaughlin, who is also from Mary I. So it's it's definitely a Limerick thing. And they are open to anybody. Generally, we sort of look for people to be aged 18 or over. And you can find out when we're having our our next one's by following death café Limerick, on Facebook, that's our Facebook page. But also if people just want to hear about the concept in a in a broader way or kind of check it out before you get too involved in it, you can go to the website But I will tell you there's one rule of death cafes. It's literally it's kind of the only rule, the only hard fast rule. And it is that there has to be cake at the death café. And yeah (laughter) Margaret is like yeah, Margaret O Connor 44:33 That should be a rule for the podcast (laughter) Jennifer Moran Stritch 44:35 Yeah. And the whole, you know, rationale behind that is that the gentleman who kind of started this off, Bernard Cortez, felt that you know, the fact that we are mortal and that you know, this life experience at least will end, should be celebrated and like that makes life special, you know, you're only going to ever have one, Friday, May 28 2021. So you might as well kind of look at it as a unique and singular event. And that that should be celebrated. And he felt that cake was a universal, universally like celebratory food. So we so we have cake, we have loads of cake and loads of cookies and loads of sweets and loads of treats and lots of abundance in that so that it is like a little bit of a party. Margaret O Connor 45:31 Yeah, that in itself is just so lovely, isn't it? Like, because I mentioned I mentioned the the death café concept to group students I was working with actually and the the look of horror like, the collective look of what, why would you, what would you do that for? Or why would you do that to yourself? Kind of, now, not out of everyone. But generally I was like, okay, well have a look at it, see what you think but, you know, so trying to just highlight what you've said, you know, we mightn't like it, but it's going to happen and but hopefully we could use it to embrace life more or be more aware of life. Yeah, Jennifer Moran Stritch 46:09 I tell you, you know, I know it's so funny. Very often, I'll get comments from people going, I had the best time at the deaf café, it was so great. But would you ever change the name, the name is so in your face. It's like, well, I didn't name it, first of all, and, and also, like maybe it's important that it's in your face, and that it is what it says on the tin. That that's what we're doing. But I have to tell you, we just had a virtual one the other night as part of the Lifelong Learning Festival for Limerick this year. And, and we had a virtual death café. And we must had about 15 or 16 people at it. And it was life affirming and funny and genuine and connectedness and people were vulnerable. But if, if I can put it this way, people were vulnerable, but in a strong way. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it, it's there, they they are good things, they are not depressing. They are uplifting. And it's great to see that people are hungry, kind of not just for cake and not just for banter, but hungry to you know, talk about stuff that's meaningful in life. So I encourage anybody who's listening, if you're curious, come and come and check us out. Margaret O Connor 47:28 Definitely. Brilliant. Well, look, Jennifer, I'm aware that we could probably talk for the day and get into really nerdy topics that we find really interesting or certainly that I find interesting (laughter). It's been really, really interesting. And is there any kind of takeaway point you'd give to people listening to this and maybe they're just wondering, okay, kind of what do I, where do I go with this information? Or how do I kind of incorporate, you know, there's loads of theory out there, but how do I kind of incorporate that into, you know, their own situation, any kind of takeaway points? Jennifer Moran Stritch 48:07 Yeah. It's a great question. I'll leave you with one with with a little self awareness tip that comes up for me a lot. So this is it's, it's really about about me and how I encounter myself. And that is, if I find myself falling into those oh sure she would have been a great mother, or, oh, isn't it a pity that they didn't have children? Oh, they must be so lonely or isn't that sad, you know, the head tilt as you as mentioned. The minute I feel my head tilt, I gotta, I gotta stop and go Jen, question your little assumptions that you're making about people right now, you know, is that really accurate? Like, whose story is that, that you're that you're kind of buying into or feeding into there? And, and, you know, it may not be the way that you are, are seeing this, this story, and maybe they are absolutely fine with it. Margaret O Connor 49:17 Absolutely. Yeah. That's brilliant, and probably for people to do for themselves. As you said, If you feel that narrative slipping in even in your own way of thinking about yourself, that's probably a really good point to just take a step and think is that actually accurate for me, and if it is, that's fine, but a lot of the time it mightn't be Yeah, Jennifer Moran Stritch 49:37 Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I am, I am guilty of the Assumption monster, and I think we probably all are, so I just need to tame my monster every once in a while. Gently, I gently needs to tame my monster. Margaret O Connor 49:51 Head tilt, head tilt alert, I think yes is the take away (laughter). That is so brilliant. And look, I'll put links into to the things you've mentioned there as well, just if anybody wants to follow up on them, but really, really interesting. Thanks so much Jennifer. Jennifer Moran Stritch 50:07 Oh, that's great. Thank you so much for having me. It was a delight. Thank you. Margaret O Connor 50:19 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 in this topic. I look forward to hearing from you and watch out for the next episodes coming soon. Transcribed by

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