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Season 2 #14 Louise Vance

My guest today, and the last for season 2, is Louise Vance. With a background in law, she is a writer, content creator and presenter. Her experience includes working as a fashion writer, stylist, editor and in event management. She is also a regular contributor to BBC radio and TV. For many years, she has been passionate about sharing her experiences of deciding to be childfree. We discuss her experience of other people's reactions to her personal decision to not have children as well as the importance of de-stigmatising this conversation for everyone.

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 as well.

My guest today, and the last for season two, is Louise Vance. With a background in law, she is a writer, content creator and presenter. Her experience includes working as a fashion writer, stylist, editor and in event management. She is also a regular contributor to BBC radio and TV. For many years, she has been passionate about sharing her experiences of deciding to be childfree. We discuss her experience of other people's reactions to her personal decision to not have children as well as the importance of destigmatising this conversation for everyone.

So Louise, we..well we didn't speak directly to each other, but we were we were involved in the same interview back in May, I had to double check the date.. on BBC Radio with an Lynette Faye, about choosing not to have children. So I said, I think I messaged you shortly after that and it has taken me this long to have a chat with you. So thanks a million for joining me today.

Louise Vance 0:54

Well, thank you so much for inviting me Margaret, I really do appreciate it. I think it's great to have these conversations, especially you know, when it's somebody like yourself that you know, is so well informed and understands the complexities of it. So well, it's, it's, it's an absolute pleasure to be to be here today. So thank you very much for asking.

Margaret O Connor 1:10

Thanks a million. So we said we might kind of trace I suppose your kind of story in your experience of realizing from quite a young age that you didn't want to have children, and and kind of how that has, you know, how that's been for you, how other people have responded to it kind of throughout your life. So where would be a good part to start with that?

Louise Vance 1:30

I think for me, if I'm totally truthful about it, probably since the point that I was able to play with toys. And the reason why I say that is that I'm an only child, and grew up in an incredibly nurturing, incredibly loving family. Both my mom and dad, they, they wanted to have children, they really struggled. It was nearly 11 years into their marriage before they're actually able to conceive me. So I was very much a miracle baby as it was, and very much loved and nurtured and cared about. But as a result, you know, I did have lots of toys to play with, as most only children do, but even at that age, even when I was three or three years old, you know, yes, I had dolls and I had prams. They sat at the side of the room, and they didn't get touched, you know? And instead, I was saying, can I have a toolbox like daddy for Christmas? You know, and that's what I was gravitating towards. I wanted to play board games, and I wanted to do crafting, and I wanted to play with She-Ra dolls and play heroes and villains and take my Barbie doll and dress her up in amazing clothes and play catwalk. And you know that that's what I gravitated towards. I never played with my baby dolls. I never played at being Mommy, even though the toys were there. And the choice was there that if I wanted to play with them, they were there. I didn't naturally go to pick those toys up. I naturally went to board games, I naturally went to crafting, I, you know, I just I, I read books. I didn't I didn't do that traditional nursing the baby doll, dressing it and acting out the role of being being mummy. You know, I would get my cuddly toys, I'd line them across the back of the sofa. And I'd be you know, teacher teaching, you know, being all you know, you know, and that's that that's what I did is that as a kid. My my mom and dad, they, I suppose were probably quite progressive, because this was, you know, the early, early 80s. And, you know, their attitude was, you know, if that's what Louise wants to play with, you know, we're going to leave her to it, we're not going to try and force her into playing with dolls because we think that's what she should be playing with. So even from an early age, I never really identified with the idea of being a mommy and playing with dolls. And even when I remember going to one of my friend's houses, I think it was maybe p2/p3. And it was first time I'd been to her house and her bedroom was littered with dolls and prams. And that's all she wanted to play with whenever we were in her house. And I remember coming home and mommy saying did you enjoy being at, you know, such and suches house? And I said, not really mommy because all she has is dolls and I got really bored (laughter). You know, so I don't think it was ever something that I.. I never had that maternal instinct. And it was never something I ever questioned. I never considered it to be a wrong thing. And it wasn't until I kind of went into sort of secondary education. And one of my friends who, we've actually been friends since primary school. I remember her turning around and saying to me you know what are your names? I sort of looked at her and I was like well you know my names because you went to primary school with me so you know my full names. You know, as in ** Louise Vance. She goes no, no, I mean, you know, what are your boy names and girl names? I went what do you mean? She goes well if you have a little boy or little girl, you know what would be your top, what are your top three names? I said but I've never I've never thought about being a parent. I've never thought about being a mommy. I've never thought of that. And she looked at me like I was so strange for not even considering that. I think that was the first time that I sort of realized that women really identify with the idea of being a mother whereas, for me, it was never something I identified with, I always when I imagined myself when I would be grown up, you know, I would have a career and, you know, I'd be, you know, traveling the world and wearing, you know, fabulous dresses, and, you know, I would meet, you know, a guy that I fall in love with, and we, you know, we have all these amazing adventures together. And that was how I envisaged my life, it was never with children. And it wasn't until my peers started to kind of get into, you know, enter puberty and then moving on to university that suddenly, people were saying, you know, about children and, and the amount of people that react with with shock and dismay, and sometimes aggression really, really surprised me. But it was always something I suppose, even on a subconscious level, when I was very, very young with that choice not to play with dolls, I think it's always been there, it's never been a massive realization of I don't want to have kids, that was just an omnipresent idea in my mind that I never really thought about having children. And probably because I'm an only child, a lot of my cousins are only children as well, you know, right. While I have lots of aunts and uncles, my cousins are generally you know, one cousin or two cousins per household. So I was never really used to being around a lot of large families. I was the youngest up until I was nine years old, I was the youngest in the family. So again, I wasn't really used to being around babies a lot as a child growing up. So it just never was something that I really considered to be a part of my life. And then whenever I started vocalizing that, I was a bit shocked at the response to it if I'm totally honest.

Margaret O Connor 6:44

Yeah, okay..and I suppose you know, it's a familiar enough story, you know, that there's lots of people who, who feel like that, and then it is kind of the interaction with other people, like, it seems quite straightforward. You're not questioning it, but then you meet other people and it's like, oh, okay. You know, it's almost like it's sort of..I don't know if tested is the right word, but you might have to kind of re reassess probably isn't the right word, but maybe check in with yourself and kind of go, no, no, this is, this is what I want, or what I'm doing, like, did you did you feel you kind of went through that? Was there a questioning at any time?

Louise Vance 7:20

I think for me, because I've always been very, very, very self aware. I've been through a lot of things in my life. My mom had a brain hemorrhage when I was 11 years old, my dad passed away when I was 14, from a heart attack very, very suddenly. So I was always very emotionally, mentally mature for my age, I was always very aware of how I, how I felt about myself, I was always very clear about my own kind of identity as well. So for me, I never I never questioned it. But I did feel under immense social pressure. You know, I felt like I had to constantly constantly justify why I felt that way. I was constantly told, you don't know your mind, you don't know what you want, you will change your mind, you will want to have kids, you don't know what you're talking about. You say that now but wait until you get older. You know, what are you going to do whenever you're old and you don't have any family members to look after you. It was never you might I mean, I obviously understand that for a lot of people, they do change significantly through their teenage years or early 20s. And they do very much reevaluate their their life preferences, their life choices. But it was never, you might change your mind Louise, or you might find when you get older, you might feel differently, it was you will change your mind. You don't know what you're talking about. You're basically you're wrong. Or you're selfish. And it was always on the negative, it was never, you know, well you know I know that's how you feel now, but you know, don't, don't rush into making any decisions. Allow yourself time to grow and see how you feel as you get older. It was you are wrong. You are wrong, you are selfish. And that was very much what I met in my teenage years and in my 20s. And I think for somebody that maybe wasn't as single minded and as self aware as me, you would you would buckle under that and you probably would start to really seriously question yourself and question your, even your moral structure, well am I a selfish person for not wanting to have a child, you know, for not wanting to put a child first over and above myself? And the irony was for me, it was actually the exact opposite because I've had such, you know, people would say to me, it must have been awful losing your dad at such an early age, but I always say I had an incredible relationship with my dad. He was my confidant. He was my best friend. He nurtured me. He gave me the confidence to be the person that I am, to explore who I was, same with my mom. I couldn't have been brought up in a more loving, more supportive, more nurturing environment. I know what it's like to grow up with parents, parents who love you to the world and back and want the best for you. And my mentality is, if you're not sure about how you feel about having children, if you can't guarantee in your mind that that's what you're going to be as a parent, don't take the risk. You know, there's so many people who say to me, oh, but it's different when it's your own child. You know, you might not feel maternal instinct when you look at other babies. But when your baby is put in your arms, you will feel differently. And my answer to that was always yes, but what if I don't? It's not sale or return, you know, there isn't a 14 day return policy, I can't just hand that child over. And I know people would say, well, there's, you know, the options of adoption and everything else. But, you know, I don't want to be that person that in 20 years time, my child comes looking for me, and goes, why did you give me up? And I go, I didn't want you. Do you know what I mean? It's like, I didn't want to be that person, I wouldn't want to be that person. So my mentality was, because I felt the way that I did. I wasn't going to take that that gamble. You know, for me, I wasn't one of those women that sat on the fence, maybe if I did sit on the fence, and I had been unsure, possibly, when I would have had my child, and they would have been put in my arms, that maternal instinct would have kicked in, because I was sitting on the fence. But for me, I didn't have that maternal instinct, I knew very strongly, it wasn't what I wanted. And I just, you know, to me, being a parent is single handedly the most important significant job any human can do on this earth, nurturing a child, loving that child, giving that child the emotional and intellectual skill set to realize who they are and become the best versions of themselves. That is the most important significant job that any human can do. And if I'm not, if I don't feel that, I can be there and do that 24 seven for my child, the way that it was done for me. I just know, it's just, I'm not going.. to me, it's more selfish, to take that risk, and screw up somebody's life than to have the confidence and the, you know, the the self awareness of going no, being a mother is not for me, and that's not a bad thing. That's just understanding yourself.

Margaret O Connor 12:11

Okay. And, you know, that does take so much thought and reflection doesn't it, you know, it's not a flippant decision. You know, I haven't heard I haven't met anybody that who has made it just kind of went oh yeah in passing, you know, people put so much thought and effort and questioning into it.

Louise Vance 12:26

But I think they've underestimated.. I think people tend to fall into that stereotype. Like, I know, with me, I'm very slightly built. And I love fashion, I love clothes. And the amount of people saying oh you don't want to have kids because you don't want to lose that body. And I'm going seriously, you really think I'm that shallow? That that would be my overriding reason for not wanting to have kids. It's like, no, you know, that's, that's the last, the last thing that would even crossed my mind. You know, I don't give two hoots about that. You know, but but I think people tend to because a lot of especially women, ironically enough, it's women that I've always found that been the most negative. And I think it's because if somebody does have a very strong maternal instinct, and it's a natural thing for them, that they, they want to have that child, it's so alien to them to meet someone that doesn't have that maternal instinct. They try to understand it in their head, they tried to justify that decision. So they use stereotypes, and they use things that make sense to them as well. That can be the only reason because how could somebody not want to have a child because it's so in the at least strongly embedded in me as a woman, I associate that as what it is to be a woman, I can't imagine that any other woman couldn't feel like that. And if she doesn't, then it must be for lifestyle reasons or, you know, other things. They try to kind of put it in a language in the context that makes sense to them. But that isn't always necessarily beneficial.

Margaret O Connor 13:51

Yeah, yeah, I think that's a really accurate description. And you said it can go from like, shock, disbelief, and then more aggressive. So for some people, they just genuinely maybe have never met somebody (laughter) like you..

Louise Vance 14:04

Yeah and it does happen. And I've had people kind of asking questions from a very curious perspective of, you know, and it's not aggressive and it's not adversarial, and, and they listened. I remember talking to one of my mom's carers, one of the guys last year during lockdown. And you know, him saying, yeah he has, he has a child. He's kind of in his mid 20s. And he said, now that I've kind of listened to you Louise, as much as I love my child, if I'd have thought it through in the way that you've described it, I don't know if I actually would have had a child. But I love my child. I'm very glad that I have my child, but I never thought about it the way you've just talked about it, and the way that you've put it into into that context. If I ever thought enough about it, I might have made the same decision. And I think that's the thing. I don't think society very much has it set, you know, we've been socially conditioned, even to the point of you know, young little girls being given dolls and proms, we socially condition. And a lot of people don't even realize that there's even a choice there. So I think for some people they do when they hear me say that I am child free, it is met with curiosity, and a desire to, to understand that and to learn about that. With others, it is met with a lot of hostility. And I think that can sometimes come down to the idea that because I've made a choice, it's different from them and that that's therefore a judgment on the choice that they made. I'm not saying that's necessarily the case across the board. But it's interesting, the different reactions that that you get from people. And I know, certainly, for me, some of the most negative reactions that I've had have actually been from other women, which I do find kind of sad, because, you know, we talk so much about accepting diversity, you know, body diversity, gender diversity, sexual preference diversity, that we as women, you know, should be confident and independent, and we are the architects of our lives to create the lives that are right for us. But yet, when it comes to certain social conditioning decisions, like not having children, if you break out from that norm, for some women, it's almost like the matrix of the construct of, you know, they fight against you, because you're breaking out of a thing that they never knew that there was a choice around in the first instance.

Margaret O Connor 16:30

And that, you know, I hear from so many people can feel so isolating, if you think you're the only one or if you're having these conversations a lot where you feel the need to justify or explain your situation. Like, that's hard work, and it's tiring. Has that changed for you over the years? Like, how do you deal with those kind of interactions?

Louise Vance 16:50

I think, for me, it was at its worst, when I was probably a teenager, and in my early 20s, I think a lot of that was down to the fact that, you know, I'll be 41 in September, and you know, very much child of the 80s 90s. And at that point, your social circles were dictated by you know, your family circle, the people that you went to school with people, you went to youth club with, dance class, people you go to university with, the diversity of the individuals that you get to mix with, and the life experiences that those people have, are, were somewhat limited, if that makes sense. Today, in today's society, with social media, and everything else, you know, you can connect with like minded people over everything and anything across the globe, which is fantastic that you can create these, you know, social tribes of people that have share the same interests as you do. But when I was a teenager, and I was in my 20s, that didn't exist. And that's probably when I felt the most kind of negativity and the most pressure. For me, once I kind of hit a point in my late 20s, my early 30s, it changed quite significantly because I started to get into more of the kind of the PR and the events side of things. So I was mixing was going to fashion shows, I was going to press launches. I was you know, going over to London, I was going to Dublin, I was mixing with a lot of very different people who were coming from very different walks of life, who were maybe somewhat similar to me in terms of what they were focusing on at that stage of their life. So suddenly, I was mixing with a very diverse group of people who weren't just necessarily following that social norm of, you know, you go to school, you go to university, you get a job, you find a husband, you settle down, you get a house, you get the car, you go on the holidays, you pump out a couple of kids, and you've made it. I was suddenly mixing with people who you know, were session hairstylists, so traveling all over the world, going to various different fashion week's and, you know, mixing with, you know, brand ambassadors for you know, Bushmills and the various different drinks distilleries, and they're traveling all over the world doing stuff. And you know, baristas who are traveling the world for barista competitions. You know, mixing with such a complete diverse range of individuals. And suddenly, I was mixing with people who weren't necessarily identifying with social norms. And suddenly, it was okay to be different, because we were all different in a myriad of different ways. And I found a massive level of acceptance amongst those groups of people, because none of us kind of had the same lifestyle because we were all running around doing our own things. And that was fine. So for me in terms of my friendship group as it would currently stand, I don't really have that kind of core group of, you know, maybe six women or 10 women or 20 women where they've all got married, settled down and had kids. Some of my friends do you have kids, and if anything, they actually enjoy hanging out with me and not having to be mommy and being able to actually be themselves and have their identity when they do spend time with me, because they're not the mother, they're not the wife, and they're suddenly able to know they're like, it's so fantastic to hang out with you Louise and actually talk about the things I used to talk about before I was a mum. Yeah, you know, so I find that people that I know who are parents, they actually really enjoy spending time with me, because they get to step out of that role for a while and get to feel like they're their own identity, again, if that makes sense. So I don't feel I'm under that pressure now because of the type of social circles that I now mix in, but certainly when I was younger, especially in that kind of early 20s. You know, it was very much met with, you know, what, what do you mean, you know, that that's what we're all doing, you know, and it was that pressure of, you know, well, if I don't conform to that, am I going to be socially isolated, as a result, am I going to be ostracized, as a result. And I think, you know, a lot of people don't get to have the lifestyle that I've been lucky enough to be able to build for myself and create. And for a lot of people, that is a very, very real issue and a very, very significant issue, you know, they are left out, as it were, and suddenly, you know, their friends, like, oh, you know, it's all fine for you to want to go work on a Friday night because like, you don't have kids to look after, you know, like, I can't do that now I'm a mother, I have more important responsibilities, you know, and I can understand how for a lot of women that becomes very, very challenging to navigate through that social pressure

Margaret O Connor 21:30

Yeah, I suppose it sounds again, just from talking to people like it does, you do need to be proactive. So I suppose it is about finding as you said, those kind of like minded people, and kind of making those other not, it doesn't have to be entirely but that you can have both. So I suppose, you know, if and when your parents friends aren't available, you know, that you do have somebody else or you have other interests. So, you know, just, I suppose it does take a bit of a bit of admin, I suppose (laughter), you know, to create that context for yourself, which again, takes energy. You know, I think, again, this is a theme being different, you know, in inverted commas, in any way takes effort. You know,

Louise Vance 22:14

It's scary, you know, it is really difficult, you know, and I won't lie I mean, I'm, I'm very diverse in terms of my my interests. I mean, tomorrow night, I'm doing Belfast whiskey club.. when I was a teenager I loved, and still love it to this day, you know, loved Japanese anime and manga and visual effects and movies and you know my my interests are extremely diverse. Again, even in terms of the stuff that I would would cover from a media perspective. You know, one day I'm interviewing Westlife, the next day I'm interviewing John Torrode. Next day, I'm doing Belfast Photo Festival, then I'm doing you know, the Derry Fashion Fest, I'm doing Belfast Fashion Week, then I'm doing Belfast Restaurant Week, then I'm doing you know, Belfast Whiskey Week, you know, so I have a very diverse range of interests. And every single one of those interests, maybe because I, you know, people talk about you know Virgos are very, you know, I'm a Virgo. And you know, I love learning about things, I love acquiring knowledge and gaining just, I love talking to people who are really passionate about a particular given subject. And I love learning about that, and growing from from, you know, being around individuals like that, and, but a lot of people don't don't even get the opportunity to necessarily do that, like I remember years ago... So many of my friends would say how do you learn about all these things, how do you know that photo festival is happening? How do you get to go to, you know, power video conferences? You you're so lucky, because of what you do you get to do these things. No, but they're open to the public as well, you know, anybody can go to a lot of these things. Okay, yeah. I maybe get to go to the press preview, but it doesn't mean that they're not then open for the public, for anyone to be able to enjoy. But so many people don't realize that those things are out there, because, again, if their social circle aren't participating in that they don't hear about it, they're, they're blissfully unaware that these things even, you know, even happen in terms of sort of mainstream social media, mainstream media in general, in terms of things that it kind of pushes, it's usually family activities, and it's, you know, it's very much a very mainstream social idea. And same even I think, in terms of how we, we socialize, you know, it's like, when you're a student, you go out and you booze and you go to the bars, and, you know, then you, you, you "settle down", and you, you know, you meet your partner, and you settle down and you get it out of your system. As opposed to maybe let's say the French where that kind of socializing, and, you know, eating out and drinking, it's something that continues throughout your entire life and is a very significant part of how they socially interact. Whereas I feel like here it's very, very's you know, you go out, you it's almost like you use socializing as a means finding your partner and then when you find your partner, you move away from that life you settle down. And then you've got your small group of friends and you all hang out on occasion. And that's it, you know, and we're very different in terms of how we seem to, to socialize. Whereas, I'd be much more of that kind of European mentality of, you know, I love still being out and about and meeting people and, and socializing, obviously, with everything that's going on with the pandemic, that's something I haven't been able to do for the past year and a half. And I find that very challenging. But under normal circumstances, you know, I do think that having that diversity, and changing up all the time, I think is, it's really healthy, certainly, for me being around, you know very different people enriches me as a person, you know, and enriches what my life experiences. And I love that, you know, but I don't think a lot of people get the chance to do that.

Margaret O Connor 25:48

And, you know, it sounds like things have matched up really well for you, like, you have that self awareness, you know kind of what works for you, you know, what, you know, it sounds like, you work hard, but that you'd get quite a lot back out of that work. You enjoy it and it's energizing. So I suppose you've probably kind of answered it already. But like, you know, being being child free, I presume, facilitates you to be able to do that. So it helps you to live according to your values and what works for you.

Louise Vance 26:18

Yeah, well, I think yes and no, in the sense that, that is technically true. But also, my mom has a lot of underlying health conditions. And because I'm an only child, I do play a caring role to an extent within that. So there is always that balance between the two. So I think it's one of those things I do always find quite interesting that, you know, people will say, you know, choosing to be child free, you know, you're obviously too busy kind of out socializing, enjoying yourself, you don't know what it's like to put someone else's needs before your own. And I kind of go, I've basically in one shape, or form, I've been a carer since I was 14 years old. And in the last seven years, in particular, mom's health conditions became very complex, I have had to get a very active role within that. But what I would say about it is it It taught me how to create a balance, you know, and I really appreciate, you know, whenever I do have to take that time, and I do have to look after my mom, I also understand the balance of how important it is to then do things for myself, and to enjoy life and enjoy those experiences and opportunities when they come around. Because you need to have that just for your own personal mental health and sanity, you need to have that balance. But I'm, I know what it's like to put somebody else's needs above my own everybody, as much as I know, what I personally need to feel fulfilled, and content. And I don't want to use the word satisfied. Because, you know, I think content is a better description, you know, it's just about being content within yourself, you might not have everything you want in life, but you don't need to have everything you want in life just as long as your content in the journey that you're on, and you're content in the place that you're at. And you're always progressing and evolving, but not because you don't feel content in it, but just because that's what life is. I think that's a good place to kind of kind of be.

Margaret O Connor 28:13

Yeah absolutely. And like you know, we have to be realistic things happen in your life doesn't go to plan, life doesn't always go to plan (laughter)...

Louise Vance 28:19

Absolutely, the pandemic being the perfect example, I mean, all the stuff that I talked about in terms of work life balance, and, and being able to enjoy doing the things that I love, you know, 90% of the things that I love, I have not been able to do for the past year and a half. And I have been very much kind of cut cut off, in many ways. As great as it is to have things like zoom, and being able to continue that interaction, not being able to be face to face with people has been very difficult for me because I miss those spontaneous conversations that you just, you know, you're in a coffee shop and you get talking to the barista, and then 20 minutes later, you're still talking to them, keeping them back from work, you know, I miss things like that. I think that kind of social engagement is is for me personally, it is what makes the world go round. And I missed that. And you know, I've had to kind of re navigate my world as it currently is with the pandemic and, and figure out coping mechanisms of how to kind of maintain that mental health whenever I'm not able to have the life that I want to be able to have and I think a lot of people have been you know, have been in a similar similar situation as well, and we're still in that situation. And there's still a lot of uncertainty. I don't believe we're anywhere near out of the situation that we're in at the moment. And, you know, I hope that maybe in the past year and a half, as challenging and as difficult as it has been, it's also given people time to think about their life choices and think about what they actually want from their life. And, you know, for individuals that maybe have been on the fence in terms of whether they want to have kids or not that having this kind of time to kind of be out of social pressure. Now might have been a good time for them to kind of reevaluate for themselves what what is right for them? Because, yes, I say that, you know, and I do mean it that, you know, I've always had that belief that I wanted a child free life but but for a lot of women, it's not about being yes or no, its not black or the decision isn't black or white, it's not whether you want to have kids or you don't want to have kids, it is that middle ground. And I think a lot of time, people aren't given the space to be able to explore those feelings, and understand those feelings and become self aware about how they actually feel about the idea of being a mother, or even in terms of being in a partnership, you know, how you as a, as a partnership feel about being parents or not being parents. And I think that conversation needs to happen more and more, that people know it's okay to question that. They may question it and still decide to have kids, that's fine. They may question it and decide not to have kids, that's fine, too. But just to kind of, I don't want to say legitimize because it's an awful word to have to use to describe it, but to legitimize that conversation, to legitimize the fact that it's okay to question it. You know, and I hope during this kind of pandemic time, people have kind of had maybe more of an opportunity to, to do that.

Margaret O Connor 31:19

I think it definitely kind of got much more coverage in the media, like, obviously, we had our interview back in May, there was quite a few newspaper articles. And, you know, it seemed to to catch somebodies awareness in media land that, you know, yes, this was, you know, as an issue, whether it was having more children or any children, that the pandemic had a huge impact on that. So hopefully that lasts, or you know, that it's not just forgotten about again, but yeah, I suppose that's such a hard thing... I think when you've, you know, and I know, you've explained, obviously, kind of from your life circumstances, and maybe your personality that you you, I'm sure it's not easy, but you're able to do it, it's kind of, you know, to separate yourself a little bit from.. be able to see like, well, this is a social thing. And this is this is me and be able to separate yourself a little bit. I know, for some people, that's really hard, because you're getting these messages all the time, we were talking about media, you know, if there is a child free character, they're usually kind of a workaholic mess (laughter)..

Louise Vance 32:28

Struggling with human relationships and don't have her priorities in order, so to speak, and they're the kind of, you know, goes through her realization that she has been focusing on the wrong things and the wrong priorities. And yeah, and that very much, it's very much the perception. I mean, I, people have assumed that my choice of being like, child free has been based on my lifestyle, I kind of go, but I felt like that long before I had the lifestyle, you know, or that it's because I want to stay thin and I don't want to, I don't want to lose my body, and all this kind of all this kind of stuff. But some of the stuff that people come out with now, I remember being between doing my A Levels and going to university, I remember having a conversation with one of my school friends, and she was going on to do nursing. So it wasn't that she wasn't kind of, you know, career focused. But she basically turned around at 18 and said, you know, I'd be happy to get married tomorrow. I remember saying to her, oh, no, no, I can't imagine myself getting married at the very earliest, late 20s, early 30s. I said, no, not that I'm putting that constraint on myself that I won't look but I can't see it happening. And she's like, what do you mean, I said, well, you know, I want to experience life, I want to discover who I am, I want to be a fully formed individual that can stand on their own before I become part of a partnership, because I want to learn who I am, through my own eyes, not through his eyes. And I want to be at that point where I am fully evolved, I know who I am. And the person that he is meeting and the person that I'm choosing to spend the rest of my life with that we both are meeting the people that we're going to be as opposed to, you know, like, I want to travel and I want to have lots of life experiences. And she was like, I don't understand what you mean, she just couldn't get it. And you know, that, that that's fair enough. You know, I'm not saying that I'm right and she's wrong. But she couldn't get it and she couldn't wrap her head around it and her way of dealing with it. And it's not to be disparaging upon the upon people that have your strong christian faith but her response to me was, you know, well God gave you a womb. And I kind of went yeah but there's plenty of women that have wombs and have children and aren't good parents, it's like just because I can mechanically have a child does not mean that I should have a child. And you know you can be.. because a lot of people when they meet me, you know, they'll say you know you're a very caring person. You are a very nurturing person. You're very much a people person. It's weird to think that you don't want to have kids and I'll say yeah, but there's a difference between being a nurturing person or an empathetic person and having a maternal instinct. Maternal nurturing, and empathy and, and love of people are two very different things. I think that's part of the problem as well is we don't learn to properly identify and understand what emotions are and how we think and how we feel. We tend to kind of, because we're not given the emotional tools, toolset, or the language to articulate and understand, we tend to kind of group things in a lot. And it's having individuals like yourself that people can come to you and speak to, and actually start to kind of unpack that and kind of see the nuances of the of the various shades of grey, that make up that one particular personality trait that they then can maybe better understand that, yes, I'm an empathetic person, or yes, I'm a nurturing person. But it's okay to be that and not be maternal.

Margaret O Connor 35:57

Yeah, I think that's an amazing point. Yeah, absolutely. I probably forget sometimes, but yeah, genuinely, you know, people really do struggle for words and language to try and identify what they are feeling in all kinds of areas. Yeah, I think that's a really, really good point, actually. So again, just to take a step back and kind of look at things in more detail and break down that kind of automatic thing of, yes, I care or I like people, therefore, I have to be a mother or I will be a good mother, or any of that stuff. You know, there's so many other ways to express that. Yeah. That's really well put (laughter). Brilliant, and look at it, it's absolutely fascinating to talk to you, is there anything else you think we need to get to?

Louise Vance 36:44

I think the only thing I would would kind of say is that, um, you know, I think it's important for individuals that, you know, are, you know, parents or mothers, I think, just, you know, for them to be open minded, and to kind of, to listen, you know, that just because somebody like myself has made a particular life choice, I'm not condemn, you know, I think a lot of women tend to feel because there is this kind of media perception of, you know, the stay at home mom, versus the career focused mom. And you know, if you just want to stay at home with your kids, with your kids, then like, that's almost nearly looked down on in many, many ways. And I think that tends to sometimes be taken a step further, where people assume that if you're like me, and I've chosen to be childfree, and I've chosen to focus on, you know, forging relationships with, with friends, finding a partner that I can share my life experiences and adventures with, that doesn't necessarily include children, that that is somehow me critiquing their choice to have kids. And I'm somehow attacking their decision to do that. And that could not be further from the truth, it genuinely couldn't. But I think that people tend to kind of that.. we live in an adversarial world, you know, it's the stay at home moms versus the career focused moms, it's the women that choose to be child free versus the women that choose not to be child free. I think sometimes the women who have had children sometimes assume, yes, someone that has chosen to be child free, is somehow saying, oh, I didn't just want to be a mother. I wanted to be more than just a mother. And that's not what it is, or certainly from my and I think probably from the vast majority of women I've ever spoken to that have made a similar decision to my to my own, we don't think like that. That's not our mindset. And that's not the place that we're coming from. But I do think mainstream media does create that adversarial thing, or very much built around stereotypes. Like I remember, I said a couple of days ago, BuzzFeed did an article about celebrities. And a guy commented underneath it about Jennifer Aniston and said was it any wonder she is childfree because she can't keep a man.. You know, and you're just kind of, you know, rolling your your eyes at this kind of thing. But, yeah, I think we need to kind of have more conversations, in mainstream media to break down these stereotypes and and these ideas. And I think, as great as it is to be able to talk to somebody like yourself and have women that are either sitting on the fence of being unsure of where they feel in terms of, you know, wanting to be parents and motherhood, and people who are maybe child free, but are scared, or want to be childfree, but are scared to articulate that. I think this conversation needs to move further beyond that audience and needs to be something that is very much in that mainstream. And I know obviously, we did the BBC Radio show together. And I really hope that that the articles that came about as a result of that, we see more of that within mainstream media, because that's the only way we can create and normalize this conversation, which I think is something that really needs to be done because people who aren't childfree need to hear this as much as people that are on that fence, or do you feel the same way as I do?

Margaret O Connor 39:58

Yeah, totally totally agree. Yeah, absolutely. And to benefit everyone, because these conversations can help everyone. And, and yeah, look, obviously it's much easier to come up with a snappy headline that you know is is people versus other people. But yeah, it is much more nuanced than that. And I completely agree with you. Yeah. So look hopefully, this might help a little bit. And sure, who knows, who knows what projects we might come up with in future (laughter) to to advance the cause. We'll see how we're getting on. But no look it was absolutely brilliant to talk to you this morning. Really, really enjoyed it.

Louise Vance 40:34

Oh thank you so much for having me. Honestly, it's been I mean, I think we've been chatting for a while about 50 minutes now. And literally, it only feels like we've been talking for about 15. So I have absolutely thoroughly enjoyed it. It's been great, a great opportunity, and I hope that our conversation you know, even even it only helps one person. You know, I think it's so important to kind of, you know, to get these conversations going and hopefully help people because at the end of the day, that's what it's that's what it's about.

Margaret O Connor 40:57

Absolutely, brilliant. Thanks, Louise.

Louise Vance 41:01

Thank you so much, Margaret.

Margaret O Connor 41:17

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 for the next episode.

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