Season 2 #5 Mark Heywood & Romy Park
I speak to two guests from 'The End of the Line' Podcast, Mark Heywood & Romy Park. Mark is the creator of the podcast which is a series of powerful stories about how women who don't have children for a wide variety of reasons, are treated in society. Romy plays the character 'Mona' in one of the episodes. Both are passionate about amplifying the voices of childfree people.
We discuss how the series came about, the issues that are explored, their own real life experiences as childfree people and the very positive response to the series from people all over the world.
Check out 'The End of the Line' Podcast here - https://www.inkjockey.co.uk/the-end-of-the-line/ and on the usual podcast platforms.
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 have two guests today to speak about the End of the Line podcast series, Mark Heywood and Romy Park. Mark is co author of the best selling Cordoba novels. He writes for stage, page and screen and is host of the Behind the Spine podcast. He is the creator of the End of the Line podcast, a series of powerful stories about how we treat women who don't have kids. Romy was born in New Jersey in the USA and did her drama school training in London. She currently lives in Los Angeles. Besides her own acting career, she mentors young actors and is a private acting coach. She is currently obtaining her master's degree in addiction studies. She has just worked on an Nick Nolte film and adopted a 14 year old Pomeranian. She plays Mona in episode eight of season one of the End of the Line podcast. We discuss the podcast series and how it has been inspired by both the writers and actresses personal experiences of being treated by other people, when they don't have children for a wide variety of reasons. Both Mark and Romy are passionate about calling out this often poor treatment, and amplifying the voices of child free people. Season One and two are available now and I highly recommended if you haven't already listened. So I'm really excited to talk to Mark and Romy today. So we're having a multinational call which is always exciting. And so yeah, just really interested to talk to you both about the the End of the Line podcast and kind of how that came about and your experience of making it. So thanks very much for taking the time to talk to me today. Mark Heywood 2:06 Oh, no, thank you, Margaret, for inviting us and also for listening. I know that you've been a keen listener of series one. Um, it's funny because I.. Romy and I actually recorded an interview back in December 2019, after we just finished Romy's episode..that feels both like yesterday and a lifetime ago, you know, that we that we did that.. Romy Park 2:27 Yeah in the aftermath of Covid. Mark Heywood 2:31 Yeah, completely. But the origins of this.. my wife and I don't have children. And that was always a conscious decision. We were always enough for each other. We didn't want to have kids, it was never a case of the fact that it didn't happen. We deliberately made it not happen. And that was a choice that we both made together. Which I think in your line of work is, is really important, Margaret, because I know that you help people come to that decision. And for Joanne and I that came actually quite early on and quite naturally. But it meant that for years, she had to put up with a huge amount of nonsense from other people judging that decision. And while she was never really that bothered by it at all, it never affected her. It really affected me. And it really annoyed me that people would judge other people in that particular way. And for years, I mean, years this ate away at me until, you know, at one point she just said, well, why don't you just go and write about it then. So I sketched out the bare bones of what I thought might be either a monologue or a stage play. And I kept it to myself for ages. I happened to mention it to someone, to a friend in LA, it was actually it was the same trip that I first met Romy on in 2016. And she said, you know, you have to tell this story. And I was like, well, okay, I'll think about it anyway, eventually I wrote it. And I decided that I think audio would be easier. Because it's easier to get people together. We're not really dependent on huge amounts of scheduling, we can do it independently. And so I wrote a monologue and a friend of mine, Zara who's actually in series one, episode one, She said, you know, I was scratching around looking for an audition piece for a self tape, couldn't find one, wanted something a bit out of the ordinary. And I said, well, you can use this if you like, I've written this, this monologue. And she read it and like most people do, started crying. Because it was, you know, it was basically, you know, very personal and similar to issues that she herself had dealt with. Anyway, the more people I told, the more stories I got given, the more people said you have to write my story. And I just carried on and we probably had recorded about half a dozen or so of these in the summer of 2019, I was in, Joanna and I were in Los Angeles for Christmas and New Year and we managed to carve out some time to hook up with Romy, to develop, write, record Romy's episode because I've been trying to find a way to work with Romy for ages and we managed to squeeze in two episodes. Then of course you get back, lockdown happened, everything went on hold and gradually as places would creep in and out of lockdown, we were able to get into the studio and it's just snowballed. Margaret, people have, you know, been falling over themselves to tell us their stories and to have us bring those stories to life. And it's only really when you, when you dig into a topic like this, you realize how big an issue it is, how much crap women in particular put up with in terms of being judged, and how nobody, for some bizarre reason is really shouting about this issue. So we did we decided to go on to the rooftops and scream to the whole world about it. I only intended to do 12 stories and then stop as I was telling Romy, and then actually decided during lockdown that there are so many more stories. So in two weeks, we're bringing it back and going all over again. And you know, we want to make people cry we want to but we also want to make them feel empowered about their decisions. Because I didn't want 12 angry shouty women. I wanted 12 empowered women and inspirational women who could really you know, make it clear to other people who might be dealing with this issue, it's okay if you don't want to have children. In fact, it's more than okay. In fact, it's wonderful because you've decided that that's what you want. So yeah, when when I was last in LA, we managed to sit down with Romy and, you know, and I talked to her about I talked to her about the show in advance. And, you know, whilst, whilst the seasons, you know, not not all of these stories are autobiographical, they're all based on things that, you know, the individual actress has experienced, like, like we all do. So, Romy, I can't believe it was that long ago, it feels like yesterday, doesn't it? Romy Park 7:09 Like you said before, it feels like yesterday, but also a decade ago. And I think that's possibly because 2020 seems like it was about 10 years long. 2021 seems like it's about five years long at this point (laughter). So it is definitely some an interesting time, but it's given me.. It's given me a lot of time to reflect. And you know, it's interesting, because I've been thinking about the podcast, the interview, or I'm sorry, the yeah, the anthology that that we did. And, and it's it's interesting that you say you, you know, it's about empowering women. And I guess from my perspective, I've always felt empowered, because of my mother. My mother, I might get weepy because I just keep on thinking how extraordinary she was, she was a single mother, my father died when I was two, she did not get remarried. She already had judgment placed on her during that time for being a single working mother. And I think that that she was such a role model for me to be able to make my own decisions. And I always grew up thinking, you know, I don't need even need a significant other. I'm not going to depend on a man or somebody else for my life, or my finances or anything else. I need to be able to depend on me and my mother was the shining beacon of that example. And I'm, and because I went into the arts, which nobody in my family had done, I was already sort of the odd duck in the family. And nobody ever placed judgment on me, they placed more judgment on me for wanting to be an actor than actually not wanting to have children (laughter), to be honest with you. Just and because I live in sort of a subculture of a subculture here in Los Angeles, I think more often than not, actresses tend to delay on having children because they want to focus on their career. Yeah, there is ageism in Hollywood. And there is there's such immense competition or this feeling of competition and pressure. So it's okay we can wait to have children. You know, when you're in your 20s or even women in their 30s are like okay, you know, women are having children later. So let's just delay as much as possible so I can see what I can carve out in my career. At some point when for the people that I know who do want children, they have decided to set their career side because okay, the biological clock is ticking. But I know, I know that there is judgment. I mean, I only talked to a friend in 2019. And I remember she was and she's not an actress but I remember, she was saying Romy I don't want children. Is that selfish of me? And I thought that was such an extraordinary thing to say, because I never thought that that was selfish to not want children, I think like, like Mark, that's a decision that you have to make with your partner. Margaret O Connor 10:43 Absolutely, and I think..I can't remember but I have written it down..but I think you made a comment somewhere about, you know, the difference between strength and selfishness. And I just thought it was such a good point, because I suppose the people I talk to, and some of the people I've interviewed, the effort that it takes to be different, can be really kind of tiring. And sometimes it feels like it would just be easier to do what it seems like everybody else is doing. So it really does take effort, you know in lots of areas of life, even as you said in your in your work but particularly in this, I think to make that decision to step out of kind of that path that maybe is very clear and visible to everybody else. And I just thought it was a really nice comment, you were saying, you know, strength is not the same as selfishness. Romy Park 11:31 Exactly. And I think also, I've always felt different as an Asian American. So you know, different from my family different. So I've always felt like I didn't belong anyway. So it wasn't an issue for me whether to follow the norm or not, I still don't follow the norm. And I don't even think about what others might think or not think about me, frankly, it's none of my business what anybody else thinks. Margaret O Connor 12:05 Yeah absolutely. Romy Park 12:07 What I think about myself is the most important thing that counts. Margaret O Connor 12:13 Absolutely, yeah. I suppose what I love about the series..it's just it capture so much as I maybe it's just me, I hadn't listened to this kind of format before. So like the is it audio fiction? Is that what it's called? Mark Heywood 12:26 Yes. Margaret O Connor 12:27 Yeah. So what you can get in a 10, or 12 minute monologue is just, it's amazing. Like, I'm just wondering the writing process of trying to figure out how do you do that..I'd just be really interested in. Mark Heywood 12:41 So for the majority of series one, and to a certain extent that the new upcoming series, this was a direct collaboration between the writer which was the majority of the the episodes and series one were written by me, I've brought in more writers for series two, for many reasons, but not least the fact that we're now exploring issues that I will find it difficult to have an authentic voice for. That's not to say I couldn't, but I'd be probably be better served bringing in, you know, writers who are. But in series one. So let's use the character of Mona that Romy played as an as an example. It would typically be a can I ask you about your own personal views on this topic? Is there anything in there that you would be comfortable with us turning into a story of ,whilst obviously anonymizing things. So you get the bare bones of a story and the bare bones have a script, but because it's audio, and we're having to compensate for the fact that we can't see the performer, we can only hear, there are a couple of things that we need to do. We need to make sure that the performer has the ability to showcase her range, not just in a single monotone, you know, normal voice but playing a number of different characters that might have inhabited, you know, a conversation that she's had recently, or, you know, recalling events from the past. But also, some words sound better or worse, in a particular voice, depending on what the words are. So you have to make sure that you're writing to exploit exploit the unique quality of the performance voice so that you can really bring it to life. So what would happen is you'd probably do two or three rounds of this, the actress would record it on their phone, send it to me, I'd give notes and then we book, the studio. And because it's so because each monologue is relatively short, we can we can play in the studio. We actually had quite a lengthy session in the studio when I recorded with Romy and we tried everything, you know, we really really had fun, you know with it. And on none of the occasions has the edited episode come entirely from a single take. It's always taken from you know, the best of things because you try, you try something, you give a note and an adjustment, the actress runs with that. And then and then it works. But for other bits, it potentially doesn't. So it's hugely collaborative. And I was very clear about that, that's what I wanted. It's not my story. It's the story of a fictional character being played by someone that can in a much clearer way than I can associate with what that character is going through. Now, some of the upcoming episodes, we have gone, and we have found specific actresses for that. So I can, I can give you a bit of an exclusive as to what's coming up in in series two, and then it might be interesting to hear from Romy as to what the recording was actually like, because we were, we were, you know, like 10 feet apart in different rooms in the same studio, we had about an hour and a half, you know, to get what is essentially a nine minute monologue down. But the first episode of series two, the performer is a DJ called Sarah Story who's who's worked on Radio One and Capital, FM. And she plays a fictionalized version of herself on her own radio show, and people are phoning in. And she did an Instagram video a year or so ago about freezing her eggs, she looked into the notion of freezing her eggs and whether that was an option for her. So I took that and turned that into her answering questions and tweets from people who'd who'd phoned in and wanted to say, you know, wanting to ask questions or wanting to understand the process in a bit more detail. One of the writers for series one, a very talented writer by the name of Helen Cattle, she wrote the episode Briony, who is the waitress who's returning to work after several months off. She pitched me another idea. And it was about a woman in her late 60s, early 70s, who has just lost her husband and the neighbors are now gossiping about whether she regrets not having children because she's now going to be alone for the rest of her life. And she is reflecting on her life. We brought in a casting director for series two, because, you know, once I'd been through, you know, a lot of the actresses that I knew personally or wanted to work with, it gets very difficult. So and also, we were asking for very specific voices such as, you know, disabled voices, transgender voices, which is not a talent set that I have direct access to. So I brought on a casting director and I set a challenge for this, this for Episode Two, which is Sian, I said, let's just think about who is the biggest name that we can get associated with this project. And we drew up a, we drew up a wish list and we got the very first person on the wish list. So Episode Two, will feature Dame Harriet Walter playing the role of Sian, which is going to be huge for the show. And for every everyone involved in it, because it will give it a real lift, and it was wonderful talking to her about her own experience of this particular issue. And she took great pains to say, you know, please do thank the writer for this because these are really, really important issues. And it shows that, you know, from very humble beginnings, which is me just sort of writing it to scratch an itch. You know, we ended up recording in Hollywood, we ended up recording with people like Dame Harriet Walter, and you know, we go from there. So it was that that was a real early 2021 contender for moment of the year for me when we recorded with her earlier on, but some, but Romy, what was it like.. because we did we were together for about three hours weren't we, doing both your episode and then with you interviewing me? Romy Park 18:42 Yeah, um, first of all, I have to say you, Mark is such an incredible director. I, I always work best with a good director. I have my own ideas, of course, but to have somebody guiding me through the process, because sometimes you don't know what you sound like or what you're doing and how you're coming across. And it's nice to have somebody say you know, try it this way. And there was one Mark..what was it? He said do it as if you were doing stand up.. Mark Heywood 19:18 Yeah. I said, Imagine you're Amy Schumer in a packed, you know, New York show, and you're talking to the back row, and it's the biggest gag of your entire set. That went quite wild, didn't it? (laughter) Romy Park 19:32 It did. We did it and I don't think you used any of that. But I will say that I had a blast. And it was really in..the whole process was really interesting. And since then, I have continued to actually think about this topic. It resonated with me that much and I think it must have been very deep in my subconscious because even right now I'm thinking, why do I keep on thinking about this? And why have I still made the decision and to not have children because I could have changed my mind since last year. I'm pretty set. And I think I mentioned before we started recording that I'm in the midst of getting a Master's degree. So I am actually focusing on addiction studies. And when I read about the how addictions start, usually the seed is planted in childhood, it may not flourish, then, but it may flourish later into adulthood if something triggers that, you know, when it's watered throughout the years. And a huge part of that is a child who doesn't know themselves, they don't have a sense of self. And they are either not allowed to be their authentic self or don't know how to be their authentic self. And, and then reading the book on internet addiction, it actually compounds that issue in this day and age. Because it's so easy to be bullied now, to be a faceless person on social media, and to see everyone else posting their highlights reel, because that's what social media is, nobody posts shit..oh am I allowed to say, am I allowed to swear? Margaret O Connor 21:28 Oh totally yeah Romy Park 21:30 Nobody posts the shit they're going through, really, they'll post other people's shit. But they won't post their own shit, it's always some glossy photo that's been touched up or, or, or filtered or, or something. And so you get people get a sense of how everyone else is living, they don't see the shit that's underneath all that, the crap that everyone is going through in their lives. And it's giving people a false sense of identity. And I really do think that people being one to go on social media is, is actually trying to get a false sense of love. Because, in fact, I'm reading another book on addiction, about that, why, you know, people in the projects, how they, how they get into the gang culture, and their recovery, and how they will keep on visiting certain treatment centres or places where they healed. And they actually say, you know, I'm just coming by to get my hit. The question is a hit of what, and he goes my hit of love. And I think that's why social media has actually.. I only put two and two together last night. And I think that's why social media has become so important.. is because it's everyone wanting to have some kind of attention or love or fill a need and whether we think we're whole or not, or healthy, I think we all have some sort of need, that possibly wasn't there when we were children. And whether that might have been one teacher, in one occasion when we were seven years old, that could have affected us for the rest of our lives. Because that does happen. Because it only takes one incident or one person to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. And and I had my own experience with that. And it was overhearing one conversation. And that that brought body dysmorphia into my life. It didn't flourish until much later. That was the.. it was created in when I was an infant. And so this is why I talk about I actually think I now stand by the fact that I don't want to bring a child in this world because I actually think I am being the opposite of selfish. I don't want to do that to a child. I don't want to with everything that's going on with the way the world is changing. I'm not going to bring somebody into that. I'm going to protect them from that. Margaret O Connor 24:15 Yeah, and that's not a decision anyone takes lightly i think you know there's a lot of thought and effort and time goes into that.. to think that through and you know be as sure as you can be. It's not an easy conclusion to come to. Romy Park 24:31 Yes Margaret O Connor 24:34 I suppose I'm curious just your your character Mona in the series so is a is a teacher ,is a is a coach and has some pretty strong opinions on Mark Heywood 24:43 She has very strong opinions! Margaret O Connor 24:45 Strong opinions on good parenting and maybe is it kind of almost over protecting children from criticism or constructive criticism. So yeah, there's some.. Romy Park 24:58 Yeah, I don't know how it is in other places, but definitely Los Angeles is a place where you just, nobody can criticize your kids anymore. I mean, my God, I think they'll just call Child Services if you do. Back in the day, when you know, we were all growing up, remember, our parents probably said to us, I know my mother's certainly did, she goes I'm gonna call the police right now and have them pick you up (laughter). And I was like, I'll be good, I'll be good (laughter) You can't do that now. The kids now will say, well, I'm gonna call the police on you for even saying that. And they will come. I think it's creating a society of weakness. And, and I and I, and I don't know why that the generation of parents who are doing that to their children are doing it. And I'm still baffled by it. I, I am a teacher, I am a coach. And I, you know, I get along with the parents I do, it's not a fact of that I have contempt for them, or even their their kid. I mean, to be honest with you, I don't even blame the child most of the time. Because they're still gaining their sense of self. But I see how they're coddled and I see how weak and sensitive they are, because they cannot take one note. They can't. And I actually, on a personal level, and I don't want to, you know, mention names because I actually, you know, the woman the parent is, is a friend of mine, and I get along with her. I don't actually talk to the, they're not my clients anymore, but I remain friends with them. But I remember I was told not to give, you know, her child any kind of criticism, that if I had any criticism, that I would have to give it to her. And then she would then translate it in her own way. So I agreed with that. But honestly, it wasn't working. And I just remember I had sent her over to a new, a new teacher. And because I thought it was as a teacher, I always feel like okay, you've moved on from me, I will still be present in your life and guide you and help you but it's it's now time you you get to the next level. And I feel like you can you've gotten to where you can get with me. Now let's get you someplace else. And so she continued to because I she very much looked up to me. She continued to reach out to me and show me tapes and reels. And I just remember thinking, oh my god she's getting worse and it was because the teacher wasn't critiquing. Because he felt..apparently he does with adults, but because she was sort of the first teenager, I think he felt wary of giving any criticisms because we can't. And and this wasn't something that he had discussed with the mother because he had actually never talked to the mother. I was actually the one who brought her there personally. And and I didn't say any I remember saying you better shape this kid because she can be great. And he's oh yeah, I'm going to be really honest. And he wasn't. And in the recordings, I could hear, that he just blew a lot of smoke up her ass and didn't critique her at all, or give her any criticism. And so I remember, she had sent me something she was very proud of, and I thought it was a pile of shit. And, and I said, Hey, you know what? This was the gentlest way I can put it. I it was through text messaging, and I said, Hey, you know, what would be fun? Why don't we get together and do this? And let me redirect you. That was all I said. I had the mother calling me less than 30 seconds later, really upset to say that her child was in tears. And, and what did you say to her and all of a sudden I was being attacked. And I actually screenshot the message. And I said, this is all I said, I go this wasn't criticism. This was a suggestion of collaboration, if anything. And the child couldn't take that. I mean, would you two have have considered that criticism? hey, will we get together? Mark Heywood 29:37 No, I wouldn't. And that's really why we put it in you know, in in the character script or or a version of it because, Margaret, Romy and I kind of talked about I keep going.. for some reason I always talk about dogs, right. You need a license to have dog. You don't need a license to have a baby. And you know, Romy said something brilliant to me once. She said you know, there's no such things as bad dogs, just bad owners, you know, and that really comes across in Mona's script. You know, and there's another episode with a character called Svetlana who says at the very end, you know, maybe the kindest thing I can do for my unborn baby is to not bring her into the world. Right, which is the point that Romy is making. And, you know, the character of Mona is sort of, you know, she's going, you know, the worst thing about kids is often parents, you know, that environment that we set at that young formative age, I think it's it was a real issue. So we wanted to bring that out in a manner that allowed Romy to portray this character as being, you know, full on, but also kind of in control, actually. And the point, I think that you take away from that is, yeah, actually, she might be right about that. Why are we giving prizes for showing up? That doesn't, that doesn't seem to be right. Romy Park 31:02 I forgot I even forgot about that part. But that is this day and age. Yeah, you get a prize just for showing up. It used to be there were winners and losers. When you lost you, you felt bad about it, and then wanted to get better. Margaret O Connor 31:19 Yeah, it kind of feels like what you're saying, like, how do you figure out who you are, if no one's going to be honest with you? Like, how then do you make some difficult decisions, if you need to do that later in your life, if you can't deal with the discomfort that might come with that, like, it's a life skill, you have to take feedback and deal with it or whatever. Yeah. And even though that's the main theme, I suppose I love there's two or three other things going on in that episode as well. So I really love their discussion of Mona being on a date with a guy and his older brother having strong opinions... Romy Park 31:56 That was a true story, by the way, Margaret O Connor 31:58 I felt like it was (laughter)..it sounded like it came from experience, unfortunately. Speaking about, you know, people's willingness to have those kinds of conversations like him commenting on your age in public in front of other people, and, you know, the likelihood of you providing offspring to his brother, you know, these conversations that you're having at a party on, like a second or third date, like, it's just crazy but it happens, which is even crazier... Romy Park 32:27 The brother I had met several well not several times, like maybe three times, and was somebody who was always very aggressively chasing me, and wanting to go out with me. And it just so happened that I gravitated towards the younger brother, not that much younger. But I had met the younger brother for the first time, and I wasn't even thinking I want to date him. It's just that he wasn't hanging all over me and being a stalker, and it just, and, and he was one of those, you know, it was so funny, because he, you know, these were two very good looking brothers, two confident, they're both successful. And they were.. the younger brother was definitely the alpha of, you know, this very large party. And, and I could see, and I kept on, I wasn't interested at all, so I just kept on walking away from from both of them. And the brother just kept on, I could see him surrounded by girls, and, and he knew, you know, he wasn't being overly aggressive but he would keep on coming back to me and, and it was nice when we finally we all went out. There was a group of us that went out afterwards. And that's when I think his brother was there. And I could see, he just looked so sulky. And at one point, he did say, oh, yeah, you know, I guess you like him better than you like me or, or something under his breath. And so I'm actually now not surprised that he made the comment that he did, because of what he said, I just, I just can't believe I just thought it was.. I thought he was such an asshole (laughter). Mark Heywood 34:09 So that that's a true story, the truth, the story about the guy leaving the first date, midday mid burger. That's true. That happened. That happened to the friend I first told us about in LA in 2016. He literally walked out, which is insane. And the one thing that I've learned through all this is that what's not the most shocking thing is what people say..I mean, I thought that would be the most shocking thing. It's not. It's that they don't see how unacceptable it is to treat someone in that regard. And I'm fascinated by the extent to which we think we have a right to dictate the course of a person's life. You know, in that in that one moment, you've got Romy being objectified in a in a in a, in a very dark, sinister way. And I think we need to call this behavior out. And it's not what might appear as banter. It's not, it's much deeper and darker than that. And we've tried in this show to make people feel uncomfortable about what they might have said to women in the past, both men and women, this isn't an exclusively male thing. There are some shocking things that females have said, particularly females, who've said it to, to Jo, my wife. And I think we need to call it out and shout about it and make people feel uncomfortable. We're not trying to be provocative, the provocation has come from other parties, we're just trying to, you know, to shine a light on it. And you know, if we hadn't have told Romy's story, there were, I'm sure there were a million other examples she could have given us for that particular character, you know, because this stuff goes on all the time. Romy Park 35:55 If If there was some, if there was anything serious between me and the brother than that conversation would have taken place, eventually, between me and the brother. The timing of it, and it being public, and the intention behind it, I thought was very cruel. Like Mark said, it was it was completely inappropriate. Had I actually been interested in pursuing something more long term with this guy, I think I would have been a lot more hurt by it. As it was, I was just like, my God, you're such a little shit, aren't you? Like I turn you down and this is the way you know, what are you, six. But might I share a story that happened during the pandemic, which is related to this, please? Mark doesn't even know this story. And I was unsure whether I wanted to share it or not. But I feel it's important to share for women out there.. is that during the pandemic, I actually got together with an ex boyfriend. And I hadn't, I dated him like, you know, over a decade ago, and we had always remained friendly afterwards, I think, and to this day, I think he's a wonderful, wonderful person. So I don't want to be disparaging towards him in any way. But what happened between us shouldn't have happened, the way it went down, and I'll get to that in a second. But there's always been sort of a deep love between us. And, and we are, we're both of a certain age where we have to make that decision whether or not we want children and because we've known each other right away from the get go, when we decided that we wanted to see if we could be in each other's lives again, he said, I want children. And I want a family. And I said, I don't. And I need you to understand that. And so he had to go away and think about it. And then he came back and he started negotiating with me. First he asked me why. And then I gave him you know, some I gave him a laundry list of reasons why, some of which of what I said here, and others were on a more..on a side that I hate to say is a little more vain (laughter). I said well, I said I don't want to destroy my body. And I don't want to go through the process of you know, feeling like crap or this or that, I don't want health problems. I don't want ABCD.. I said, you know, parents don't sleep at all (laughter). And I don't want to, I just don't.. I've had a dog I love dogs. And but even to dogs a certain degree, there are a lot of work. And you know, and I loved my dog, he passed now but I loved him and I was willing to put in the work but there's also a kind of release, when.. I'm getting weepy thinking about my dog, sorry. But when he finally did pass as devastated as I was, and it's still such a traumatic event for me, there's always this it came with a sense of freedom as well. I now don't have to wake up early to take him for a walk. I know don't have to think about somebody else's needs. I can be really selfish for a change and think about me and only me which is something that I have not done in my life very often. And that could be one of the reasons why in my subconscious I don't I chose not to have children is because in throughout my life I have been so unselfish and always giving towards other people and I'm learning how to now give back to myself and be my authentic self now. And he started negotiating with me and you know, and he, he's financially very doing very well. And he goes, how about I, if we had a surrogate? And he goes, he goes, he goes, if another woman carried the baby, would you be up for that? I said, yeah, but I still have to take care..we still have to take care of the baby. And then he goes, I'll get you a nanny, I will get you a full time nanny. Okay. And so we, because I love him, we now negotiated this, I wish I'd gotten it in writing. Because what happened later, as he knew that I was getting more attached to him, he flipped it on me. He changed his mind. He didn't want a surrogate. He said, it's just so much better if we can raise the baby ourselves, you know, to grow a baby ourselves, rather. And so to grow it in your body and me be there for you, there is a bonding and this and that.. No, I was like, wait, that's not what you said before. Then it's, and he goes, you know, and we can take care of, you know, the baby, again, that's a bonding experience that parents have, you know, why would we leave that to somebody else? It kind of became clear to me that he tried to manipulate me. I, whether..I don't want to say that it was, it was selfish of him. But it he's, he's not a bad person, like I said, and I kept on saying, no, you can't do this to me. You can't now you know, five months into the relationship. Now change your mind, I go, this is a deal breaker. And, and having deciding to have children or not, from the get go would have been a deal breaker or not. And I said, this is very unfair of you. And I actually ended up breaking it off. I said, sorry, I didn't..initially, I did after a few weeks. Initially, I didn't. Because I gave in. I said, okay, because I loved him, I wanted to be with him. This is somebody who I actually could have seen spending the rest of my life with. And I said, I can, I can sacrifice it, I can sacrifice that. And I started making concessions. And then I realized, no, I'm not being true to myself, and I'm lying to myself, and I am giving in, I am giving all he's giving nothing. And I brought that to his attention. And I said, I'm just giving into you, I go everything that I'm saying I don't want and I still don't want it. And I said I can't do that to myself. And he's any I remember he said to me, so you're saying we're two people who love each other, but want different things, and therefore can't work? And I said, yes. And that was it. And it's such a shame because it didn't have to get to that point. I think he didn't really I didn't think he thought that I was gonna break up with him. Obviously, he wanted what I had initially done the first, you know, few weeks was say, okay, yeah, well, I really love you. So I'll do it for you. It's not right. Margaret O Connor 43:28 Yeah, that's really tough. I'm really sorry to hear that that happened. But it's almost..I think you could see both me and Mark making faces as you started telling that story..but when I hear the word negotiation.. Like, I know, have a conversation, fine. But like, Why..why..the assumption is that you'll change your mind that if you meet somebody you love enough, you know that the right man or whoever it is, will come along, and you will change your mind. It's just it's so..i don't know, there are lots of words but undermining I suppose (sigh).. Romy Park 44:04 I wonder how many women have been in my position, but did not walk away. Mark Heywood 44:10 I think what we're trying to do and, and like Margaret Romy, I'm sorry that you had to go through that. But I, I think what you've done is, to me, not brave, but it's the right thing to do. We shouldn't be calling it brave. It should be the done thing that you are able to be, you know, your most authentic self and I worry that the world doesn't agree with that, the world thinks that the done thing is to negotiate and for you to have done, you know what he wanted, because that's what everybody else does. And I think people who call out behavior like that, are seen to be, you know, not toeing the party line, that's not the done thing. You know, you're why are you saying that? Why are you rocking the boat and I think that this show is all about those conversations. It's all about pointing out, I mean, just if that's..you're right..the word negotiate that's, that has just made me really angry. I can't begin to feel what it made you, you know, but.. Romy Park 45:19 (laughter) yeah, I'm okay now. But yeah, a little incensed. And to a certain degree, I still can't talk to him, even though even though I've known him for what since I started dating him in 2009, that was the first time so I've known him since 2009. And we've been friendly since. But since then, I have not been able to speak to him. Because I thought that it was.. in time I will I just have to, I'm still getting over the fact of how manipulative it was. Mark Heywood 45:57 Send him a link to the podcast, maybe that'll teach him about how he's behaved. Romy Park 46:01 (laughter) I'm gonna send him a link to this. Mark Heywood 46:04 Yeah. Actually, that's even better (laughter). Yeah. Margaret O Connor 46:09 And Mark, can I ask how what has the response been like to, to the show? Mark Heywood 46:14 The response has been full of love, you know, from all corners of the globe. I've had messages from Australia, from the US, Canada, Africa, you know, everywhere. I got a comment through the other day, from someone who just said, thank you, I finally feel heard, which is, you know, you know, enough to make you weep. Yeah, the reaction has been extraordinary, because there aren't that.. there are many, you don't know what you don't know and then you start to look into it. And you find out about, you know, organizations like yours, and the services that you offer to your, you know, to your clients. And there are many, many childfree by choice organizations, you know, all over the world. But in terms of creating repeatable drama, that addresses every aspect of this, there isn't necessarily anything out there. And, you know, the stories that we've got coming up, I think will grow the audience significantly. So we have a disabled character, who reflects on the fact that people can't see past the chair, they can't see past the wheelchair, they don't see her as a mother, they see her as a person, you know, in a wheelchair. The transgender character, growing up as one gender and now identifying as another.. the extent to which that conditions views about maternity. And interestingly, thinking about what Romy was saying then about, you know, having a surrogate, and the baby. That's, that is a really interesting point, I just want to hang hang there for a second, because the baby is the most important part of that equation when it arrives, and the baby doesn't care, as long as you love it. It doesn't care as long as that nurture is there. So we have a character who is in a same sex relationship. And her story, the day that we meet her. She is they have a daughter. Now, our character is not the natural biological birth mother. But she gets asked which of you is the real Mum, which is something that is deeply hurtful, it's it was said to a friend of mine, who's in a same sex relationship with a with a daughter. And that sort of behavior is stuff that we need to call out. And I think it's just little, little things you know, that people don't notice. So whenever we do get a reaction, it's usually a very strong one. It's a very, as you know, Margaret's a very sweary show, proudly so right, because these women have been through a lot. I don't think there's an episode that does actually actually even Dame Harriet's as as a rather rather a brutal profanity at the very end (laughter). But, you know, these are powerful issues, and they get, you know, a huge reaction. And I think what we're trying to do is shine a light on it. And if we make people feel uncomfortable, good, if we make them feel empowered, great, if we make them feel like they've been heard, you know, that's perhaps some of the nicest feedback that I've had is I finally feel like this is my story. I remember telling Victoria Emsley, who played the part of Megan in Episode Six, I remember telling, she said, we met for coffee, and she said what are you working on? And I told her and she literally reached over grabbed my hand and said, you have to tell my story, right? And when when you have that, you know, my wife joked that my new hobby is making women cry, (laughter) which is not not what I sort of set out to do. But you know, it is a very, very, you know, emotional topic. And so much so that some of the actresses can only be on board with it if they have something that's been completely scripted that has nothing to do with their lives, because their own stories are so deeply personal to them. The last episode we recorded in series one was basically therapy for the actress. And it was, it was heartbreaking because normally we recorded it in between lockdowns, but there were still huge amounts of restrictions. So, you know, the engineer and I were wearing masks, we were in a different room, the actress was in the sound booth as is normal. But, you know, when Romy and I recorded, we then spent an hour and a half we hung out, she interviewed me. And then we went out and had dinner, you know, or whatever it was that we that we did, here you know, the actress who is now in a deeply vulnerable state, having poured her heart and soul into a very personal topic, you know, couldn't even take her for a glass of wine, couldn't hug her, had to elbow bump her and say, I'm sorry, you know, but thank you for thank you for going through that for me. It's important that we tell you know, the story. So yeah, big, big reactions, lots of tears, but hopefully lots of laughs as well, because there's some, you know, particularly if I think about, and I listened to it in preparation for this particularly, you know, Mona's opening line is your daughter is an entitled little shit is what I wanted to say. That's funny as hell right? It makes me laugh every time I hear it (laughter). Margaret O Connor 51:19 (laughter). It is.. I remember, I think I just I came across it, somebody shared a link on Twitter. And as usual, I saved to my oh, I must come back to that list for like, you know, three months, and then finally come back to it. And I was I was on one of my walks during lockdown, which was about an hour, so I listened to about six episodes straight through my headphones, and I was just, I'd say if anybody saw my facial expressions. I was just like head nodding, smiling, laughing like it was just incredible. It was.. I don't remember if I cried or not. But it was very much like just that head nodding of recognition of oh my god, yeah. You know, either that's happened to me or somebody I know..it was just that recognition. And the fact that it was said you know.. communicated with such clarity. There's no, there's no pussyfooting around it's quite clear (laughter) Mark Heywood 52:08 No, people like Mona don't pussyfoot around. Margaret O Connor 52:12 Which is fantastic. Romy Park 52:13 Mark, you said something interesting. And I just want to point something out. I just want to say that I think there's a big difference between being being a mother and a mom or a father and a dad. Mark Heywood 52:23 Yeah. Romy Park 52:24 I have never, you know, my father who I know loved me. I never knew him, he died when I was two, I have actually never called him my dad ever. It doesn't even feel normal for me. Whenever I refer to him, I say, oh yeah, my father. My dad died when I was two. I say my father died when I was two. I have kind of faint memories of him. Glimpses of the past and I and I, I see pictures and I know how much he loved me and doted on me. I know how much I I loved and doted on him. I mean, after he passed away, I used to wait..apparently, I used to wait for him every day at the train station. I mean, at the door, because he came, he commuted into New York City and he would come home at the same time every day. At three years old, I mean, I guess I was doing that before he passed away. Before I was two, but I continued to do that after he passed away, and I did that, actually, for several months. I don't remember this. But even knowing that know how much love is there, I still don't be like I can call my dad. And so there's a difference between this, going back to the surrogacy thing. You know, a surrogate is technically a mother. Yes, she carried a child, there is a bond that I know happens. You know, every mother will talk about that you carry, well every mother I know. I don't know if every mother feels that. But for the majority in general, there's something growing in your body and there's a bond there. So I think that it's okay to for a child to say yes, well, this is my mother. But this is my mom. And I think they're those definitions are vastly different. Margaret O Connor 54:15 Yeah no, it's really good point. Thank you. Well, look, it has been fascinating to talk to both of you and lovely to get a bit more information on kind of the behind the scenes of the of the podcast. I'm delighted to hear that season two is coming. And I suppose I'd really encourage people if they haven't listened to it already, I really do think it's so powerful, and and really important to listen to. so highly recommend that. So yeah. Is there anything else that either of you want to add? Mark Heywood 54:42 No, just thank you so much for having us on the show. It's been it's been great. Romy Park 54:47 Thanks for having us on. Thank you Mark, thank you for creating this. And I look forward to season two as much as you are. Mark Heywood 54:55 I can't wait. Thank you. Margaret O Connor 54:57 Brilliant. Thank you. 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 episode coming soon. Transcribed by https://otter.ai