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Season 3 - New Podcast Episode

Welcome to season 3 of the Are Kids For Me podcast. I took a break after season 2 but am delighted to be back with some special episodes. My first guest was actually the inspiration to make new episodes and it was a joy to speak to her.

Jenny is in her 70s and is living a very content childfree life with her husband. She talks us through making the decision in the 1970s and revisiting the decision at various stages of their lives. She encourages us to think about what we are choosing instead when we decide not to have children. This shifts the focus to the wide range of opportunities available. Jenny also wants to share about how they have dealt with health challenges and how they are planning for aging and older life without children. This is an honest conversation which I really appreciate Jenny having with me and I hope you find it as inspirational as I did.

Mgt O Connor 0:10

Hi, and welcome to season three of the Are Kids For Me podcast. I took a little break after season two, but I'm delighted to be back with some special bonus episodes now in season three. My first guest was actually the inspiration to make new episodes. It was an absolute joy to speak to her and I think you will share that when you hear our discussion. Jenny is in her 70s and is living a very content childfree life with her husband. She talks us through making this original decision in the 1970s, and revisiting that decision at various stages of their lives. She encourages us to think about what we're choosing instead, when we decide not to have children. This shifts the focus to the wide range of opportunities available to us, rather than what we will not have. Jenny also shares about how they have dealt with health challenges and how they're planning for aging, and older life without children. This is a very honest conversation, which I really appreciate Jenny having with me. And I hope you find it as inspirational as I did.

Hi, Jenny, and thank you so so much for taking the time to join me. I'm really, really excited to talk to you.

Jenny 1:21

Hello, Margaret, and you're very welcome. I'm pleased to speak to you too.

Mgt O Connor 1:25

Thank you so much. So I suppose we were just having a little chat there before we started and thinking about where where to start. And I suppose you were just kind of putting a context as you see it kind of on your life. And I thought it'd be really interesting to start there and then move through move through conversation. So would you recap on that for me please?

Jenny 1:44

Okay, yes, I think that when you.. as a child, we trust grownups. And when we actually become a grown up, who knows? When are we adult? We know that we have measures as a culture and as a society. But in ourselves, we trust adults, we trust our parents, generally speaking, and I am speaking very generally, because I know that that's not always the case. For me, I trusted my parents, my parents were good to me. They tried to answer the questions to the best of their ability, they did answer the questions. But as I grew up, as I got older, and then when I thought I was grown up, when I achieved adulthood, I realized that actually, grownups don't know everything. Because each day is a new day. And we have we have decisions to make each day, not momentous ones, always. But sometimes they are momentous, and they are life changing. And some decisions can't be gone back to, they can't be revisited. And I think that having a child is one of those. We can't go back on this. But that isn't the end of the decision. As far as I was concerned, I got to marry... childbearing age, obviously. And I was enjoying my life as an adult, I was enjoying the challenges that were presented to me, different work, different people, even different countries as things I could afford to travel. And we did. I met my husband when I was 14/15, that sort of age, just leaving school, because I didn't go on to higher education at that point. And we enjoyed each other's company. And then we married when we were 21/22. And we're still together, we enjoy each other's company still. It's, it's been a good life. And I feel that we have had somewhat privileged, a privileged life because we were the first children to be in the welfare state. So we had all of the things that the welfare state wanted to offer, thought it should offer. And our parents made the most of that. So it and then as teenagers, we, there were there were job opportunities. There was a lot of industry sometimes, I don't think we kind of wanted some of the things that were available to us, you know, you and I I don't think I made quite as much of my education as I should have done. And I never really liked school. I know people say that, but I was very introverted, I suppose. So, school was more of an observer thing than a participating thing. But no, as the years progressed, and I got older, the idea of having a family came on the horizon as my peer group began to have children. And I didn't. And I was, I thought that I should be having children. And my partner and I discussed all of that.. we oh, well, if if we, if you think that you would like a baby, I think that we should, we should do that. But do you really want to do that? Well, not really, because I was having a good life. I don't mean I was having a ball. I mean, I realized I had freedom. Particularly when my peer group had babies. The life changing issues that having a baby causes. Were not the life changing things that I wanted. Okay. But I felt a certain amount of peer pressure...

I'm wondering, sorry to interrupt you. So it was the 1970s?



Mgt O Connor 6:39

Okay. So I'm just wondering, in terms of, yeah, the culture, the social norms of the time, I suppose. I mean, was it even a question the fact that you were even thinking is this something I want, I imagine that was unusual?

Jenny 6:54

Yeah, it was, it was the kind of thing that oh but if you when you get pregnant, and when you have your baby, you will feel very much different it really, you'll, you'll love your baby. And I never doubted that. What I doubted was that I wanted the responsibility, that weighed heavily, I didn't and neither did my partner. He was never needed to be a father. It wasn't something that was high on his on his list of things that would happen. And it's strange, because if you just take a leap for a minute or two, and think about, right, okay our friends, peer group had children. And one of the things that is thought about it is, how will you manage when you are old If you don't have children?

Mgt O Connor 7:59

Yes. The big question.

Jenny 8:01

Yeah. So well, you cope, because you've always coped. You've always had that freedom and that independence. And now I'll just come back again, sorry to be the flitting about a bit, but

Mgt O Connor 8:20

Oh no I diverted you there (laughter).

Jenny 8:21

(laughter) I, I value freedom, we value freedom as a couple. We very much do the things that we agree on. And if there's something that one of us really, really wants to do, the other will support, both ways. Well, one of the things with the 1970s was that there was a sort of rebellion, turmoil, really, in culture, you can do what you would like to do.. get on with it. It's an open door. And I felt very much that it was an open door for me. And we both did, and we haven't done anything remarkable. It's been a very to outsiders, a very mundane life, I'm sure. But to us it's been a very enjoyable life and still is, and still is. It's it's important to think that you make one decision and it spoiled your life because it doesn't, yeah, other things come along. Other challenges present themselves, and also opportunities that you would not have or not be able to take up if you had children. You can you can take them to other countries and you can put them in schools and all of this sort of thing. But at the end of the day, it's your responsibility. Without children, you just do it. It's the freedom Yeah, yeah, it's a it's a big thing for us the freedom. And in fact, when when I, when my sister had her children, I have to admit, I thought, should it should I be doing this? And I felt a little bit of jealousy and recognized it and thought that's not good enough reason. It's just not good enough. You have to want them, not think other people want you to have them.

Mgt O Connor 10:33

Okay. Very important.

Jenny 10:36

Yeah. And at the end of the day, we discuss things as a couple, and we were happy with the way things were. And we were happy to think... both of us have, we have experienced people dying. when, when we were younger, parents dying. I was fortunate in my parents only died quite recently. But people have still gone out of our lives, and you become aware of it. And the older you are you you sort of think, well, everybody, everybody is going to die. Everybody who gets old will know that they only have so long to live, they have fewer years to live than they've already lived. Yes. Particularly when you get into your 70s. Now it can sound really morbid. really morbid. But it isn't. We, when we decided that perhaps children weren't for us. The decision was actually taken from us. Because I, I had growths in my womb. And I saw the doctors, saw lots of people, was given lots of advice and was in turmoil, we both were... what do we do? So well, If the worst happened? Because that is really sometimes how we have made our decisions. If the worst happened, what will the other do? Or what will we do? So having a baby at that point, because we were given a choice. But it was a window of opportunity, let's put it like that, as they say these days a window of opportunity. We discussed the issue and decided that if we had children, and then the growths caused worse problems, cancer, would I then live to be a good mother? Would I live to be a mother at all? And would then my partner have to bring up the child by himself. So we decided that maybe it was the best thing to say this is fate. Embrace it, get on with life. So I had a hysterectomy. And my worst fears, and I have to smile at this. I want to laugh. Because I wasn't really concerned about not having children, being childless as they used to say, that wasn't a concern. The issue was, I didn't have the choice. And I was angry about not having the choice. Also, I had to say to the doctors, and I I cringed when I did it, and I cringe now, but I thought will I grow a beard? (laughter) When I'm no longer what I would consider what makes me female. And strangely, that was the bigger decision, not the childlessness, it was the selfish decision, the self centered part of me that thought what is actually going to happen to me? So I went ahead with it and we recover I recovered and we looked after each other and we have had a very good life together. We have moved various places within the United Kingdom and further afield. We we have been able to pursue things that would not be easy, with children. You can do it, yes, but it wouldn't be easy, partly because of the financial situation that you find yourself in, partly because of the restrictions that are there. And gladly you give to your children and say, Well, I would rather do this. And I wasn't prepared to say I would rather do what my children want than what I want to do. It's, I know, it's very self centered. But that's where it is.

Mgt O Connor 15:38

Well...I have a million questions on everything you've just said (laughter)

Jenny 15:42

I'll try to answer!

Mgt O Connor 15:44

I'll try to pace myself (laughter). But I suppose do you, do you think that's when you say it's self centered.. like, it sounds to me like you made a really, you and your your partner made a very considered series of decisions where you weighed up.. you weighed up the pros and cons you looked at..okay, this option is available to us, this option is available to us and you, you picked the one that made the most sense to you, like, yes, you could have had children, you would have done your best for them. You weren't going to leave them outside in the shed (laughter). But you but you decided that it's like that you didn't want that choice, that wasn't something that you would consciously choose to put yourself into that situation, I suppose I'm always curious about like, how, how is that self centered? Because I suppose self centered has negative connotation?

Jenny 16:45

Yes. Let me let me try to, to explain in a slightly different way, in that.. I don't think I would have made a very good mother. I am I'm very strict with nieces and nephews and and friends, and you don't behave like that you are expected to behave like this. And this is why. And I think it can be domineering and restrictive to children. So it's this, this this thing that speaking generally, society seems to think that all mothers are good. Yeah. And I don't, we wouldn't have social services in the same way. We wouldn't need adoption agencies. We wouldn't need law courts to decide on who should keep a child and who is fit. We wouldn't have all those things if parents, we're all good. Now, I don't mean that to be controversial in saying that people are not good.

Mgt O Connor 18:08

No, but but there is an assumption that that parenting is natural. That yes, you automatically know what to do. I think we all know it's not. Or not the case for everyone certainly. So yeah, no, I get what you're saying. Yeah, yeah. So it sounds like you're very much taking the interests of kind of your hypothetical children into account.. you were thinking, okay, I could do this but I don't think I'd be happy. Or maybe the children wouldn't be happy. Maybe it's not the best situation to choose to put yourself in like, that sounds...

Jenny 18:44

Yes, that's that's it.

Mgt O Connor 18:48

That doesn't feel selfish to me, you know, it is very considered you know.

Jenny 18:54

Yeah. I do understand where you coming from. I understand what you're saying. Because it is taking something else, a hypothetical being, and placing yourself into that hypothetical being. And I, I don't think it's always an easy thing to do for people. But I think the reason I call it self centered is because it's a certain awareness, perhaps self awareness rather than self centered. Perhaps that's what I should use self awareness maybe. But that's being sort of perhaps too analytical. I'm not sure about that. But no, I think I think having children is a momentous decision. But for some people, it just happens and they are natural. And they accept it and embrace it. Enjoy it. I think I think I think there's another little issue that if you have doubts, and this is where the self awareness comes in, why do you have the doubts? Where are your objections? And, and it if it's materialistic than I think that you can find a way around it. Yeah, you can sort that out. If it's if it's to do with, where you live even you, you have the power to go somewhere else. And, and try to make it work. But if deep down inside you, you feel you are self aware and I've got to give up something that I do not want to give up. I will have to change this and I do not want to do that. Having made the decision, once I had I was over the medical things, it was quite liberating. Okay, it was, okay, let's let's get on with things. And and we did we, we did all sorts of things that had all kinds of things, changed lifestyles. And it's, it's difficult to explain. Because after a while, you'll begin, you always, we've always kept in touch with friends who've had children, the ones that were real true friends. But it's strange how you tend to meet people who are like minded. Because they are the only people that have that freedom. And when when you do you, you will accept that there's a kind of independence. It's, it's difficult to explain. You're friendly with people. You respect people. But you don't need them. That's again, it sounds very, very selfish. Because people have been in my life or have been friends who are now dead and we've helped each other. It's it, there has been a need at certain times. And we've enjoyed the need for friendship. But it's not a need in terms of like your family needs you. It's, it's a different kind of culture with I feel my experience of being independent. It's the independence.

Mgt O Connor 23:06

Yeah. Um, okay. So I'm going back slightly, but going back to come forward, if you stick with me (laughter). I'm wondering at the time when you were considering whether you wanted children or not...I'm just trying to think did you have any role models? Was there anyone you knew that had made that choice? Or because it sounds like it was very much..this was maybe an internal kind of experience, where you were looking inwards to what was the priority for you. And I'm just wondering, how did you navigate the peer pressure when this is what everybody else is doing? This is the expectation because, yeah, I'm just curious about that. Because then it sounds like you kind broke away from that to a degree, if that makes sense.

Jenny 23:55

Yeah, it does. I think it was... I had a couple of friends who were single. Who have never married. So the issue of having children wasn't one... they didn't want to be single parents and they were independent women. Very oh, how can I put it self reliant. Yes. And it was, I suppose they were an influence to some extent that there is a different life if you choose it. Yeah, I think rather than shift the emphasis a little bit from a decision not to have children and put it on to I want a different life. I want to do this. And it doesn't matter whether I as I tried, wrongly, perhaps analyzed and saying that it was self centered..but it's, it's knowing knowing what you don't want. Because you don't know what is ahead of you. Yeah, it's, you know, what you don't know you can't choose. Yes. But the choice is that I didn't want a life with children.

Mgt O Connor 25:33

Ok, and this is a really important piece. And that's why I was so keen to talk to you is, with a lot of clients that I work with say, would get to that point, and maybe they're not sure maybe they're thinking about it, but it's really hard for people say in their 30s and 40s to imagine, well, what do I do instead? Because I know it sounds.. maybe an odd question. But I suppose because we don't see older childfree people or childless people or just like, what does life look like without children? We don't see that, we don't hear the stories. So it can feel like a void. It's really interesting you're saying, okay, well, I've decided I don't want this. But then it's almost like you want to need to shift mindset to well, I want this instead, whatever that is.

Jenny 26:24

Yes I understand. Yes, I take what you're saying. I suppose I, I enjoyed going to work. Okay. And I did all kinds of things. Mainly, I suppose it was it was administration. But administration is in all walks of life. So the emphasis on where the administration led or what he administered. (laughter) Let's put it like that. changed. Yeah. So I enjoyed that. But I also enjoyed...I like I like animals. And I enjoy having a dog. So in some ways, it's not a replacement child but it is something that you if you're feeling down, you can talk to and you can cuddle it, and you can take care of it. But also, it gets you out and about, you know, I know that you can do this with your children. I am aware of that. So what I what I'm saying is, which is it's why I say I haven't had a remarkable life, there's been.. you don't have to climb Everest, you don't have to go bungee jumping. You don't have to sail through the Arctic singlehanded or anything like that, to think I'm doing this, I can go home now or I can stay out all night, I don't have to get back. In a nutshell, it's the freedom, the independence and that when you have that independence, opportunities present themselves. And you can decide either I stay as I am. Or I go to something that is new to me. And I I also decided, as a couple we decided.. I never took very, very much advantage of education. But I always wanted to learn, curiosity is the big thing. You have to be curious. So I, I wanted to learn and I wanted to learn how to learn. Okay, and I didn't know. So I'd been on various courses specifically to do a certain job or a secretarial course a typing course, all of that kind of thing. You can see the practical thing you can see the end of it. But I I was interested in society, interested in culture, history. And I didn't know where to start as a as a mature student, I didn't know what to do. And as a couple we discussed this because my partner had a good education, is is educated. Yeah. And he also was a mature student later on in his life by choice just we'll do this. So I, I actually, I enrolled in the Open University and I am I have been interested all my life in art and artists. So do I do history and culture and society and the social sciences, politics, economics, or do I do the arts? Well, I chose the hard road. And I did both.

Mgt O Connor 26:25

Oh god, ok (laughter)

Jenny 28:04

(laughter) You can imagine, can't you? When I look back on it, you see, oh, do you regret that? Oh, well, slightly. I wish I had done that solely and then done that. But I didn't. I went straight doing doing the lot. And I was still working.

Mgt O Connor 30:33

Oh, wow. Okay,

Jenny 30:34

Now, I could not I could not have contemplated doing that with a child that needed, needed education, needed the time to go to clubs and different activities after school. So I couldn't, I couldn't have done what I wanted to do. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. It I am really, really glad that I made the opportunity. I took the opportunity. And I made the most of it. And I had support all the time. And it's still, it still is part of my life as speaking to you. Also, I was good at art when I was at school. I hated maths. I still hate maths. Can't do maths. Don't ask me to do numbers. Number blind. That's it, end of story. What I really, I was a bit naughty at school because I used to go into the art block. Because it was a new thing for for the era, it was a new thing that we had an art block. And the rest of the class would be going into maths. Or they would go into oh I don't know what you see, I don't even know, the classes we went to. Because I used to just peel off, and go into the art block. And the art teachers would say, Oh, you're here again, Jennifer, all right. And I start to do all sorts of things that I really shouldn't have been doing. I don't know, whether they didn't know, or whether I was just lucky and they never found out. Sshh (laughter). But that's what I did. And my mum and dad didn't think that doing the arts was.. art and drama was not a proper job. So I rebelled against that. And okay, then if I'm not going to do that, my friends is going to Australia. And I had just met my partner, but my friends going to Australia. I think I'll go to Australia. My parents were horrified. How will you afford to do that? What will you do when you get there? How will you get there da da da. And it was during the time when you can get a 10 pound ticket. I don't know if you know about that?

Mgt O Connor 33:02

I do know about that yes (laughter)

Jenny 33:01

(Laughter) History, you see. So I decided that along with my friend, that we could go into the factory and earn a lot of money. In six months, we'd have enough so that when we got to Australia, we could afford to keep ourselves and we could afford to pay things on the passage we could look after ourselves. Well, I'm not cut out for that at all. And, and my friend was going her way. And I was going my way with my partner. And my mom and dad persuaded me that are you sure that that is really what you want to do? And I said, no, not really. I just didn't want to do what you wanted me to do. And we discussed it again. And right you come and work for your dad while you decide on where you want to go because you've missed... At that time you they would have like take on school leavers. Companies would take on school leavers. So there were opportunities as soon as you left school, but there were limited places. If you didn't get the place, say in six weeks, then you lost the opportunity and it would have to be in the next time. Yes. So I would have been older than the next leavers. Yeah. Anyway, I worked for my dad. I liked working for my dad. We worked together really well as a family. We worked well. Until it it really came down to the fact that we were being swamped with the bigger organizations with the big companies and we had to give up. So I went to college just as a to learn secretarial duties and that was when I really got the bug to think I could learn things. I could work, I could do a job that I thought was respectable was because the work that I did before was not feminine. It wasn't a woman's work. I'd rather not say what it was, but I it was not a woman's work.

Mgt O Connor 33:57

Right. Okay.

Jenny 34:14

So I wanted something that was where I, I could be female, but still be equal. Because I had been equal. Okay, doing a man's job in a man's world. I was equal. I always had to prove myself. It was like, I had to be better.

Mgt O Connor 35:49

Yeah. Yeah. To be equal (sigh)

Jenny 35:52

Yes. be equal. I had to be better. Yeah. So when I when I made the change, then it was always please don't call me my dear. You know, pat your hand and make us have a cup of coffee dear (laughter). I, that wasn't that wasn't me. Even though I say I wanted to be have a more feminine side to me and recognize that. So it's learning and having different opportunities and being able to take them without any, any strings?

Mgt O Connor 36:33

Yeah. I'm really struck as I was listening to you that you're yeah, I suppose that that independence has has always been there and it sounds like you you knew and know what you want. You found what was important to you. And once you found it, you know, it made sense. Or I wouldn't say clicked into place. But yeah, it was. So I'm just thinking it was is it a bit is it a mindset or is it a personality thing or you know, that okay, you you could have gone along with what everybody else was doing. But that wouldn' doesn't sound like that would sit with you in any aspect of your life.

Jenny 37:11

No and it doesn't now. And coming to now, I've gone back to the art, okay. I paint, I am a pastelist, I paint pastel pictures of animals, okay. And I am totally absorbed with it when I do it when I work with it. And I work as a volunteer with a rescue center for all animals really, but mainly dogs and cats. So I, I feel I have a very full life. As a couple we have a full life. I've just thought of geriatrics we look after geriatric animals (laughter). The ones that other people don't have the patience for or the understanding and an end of life for them. A happy and sometimes what has been a cruel life for them. Yeah. And I paint pictures of them and I try to fundraise for them. I I have, well both of us have had life threatening illnesses. I have had a triple heart bypass, a stent and a triple heart bypass. Didn't know that anything was particularly wrong. And suddenly I went to the doctor and I said I think I've got a chest infection. Oh, no, I'm sorry you haven't got a chest infection. You must go to the hospital this afternoon. I think it's your heart. Oh, okay. Right. So, there we go. And it was we have to do something now. Because this was December time, you won't see the spring. Right. So right. We sit down and well my my my partner who always sees a funny side and it's a bit black, said to me, well, at least it'll be cheaper next year if you don't make it through because I won't have to buy you birthday presents.

Oh dear (laughter)

Yes. So caring! (Laughter) But of course that was just how you get around these things. And we sat together and we thought well I want to live and walking... speaking of decisions, walking through the hospital door, and thinking I might not walk out again, was, I think, a bigger decision, because I could have given way, I felt quite weak, it became apparent that I was dying. And I, we sat as a couple and what will what will you do? And we said all the funny things like, well, I'll leave my shoes on the hearth instead of putting them away and have beans on toast every day (laughter). But he actually likes cooking. So that's that was just a bit of nonsense. And then we spoke about a funeral. It was well do what my dad said, put me on the compost heap (laughter).

Mgt O Connor 41:07

You can't do that (laughter)

Jenny 41:07

You can't do that (laughter). It's not allowed. So we we spoke about the kind of things that we wanted and an end of life issues and whether, actually then speaking of survival, we decided we'd got the practicalities, we got the nitty gritty. Let's forget about that now and think, survival. And obviously, I'm here now and I've survived it. Yes. We both survived it. Because for us a couple a thing like, your heart open heart surgery, particularly the way what they had to do, left me so that I couldn't stand in the shower. I couldn't lift the kettle. Crazy things. You can't lift the kettle. No, even when the kettle is empty, I can't lift it. And it's a while before you're independent. Yeah. So it comes to this independence again. Yeah. And if you don't have a partner, you become reliant on the welfare state, social services, wherever you are in the world. You need care. And that's where I think people will say, oh well, my family will look after me. Yeah. Now, I'm just spinning it the other way. My parents were elderly when they died. My mum died and there was no need. We were not required to give her any care other than our mom, and we loved her. She didn't need care. She died suddenly. And it was she was independent, in that sense. But my dad lived into his 80s and did become in need of care. And we were able to care for him, my sister and I took it in turns. To be truthful my sister took more of the brunt of it, because she lived close by. But I used to do it in blocks of of a week, two weeks. If he was ill, I would stay longer. He had shingles and I stayed eight weeks with him. And I looked after him. But..but I was getting older. And you think about elderly people looking after even older people. It's really hard work. And sometimes you can't do it. So it's it's it's a myth, I think, to say when you are old and you have children, they can look after you, whether they will or not isn't the issue. Can they look after you? Someone who is suffering dementia, someone who who needs to be lifted in and out of bed or given a bath. We're not always competent enough or strong enough. Because we too, are older. The imagination is that your children will be young all the time. And that when you get older, they will look after you. Yeah. But it's that's not necessarily how it works out. And also if you have children who, who are disabled, you are, you are looking after a child all your life, when you are elderly, your child is still dependent on you if they are lucky enough to survive. And if they don't survive, you have to face the grief of losing your child. And I, I, I worked with disabled people for a while. And the the problems that parents have are enormous. Their their emotional well being and mental health. And the experience that I had was that people carried guilt. Because we had these children because we wanted children. And they're not able to enjoy the same life that we have had. We're having to take care of them. And now, I'm tired, and I can't take care of them. And to some extent, and please forgive me for sounding negative about this, but their parents are growing older, and their children are still babies, they are bigger babies. And it's heartbreaking. And it is so hard. But I have to say I know that there are joys with that. It's it's not always a nightmare. It's sometimes a wonderful dream. It's some and it's it's very rewarding to see someone who is having difficulties in life achieve.

Mgt O Connor 41:07

Yes absolutely.

Jenny 47:09

So every aspect of life has it's really down times. And it's really high times. It's life.

Mgt O Connor 47:15

Yes, ok. That piece you know about the care when you get older, I suppose again, that's a really common theme that clients will talk to me about. I mentioned, you know, a lot of people may think, okay, I'm really quite happy with how life is now. But the fear is for the future. What if in 20 30 40 years time, you know, I, there's a sense of being very isolated. It will you just be the two of us. Or there's a sense that okay, if I have children, it's going to get this automatic, I was going to say support network, because I think that is the maybe the assumption, there will be a network of people, and they will provide support. And if I don't have that, I'm going to be alone. Yes. And again, I suppose it sounds like you're so supportive to each other as a couple, you know, having dealt with lots of different challenges and being able to communicate really openly and honestly about them sounds really important. And I suppose I'm wondering, okay, you knew you weren't going to have that type of support network. So then you weren't expecting it. So do you just plan..make other you make other plans? Like is it as..and I don't want to make it sound flippant but...

Jenny 48:33

Yes, you do. You do. You are aware. Yeah. Probably one of you is going to end their life without the other. And we are not happy about that. So it's not not not happy. But we are. Each of us is prepared for it. We look after ourselves, but we're always together. My partner loves music. And he he plays classical guitar. And is learning pieces all the time. But he had a stroke when he was 50. And another 10 years later, but his music is the lifeline. So it's important that he has his music, I share music, his love of music. We sing terribly together, but we sing, we make awful music together. He makes beautiful music, but when we sing together well, (laughter) yeah, we just have a good time with that. He supports me with my artwork. I support him with his music. If either one of us isn't there, music is there for him. Art is there for me. Yeah, we do have some good friends we do. We do know people, but we also last year because we have a house and we have a garden. And it needs maintenance and it needs working on. So we toyed with the idea. Well, what if we go into an over 50s residential place.. that as we progress through life has the facilities to take care of either one of us. So we've looked into it. And we decided that no what we will do at the moment because we we both we feel young in our head. We have no measure, like when you have children, you have a measure of how old you're getting, because they're getting older. So we've never had that. So it's like, well, how old are we? Sometimes we can't remember. Really? What was it this year? You know, anyway, that, and we've never been one that ones that that celebrate particular birthdays, we have a birthday, we maybe have a nice time, or we maybe just do what we always do. And then celebrate something else. Another time. It's it's all. It's all up to us. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So when we decided no, it's not, we're not quite ready for that yet. What we will do is we will get the house as elderly proof as we can get it. We've we've made provision to be able to, to shower, and but I don't want to have an old people's house. (laughter).

Mgt O Connor 52:00

Ok! (Laughter)

Jenny 52:04

You know, it's it's very practical. Yeah. So that both both of us being kind of more on a creative level than us than a science level, I suppose we would say, we tend to want the house to be quite modern. But it's still it's modern in the way that we will be able to cope with it for some time to come. And we have made contact with various places and people who will come and do the garden for us should we need that. So it will be right at the end, if we need care. We know where we're going to go. And actually I wouldn't want it now. But I think I might grow up. I might think I'm an adult now. I've got a walking stick with it with a silver cap on it. And I can walk around and if I don't want to do anything. I can't quite manage that. I shall be a really grumpy old biddy (laughter). Whenever you'll have to do that for me. A cup of tea dear? Ooh, I'd love a cup of tea. Thank you. It's, yeah, it's not the end of the world. When you are at a certain age you decide children are not for me. Yeah, yeah. Okay. It's, it really isn't. Because if you regret the decisions you make, it's understandable. It's human. But what would be your alternative? And would you still have met the same people? Would you still hold the same people close to you, treasure them, respect them? You wouldn't have known them. So you're, like, wanting to forget them and devalue the road that you've taken. And and really, life does have regrets. And if you never do anything, you never regret anything. Yeah. And if you once you'll make a certain decision... A friend of mine had her children. She's now she's my age. And she's a volunteer at school. She she didn't have grandchildren. So you see, this is the next thing. It's grandchildren. I don't miss grandchildren. Not at all. But my friend does. She enjoyed her family. And her daughter is away. So she goes to the local school and it's sort of like, I don't know what to call them. Are they classroom assistants or something like that. Yeah, she does things like that anyway. And she, if it's almost like, she's an adopted grandparent...

Mgt O Connor 55:12

For all of those kids (laughter).

Jenny 55:15

And, you know, you do find as you get older things present themselves, because you'll get older, you're not dead (laughter). You might be a bit closer to it, than you know, okay, we're all close to it, aren't we? You know, life's fragile. It's, it's fleeting. But as we get older, we know, well, I'm not going to live another 30 years, I can't. And if I do, at least 10 of those years are going to be probably going to be gaga. So I won't know whether I'm alive or dead. It's, but it can happen at any time. Yeah, you know, at 50 you can have a stroke. What's that going to take? And I mean, when it happened to my partner, I'd been at work. I was, at that point, I was working shift work, and I came home. And it happened to be a New Year's Eve that I worked. So I came home the following morning, well at lunchtime. And my partner had been in the shower. And he looked at me a bit strange. And then he said something like 14 62 33. Pardon? 14 63 33. Look, I'm really tired. I'm not into this game. Understand, please, please speak properly. I'm not into this game. 1 92. And he could only speak in numbers. But I still thought he was joking, because it was new year. And I thought he'd had a whiskey or two. So he laughed. And I laughed, and I said, come on, let's, let's go and we'll have a cup of tea, sit on the sofa, put a film on or watch whatever the film is the new year's day and have a sleep. And we did and how dangerous is that? Okay. So he did wake up. And he said something's wrong. I think I'm gonna go to the doctor first thing in the morning. We went we went to bed. Again how blind I was.

Mgt O Connor 57:43

Well you didn't know what to look for.

Jenny 57:43

Because it did come back after he was asleep, he spoke properly you see. The following day, I got up and well, where is he I wondered? He had got in the car and gone to the doctors without an appointment and just gone to the doctors. And the doctor sent him to the hospital. And there we. There we go. And he actually got worse. As as the day progressed, we could see something had gone badly wrong. But he survived. He speaks properly now, too much. Almost as much as I've been speaking now (laughter). So I think I think I can't really add anything to that. I'm sorry if I've yabbered on..

Mgt O Connor 58:28

Not at all. Absolutely fascinating. I think it's as I as I suspected from your first email to me, I thought you're just so inspiring and its really inspirational. I think that's a funny word to use. And it's very cliched and it's thrown around for everything, but I really do, I really mean that like for okay, your I suppose I think that I guess that word independence but to to just stay true to yourself. I think that's really what I'm hearing from your story is that you, you know yourself. And you've learned enough about yourself as you've gone through life to to live by your values and live by what's important to you and not be swayed by by societal pressure, which is a really hard thing to do.

Jenny 59:14

And I've made mistakes Margaret. I have made mistakes. And there are regrets but they're not. They're not who I am. They're not. They are part of me but we go forward.

Mgt O Connor 59:27

Yeah, they're not consuming so you can put them in perspective. (Cough excuse me). Yeah, I think that's a really important piece. I think. You know, I really feel for people who are in that uncertainty place and you know the fear or the fear of regret or the fear of future regret can be really, paralyzing to people. So that's why I think it's so important to hear that. Yeah, you know, life has not been perfect because it can't be but you've you've you are living a happy life doing the things that are important to you, dealing with things as they come up, putting plans in place. I think being really proactive. I like that as well. Like your yeah, as I said jus trying to.. and I did some episodes around that before for later life, you know, as much as possible putting your plans in place, you can't control what's going to control. But you've thought about it. You thought about your preferences and you're putting things.. and you're not. You're not talking yourself into a situation you don't need to be. You looked at the options and said, okay, we don't need to go into that yet. But we can do these things. And they'll facilitate us to live in they way we want.

Jenny 1:00:38

Yes, which is a kind of control. Yeah, yes, it's a control within the idea that well, things change, things happen to you. Be aware that you may not be able to do that. But, you know, if, if we can we well, if we if we can't we don't we won't end of story.

Mgt O Connor 1:00:59

Absolutely, as I said, I think really fascinating to listen to, and I'm sure it'll be really helpful to people. So to know that there are people living, a very happy childfree life having made different decisions. (Cough, excuse me) That it is possible. It does happen, people do it. There's lots of other things you can do. And I really like the idea of kind of being open to that. So okay, I've decided I don't want this one thing. But you're so open to so many other things, opportunities and things that the good unpredictable things that can come in life as well.

Jenny 1:01:38

Yes, yes. The good, unpredictable, and the bad, unpredictable. And in a sense, the inevitable because we're all going on the same, same journey. We're all going to finish up in the same same way. Yeah. So Oh, I am a happy little soul (laughter).

Mgt O Connor 1:01:57

(laughter) Not Not all the one compost heap because that would be... But somewhere along the way. Oh, Jenny, thank you. I really, really appreciate you taking the time and sharing your story and really as I said..yeah, I'm gonna go back to that word inspirational and really, really interesting to hear about. So thank you so much for taking the time.

Jenny 1:02:20

Thank you, Margaret. And I hope that you're successful with the things that you you want to do and that this has been helpful.

Mgt O Connor 1:02:30

Absolutely. Yes, definitely. Thank you so much.

Jenny 1:02:33

Ok then, take care of yourself.

Mgt O Connor 1:02:34

Thank you, you too.

Thank you to my guests for taking part and to you for listening. Please check out our kids for me on Facebook and Instagram for more content.

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