WE ARE CHILDFREE

Go for your dreams, with Jenny Castano

For this first-generation trailblazer, being childfree meant creating the life she’d always dreamed about.

Episode 24

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For Jenny Castano, being childfree is so much more than a lifestyle choice – it’s meant having the freedom to create the life she’d always dreamed about. When she moved from Colombia to Queens, New York, as a teenager, Jenny already knew that she wanted to learn English, go to college, find a profession and travel the world. Check, check, check – she’s done all that! Even though she’s too modest to admit it, Jenny is a real trailblazer helping to make the world a better place.

Follow Jenny on Instagram (and her adorable bunny Mochi!) at @jencastano

We recorded this episode before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. To find out how you can support abortion access, check out the resources at https://wearechildfree.com/links

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Transcript

Jenny: So I think I was pretty young. I was probably a teenager still in Colombia when I moved to the US. I was 15 and I think I already knew I didn’t want to have children. When I was growing up I knew that I wanted to go to university and I wanted to travel. And I just, I just didn’t have that urge to have children and you know, kids around me. We weren’t poor poor, but I don’t know – the people around me, no one was really thinking all this, “Let’s go to university. Let’s do these things”. They were more like, “Oh, let’s get married. Let’s have children”.

Zoë: So you never envisaged children in your future, you always kind of imagined more opportunities like continuing education or your career? You thought more about those things.

Jenny: Yeah. It seems like every choice I make and every turn I take, kind of validate my choice a little bit. When we moved here, all of us, four kids to have a possibility to go to college. And that didn’t end up happening. My siblings didn’t finish high school and only I went on to go to college. And then I was kind of like on my own and I was taking student loans, so definitely it’s like, “Okay, I can have a child. And like, you know, I can balance this with college”. And then when I started working, it’s like, “Okay, I’m not making enough money to pay my loans, how am I going to do this with a child?” So every step I took kind of validated that choice. And then I also got diagnosed with chronic migraines. So then I was like, “Oh no, definitely, this is just not going to happen.”

Zoë: Yes. I imagine those can be very debilitating. Have you always had those?

Jenny: So those started kind of later in life, like maybe in my thirties. I’m 43 right now and in my thirties, they started very mild, and then it just went like, wow, like…

Zoë: No, no. That’s horrible. Have you found any relief for them yet?

Jenny: yeah. So now I have Botox, I get Botox injections monthly, and then…

Zoë: That helps.

Jenny: Yeah, that definitely brought them down from like 22 days a month to like nine, nine days a month. So that’s better.

Zoë: Yeah. And then having to look after, well, anyone else, when you have a migraine like that, it’s incredibly difficult. So yes, I can completely see how you would feel like not having children was the right step for you. Tell me a little bit about why you, your family, moved from Colombia to the US.

Jenny: So my mother’s family have been living here for a long time. Like little by little. One uncle came first. He had children, he brought my grandparents and then my grandparents wanted to help all their children get here. And, by the way, my grandmother has seven children with my grandfather. And she had one child out of wedlock when she was really young. So that they will come here, they wanted to have us here. And then of course we wanted to be in America and learn English. And we were always like, “Oh, we’re going to go to Disney World and we’re going to have lots of Barbies”, and all this. So that’s why we came here. Also, my parents, they thought that if we came here, we will have a better chance to all go to college because in Colombia it is expensive and then you have to know people. So that’s kind of why we ended up moving to the United States and just to be with my mom’s side of the family.

Zoë: So, yeah, those opportunities just, they were not as possible in Colombia. And America was that opportunity for you guys to get a good education, hopefully, and get good careers.

Jenny: Yeah. And also I think for my mom, she, I’m not sure she was happy with my dad anymore. Like they’d been together for 17 years at the time. I think she saw this as an opportunity to just, kind of be on her own. My father had to sign some permissions for us to come to the US, of course. And it took us a while to convince him like, “Oh, let us go, let us go”. You know? And he finally did. And yeah, we moved here and, he kind of like, once when we moved here, like financially he said, he’s done. So my mom all of a sudden was like, “Okay, now I have to get a job”. She never worked before because he didn’t let her to work over there.

Zoë: So she wasn’t allowed to work – your dad wouldn’t let her work because I guess, did he want her to look after the house and look after children? Right. And then when she came to the US, did she think that he was going to help her financially? Like, did they have that conversation? Can you remember?

Jenny: No, I think she was pretty sure he was done once he signed the papers. Yeah. I think she knew that my family here, they knew that as well, so…

Zoë: Okay. So yeah. That must’ve been very scary for her.

Jenny: Yeah. I think she was really brave to just do that with four children and we were all teenagers, so that’s like a really difficult age to do that. I mean, that’s also another reason, you know, why I like – oh, you know, “I don’t know if this is something I want to do”, because I know that it was really hard for her. My grandmother as well, she had seven children and her relationship with my grandfather wasn’t the greatest. He kind of beat her up and did all these things. And then she couldn’t really leave because in those days, like back in the day in Colombia, a very Catholic country, how do you just leave with eight children?

Zoë: I can’t even, I can’t even imagine. The opportunities, obviously for those generations they just weren’t there. So your options were to get married, have a family, but having a family means you have even less opportunities if you even wanted to get an education or work, because if you’re the man, you’re the main caregiver. I’m assuming your grandad wasn’t helping much with the children?

Jenny: Yeah, yeah, no, same thing. And then he was kind of like an artist. He was a wood carver and he did really, really nice wood carvings, but my grandmother also worked outside of the house, which is crazy. She did a lot, she made sure that they bought a house in Columbia, which is also really difficult, and they bought a house for her whole family. And she basically did all of that with her hard work. So, again, for me, it’s like, I don’t have these really great examples of that in my life. Like, I see that it’s on the woman to take care of the children and take care of the family as sooner or later that ends up happening. So like, why would I do this? Like, this is something that is – I don’t want to be in this situation.

Zoë: No. Yeah, you mentioned your siblings, so they have children, right? They have kids. So I mean, maybe you can tell me a little bit about, what is their reaction to you not wanting children? How have they been?

Jenny: So, lucky for me, their tale has evolved a little bit. One of my sisters, the one after me – I’m the oldest – the one after me, she had children when she was 23. She had two daughters. They are teenagers now. I think maybe like 10 years ago when I was in my thirties, she would tell me these typical things that we all hear like, “Oh, you are so selfish”, and then, “Oh, you never know what true love is”, and all these things. And then now she’s more like, I think because her daughters are teenagers and they’re trying to find their own paths and everything, she’s more open-minded and she’s like, “Oh, you know, everybody should do what they want to do. Everybody should find their own path. Everybody’s life is different”. But at the same time, when I told her that I was going to be interviewed by you, she was like, “Oh, maybe you can rant about how much you hate children.”

Zoë: Wow. Really?

Jenny: I was just like, I was like, “I don’t hate children”. And they don’t realise that those things are hurtful.

Zoë: Incredibly hurtful. I mean, you’ve never expressed to her that you hate children.

Jenny: Yeah, exactly.

Zoë: For her to, I mean, just throw a statement like that out, of course that hurts because that has nothing to do with the reason why you don’t want children. And you know, if she apparently is kind of open to people following their path – and it all sounds great – but then to make that statement kind of is a bit of a tell, isn’t it? It’s like there’s still something inside of her that she’s not quite accepting?

Jenny: Yeah. What I think happens to her and to other women, and this might be subconscious, they don’t, because you choose another path that they are somehow resentful of. I think that happens because you know, especially when women end up having children that are unplanned… and yes, I know that you love your children. And I know that there is this relationship, this bond between mother and child that can never be broken. Just because you are resentful of women that don’t have children doesn’t mean that you don’t love your kids or that you regret it or anything like that.

But I think there is some of that. And that’s why, at the beginning, when I found your page, I saw all these quotes and, and I was at first, I was a little scared of putting them up. Like I share everything now. I’m like, I don’t care anymore, but I was a little bit skeptical because there are other women in my life that have told me, “Oh, you know, you’re going to change your mind” or, or, you know, “You should definitely do it”, so I’m like, okay, maybe these women are going to see this and still judge me, but I’m like, “Okay, I don’t really care what they think”. It’s like one thing also when I found your page and I think I told my boyfriend, I was like, “Oh, well, I found this great community. And these big posts that I want to share.” And I just want to kind of like, I feel like I’m coming out of the closet, even though everybody knows this about me in my family, all my friends know that I don’t want to have kids. This is, I have never hidden it from anybody.

Zoë: Yeah.

Jenny: So I have always been very vocal about it, but then I still felt like, “Oh, well I just want to do this”. And then I saw that childfree term and I was like, “Wow, this is who I want. I want to be childfree and I want to put it on my social media”. So I put it everywhere, like, oh, “living my best childfree life” because it felt so liberating.

Zoë: Right. That’s it. You hit the nail on the head. I think. And I think many of us can, we know we don’t want children and for years we can tell our friends and family, but there is also maybe something inside where you worry that someone’s going to be offended if you say this, or they’re going to take something that you say the wrong way. And actually when you can kind of get over that and realise that you aren’t doing anything wrong by embracing who you are and what you want in your life. And you can say that out loud and you can share things on your social media, you have the right to live your life, the way you want to live it. And I think you’re right, you get such power from that. So it means so much that you are living your best childfree life. That’s what I want every childfree person to feel like. You know you’ve got, did you say two sisters ?

Jenny: Yes.

Zoë: And they’re both mothers now, is that right?

Jenny: Yes. Yes. So the youngest one, she became a mother as a teenager. So she was still in, I think, high school. And you know, it was, it was very difficult for her. And you know, that’s something that I wouldn’t want to go through. In society, and I think this is in every country, not just in the U S or in Colombia, but, you know, like if you’re a teenage mother it’s kind of shameful or something that you’re not supposed to do. And then, you know, the rest of the family is like, oh, you know, like what’s going on there. Then it, I guess it is also because you have to make a lot of sacrifices when you’re a teenage mom, like you cannot finish school, you have to find a job. I mean, depending, right? Like I’m sure some teenage moms that have more better means, some better opportunities, can do better. But yeah, so it’s just really difficult. And, and to me it’s like, yes, like we were saying, society wants you to have children, but they also want to tell you when. So if you are too young, if you are too old. they judge you anyway, like no matter what you do.

Zoë: Oh, yeah. We’re judged. If we don’t have kids, we are abnormal, there’s something wrong with us. If we do have them, then like you said, we have to have them at the perfect time. We have to be the perfect mothers. We’re basically judged in every part of our lives. I mean, you told me earlier about your mother and your grandmother, I mean, how do they feel about your sisters having kids so young?

Jenny: I think that they, at first, it was kinda like a little bit of disappointment, but again, this is fuelled by society. And even at the time – I was in college when my first sister got pregnant and I didn’t, I wasn’t as open-minded as I am right now, but I did talk to my mom and I was like, “You know, this is not the end of the world, right? Like, this is not a reason to like, I dunno, maybe stop helping my sister, you know”, and she was like, “Oh, you know, you’re right”. And she definitely supported my sister. My sister lived with my mom until her daughter was about five. So my mom completely helped raise her and everything. And the same with my niece when I was like, “Mom, you know, it’s not the end of the world”, her situation is a little bit different because at the moment she’s not a single mom. She lives with a father who’s supportive, they’re together. She is 23. She’s not a teenager. So even if she was, it won’t matter because we shouldn’t be ashamed of these things. But there’s always disappointment. And I’m like, “Why do we do this?”

Zoë: Yeah. I mean, it always, it really annoys me that we shame young girls. But we don’t give them the skills and the, you know, I mean, sex education in schools is so woefully, it’s just inadequate. We don’t give young people the tools to look after their reproductive health. I mean, like we were saying, we shame women all the time. You get birth control too early, then you’re promiscuous, you’re giving it away, and let’s not forget as well, the, the pressures that young girls can be under from their peers, from boys in their life, there’s so much pressure put on them. So it really is heartbreaking that we do shame young girls for things like having kids young. I mean, we don’t give them the tools and the knowledge to take control of their lives. And we don’t empower young girls, you know – it’s like everything they do is for the boys. When I think back to when I was, you know, when I was a teenager, I completely didn’t matter. What mattered was that the guy that I was going out with, what mattered was their pleasure and were they happy? And I think back to those times, and, you know, I was lucky that nothing happened to me or I didn’t get pregnant accidentally, but I put myself in some terrible positions, because I just didn’t have that confidence in who I was and valuing myself. We just, we just don’t have that, you know?

Jenny: Yeah, and we have this society, you know, for example in the US, in many places, you know, it’s shameful to be a teenage mother, but it’s also shameful if you get an abortion. So then what are you supposed to do? And also in school, they they don’t teach you about birth control, and your boyfriend may not – “Oh, no, I’m not going to use a condom”. So they put it on the woman.

Zoë: Yeah, it’s rage-inducing. In the U S especially, you know as an outsider, when we hear about, you know, what’s happening in Texas and with abortion rights and the supposed pro-life movement who they love children so much that they’ll prevent women having abortions, but they don’t even women paid maternity leave, they don’t look after children when they’re born. It’s really shocking that we just absolutely do not support women at all but we want to control women completely. So it’s scary times, I imagine living in America right now for the people looking at Roe vs. Wade – will it be overturned? Women will have to travel further to get abortions and be able to control their reproductive health. It’s scary. Very scary.

Jenny: Yeah. It’s really scary. I feel bad for younger women because they may feel that they don’t know where to go or where to turn, especially in this political climate. Right now, you know, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we do know that the Supreme Court is mostly conservatives right now that are anti-abortion. So there’s just one way things can go and it’s terrible because what happens when you don’t have abortion and – you know, we all know this, we have heard many times is that let’s say if abortions happen, right? More women are going to die. Then again, the other thing that really scares me is the unwanted kids that come to this world and the mothers don’t want them, they grow up with all this trauma and all this pain. And it is proven even if these babies get adopted, they do bring this trauma with them. There’s this intergenerational trauma that is being established right now. And that’s also something that really scared me about having children. It’s like, what am I going to pass on from?

Zoë: From generations ago.

Jenny: Yeah. And I’m like that, that is just not fair. That is something that I don’t want to do. And people don’t like to talk about those things. Like, you know, sometimes when I see that there are some bad things happening in my family and I just say, “I’m glad I don’t have children, cause I don’t want to pass this on to my family”. It’s like, “Oh, what are you talking about?” Like, this is not, it’s just very dismissive of that in any sort of reality, you know?

Zoë: Absolutely. I think you are thinking about this very carefully. I mean, that’s what I hope – we can get to a point where we actually should encourage people to have more conscious choices and really, really consider what they want in their life. And obviously we need to give them, like I was saying, the tools and the knowledge to be able to take control of their reproductive health, and we need our governments to stop trying to control our bodies and take away our rights. There’s many sides to this and governments just control our choices, are not helping anyone. In fact, it’s hurting us and it’s not just hurting the women, it’s hurting the children that they have, because like you said, if we bring more unwanted children into this world, how is that, how is that a good thing? How will that be a good thing? Especially if we already have so many children that are looking for homes already. Bringing that kind of trauma to a child, it’s just not fair. So I hope we can get to a point where we start applauding people who are thinking so much about this. I’m very grateful that you have thought so long and hard about this and because of your decision, it’s clear that you have been able to focus on the things that you really wanted to focus on in your life. I mean, tell me a little bit about that, Jenny, obviously you speak English, you’ve had an education, you’ve gone to college and you’re the first person in your family to go to college. Is that right?

Jenny: Yeah. So I’m the first person to actually go straight from high school. I do have an uncle he moved here from Colombia. He went to college after he had kids already and he was married and he did that, but I’m the first one who goes straight from high school to college. I really wanted to do this from when I was back in Colombia, I was very focused. Like, you know, when I was in high school. I didn’t date. I was just like, boys are troubled or just going to keep me from all these things I want to do. So I wasn’t dating. Put blinders on and I’m like, “Oh, he might be cute. No, I’m not going to look that way.”

Zoë: Yeah.

Jenny: I was very focused. I was also very fortunate when I was in high school because when I was a freshman in high school, I met a teacher. So they put me in an AP Spanish course, which is advanced placement. So it’s like a college course that you take in high school. But since I spoke Spanish, I was fluent. They just kind of put everybody there. And for me, that was a great place to be because. I was reading, you know, like Latin American writers, Garcia, Marquez, Pablo Neruda, all these fabulous writers. And you know, I could write about it, I could talk about it in my language at the same time that I was learning English, which was very difficult. You know, just not, not speaking the language, it was hard, you know, because other kids looked at us like, like we were kind of weird and we were from another planet. It was hard to interact socially with some people. So being in that class was great. The teacher of the class was super impressed with me because the education in Colombia is slightly more advanced than here. So what I was learning freshman year, I had already learned in Columbia. And so this is ninth grade here, I had already learned in seven and eight grade over there. And she was really impressed because there was this, the Dalí picture, and it’s Voltaire, I was the only one in class I could say, “Oh, that’s Voltaire, you know, it’s a bust of Voltaire”. So she took kind of took me under her wing and she really mentored me throughout high school. And she helped me do a lot of things like that, that I couldn’t have done. So basically by sophomore year, I will take – no junior year. The last years of high school, I was taking APs on many other subjects, including English, which wasn’t even my first language. And I think I couldn’t have done any of that if it wasn’t for her, because she just pushed me to do better and to just not, not worry about the language barrier, just to keep learning and, and also, you know, I wanted to learn English fast because in some classes, I was like, “Oh, you know, I know this, I saw that last year and like, I can’t, I can’t express myself. I can’t say anything in English”.

Zoë: Yeah.

Jenny: So I learned really fast. And yeah. Then I went to college also in a really strange way. Not the way that most American kids do it. Like when they visit the schools, they do all these things. I couldn’t do any of that. I knew I wanted to be in Washington DC because I wanted to study international affairs. So I applied to a school and they just gave me a huge scholarship, but I also had to take some loans and nobody really explained to me that any of these things. I was like, “Okay, I’m just going to go. I’m going to take the loans.” And then when I came here, for me, it was great because at the university, there was housing, there was food and tuition and everything was covered by the loans and the scholarships and everything went straight to the school. I didn’t see any of those loans. And aside from that, I had two jobs so that I could buy books and I could buy clothing and go to the movies and all that. But, I don’t really even know, now that I think back, how I did this, because I’ve been in this country for forty years.

Zoë: Yeah. I mean I’m in awe. Jenny, that is incredible. I remember at the end of your writing to me, you know, you said that you aren’t a trailblazer who is changing the world. But honestly I teared up when I read that, because in my eyes you are a trailblazer. I mean, the strength and the courage to, you know, go after your dream. To learn English, study, go to college, work two jobs. I mean, that is incredible. So I really, I hope you know how incredible that is. And you are, I mean, you’re an inspiration to, I’m sure the people around you, in your life, you know – so I think you are a trailblazer.

Jenny: I really hope so. I really try to lead by example. Like I don’t lecture people, I don’t tell them what to do, but I just live my life the best I can. And I do want people to see that, you know, you have choices. There are so many places you can go. You know, going back to the loans. There were other kids in my school that didn’t have money and they didn’t go to college because they didn’t have money.

Zoë: Yeah.

Jenny: You know, they were scared of the loans. I wasn’t scared of the loans, so I’m still paying them. And, you know, later on like maybe 10 years after college, I went back to grad school because I wanted the master’s degree in public health. And I took more loans because, you know, there wasn’t a way that I could pay it on my own. You know, it doesn’t matter if it’s my whole life trying to pay this loan. So I did that. I went after those things.

Zoë: Yes. I mean, yeah, I think you’re right. I think you’ve got to go for it. If you have that opportunity, you have to go for it. I mean, the loans in the US from what I  hear are ridiculous, you know, and it’s really, really sad because like, you said, there are people who don’t have even the opportunity and maybe they do go for it and they have an accident or they hurt themselves. And, then they’re unable to work and then they still have to pay for all of these things. So it’s tough when you look at the US. I really hope that it can change. I hope that it can support young people more. But I’m so glad that you didn’t let it stop you, that you just, you had something set in your sights and you went for it and that’s so incredible, you know? I mean, so tell me about your work. So you work at the American Society of Hematology.

Jenny: Yeah. So what I do is called clinical practice guidelines and, and those are basically recommendations based on evidence, existing evidence about how to treat a disease. So for example, I work, of course, with hematological diseases. So let’s say sickle cell disease. So there will be a recommendation that says, oh, you know, we recommend for transplant in people who are teenagers or something like that, or young adults or something like that. And it compares both treatments, one or two treatments and it recommends – so what I do is basically kind of help manage that project. So it’s not super exciting, but I love research and I really fell in love with public health when I started working in public health, a long time ago. You know, I think that I love being behind the scenes. I don’t like to be in front of anything. So if I can be behind the scenes and help improve the health of people around the world, it’s just very meaningful to me. And I really love doing that.

Zoë: Yeah, that’s incredible. You are changing the world, you’re changing lives. So please don’t minimise yourself. Don’t minimise what you’ve achieved and what you’re going to achieve. Like, I think maybe as women, we can do this a bit. We can kind of go like, “Oh, you know I’m just doing my job. I’m just doing it”. It’s like, no, you need to own that because that is an incredible achievement. You know, do you think that your mother and your grandmother, they would’ve liked to have had more opportunities for, you know, in their life?

Jenny: Yeah, I think so. I mean, when we talk, they are super supportive of my choice. So my mom and my grandmother have never pressured me to have children, have never said hurtful things to me. Like, you know, “Oh, you don’t know what love is”, nothing like that. They have always said to me, you know, “Travel, study, you don’t need to get married, you don’t need to have children – just keep doing what you want to do”.

Zoë: So why do you think that the women in your life, you know, that in their generations, they didn’t have those opportunities and they, they kind of can see how maybe they can live their life through you. Maybe they can, if they can push their children to, you know, try a different way and to get that education and maybe their life will be filled with more opportunities. Do you think that’s why maybe your mother and your grandmother are, because they have that experience of what, it was like to have those opportunities taken away?

Jenny: Yeah, I really think so. I think that they see the value of like – I think my mom, she sees, you know, that I go places and I do things and you know… Like, for a very long time, I couldn’t really travel. I really wanted to travel, but I couldn’t travel because I couldn’t afford it. But when I was in grad school, I got a grant to go to Barcelona and do research there. And of course I was like, “Yes, I will do this”. And then when I was there, I went to Italy. And then after that, I started traveling, going places. And then I met my partner, he’s from Poland. So, you know, going to Poland and meeting his family there. And my mom is like, you know, in awe of these things that I do. And she’s, she feels so happy for me. And I think she really feels like, okay, she would have loved to have done these things when she was younger. And I feel like my grandmother too, she would have loved to, to have these choices and to do these things as well.

Zoë: Of course, of course. I mean, yeah, I think often in the childfree movement, it’s kind of looked at as like, “Oh, being childfree is like a lifestyle choice”, but actually for many of us not having children allows us to be able to continue with our dreams of maybe getting an education, getting the job that we want, because you know, we know that it’s bloody difficult when you have children and you can see maybe with your parents how, if you have a child, often it can mean the woman’s career has stopped or delayed a lot. That opportunities are lessened and, you know, I think your story is so important because often it, the childfree movement, is kind of looked at as like, “Oh, it’s just a lifestyle choice, just so you can have more disposable income”. And for you, it was actually, it certainly allowed you to build the life that you actually want to because, you know, not all of us are rich, you know, and we need to be able to save our money, or we need to be able to build our life in the way that we can and not having children can, you know, help that for a lot of us.

Jenny: Yeah, and children are expensive, you know. For me, going to college was really expensive like at the time, and I think it might still be. Nobody told me this. I had no one to tell me this, but I went to the most expensive school in the US at the time. It was $35,000 a year. So that is just outrageous. And nobody told me, this is how expensive this is. And you know, I did get 75% scholarship, but I still have to borrow $25 or $35,000 – it’s a lot of money. It’s still a lot of money. And nobody tells you these things. And if you pay this much for your schooling, as I did, and then you went to grad school and pay a similar amount for two years and you still have loans, and then you have a child or two or three, it’s like, you have to pay three times that much,

Zoë: Yeah.

Jenny: …because the whole point is like, when you have children, I think for many people is that they can have better things than you did, and that you could afford better things for them that you had. So if you cannot do that, it’s hard. Things are hard. You have to give up things that you want.

Zoë: Yeah. And that’s heartbreaking. Like, life is hard. Life is hard. And I think people seem to forget that, people seem to just assume that many of us are choosing not to have children because, you know, just for the lols – it’s like actually knowing that life is hard. So we all look after ourselves the best that we can look after ourselves and that shouldn’t be shamed or judged. And I wish every woman could live the life that they want, and if they wanted to have kids, I wish they had the support and means to have those opportunities. But sadly, we live in a world where, because of patriarchy, women are, we are oppressed and we’re held back in our careers and all of those things. So we have to look out for ourselves as best we can, I think. And I’m just so glad that you were able to continue your education and you know, it sounds like you’re living your dreams – it’s incredible.

Jenny: Yeah, I am. You know, I’m always thinking, maybe at some point I would go for a PhD – we’ll see, depends on the loans and all that. And my partner completely supports me. Like I mentioned, on my notes, he’s completely supportive of me being childfree. He does have two adult children but he doesn’t really want any more. So we’re good.

Zoë: Yeah, that works out. I was going to ask you, because obviously if he has two adult children, how, how do you find that as a childfree person? Is it, do you have a role in their life or actually, are they grown up that you don’t need to be so hands-on?

Jenny: Yeah. So definitely I don’t need to be hands-on. We have been together for about six years, six years now, so they were teens I met them. We never really warmed up too much. I’m closer to the son than I am to the daughter. This one is the oldest. But they’re adults now and the son is about to graduate college. He’s thinking of going to the UK for grad school. So they’re super independent. His daughter still lives with the mom. She comes around to us a few times in the month. But yeah, there definitely, I don’t need to do any…

Zoë: …hands-on.

Jenny: …parent thing, which is good.

Zoë: Yeah. That’s, it’s interesting. I mean there are many step-moms in the childfree community and you know, I’ve heard from some people that they are all like the outcast, if they are a stepmother, from certain childfree communities. And I just think it’s so ridiculous that we kind of all putting, you know, you’ve got to be a certain way to be childfree or, you know, there are so many different shades in this movement. And people have children with other partners and it’s like to be expected, especially as we get older, when you meet people that may have children. So, it’s always interesting to hear from all the childfree people who have stepchildren, or have older children in their lives, you know, how they feel about that roles and do they still consider themselves childfree, you know?

Jenny: Yeah, I think, I feel like I am childfree because you know, also don’t feel that much stepmom. But yeah, stepmoms are always demonised…

Zoë: Yeah, that’s right.

Jenny: …in stories and like everywhere, like.

Zoë: Yes. Sadly. Again, mothers and women, we’re judged again for being evil or just yeah, share something. So yeah, it’s so dumb, isn’t it? And, ultimately, we just need to get away from society labelling us as one thing. It’s like, if you wanted to have a role in their life, great, go for it. If you don’t want to, but you still can have a good relationship with them, that ‘s awesome. So it’s like we can build the life that we want, we’re grown adults and whatever works in each person’s relationships and families. You know, we should be allowed to do that and let’s stop judging everyone. So maybe a nice place to end at Jenny would be to ask you if you have any advice for other childfree folks out there.

Jenny: Yeah. So what I would say is, ou know, just go for your dreams and put your dreams first. It doesn’t matter what anybody else tells you. Also, you know, children are not for everyone. You are not weird or abnormal, there’s nothing wrong with you, if you don’t want to have children, if you don’t have that urge, if you don’t have that biological clock ticking – that didn’t happen to me, it’s never happened. So, you know, just be proud of yourself and, and go for your dreams.

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