Fiona Finsbury is an opera singer, yoga teacher, life coach – and a big believer in the power of intention. One day, she sat down to plan her goals for the next 5, 10 years, and children just didn’t appear in that future. Realising that motherhood was only one of the many paths open to her changed Fiona’s whole outlook on life. Join us as we talk about embracing your choices, supporting others as they do the same, and leaving behind a different kind of legacy.
Find out more about Fiona at fionafinsbury.com
Fiona: With every single decision you make in your life, there is the possibility of regret. Because, for every path you take, there are hundred paths or more that you didn’t. And, because I’m a musician, the amount of people that say to me, “I regret not learning the piano”. I think there is the possibility that I might look back on my life and go, “Oh, gosh, I could have done that differently”. And I have to make my peace with that, you know?
Zoë: Welcome to We are Childfree, a podcast about childfree women and the lives we lead. I’m your host, Zoë, and each episode I’ll speak with another incredible woman about her decision not to have children, and what it’s meant for her life. Today’s guest is the multi talented Fiona Finsbury. She is an opera singer, yoga teacher and life coach. She’s also a big believer in the power of intention. One day, she sat down to plan her goals for the next 5, 10 years, and children just didn’t appear in that future. Realising that motherhood was only one of the many paths open to her, changed Fiona’s whole outlook on life. This conversation was so enlightening. Fiona really got me thinking about how, when you choose one life path, you’re turning your back on others, and that always leaves open the possibility of regret. We reflected on imagining a childfree future with your partner, leaving a different kind of legacy, the kind of judgments faced by childfree women and mothers alike, and how we can best support each other. Introducing the super thoughtful and talented Fiona Finsbury:
Fiona: Growing up, I, like many of my contemporaries, grew up playing with dolls and watching the stories about the Princess and the Prince and the happy ending and the children at the end, and you know, yeah… So, whether it’s nature or nurture, I grew up just accepting and believing that that’s what happens next, you know, you go to school, then you might go to university get a job, then you get married and have a baby – that path, which is very much a path, and is one path in, you know, a multiverse of paths. And so, growing up, I always thought that I would have children, and I didn’t think twice about being about people in my family or at school or wherever, you know, in my work saying, “when you have kids”. I didn’t think twice about it because I thought that’s just what you do. You know, that’s what we do. And, and I don’t know that there was a specific moment. I remember thinking to myself, like, is this what I want? Is that really what I want? And then a huge wave of relief when I thought, “I don’t have to have a baby”.
Zoë: I’ve been there, yeah.
Fiona: Actually, I remember, once I realized how powerful intention is, and that I can achieve my goals, and I can bring about the things I want to bring about in my life… And I think hitherto, I’d been brought up with a very lack mentality and an idea that like, some people have that but that’s not for you. And once I got my head around the idea that I can create, and you know, I can live If the life I choose – which, I want to acknowledge, comes from a place of enormous privilege – once I’d got my head around that, I started to think, “what is it I want?” and started writing out, you know, over the next 5 years, the next 10 years, and I’d written a few things I wanted to do and children didn’t feature in that timeline – just happened not to be there. Yeah, and to think, I don’t have to, and to think that there’s another path and there’s another way, it really expanded my horizon – really made me go “Wow, I can do so many things. And that is one thing of many, many things that could happen.” And the other side to it is that I’ve been waiting for this maternal instinct to appear in a cloud of sparkles and dust. I’ve been waiting for that feeling, because I believe that creating and crafting humans is a decision that deserves a lot of thought, a lot of contemplation and planning and intention.
Zoë: What you’re saying, it rings so, so true to my own experience as well. I mean, I was the same as you, in that there was never really a defining moment, and it kind of just crept up on me. You know when I thought about my past as well when people would ask me, I didn’t ever say, “Oh, no, never never having children”. Because, you’re right, you kind of are told from society, you know, this is what you do. This is this is the path that you take and you don’t even know or realize you can question that and decide to take another route. And when you realize that this is your life, this is your experience and you can do something different, it is such a relief. So I feel you when you said that it was a really amazing moment to kind of accept that. Yeah, this isn’t the route that myself and many other women want to take. And it’s okay, it’s okay to not take that route. So what about your husband then, Danny? Because this is something that obviously, it’s a very personal thing for each woman, and it’s complicated when a partner comes into the picture. Had you guys discussed children, or was this something he also agreed with you on?
Fiona: I think for Danny, again, like me, he just always assumed it would happen at some point, and hadn’t given much thought to it. And when we sat down and talked, I think it took him some time to get used to the idea, because he had imagined this future in which he was a father. And so we had discussions where, you know, I said, “Well, what’s important to you? Because if that is more important, if being a father is more important to you, then that’s something we need to talk about in terms of our future because, yeah, you know, I don’t want to take that from you or be the reason you don’t have it.” And there was never really an ultimatum and never a cross word. It was more of taking time to sit with the ideas, and what the future looks like. And the more that we discussed it, the more we came to the understanding and the agreement that we wanted to be childfree. And we wanted our love and our love together to be the family, and we consider ourselves to be a family, and that the most important thing to us is each other and holding on to each other and nourishing and cherishing each other.
Zoë: Yeah, it’s like people have this weird attitude that you know, your family is only with children which drives me insane. Because it’s as if, if you don’t have a child in your relationship somehow you can’t be a family, and I think that’s really short sighted because, you know I think of myself and, James, my husband, and my dog, we are absolutely a family. And it’s kind of rude for people to say that without this thing in your life, you don’t have a family. I mean, have you ever really been criticized for the decision?
Fiona: Yeah, there have been a few moments in my life over the years, where it’s been very confronting, I think both for me and for the person asking. I used to get very, very defensive about it, and very just thinking “how dare you?” Like, “what do you know about me?” kind of thing. And that’s just where I was at, with the journey of it, because to me, I was professionally outraged that people would want to assume that it was, you know, physically and mentally possible for me – because that’s a huge consideration. And, you know, how do they not know that Danny and I’ve been trying for nine years, and are very desperate? Because I would be very cautious to ask any woman about it because of that, that nature and that is one possibility and it can be very, very upsetting for people. I would also be furious that the status quo is that you are assumed childbearing unless proven, or self declare, or you come out. It’s similar in a way to you being assumed straight until you come out as gay. That’s me being angry at a person who said it when really I’m just angry. I was angry at the world going like, “Why is this, why can’t it be the norm, and why do people just assume you want children?” And the reason it’s the norm is because it has been ever thus, for hundreds of years. And the women without children are portrayed in literature like witches, evil witches who murder their stepdaughters, or like spinsters and sad, Miss Havisham, you know?
Fiona: I don’t know about you, but I’m in my wedding dress right now….
Zoë: Cobwebs everywhere…
Fiona: …surrounded by some mouldy food.
Zoë: I mean, yeah, it’s how we roll. Yeah, the way women who choose not to have children are depicted is a very lonely existence. And I mean, to me couldn’t be further from that. I mean, without having that responsibility and that stress and that pressure, you can do a lot with your life. And another thing that people will say is that women are selfish if they don’t have children. I think it’s another crazy assumption, just people making assumptions about other people’s lives, which is why I really wanted to do this series because I just think no one should even be asking anyone about such personal things in life. You know, even strangers will ask, you know, will criticize your decision or ask questions. And people you know – it can come from all areas sometimes, which is disappointing. But it’s like you said, it’s society. This is what we’ve done for hundreds of years and going against it, it puts you as an outlier, as a bit of a weirdo. But I do think obviously, it will change – I mean, more women are choosing not to have children, and with the way the world is going, I mean, with this whole, COVID-19, it’s a scary time in the world. So I feel like more women will be coming out as not wanting to add that extra pressure and stress into their lives unless they really, really, really want children and you’re right. You have to really think about such a decision in your life that changes everything. And I think I always knew if I wasn’t 100% in, I would never ever take that risk, you know, whereas maybe some people, they do it and they hope it’ll change their mind. And I just think, well, that’s a big risk.
Fiona: Yeah. And that’s interesting. Actually, you changing your mind, that is something that people have said to me over the years, and someone said it quite recently, someone who I know very well. And you know, my clap back – you know, when you imagine yourself snapping right back – would have been, well, you know, are you going to change your mind about the child that you’re having?
Fiona: Now, you can turn around and ask the same question. It’s very strange that people would assume that you can definitely change your mind about wanting them. But what about if you’ve already had them?
Zoë: Oh my gosh. And I imagine there’s quite a lot of people who have them and do regret it. I mean, I know a few friends, and they never realized how difficult it really was going to be. And I think obviously, it’s very, very difficult for a woman to ever admit that they regret that decision of having a child, which I also think is rubbish. I think it’s really hard for women to have a baby, bring up a child in this world – women don’t get the support they need. So I think I’m not surprised that many people probably do regret that decision, but it’s something that is such a taboo subject – a woman ever admitting that having a child has anything but the most magical experience in the world, which we all know is rubbish. You know, we all know there’s ups and downs to every decision we make. Do you think you will ever regret the decision then? I’m thinking, no, from what you’re saying.
Fiona: I think, with every single decision you make in your life, there is the possibility of regret. Because, for every path you take, there are hundred paths or more that you didn’t. And, because I’m a musician, the amount of people that say to me, “I regret not learning the piano”. I think there is the possibility that I might look back on my life and go, “Oh, gosh, I could have done that differently”. And I have to make my peace with that, in the same way that someone who has children might look back on their life and think, “That could have been different”. I want to live my life in a way that I’m proud of myself and that I’m loving to others, and I make music, and travel, and am brave, and create good things in the world and I want to leave a legacy. The legacy that I want to leave is to leave behind enough money so that kids who want to train in music can afford to if they can’t.
Fiona: Those are the things that are important to me – to spend time with my husband and people I love and, yeah, just live in a way that I can look back on and be proud of. And so far I think I am doing the work in order to look back and be happy and be proud.
Zoë: Yeah. That’s what I think everyone should do, right? I mean, that’s all we can really hope for, for a great life. And that’s such an amazing thing, because the idea of leaving behind a legacy is another thing that people get so stuck up on. And I think it’s such a wonderful idea to help other people after you have died, to let them live the life that they want to lead, you know? So why do you think there is a stigma attached to women who choose not to have children?
Fiona: You know, on the very basic level, the biological argument, being that your body wants you to do it, or your natural instinct is to repopulate so, so at the very base, we’re talking evolutionary, level, I wonder if there is a natural kind of subconscious resistance to not procreating. Because you know back in the day, we actually needed to procreate at an exponential level, and not doing it would be dangerous; it might mean that you wouldn’t have enough soldiers to fight the, you know, the neighboring tribe.
Zoë: Yep, yep, yep, exactly – more bodies in your tribe is a good thing.
Fiona: Yeah. And I think tradition plays a large part of it. And religion, and even those of us who aren’t religious are deeply influenced by religion and religious structures, and, you know, cultural ideas and you know, stories in history and in literature, in fact and fiction. There’s so much about the sanctity of the family unit and the idea of women and their purpose and the mother earth, and pregnant women being worshipped and – which they should be! It’s incredible what mothers do. And I wonder if we’ve taken it a little bit too far, in that the other option is fearful for some people. And it is fear that divides us, the fear is the thing that makes people phobic, literally – homophobic, transphobic, these things are because people are afraid of the unknown.
Zoë: Right, mm hmm.
Fiona: And this, being childfree, this choosing the other path – I wonder if it’s about the unknown and not understanding that choice, or being fearful of it or critical of it.
Zoë: That makes sense to me. I mean, I think when people find out you don’t want children, it’s almost as if they think you’re telling them their way of life is wrong or what they are doing is wrong. Instead of just going, “Okay, you live your life, how you would like, I’ll live my life how I would like and we are all happy” -you know, that’s what I think should happen. But obviously, it feels like there’s a lot more resistance when you kind of say, “I’m not going to do what you’re doing”. And there’s a lot of assumptions about the reason behind that as well. I think people’s imagination can go wild. And somehow you’re thinking that, you know, if you have a child, you’re stupid or you’re just falling into the patriarchy and doing what you’re told to do. And it couldn’t really be further – it’s that women should be able to decide what they want to do in this life and no one should judge them, right? And we just get so much judgment for having kids, not having kids, it comes from all areas. My sister in law, she has a child and she tells me she gets funny questions about like, when’s the next one coming?
Fiona: Oh god!
Zoë: Yeah, you can’t just have one child. That’s kind of selfish because then they don’t have a friend, and it’s like, oh my god, can we just let up on –
Fiona: Live and let live, you know?
Zoë: Right, right?
Fiona: It’s a similar thing in that, so I’m a vegan. I sometimes feel when people ask me about being vegan, and often there’s a lot of defensiveness that comes my way, you know? And my understanding of that is “Oh, so me saying I’m a vegan makes them think I’m then criticizing their life choice”. And it’s this thing about life choices… You know, I’m quite nervous for some of my dearest friends even to hear this podcast because I have a fear that, they might think… because some of my dearest friends in the world have children, right? Will they think me, you know, outing myself as a childfree woman is in some way a criticism of them?
Fiona: And really I just support them and their decision, and their life choices 100%, and I’m so behind them, and yet I do have a fear that they might think I’m, I’m somehow commenting on them. When really, you know, feminism is about choice. Feminists have fought for women to be able to choose what they want to do with their lives, as they say. And so, my life choice is not a criticism of yours, as your life choice is not a criticism of mine. And really, let’s celebrate one another and let’s support one another.
Zoë: Absolutely, yeah, we need as much support as we can get, right? I mean, it’s always that tricky thing when you have friends and they have kids, and do I need to explain to them that this series isn’t anything negative against their choices? But then I know that if they’re true friends, they know that I love them. I respect that decision and if they are true friends they will do the same for me, and that there is no criticism coming towards them. Any criticism I ever have is towards society as a whole about telling women to be, to put us in a box of doing you know, this one thing. That’s what I actually have criticism for, which comes more from, like you said, religion and the patriarchy – what women are meant to be on this planet for. Yeah, true friends, they will understand you and realize that this is just not something you see in your life. And no one should do something, you know, this is a huge thing to have a child, no one should take it so lightly, because you may do it and it may mess up everything, especially if you’re not 100% in it. You know, the women that I know that are having kids, always knew they wanted them, as well my sister. The friends that I’ve got that have children or are pregnant, they always said they, they need to do this there is no kind of question about it. And I’m like, “Brilliant, do it. I will be the best auntie I can be”. But yeah, there is always that in the back of your mind, “I hope people I think of as friends aren’t going to think I’m saying something negative about their way of living”, which, it’s not about that.
Fiona: And I and I want to thank you for making this podcast and creating this space because, in giving women the opportunity to talk about it, you are helping to normalise it, and normalising destigmatises it, and you know, you are a part of the change, which is awesome. So thank you.
Zoë: Oh, I’m, hey, this is amazing for me to just be able to meet other women like me. I mean, I did this because I just wanted the opportunity to change people’s perspectives and, in doing it… I mean, the best thing about doing this series is about meeting these women and, like yourself, they’re strong, independent, they’re creative, they know their own minds, are giving, loving…. So it’s wonderful to meet other women like me, and when I have messages from people telling me that they don’t feel alone anymore because of what they’re reading from the series. I know that this is the right thing, that we need this. Because no one should feel alone or ashamed. I know that people, they have a much more difficult kind of experience when they tell people they don’t want children. Everyone has different, you know, friends, family, and careers. So, really, having this safe space is just somewhere that I hope that women can – they can come to listen to different experiences and know that they’re not alone. So this is what is giving me joy right now, to do this. So I’m so thankful that you came and you shared your story as well, Fiona, it was super, super interesting and eye-opening. So thank you.
Fiona: Thank you so much.