Singer-songwriter LiLi Roquelin is living her best creative life. Back in France, teenage LiLi was discovering her passion for making and performing music, and daydreaming about one day moving to America. Now based in New York, she works as an award-winning indie composer and producer, something that’s more than a career – it’s LiLi’s life purpose. LiLi wants to inspire her young fans to follow their dreams, and if they don’t include children, to create fulfilling lives of their own. We talked about how expectations of women change from generation to generation, the kinds of social conditioning we’re still subjected to, and what a life without kids frees us up to do.
Listen to LiLi’s music at liliroquelin.com
LiLi: I create in a different way. I’m an artist, I create music like, I produce something out of me. There’s something really beautiful about women artists, because not only do we create in a feminine way, but I find with, you know, my moon cycles, and all the things are happening, were always happening. And I would always take advantage of that and create in those moments. I feel fulfilled artistically and I never had any sort of emptiness, never. You know, me, I want to empower women to find their life purpose, and find what they really want to do. And that’s the most important for me, is that I found something that was so passionate and so deep, that this is my life purpose and I don’t need to create a little human, you know?
Zoë: Welcome to We are Childfree, a podcast that celebrates childfree lives. I’m your host, Zoë, and each episode I’ll speak with another incredible guest about their decision not to have children, and what it’s meant for their life. Singer-songwriter LiLi Roquelin is living her best creative life. Back in France, teenage LiLi was discovering her passion for making and performing music, and daydreaming about one day moving to America. Now based in New York, she works as an award-winning indie composer and producer, something that’s more than a job – it’s LiLi’s life purpose. LiLi wants to inspire her young fans to find and follow their own purpose, and if that’s not raising children, to embrace other ways of creating. We talked about how expectations of women change from generation to generation, the kinds of social conditioning we’re still subjected to, and what a life without kids frees us up to do. Even though she doesn’t believe in legacy, LiLi is helping to create a world in which children raised as girls are free to live the life that is right for them, and she’s a wonderful role model for the childfree choice. As she says, don’t listen to grandma – listen to LiLi!
LiLi: I was probably around 15. I felt very independent early. And I knew that it wouldn’t be for me, I would see other young women on the street and think, “That’s not for me”. I had other passions, other plans, another life purpose that I want to do. And at the same time, though, I never blocked myself into never wanting children. I was like, “Okay, I know I don’t want children, but if I ever do, when I’m like in my early 30s or something, then well, now that I’ve done all this stuff, I can leave myself open to it.” I was just really compassionate to myself, because I wasn’t going to block myself from anything. And I think also because I know some women that say you’ll regret it, so I left myself open to it. And well, it just never came. As time went by, more and more, I knew that I didn’t want children. And that time just never came. And I knew it since I was 15.
Zoë: Being so young and realizing that you didn’t want them when people would ask you, “do you want kids?” were you very strong in your responses back or did you do the whole “I’m not sure – we’ll see what happens”?
LiLi: I had a different experience, I think, than other women. A lot of women that never wanted children, or didn’t have any, they’ll say, that there’s a struggle with their mother or their grandmother. But me, I must say that I was just really lucky that my parents never pressured me about getting married, having children. And that’s fine. I looked at it in a really interesting way, that is, while they pushed me to get a good education and job, stay employed, you know, do the things that I want, you know, those things that fulfill my life. And also how we were raised, my sister myself – my sister also doesn’t have children, which is very interesting. And you know how we were raised, we were actually not conditioned. And so when I was a kid, I was playing with Jem and the Holograms and that was my first singer inspiration. And you know, it was this independent musician and a total inspiration, right? But also, I had dolls and stuff, but my mum never pushed me to like, oh, you know, you have to take care of your baby doll. You know, that sort of thing? Yeah, you know, they let us do whatever we wanted to do. And it’s nice to have that freedom. So I also played with remote control cars and boats and some kind of lego, and you just built an entire city with it and it was so much fun, just so cool. And when I see this, I see myself as an example – and I know I’m not the only one – that when little girls are not conditioned, then you’ll have the space to think and decide what you want to do with your life, and that’s not necessarily having babies, and raising them and spending so much time and a huge portion of your life and energy, you know, on raising children. So that’s how I see it. I feel that if all the little girls were not conditioned, then we see more and more how much when they grow up they will decide, you know. It’s okay if they decide, you know, that one little girl, later she wants children, but that’s because she really wants it, and not because she was conditioned or pushed about it.
Zoë: Exactly. Yeah, that’s the thing. I remember when I was growing up, I guess I never even thought there was an option not to have kids. It was only later in like my 30s when I was like, hang on, I actually don’t need to have kids here. But you are really kind of, you know, trained from a young age that that is what women do. They have babies you know, they get married and they settle down, and it was such a relief to kind of realize oh, I can actually go a different path. I don’t need to do what society is telling women, that they were put on this earth to do – like, no, sod that –
Zoë: – I want a different choice. And also I hope that lots of young girls realize younger, you know, I would love them to realize that you don’t need to do this. It’s not like it’s, you have to have kids otherwise you’re not a real women which is often this kind of weird attitude you can come into contact with – where we aren’t real women if we don’t have children, you know, we’re not fulfilled if we don’t have kids and it’s such a, you know, ridiculous assumption. I mean, the women who I’m talking to are doing amazing things with their life, because, yeah, you have time, you have all of these creative outlets, and it’s amazing what you can do when you can follow your passions and your dreams. So what about the expectations for women, are they different in France and the US, do you think?
LiLi: Oh, that’s interesting. I never really looked at that because, you know, my immediate family, they kind of let you just live your life. And, um, if I was ever criticised it happened more here in the US than in France, that’s for sure. And mostly by women that follow the religious script that I call it, and then they’ll judge you over the fact that you’re not a Christian. And, you know, that’s another topic right there. So yeah, I think probably more in France people probably will just leave you alone, more easily, If you don’t have kids…
Zoë: Yeah, I think it’s similar here in Germany. I mean, Berlin is kind of like, the New York, where it’s lots of young creative people. So there is never really any kind of pressure on you as such, but Germany is, you know, it does have this kind of government that’s all about the Christian upbringing with family values and all of this. So it depends where you live for sure, on how you’re going to be treated by doctors. And, you know, I don’t know what it’s like, I assume in New York, it’s pretty liberal and doctors aren’t kind of, you know, gynecologists, aren’t pressuring you – sometimes I experienced that here in Berlin. Do you get that as well?
LiLi: I did. I actually, there’s one person that asked me once. I’m gonna say it was my women’s doctor, OBGYN. Actually, she gave me a whole speech.
Zoë: Oh god.
LiLi: That’s not for me. And I find this coming from a doctor, especially in the US, it’s just kind of weird. Because it’s almost like you’re looked at as if your uterus is a cash machine, because you see that, in the US, pregnancies and deliveries, they can cost between, I’ve heard, $5,000, $30,000 up to $200,000, with insurance. The US healthcare is ridiculous. You know, no, I’m not gonna go and give you money.
Zoë: That’s crazy. Can you remember what the doctor said, what the speech was about?
LiLi: Oh, she’d asked for, like, a few years in a row. And she was, “So you know, do you and your husband plan to have any children?” I was like, “No, no, that’s not, you know -“, and then she asked again, and she said, “Well, you know”, and then she gave me the speech: “Oh, you know, when women get closer to their mid 30s and late 30s, and this happens and that…” I was like, “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just biology and it’s happening and I’m not going to freak out about it, because, you know, I don’t want to have children”. It was okay, but I came out of there like, oh my god, that made me feel so uncomfortable.
Zoë: Yeah, I’ve definitely had that from a doctor, a gynecologist definitely, and it’s weird. It’s like, “I’ve told you what my wishes are, so why, why are you asking me again about this?” It’s like, doctors, they don’t believe that we’re telling the truth here. And, especially when you’re married, it’s kind of like, “Oh, but you surely you should be having kids, you know?” And when you say like, “No, both of us don’t want children”, it’s kind of like there’s a shock from the doctor of like, that doesn’t make – that does not compute. Which is so so crazy. It’s like, well, if you’re not wanting kids now, I mean, you’re not going to have children now. Just in case you might change your mind in, you know, five years’ time, when you can’t have kids. It’s like, I am definitely not gonna have kids unless I am 100% in it and want to have these kids. It’s such a weird, weird attitude for doctors to be like, “Oh, but you might change your mind”. So, so bizarre.
LiLi: Yeah, I think this idea that a woman you know, a woman should have children or a woman is less than a woman if they don’t have children. I think this idea comes from two or three generations ago. And you know, just without being a sociologist – that I’m not – but you know, the truth is that back then women, two or three generations ago, they were not independent, they didn’t have the right to even try to think about what they wanted to do. They had to depend on the marriage with the wealthy man to have a good life and survive. And their duty, their role in life, was to have and raise children. And they didn’t have contraception options like we have now. And so they would have between five and 15 children. So then you have these generations that, you know, they don’t understand what’s happened to women, how much we’ve evolved since the 1960s. You know, since the contraception and then women said, you know, suddenly we’re like, oh, then they were working and they were feeling fulfilled in the workplace. You know, now we are almost, not quite right, but we’re almost equal to men – we’re more equal to men than we were three generations ago for sure. And I think these old ladies, they try to pass on the message and pressure generation after generation, the women to do what they were doing, but what they were doing just doesn’t fit us now and the younger women coming in, it fits even less. And they feel for them that it was what they had to do, because that’s all they had to do. They never like took care of themselves or asked themselves, “What do I enjoy doing?” I’m not saying that all women should not have children – there are some women that really, really have a passion for raising children, and yeah, I feel OK with that as long as this is what the woman truly wants to do.
Zoë: Right? Exactly. It’s like, everyone should be allowed their own decision without judgments. So that’s all childfree women are asking is, you know, to be able to have autonomy over their bodies. If they don’t want kids then please let us make decisions that help us. I mean, last year, I had a huge fibroid that was causing me massive amounts of pain and bleeding, and it all came to a head and I had to have an emergency operation. And luckily, the surgeon asked me, just you know once, “Do you want children?” And I said no, and then I was able to have a hysterectomy to make sure that I would never have fibroids again. And I know from friends of mine who, they don’t want children and they do have issues with heavy periods or pain, but trying to get doctors to accept that they do not, that they would love to have a hysterectomy. They wouldn’t get it, like it’s not gonna happen. Unless there’s like some major emergency or unless you’re like, much older, and it really, really angers me, you know?
LiLi: Yeah, it’s almost like their job is to make sure that the reproductive organs of women, that they still work. It’s almost like they are responsible for that. But you know, if the population on the Earth was very tiny, and if we had to, what I call “breed”, to make sure the human race would survive, maybe they would, I mean, I might understand why the doctors would feel that way. But it’s the complete opposite, you know. My opinion is that the Earth is overpopulated, and I feel, for me, it’s also a bit of a natural selection. OK, you feel, you know, you don’t want children, for the things we want to do. But also we may know something unconscious, where we know that the planet is overpopulated and that’s not good. So, sometimes that’s an instinct too, you know.
Zoë: Mm hmm.
LiLi: I also agreed to do this interview because I hope a lot of my friends and, you know, younger fans that listen, I hope to empower them. If they feel they don’t want to have children, they have the choice to not have children in their lives, and this is where we are as women in 2020. Do not listen to grandma, you know?
LiLi: Mama’s now, you know, this young girl of 17 maybe the mom is already pretty open-minded. But the grandma and the great grandma, they don’t get it. Just don’t get it. And I find that so there’s some people that would be like, on some girls as they are, you know, even if it’s expensive, just have one. Just have one. And, you know, to me, I’ve never had what they call the “baby crazy” phase. Yeah, I mean, I’ve just never had that. And I attribute that to the fact that I create in a different way. And I’m an artist, I create music like, I produce something out of me. And I find that women that are artists, I find that there’s something really beautiful about women artists, because not only do we create in a feminine way, but I find that, you know, my moon cycles, and all the things are happening, are always happening. And I would always take advantage of that and create in those moments, and it’s so interesting to see that and I feel, you know, I feel fulfilled artistically and I never had any sort of emptiness. No, never, and I think, a lot of women will have children, because they didn’t research inside themselves, what they truly want to do, and they think, “Well, then I do that”, and then, you know, it doesn’t go smoothly?
LiLi: But you know, me, I want to empower women to find their life purpose, and find what they really want to do. And I think that’s the most important for me, is that I found something that was so passionate and so deep, that this is my life purpose and I don’t need to create a little human, you know?
Zoë: Exactly, exactly, exactly. We can create our, you know, our own babies, whether that’s with our passion or through our work or through our friendships, through our marriages… whatever it is. It’s like we can show love and we can show passion and feel fulfillment through so many different avenues – we aren’t, we should not be put in a box, which is what obviously society wants to do. You know, it’s like you are a woman, you should be having kids and that is your purpose. And when you go against that, oh, god forbid you go against that – something must be something wrong with you, you know, If you do that? And this is why, obviously through the series, I want to show people that that is complete and utter bullshit. I mean, yeah, what about the idea of leaving behind a legacy? Because some people always, you know, always kind of like, “Oh but when you’re gone, you’re gone”. I mean, I have my own thoughts on that. But yeah, what do you think about this whole thing?
LiLi: Oh yeah, yeah, this is, that’s interesting. I see it, oh, my god, I see it in a very realistic way. And this is – it’s a myth. Legacy is a myth, because what happens, truly, with biology, when you know a man and a woman have a kid, you don’t know what genetic materials will come out. You don’t know how the child will come out, you don’t know what he’s going to express. You know, the genetic material might really not be what they think would be their legacy. And even if they think they can control the child, whether it’s to make the child do what they want it to do, and have control over the child, and, because they feel that they failed their lives, this is all unconscious and they will never admit that. And they’ll just push it to be better than them and they’ll live through that kid’s life. You know, this puts a lot of pressure on anybody. And often the child would just end up doing something completely different. Or, because they’ll be traumatized by the parents, they might even do drugs.
Zoë: Mm hmm.
LiLi: You don’t know what’s gonna happen to this kid, maybe he’ll just run away and never talk to his family, or be just so tired of that pressure, then just do something else, you know. So the legacy is just not there. And it’s a bit like, that reminds me of some things I’ve heard when they’d be like, “Oh, but who’s gonna take care of you when you’re old? And who’s gonna pay for your nursing home?” Wow, and then they call childfree women selfish, right? I’m like, you are saying that you want to have a child to have this child’s life, dedicate his or her whole life to you, and then be your free nurse, right? And then pay for your nursing home. So it’s an investment, and that is more than selfish. It’s self-centered, it’s narcissistic, it’s way worse than selfish. And us women that are childfree, we’re actually very realistic when we think about, you know, “Oh, I don’t want to make a child endure my, you know, my craziness”. We’re actually more realistic about what we can do and what we think a child should deserve. I’d rather take care of myself first and then be available for people that need help or, anything like this, and through my art I get to inspire millions of people. And you know, I participate in nonprofits for children, like I wrote and made a song for an organisation that works to prevent children trafficking. I think I have so much compassion for children that this is a part of my decision, and it’s not because I’m unloving, I think it’s the opposite.
Zoë: And I mean, that’s the thing when women, when we decide not to have children, we do have more time to, yes, follow our passions and our dreams. But also you can do things like help, help people in need volunteer, do more charity work, all of these things that, let’s face it, when you have children, and you’re working a full-time job, do you have lots of spare time and energy to, to give back to the community and the world at large? Like, I don’t think it’s that easy. So I mean, that’s the great thing about, when women decide not to have children, we can also, do things to better this world and our community in other ways. Having kids is not, it doesn’t have to be the only way that we give back to this world. If anything, I feel like also not having kids is giving back to this world, right? So do you think you will ever regret this decision then?
LiLi: No, absolutely not. Because you know, I think that regret – you regret only things that you wanted to do.
LiLi: So I cannot regret something that I didn’t want to do, you know. And I would have regretted it if I had had children. And this I know 200%. And, you know, as I went through my 30s and stuff, I just feel so grateful every day that I did not have a child, and my husband feels the same way.
LiLi: We just, sometimes that we see how people struggle, and I see some of my friends’, oh my god, like situations, and then I feel bad for the child too, because sometimes you see that, like, oh my god, I care for them. And this is, you know, relates to having compassion.
LiLi: And I’m like, “Oh my god, I’m so glad”. And to see a couple with kids, and we see them struggling, or what is it going to be for college for them, you know, this and that. And healthcare… I’m like, I’m just so glad that we did the right thing, and decided to never have children.
Zoë: Absolutely. God yeah, I think that’s it – I never ever think, “Oh, I wish I’d had a child”. You know, it’s, every year that passes, it’s just more concrete that I made the right decision, right? And I think, yeah, every woman, when they make that decision, it’s like we know our own bodies and our own minds.
LiLi: Mm hmm.
Zoë: Well, I think that’s a really great place to stop there, LiLi. Thank you so, so much. This is so, so amazing to catch up. And yeah, I really loved our chat. So thank you.
LiLi: Thank you. Thank you for having me.