For Gateway Women's 10th Anniversary in April 2021, I was thrilled to be interviewed by Berenice, Sarah and Michael of The Full Stop Podcast on what those ten years have been like, what has changed for me, and for the childless community in that time, and what my hopes and dreams are for the next decade. This is a very honest episode in which I reflect on some of the behind-the-scenes challenges of creating Gateway Women, and why turning it into a financially and culturally sustainable organisation that will outlast me is so important to me. You can find the full episode on the Full Stop Podcast website, or find it wherever you get your podcasts. You can also connect with the fabulous Full Stop Podcast team at: www.thefullstoppod.com, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. And if you have a story that you'd like to tell about childlessness, please reach out to them to be on the show - they will take very good care of you.
FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW
JODY: One of the things I really wanted with Gateway Women was to create something that was sustainable so that it would outlast me. One of my dreams, coming up to a 10-year anniversary, it’s like ‘Wow! That is happening.’ I really wanted to create something for the next generation of childless women, for those young women, that could have been any of our daughters, who find themselves childless, not by choice. I don’t want there to be nothing for them. And that’s one of the reasons why I keep going.
MICHAEL: Welcome to The Full Stop Podcast, with Berenice Smith from Walk In Our Shoes, Sarah Lawrence from After the Storm, and me, Michael Hughes from Married and Childless. If this is your first time here, our podcast is centred around supporting the childless not by choice community. Our aim is to be a focal point for the community and with all our special guests show you how to manage your grief and the issues specific to us, and by example show you a full and happy life can be had without those children we dearly wanted.
MICHAEL: Now in this episode, we are so excited to welcome back Jody Day and help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the juggernaut that is Gateway Women. So please, sit back and join us on this ride. And we hope you are as enamoured with Jody and her wisdom as we are.
SARAH: So your first blog post – 10 years ago – Jody, how does that feel?
JODY: It feels pretty unreal. It feels like a lifetime ago, and it feels like yesterday. I can really remember, I have a physical memory of pressing publish, of clicking that key to press publish and thinking, well, maybe one person will read it. Maybe someone will get it. And then, over the next few days, or the next day, getting my first piece of PR, and other bloggers and people starting to write, starting to contact me, women saying, “How do you know the exact words in my head?” and just that sense of shock, actually, at not being alone, when I felt so alone. It was amazing.
JODY: To think, over the 10 years, what Gateway Women is now, I didn’t have a plan for this. I didn’t plan to be childless. I didn’t plan to create Gateway Women. I kept doing one thing after another, and things turned into what they turned into. I can’t quite believe it, and I have to get used to the fact that what Gateway Women means to other people and what my work means to other people, because I find that quite hard to take in, because I’m just doing what I do. And I don’t always realize the impact it has.
BERENICE: You did the course with John Williams and The Ideas Lab. It’s fantastic planning.
JODY: I did the 30 day challenge with him, as part of Screw Work, Let’s Play, and my intention was to build the blog, post my first blog, and get a public talk booked. That was my 30 day challenge. And I didn’t deliver a public talk, I think it was. I managed to get the talk booked and the website built and launched. It was really helpful, having that accountability. I was also doing a mentorship program with John Williams, a different John, which was like an inspired entrepreneur for people who were creating heart-centred businesses. So that was going on in the background, as well.
JODY: They both really helped me because I was at such a low point in my life at that point. My marriage had broken down. The relationships after my marriage hadn’t worked out. I was dealing with the fallout of narcissistic abuse from a partner who had also torpedoed my career. So financially, emotionally, spiritually, physically, in every way, I was at rock bottom. It is not the place where you think, hey, I’m going to start a global organisation! Getting out of bed was a win for the day. And I had no confidence at all. Childlessness really took my confidence from me because it felt like every decision I’d made in life had ended me up in the worst place I could possibly imagine and that none of the things that had got me through difficult situations before seemed to work. I’d been through quite a lot of challenges in my life, and I had kind of come through them. And yet, nothing seemed to help me through the devastation I was experiencing around my childlessness. I just seemed to be digging a hole and getting deeper and deeper in it.
BERENICE: I can empathize with that. I think the audience will I’m sure. I remember when I first discovered Gateway Women. That was way back at the start, and it was through Bibi Lynch. You remember those moments. You think, oh, there actually are other people, other women out there like me or who share those feelings. Up until that point, the only experience I had with people who were childless was standing in this ridiculous big ballroom at Bourne Hall with the expectation that I would walk out of the doors, at some point, with a positive pregnancy test. And so I didn’t know anybody. I knew absolutely nobody, at all.
JODY: Me too.
BERENICE: It’s hideous. It’s absolutely the worst thing. I think the loneliness just makes that recovery from grief so, so very difficult. So to have the courage when you’re at rock bottom to say, “Right, okay, I’m going to do something about that” and to create and do what you did, all of those things, to build what you have… Did you ever anticipate Gateway Women being as big as it is?
JODY: Absolutely not. I had a few inklings along the way, which helped me to keep going. About three years in, I was working pretty much full-time on Gateway Women and it wasn’t making any money at all. It was barely even covering washing its own face as we say in entrepreneurial circles. But I didn’t really have time to do other work because it was so demanding. I was absolutely exhausted and I realized, probably, a little bit burnt out. I was just in tears, because I knew how important this work was to so many women. I thought, it’s got to be possible. There’s got to be a way to keep going somehow. And so that was the point when I introduced a membership fee for the online community which was, by a few people, very badly received. I even got a couple of death threats. I got some really horrible abuse from people who accused me from profiting from other people’s sadness and misery. Really unpleasant stuff, even though I still offered free membership for anyone who needed it. And it was only five pounds a month. But it was either that or give it up. And at that point, I was actually offered a really high paying job in the marketing world, in an organisation that was also aligned with my values. It was one of those crunch moments. And luckily, the online community took off enough for me to turn down that job offer and carry on. It’s never been a money earner, but it was never set out to be.
BERENICE: I think that’s a very hard thing. I do remember the membership fee coming in, and I know that three of us can quite categorically say that even just with the podcast and what we do, there is so much more that happens behind the scenes than people can ever imagine, in terms of the cost of things, the websites, the commitment, your time. I was saying the other day, we all are a value, and I think that if you are not giving your best value because you’re financially not able to exist, then that actually creates a hugely difficult mindset. All that worth stuff comes into it. I’m riffing here, so I refer to both you and Sarah for the wisdom on this. But it is that vicious circle. It’s a hugely big decision to make, but I think it was one that you had to make. There was no choice with all of that. And I think it’s one that often people have had to make in difficult situations, where the support is provided. Or looking at a Plan B? All of us have Plan Bs, but Plan Bs that have come from Gateway Women. So many of us are testimony to say, “Okay, I changed my life and did a blah, blah, blah, because actually, Gateway Women.” And so it deserves credit for the support that it gives. We wouldn’t be here. I would not be here on the podcast if it wasn’t for Gateway Women.
SARAH: I wouldn’t be a counsellor if it wasn’t for Gateway Women, because I came along for that Reignite Weekend, 2015, I think it was. Talk about rock bottom. I was.
JODY: I remember you at that weekend. I can see where you were sitting with your back to the window. I remember you, your presence at that weekend.
SARAH: That’s mad, isn’t it? It seems so long ago, but I remember Googling for help. All I could find was Gateway Women. That was it. That was all there was. And then I came to that weekend, broken, and then afterwards, it’s like, bloody hell! There is more. There is more to this. There are people out there. So can you imagine if you’d gone for that marketing job? That’s a sliding doors moment, isn’t it?
JODY: Yes! What I saw over time was that a lot of wonderful offerings for the childless community, a lot of great things, started – and after a couple of years petered out and then disappeared – because the demand for them was so high and the emotional labour, the financial cost, and the hidden costs of providing that started to become too much for the person who had created it. Also and often that person had also achieved a lot of their healing through doing this and so they moved on and the structure, the support and the community that they built was lost. And one of the things I really wanted with Gateway Women was to create something that was sustainable, so that it would outlast me. One of my dreams, coming up to a 10-year anniversary, it’s like, ‘Wow! That is happening.’ I really wanted to create something for the next generation of childless women, for those young women, that could have been any of our daughters, who find themselves childless, not by choice. I don’t want there to be nothing for them. And that’s one of the reasons why I keep going.
SARAH: That’s incredible. You’re right, it takes so much personal strength, doesn’t it, to keep something like that going? Because it’s not just the time, as Berenice pointed out, it’s everything else and sometimes it is your healing, as well, and that costs a lot, doesn’t it? So for those of us that are following behind in your footsteps, what’s one of the best life lessons you’ve learned through Gateway Women in the last 10 years?
JODY: We’ve touched on a couple of them already. The most important one is that this is grief, that you’re not crazy, you’re grieving. The devastation of childlessness and the way it was resistant to any of my techniques for getting myself out of a hole was because it was grief. But I didn’t know it was grief. No one knew it was. Dr. Google didn’t know it was grief. The therapists and doctors I was seeing didn’t know it was grief. And it wasn’t until I was doing my psychotherapy training and I was doing a part of my training on bereavement that I realized, hang on a minute, this is very familiar. And I went home, and I mapped it against my own experience. And it’s like, fuck, I’m grieving. And that was enormously important for me. I still get quite emotional talking about it, because it was really important for two reasons.
JODY: Number one: it meant I wasn’t going mad because the internal reality of grieving, cognitively, is so confusing. I was becoming so unrecognizable to myself at times that I was really worried. I thought, well, maybe this is my new middle-age personality. But I often didn’t feel like myself. The second reason was I knew that grief was a process. I knew it was something that people went through and came out the other end of somehow. I didn’t know how but I knew that one day this would be over. And at that point, I became a complete grief junky. I read everything you could find on grief and started applying that to childlessness.
JODY: The very first talk I gave was about grief to a room of about eight people, five of whom I knew, in a now-defunct London Women’s Business Club. One of the people there was a journalist who wrote that very first article in The Guardian that came out in 2012 and went viral. Just a few weeks ago, I gave a talk which was an incredible talk to give in the 10th anniversary year. I was invited as a guest lecturer at York University in the UK to give a lecture on the disenfranchised grief of childlessness, as part of their four-year project on grief as a human emotional experience. So that sense of validation, that our grief is part of the story of what grief is feels also hugely important.
JODY: I know a lot of people who’ve watched that talk have felt really seen by it, because we are being seen by the institution. Amongst ourselves we know it’s grief. And it’s like, “Oh yeah, that woman, Jody, on her blog, she says it’s grief,” but it’s like, “Oh, universities are starting to recognize it,” and that feels incredibly important. I hope it really starts to filter down, actually, into training for therapists, because it’s missing in the therapy world, that understanding, unfortunately.
SARAH: It is. I’ve sat on counselling courses and almost felt like I’m educating people. And I’ve seen the damage it can do when people don’t acknowledge that this is a real thing. It takes on its own life, doesn’t it, when it’s something that appears in yours. And it’s hard to contain and manage, if your therapist is coming back at you going, I have no idea what you’re talking about.
JODY: Well, also, therapists may couch it in slightly more professional language. But they often come back with the same Bingos. Some of the stuff that I’ve heard in therapy and I’ve heard Gateway women tell me that they’ve heard in therapy, that they’ve written in the online community, it’s like, you can get this shit free at the bus stop. You don’t need to be paying a therapist to hear this. “Are you sure you really wanted children? Have you considered adoption? Do you think perhaps, you had some deep unconscious resistance, on some level, to having a child, and that’s why you didn’t get pregnant?” I got that one.
JODY: It’s like, “No, I’m just infertile.” But it’s unexplained infertility so I never got a reason for it. But if you were educated in pronatalism, even if you had that thought, as a therapist, you would hold it back, and you’d go for the next thought, because we’ve all been conditioned by this, so it’s not about it not existing. It’s about going, “…and take a breath. I’m not going to say that,” isn’t it? As a psychotherapist myself, inside your head you go, “Well, isn’t it interesting that that’s what I want to say? Well, next thing.” You learn not to say things you think.
MICHAEL: I want to take it on a different track, if I may. I remember a meeting that I know you were at Jody, but I can’t remember if Berenice was. It might have been last year, for World Childless Week, when we had all the champions together. One thing that sits with me and continues to sit with me is when our colleague said “Jody, you saved my life.” It took my breath away when I heard her say it. How does that make you feel, when you hear that, when you think about where you were 10 years ago, at absolute rock bottom, and then you’ve got women saying, “Jody, you saved my life.”
JODY: It’s actually incredibly hard to hear because it makes my heart break.
MICHAEL: I can see the look in your face. Yeah.
JODY: Because I think of how low that person has been. And I think of all of the others that haven’t found any support and it breaks my heart.
MICHAEL: It must, but at the same time, we need to recognize how powerful your work is.
JODY: I do. Those moments are not about me. In those moments, it’s really important for that person to have the opportunity to thank me. I do the work of receiving that thanks. So although I may be feeling quite overwhelmed by it, I open my heart to receive their thanks because that’s what they need from me in that moment. That’s what the work needs. It’s like emotional labour to do it because it’s a lot to receive. That’s one of the aspects of Gateway Women I find most challenging is actually receiving how much I mean to people and how much the work means to people. But part of the work is to receive that, to be that woman standing in front of them, because I’ve existed in their head as someone incredibly important. And in that moment I don’t want to let them down.
BERENICE: That’s an awful lot of pressure to carry, isn’t it? I can see why it’s important to you that this carries on, that Gateway Women becomes a legacy for everybody else.
JODY: There still is so little support for us. In the UK, we’ve managed to make quite a big noise. I realize that because Gateway Women started in London and it started in a language which is used in so many countries around the world, but also because the UK is small we had quite a big impact. Gateway Women had quite a big impact. And that has then been amplified around the world. If I had started my blog in America where it’s very hard to make a big impact because it’s such a huge country, it would have just been a drop in the water that just didn’t really make a big global impact in the way it has.
JODY: So there have been a lot of extraordinarily good strokes of fortune around how Gateway Women started and the impact it’s had. I’m so incredibly grateful for that, that I was that person, at that time. That I had the right combination, a bizarre combination, of skills and experiences from being quite geeky to having a background in design and fashion, to having been through quite a lot of trauma and healing, to training to be a psychotherapist, naturally being a writer, lots of things, and an earlier adopter of social media. When you look at my CV before Gateway Women, it looks either like I’ve lived 100 years or I’m a liar because it’s like, how could one person have done so many different things? From political lobbying to fashion PR, who does both of those? To technology PR, to management consulting, to all kinds of different things. But all of them, every single skill I amassed, I have used in the last 10 years. It’s like I was in some bizarre universal training program to get me ready to do this. I don’t know what to make of that. I could make a big spiritual noise about it but that’s not really my style. But it’s weird.
BERENICE: It’s a fantastic thing, though, because it’s so inspiring. I think maybe that’s true in an awful lot of people in our community, who have these diverse things that we do. We go off in little tangents. If I think about Gateway Women and all of the little groups that are within Gateway Women that you encourage and support (so it’s not just one area for those that don’t know Gateway Women behind the scenes and the membership). There are so many fantastic little sub-communities doing brilliant things. One of the ones I absolutely love is the reading group. And there’s one for business women, as well, which is fantastic and so enlightening because a lot of those things are shared, but actually, your story and your experiences and all of the skills, transferable skills, that you have, that created you, created this point where you could deal with the enormity of Gateway Women. It’s incredible. It’s a real inspiration. I’m someone who also has a particularly, “Oh, what did I do that for?” on my CV. And at some point, you come back to it and say, “Oh, actually, that was probably quite useful. I remember that now.” If you look at the longevity of our lives, there’s a fluidity about that, a meaning and a purpose that gets us to the places where we are right now.
JODY: It’s also called out the skills that I never thought I had and that I’ve had to develop. I’ve had to develop ridiculous amounts of IT skills which gets a bit tiring sometimes, as everyone behind the scenes running a small digital business will know. It’s just like, okay, so now I have to learn this one.
SARAH: Oh, yes, let’s go down this rabbit hole today and never come out again.
JODY: For example, public speaking, I am not a natural public speaker. I am not a performer. Doing my TED talk was the most terrifying thing ever, because that was the closest to performing, because I had to learn my talk. You don’t get a script. You have to learn your talk. That was really, really hard. And that was the most stressful part of it – actually learning the script.
JODY: If you ask me to stand up and give a talk about something, I would really, really struggle. The reason I can do it for Gateway Women is because it’s not really about me. It’s like I’m just the vehicle for this message. It’s just my job to deliver this message. It’s not really about me. And because I know how important what I have to say is to the people who need to hear it, that gives me the courage to do the things that I’m really uncomfortable doing. But I had no natural desire as a public speaker, or interest to be one, or to do the kind of things I do, the webinars and all this. I’m not even an extrovert.
JODY: I’m an introvert with an extrovert enabled rocket. For the MBTI geeks out there, I’m an INFJ. So we are able to be very social and extrovert looking in service of a cause that is deeply important to us. And then, we go back into our cave, and we hate everyone, and we want to be left alone to recharge. I just confuse people when they meet me in person because I find that quite overwhelming. Like public events, particularly coming offstage after a talk, when people really want to interact with me. I’m quite overwhelmed by the attention and the love – let’s call it what it is – the love sometimes that comes towards me in public events. I can see it almost like a wave of energy coming down the room. And it’s huge.
JODY: When we were at Fertility Fest a few years ago, the one in the Barbican, and one after another the performers on stage got up during the There’s More to Life than Children Day. There were about 10 presentations that day. Apart from Benjamin Zephaniah, everyone who stood up mentioned Gateway Women or my work as part of their journey to doing what they were doing on the stage that day. I remember sitting in the audience thinking I didn’t even know some of these people and just feeling the enormity of the impact of the work. This was just the tip of the iceberg I was seeing. I’m incredibly proud of what Gateway Women is, what it represents, what it’s done. And sometimes, I also can’t quite believe I’ve had anything to do with it! It’s a little bit schizophrenic there, but there you are. Welcome to the inside of my head.
SARAH: So in terms of where Gateway Women is now, what happens next? Do you know?
JODY: Yes, I’m really excited about what’s next. So the last three years have been really hard, really four years now, because I have been trying to transition Gateway into a new model which is really part of that legacy thing, of building something that will outlast me. One of the key things in that has been finding a business partner, younger than me, who can also be the face of Gateway Women when I’m older but also who is closer to the age of those women who are joining Gateway Women.
JODY: Women join Gateway at every age, from their 20s to their 60s and 70s, but probably the biggest cohort is kind of 39 to 45. That’s often when a lot of women reach a crunch point in their family-building journey. So I’ve been so excited that I did find that person in Karin Enfield, now Gateway Women’s Operations Director, and she’s becoming more and more the face of the younger part of Gateway Women and carrying the load with me. Because carrying Gateway Women, administratively, behind the scenes, is a massive amount of work, massive. We’ve got fingers in so many pies. And our members are vulnerable, so they often require a lot of very careful holding. It’s a different kind of community to make space for and look after than perhaps a business community might be or a yoga community might be or something like that.
JODY: This is also to free me up for the next stage of the work; I see the next decade as being the decade of becoming a conscious childless elder woman, so that is my path. I’m writing a novel at the moment. I’ve been trying to finish it for five years, but this year is the year I’m definitely going to finish it. It’s a comedy about an accidentally kick-ass, single, childless, menopausal woman. I’m seeing that very visually as I’m writing it. My dream is that Jennifer Aniston’s company will option it. I want to use humour to take all of the things that we get laughed at for, I want us to own it. So I have a character who very much represents so many things that we will all recognize, the clueless mother, the sister with the perfect marriage and 2.2 children, all of the things we know. After that, I’m really going to be focusing on researching and writing the next book which will be about how to become a conscious childless elderwoman. I want to write the book I need to read which is exactly what I did with Living the Life Unexpected.
JODY: The book I needed didn’t exist, so I ended up writing it. Books around aging as a childless woman, well, aging as a woman, I haven’t found a single one that doesn’t presume that the reader has had children. And some of them are literally throw-them-out-the-window, they’re so pronatalist. It’s like they can’t even conceive that anyone might not have children and grandchildren. So it’s very hard, once again, to find our place. So I’m looking forward to building that.
JODY: I do Fireside Wisdom webinars for childless elder women with a group of amazing, older, childless women, from around the world. We gather together on Zoom. It seems we’re starting to gather like proper witches on equinoxes and solstices. The next one is all about the body and the cycles of life. So it’s really talking about deep stuff, aging and the childless body. Who is talking about that? You all know me quite well, my secret superpower seems to be taboo girl – if we’re not meant to talk about it, I’m in there! So I’m also really interested in work around sexuality.
JODY: I just recorded a training program for COSRT, which is the UK College of Sex and Relationship Therapists and the impact of involuntary childlessness on sexual intimacy. This is the first training for therapists, couples therapists, on that subject. Nothing else has been done. That feels to me like a hugely important area and I’m going to be leading a webinar on that subject for Gateway Women soon and in World Childless Week. There’s no research. There’s no support. There’s nothing. Yet every childless person I’ve spoken to, mostly childless women but I hear this about (if they have male partners) their male partner’s experience too, their sexual relationship has been impacted by their childlessness whether infertility or infertility treatments have been involved.
JODY: Our sexuality is part of our expression of who we are in the world. How can it not be impacted when childlessness impacts everything about our identity and who we are in the world? But it’s not being spoken about.
SARAH: Thanks for making noise.
JODY: I have a passion about whatever people are silent about. And the stuff that hurts, that’s always where I’m drawn.
BERENICE: I think it’s a big part of later this year, as well. Sarah, I know that’s a big part of what you said the other week, about something you’ve recorded for After the Storm and the amount of responses that you got, about talking about sex and fertility and intimacy. And it’s a big thing that’s not being talked about. It needs to be, so that’s fantastic that that’s being addressed, as well.
SARAH: Definitely, such a big gap, isn’t it? I talk about it all the time, sex ed, even at school. That marginalization starts there because once you find out you can’t have children, for whatever reason, you’re no longer ‘normal’. And so it starts from that very moment, doesn’t it, even at that young age?
BERENICE: I think that touches, as well, a little bit on the impact of Gateway Women. We say, women, but Michael, the impact of Gateway Women in terms of men, what’s your view on that?
MICHAEL: I’ve got to make sure I get this out the right way. There is no doubt that Gateway Women has made a profound effect on our community, absolutely no doubt. But as a guy who’s immersed himself in this community, I feel like it makes me feel like an outsider where there’s this massive thing going on, that Jody’s created, that is around the world. And I’ve got FOMO, because there’s nothing. Now, I do have to recognize that Jody and I have had a conversation, poking me with a stick going, Michael, Michael, the guys need something here. And I think it took me 12 months just to make the Clan of Brothers, to be honest, because I kept thinking about it. And I don’t think the Gateway Women thing would translate well to men.
JODY: Really interestingly, very early on in Gateway Women, at the workshops and in the groups I was running, women were saying to me and men were emailing me and saying, “What about us?” Women who were partnered with men were saying, “What about our partners?” I had this one Reignite Weekend, where unusually, every woman in the room was partnered with a man. We didn’t have any gay, lesbian, or queer women there and we had no un-partnered women there. They all said, “We want something for our partners.” And I said, “Look, I’m absolutely open to it. I’d like you to go home and speak to your partners. If they’re up for a workshop, I could do a couples’ workshop; I could get a guy in,” I already knew Dr. Robin Hadley, I thought, I’ll get Robin to come in with me and we’ll co-facilitate a workshop. I said, “Or I can find a way to set up a workshop just for the guys, just come back and let me know what they want.” Well, what I heard back was, and this was 12 women, the most positive response was from two of their partners who said, “If you really want me to, darling.” That was it.
MICHAEL: Look, I’m smiling, because it does not surprise me.
JODY: I recognized then, what I had been understanding, and also from talking to Dr. Robin Hadley, and from interviewing men for the case studies in my book, that the way that men process grief, socially, is very, very different. And the idea of coming into a group and talking about their childlessness online or sitting in a room with a bunch of other childless men talking about their vulnerability was socially unacceptable for them. It’s acceptable for women to feel their feelings, to talk about their feelings. We’re culturally trained to do so. Men are culturally trained to repress their feelings, not talk about them, not to show their vulnerability. And grief is considered a vulnerability.
MICHAEL: Oh, most definitely.
JODY: So I realized then, that not only was Gateway Women not the right type of organisation but also even the ways that work for me and seem to work for many women who come to it wouldn’t work for men. I remember this guy I interviewed for my book about how he got through his grief. He told me about how he did a lot of mountain biking with other men. And I said, “With other childless men?” and he said, “Yeah, I think a couple of them were childless.” I said, “Did you talk about your childlessness?” And he said, “No, we just did a lot of mountain biking.” And I remember just sitting there thinking, how the fuck would that help?
JODY: But it was part of his grief journey was to have this gang of men he went mountain biking with. And I just thought, okay, I am so out of my depth here. Now, I’m not saying that men wouldn’t benefit from, I suppose for want of a better term, sort of a group therapy approach, but what I’d love to see is for a really famous man who was childless, quite a butch man, to come out and start talking publicly about childlessness and childless grief. And actually, Michael, that’s one of the reasons why I was banging on your door saying, “Please do something for childless men,” because you’re a bloke. Men can look at you and relate to you, as quite a bloke-ish bloke. I love those early videos from your tool shed. I thought this is the one. This is the man that needs to speak for childless men because there is still this fear that talking about your feelings is absolutely emasculating.
JODY: There are so many toxic ideas about masculinity that work against men seeking and willing to receive support.
MICHAEL: Yeah. So further onto that question that Berenice asked, there are times when I feel out of my depth, because I’ve set this group up. I think we’re nudging on 50 guys now. I’ve got Andy Harrod as administrator now because he kindly agreed to help out. So I like to think of it as our group.
JODY: I gave him a few nudges, as well, by the way, Michael, over the years.
MICHAEL: Yeah I know! He’s told me. What we’re finding is guys dip in and dip out when they need it. One particular man comes to mind, and he says, “What is my purpose in life? Why am I here?” And then, of course, all the guys rally around him because they’ve obviously seen he’s got the strength to put that out there and they rally around him. And Sarah Roberts’ husband put it really well. He said, “Sometimes, you just need a place to belong.”
MICHAEL: So that’s what we’re doing at the moment is just giving guys a place to belong. It’s a slow burn, but we have a chap who’s actually going to write a book on childless men.
JODY: Fantastic, it’s so, so needed.
MICHAEL: So there’s a lot of guys now getting behind him, giving him their experiences. So yeah, it’s a slow burn. I just wish I could bloody retire.
JODY: You’d like to retire and focus on supporting childless people?
MICHAEL I’d love it. I really would.
JODY: Just so you know, if you get that, you will never bloody retire! I don’t think I’m ever going to get to retire. Just to wrap that up a bit, Michael, when you said it’s a slow burn, it’s still a burn. And I think men have got another layer to get through, a very, very big layer to get through, before they can get to opening up and receiving that support and talking about those things. It is absolutely ground-breaking that you’ve got that group. And I’m right behind you. Any support Gateway Women can give you to support those Gateway Men out there, I stand ready.
MICHAEL: Thank you, Jody. Thank you so much. I really appreciate that.
BERENICE: We wouldn’t have a podcast if there wasn’t Gateway Women. We probably ought to put some testimony to Jody who’s joined us today to say how much I think it affects us. We wouldn’t have a name if it wasn’t for you, because way back, when we had this idea. Oh, podcast, oh, hell, what do we call it? And there we are. And Full Stop emerged, and that was your idea, Jody. You named us.
JODY: I’ve got tingles all over! Well, thank you for starting The Full Stop Podcast, because it was one more thing I didn’t have to do!
BERENICE: You can just rock up here anytime you like.
JODY: I’d be thrilled.
BERENICE: Be our guest. I think we have a few people and one of them, Andy Harrod, bless you. I love you dearly. He chose his vocal piece as well. We have people just, “Oh, can we just go and have an episode?” Yeah, it’s fine, rock up! We’ve always got something to talk about with people, and I think that is true it is an awful lot of work to do, but I think that one of the things that we can do so well is to support Gateway Women, to support all of the amazing communities that we have.
BERENICE: There’s one thing I wanted to go back on that you mentioned earlier on and that was about the continuing support that you give to people within the group. And also with the work, and the incredible amount of resources that are available, completely freely, on the website. Yes there’s the membership fee but just going onto Gateway Women’s website and the amount of stuff in the resources section that people can access to get a really good idea of who you are and what Gateway Women is, is absolutely incredible. It’s a whole day, if not a weekend.
JODY: Thank you. That’s built up over 10 years and it’s always been really important to me that there is a lot available at no charge. I also want to say to those coming into the community, the first month is free, and after that there are various levels of membership including a donation based one. We never exclude anyone from our community if they can’t afford to pay the membership. The support is there for anyone who needs it. And not everyone wants to be part of an online community, so I also like to create things outside that.
JODY: A lot of women circle Gateway Women for a couple of years before they feel ready to dive in and really join a workshop or join a course. And we have a lot of men who access the resources on the website, who attend the webinars, who read my book. Andy Harrod told me that he read my book changing ‘she’ to ‘he’ wherever he could, and he got a huge amount out of it. That told me a lot. But also, we have our free monthly masterclass webinars. I have a lot of fun with those because I invite other people who are in our world, a little bit like you do, maybe it’s my version of the podcast. I can get to invite who I want to get to know onto the webinar, around singleness, around sexuality, around aging, really, all the stuff that I’m interested in, as well as the classic things about coping with Mother’s Day and coping with Christmas. And that is building up into a pretty huge library, on the website, of resources that people can dive into in their own time.
BERENICE: It’s that continual support that I love. Within the membership side, there’s also the moderators and there’s a few people on there I’ve known as long as I’ve known you because I’ve been there for so long.
JODY: Maria Hill of Sensitive Evolution.
BERENICE: She’s amazing. I desperately want to go and meet her because every time I’ve put something in there she’s come out and said, “Oh yes, that’s just what I was thinking.” She’s intuitive and wonderful.
JODY: She’s our resident wise elder, and she’s actually one of the elders that gathers around the Zoom fire for the Fireside Wisdom webinar, so you can actually get to see her live and see her talking. She’s in her early 70s and she’s an absolute powerhouse of creativity and empathy. She’s my role model.
BERENICE: Mine too. I think she’s quite amazing, and you, as well, of course, you are! There’s some amazing and incredible women out there who’ve been given the chance to shine somewhere in the world, whether that’s within the community, with Gateway Women, or whether it’s something else but because of what you do, which is incredibly important. But when we all hit that rock bottom moment, I have numerous rock bottom moments, one of the reasons I was able to dig my way out of it was because of knowing that if I went into Gateway Women and I posted something, I would have a response, and I did.
BERENICE: What you said there about it not being like running a yoga community or a business community, I think an incredibly important part of Gateway Women is having those responses, because if you don’t have them you can sink very quickly. Going in and just going, “Actually, I just need a bit of help, because this is going though my head.” And it’s catastrophizing in some great big thing. And in my case, it was that the world doesn’t need me anymore. Part of that route to recovery is Gateway Women and finding that strength to actually post something and say, “Look, actually, I need this.” It’s there, even if you’re not going into it. And we’ve got through. And again, perhaps people are thinking, well, okay, I’m all right with my grief. I’m okay with this. I’m settling in. Why do I need Gateway Women? And I always say it’s a really friendly, happy, huggy, safety net, in my life.
JODY: We have a group for that, I think of it as the follow-on group, called NoMo Tribe. It existed before our current site as a separate group, and now it’s integrated into the Gateway Women’s site as one of the many amazing subgroups. NoMo Tribe is for women who’ve come through the fire of childlessness with grit, glitter, and grace in their souls.
BERENICE: I love that.
JODY: So it’s for those of us who are through the worst of it. We’ve been transformed by this experience. We’re coming to terms with living this life unexpected. Most days we’re fine with our childlessness, but it’s still a challenge to be childless in a world where everyone else seems to be a parent and where all of the structures of society are set up for couples and parents. It’s just great to have women who get that because also some days you do get a griefy moment. You get sideswiped by something you weren’t expecting. And it’s nice to have a group where that’s also perfectly normal. It’s not like you have to be totally fixed because I don’t think we’re every totally fixed from our childlessness.
JODY: It is something that exists across the life course. There are so many experiences in later life we’re not going to experience, because we’re childless. Our friends and our family are going to become grandparents. We’re going to be aging without children. And as a woman, there’s only one word of respect for an older woman and that’s grandmother. There are no others. The others are all insults. This is something we need, our sisters, and Michael, our brothers, around us right across the life course to help us realize that we’re not the only ones having this experience. We’re not going mad and there are people who understand us.
JODY: Problems in the workplace is a huge issue around childlessness. I’m very pleased to see that we have, compared to ten years ago and even compared to five years ago, a real upswelling, not just to ranting about unfairness in the workplace, but a groundswell of women who are doing something about it. They’ve now all come together in a group called Workplace Change Makers in the Gateway Women online community. They are going to be starting some kind of coalition. They are going to be drafting up templates and supporting each other with techniques, tactics and wordings, to actually start taking to HR departments and supporting each other as they do this.
JODY: I’ve been nurturing that, Michael knows, and prodding people about this when they’re ready to be prodded. But something is happening there. There is enough energy and enough people who are willing to put their heads above the parapet in their workplaces and start saying not just “This isn’t fair,” but “This isn’t fair, and this is what you need to do. These are the policies we need to look at. These are the systems we need to have in place and this is why.”
JODY: That’s one of the things I’ve been talking about because I think that the organisations that wake up to the lack of awareness of the diversity around childlessness in the workplace, those organisations are going to retain key talent. They’re going to have healthier workplaces with less absenteeism, less stress and grief, and it’s going to impact their bottom line. They’re going to be happier, more successful organisations. And people are going to think they’re really cool and a great place to work. It is a win for employers to wake up about this. And that’s one of the messages that the Workplace Change Makers group wants to get out there. If you want to be seen as a groovy, forward-looking organisation, and a great place to work, look at this issue. It is an easy win.
BERENICE: I’m really looking forward to being part of that. I’ve been so inspired by everything. I think it’s so important, and I’m hoping that from the back of all of that will come a change in networking and freelance communities which are incredibly pronatalist. Don’t get me started on digital mums.
JODY: When we look at the history of other change-makers in the culture, when we look at the Female Liberation Movement, when we look at the Gay Liberation Movement, changing legislation in the workplace is often the place where you can get some leverage legally. And change in the workplace then spills out into the culture. It’s actually a good place to start.
BERENICE: That’s fantastic to see it moving forward. We’re hoping that we will have the Change Makers onto the podcast at some point very soon. We want to do a whole thing about work. Waiting for the timing to be right because of the tricky stuff going on here right now with COVID.
JODY: What’s that?
BERENICE: No idea, something that’s keeping me indoors, and actually, I quite like it, not COVID, but keeping indoors. It’s very nice being indoors and away from people. I’m far less stressed doing this than if I was in a workplace.
SARAH: It’s funny, isn’t it? Don’t make light of it, but it has given us that safety, hasn’t it? We haven’t got to face into loads of pronatalism, have we, at the minute?
BERENICE: This week? Now come on, I have the golden glory of the essence of womanhood this week.
SARAH: I’d forgotten about that. You did kick it off.
BERENICE: I know. Podcasters, since you don’t know this, we’ll just digress slightly. It was a particular brand – I’m not going to tell you what the brand is because I don’t want you to go over there and look at it, because honestly, it will really just piss you off as it pissed me off! Someone inquired why this brand was specifically aimed at mothers, a friend of mine, who I know is childless. And I was told, how to phrase this delicately, slight trigger warning: “Birth is the essence of motherhood,” to which I kicked up a stink. And actually, just in case anyone was thinking, oh, God, that’s awful, it shocked a lot of people, friends of mine who are parents. They all piled on to Facebook, along with me and many others to say, “What a load of bullshit that is. And if that’s the thing that defines me, then Jesus, that’s a bit low isn’t it?”
BERENICE: It was a gathering of all clans, from all sides, who went, “Yeah, bollocks!” And the only way they could wrestle out of it was to take the post down. I haven’t been blocked from them, I thought I’d been blocked from the page. I just saw it and thought, hang on a second, if that’s what your skincare brand does, then I’m fucking glad I don’t have to use it.
JODY: When motherhood has been weaponized against women and when it has been used as a marketing tactic as well, it’s time that mothers reclaim their right to be complex individuals leading complex lives and all being different. It’s part of their experience and part of their identity but it’s not who they are, just as our childlessness is part of our experience and part of our identity but it’s not who we are. It’s obscene the way that mothers are marketed to like that’s all they are.
BERENICE: It’s fetishization, isn’t it, from brands?
JODY: Yes, and I object, profoundly.
BERENICE: I think a lot of mothers do, as well. That was generally the feedback everyone had gotten. It was just like, “I’m more than that. I’m not a vessel. I do other stuff.” The best conversations that I’ve had with women who are parents has been from those who’ve recognized that yes, there might be just a short period of their life when they do have to give everything to this little human, but actually, on the other side, they come out as the same person but slightly different but still as diverse as they were before. And I think that’s true of us. We go through this awful grief. It changes us so much, but we’re still diverse. We’re still incredible people for what we have been through. We just need to go and find them somewhere.
JODY: And that’s actually an important point, because there is a cultural awareness that becoming a parent profoundly changes you. But because the grief of childlessness is disenfranchised and it’s not discussed and it’s not understood, there isn’t a recognition that actually not becoming a parent, when that was your heart and soul’s desire, is as transformative. Going through the grief of childlessness changes us. We’re not the same people we were when we were 20. We are changed too. This idea that only a parent can grow you up, I think, fuck, you spend a decade grieving your childlessness and see how grown up you feel at the end of it. It’s profoundly transformative. And really, it makes me so angry that that’s not understood and that we come out of this experience with a depth and gifts to offer back to society that are not recognized and not welcomed. And I hope that the legacy of Gateway Women can change that.
BERENICE: I hope so too. It’s empowered so many women to find peace, just the redefinition of what we’ve gone through is hugely profound to me, to know that what I have been through and what I was going through is grief. I can give it a term. It’s not just me going slowly mad or actually, worse, is jealousy – being told I was jealous of what other women had. No, I didn’t want their children. I didn’t want their life. I wanted my child, my life back, not anyone else’s. But actually, it’s often mistaken as being jealousy. One of the most hurtful things that I’ve ever been told was that I was jealous of somebody else’s life, because it devalues your own into nothing. And it’s so not that.
JODY: No. That’s really hard because I guess you’re sort of being told that your behaviour is a character failure.
BERENICE: Yes. The whole thing that I know Steph does so well within World Childless Week is about worth and value. And that day always gets to me more than any other because it’s progressively just knocking and chipping away at people’s worth through ignorant opinions. One of many things that Gateway Women can leave and keep tackling, daily, is educating people who make these ridiculously big assumptions about what it’s like to be childless based on just not listening. Listen.
JODY: And us not speaking up enough. Expecting the world to be mind readers.
BERENICE: Yes, that’s true as well. Good point. That’s largely again why we’re here. When we wrote out that plan for the podcast and thought, we’ve got something here, because we need a voice, so we’re not less. Yes, we’re childless, but we’re not less, never less.
MICHAEL: So in celebration of Gateway Women, I would love to hear from our listeners about how Gateway Women has changed them. I want to read those positive stories, and I think, if we can share those stories, on our Facebook page or on our website, it will also give others, who have stumbled across our podcast, for instance, somewhere to go, if they haven’t found you already. So if our audience would write in, on our Facebook page, email us, we would love to hear your positive story about what Gateway Women do for you.
JODY: My motto is we rise together, so one of the things Gateway Women does is amplify the voices of others in this space. So if you are doing something in the childless place, please tell us about it. Tell The Full Stop about it. Tell World Childless Week about it. And tell Gateway Women about it because we’re always happy to point people in the direction of other resources, because there are so many brilliant people around the world doing things. That’s one of the reasons I’m such a big fan of World Childless Week, a chance to have an umbrella organisation that brings the diversity of our community to people’s attention. And it’s going to be five years this year! Gateway Women is ten, and World Childless Week is five. We should have a party!
BERENICE: We’re two years! Five years and ten years. It’s a big year for parties.
JODY: Yeah, we need a party. And as we never got to have children’s parties, maybe we should have a bouncy castle, cake…
BERENICE: Jelly, ice-cream, cake, pass the parcel, everything.
JODY: All of it.
BERENICE: The works.
SARAH: Lots of swearing, because we can.
JODY: No, it’s a children’s party, no swearing.
SARAH: Oh, what?
BERENICE: I say we’ll have a swear booth. They do this thing in Cambridge, pre-COVID, a big street fair. It’s amazing. It’s near where I live and it’s fantastic. They have a compliments booth and I’ve always thought, very nice, a compliments booth! You can go in and they give you a compliment, and then you can go away again. I love it. You donate to them and all the money goes to charity. It’s a good idea, but I think I’ll just have a swear booth where you can just go in and go, “Aw, fuckety fuckety fuckety fuck!” pay some money to charity and go away again!
JODY: Then we’ll have one of those, and let’s plan a really nice festival when we’re all allowed to get together again. We can celebrate all those things at once. And we won’t need to have any sponsored hugs because we won’t be able to stop hugging each other. It’s going to be so lovely.
BERENICE: That will be fine. We need to plan that. Sarah and I are excited about road trips.
SARAH: Coming up to visit people, can’t wait.
BERENICE: When we’re allowed to do that, when it’s safe and legal to do so, we will be road-tripping. It’s like a competition with Michael there.
JODY: Then maybe we can have the podcast roadshow.
MICHAEL: I’ll send you my list so you can catch up.
SARAH: Yeah, a roadshow!
BERENICE: We were thinking Radio One roadshows.
SARAH: With associated drinking and celebrating.
BERENICE: T- shirts and balloons.
JODY: You can come to Ireland then.
BERENICE: And a trailer, we need a trailer now. We’re getting quite big. Donate on Ko-fi. I actually want to get a camper van, and so far, I have enough gifted to me from my parents for, probably, the steering wheel and a tire. I need to keep going. Michael, build me a camper van.
JODY: I have a feeling I might be heading into camper van territory soon. I just have that feeling that it’s coming.
BERENICE: Gateway Women has a section for camper vans. I love it. I don’t contribute. Obviously, I have nothing much to say about this, apart from that I just crush camper vans. I found that on my magazine reading subscription, just one of those strange things, years ago, I used to read women’s magazines, and I realized how when they introduced a woman, this is, I don’t know, Jill, age 47, with two children, how triggering that line got. When I stopped reading magazines like that, which was very cathartic, I felt a lot better. And now I read camper van magazines. In the classifieds, on eBay, it’s going to happen, me and the dog.
JODY: It is. I have this vision. We need a big space, like Australia, a bit like Burning Man, all the camper vans converging on one desert spot for a wild weekend of childless celebrations.
BERENICE: Oh, it’d be great. We could do a worldwide one, so we just gather in certain places, like some kind of secret code.
JODY: When childless people go bad.
BERENICE: Actually, it’s a bit like the 101 Dalmatians when they all start barking.
JODY: How did you get that link?
BERENICE: I don’t know. I was thinking of films and Disney. And I can just see, actually, Michael … What’s your thing in the air? What’s it called, drone?
JODY: I think maybe it’s a Priscilla, Queen of the Desert thing, I’m seeing.
BERENICE: Oh, yeah. It is, isn’t it? It’s Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. That’s what it is, one of those, all over the world. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
SARAH: It would be ace. I’d love it.
BERENICE: That would be great. Okay, there you go. We’ve gone from a roadtrip to a party somewhere…
SARAH: To a massive gathering.
JODY: To an anarchic childless festival in the desert.
BERENICE: We can do that. I can’t remember how long it was, Michael, it took me to get to you, if I was coming to Australia and avoiding planes?
BERENICE: I have to wait in China for a container boat to turn up.
SARAH: Oh, good luck.
BERENICE: Yeah, just wait. Man in seat 61 has got the route planned for me to get from London all the way to where Michael is, but if I went flight free.
SARAH: You’d gather people as you go through, couldn’t you, for this festival?
BERENICE: Yeah, Around the World in 80 Trains, which is actually a very good book. It’s one of my favourite books, how you travel and you meet people along the way.
JODY: I’ll have to get my t-shirt ready for that. For years, I’ve had this idea for a t-shirt that just said, this is what a childless, menopausal, old hag looks like. I thought it’d be a great conversation breaker.
BERENICE: I love that. I’ve got one that just says, fuck off.
JODY: Possibly a little aggressive!
BERENICE: Because it’s on the back, on the neckline, I wear it with something that’s a little bit lower cut so you can just see it poking out from under my hair. And of course, if I didn’t actually particularly feel like I wanted to say it to somebody, I’ll just put my hair down. It’s fine. But that’s a fantastic t-shirt though.
MICHAEL: That’s like going out clothes down here.
BERENICE: What’s that, the fuck off t-shirt?
BERENICE: Going out, out?
MICHAEL: Yeah, going out out.
JODY: That’s an Irish expression. You have it in Australia, as well. There’s going out, and there’s going out, out.
MICHAEL: Although, this is because I listen to Mickey Flanagan.
SARAH: Mickey Flanagan, with his cut loaf and his string vest, going out-out. Love Mickey. Well, that was amazing, wasn’t it?
BERENICE: That was fantastic.
JODY: Thank you. We’ve covered a lot of really lovely stuff and gone off on tangents that were really delightful as well. I’m really glad we got to talk about the Workplace Change Makers because that does feel like its moment has come.
BERENICE: I’m so passionate about what they’re doing, and we desperately would like to get them onto the podcast when they’re settled into what they want to be doing and they’ve got some more collateral. It would be great.
JODY: I think they might not be ready, probably, until early next year. Because they’re all working. One of the things I’ve said to them is to give yourself time because everyone’s working on other things. And we all know what that’s like.
MICHAEL: I’d be particularly interested in that because I want to approach our diversity council where I work. We have a very high proportion of females in the organisation, interested to see some words…
JODY: What would be lovely is a resource library where people can download email templates and best practices, so that when your organisation says, “Well, okay, but what should we do,” you could go, “Here’s a pack. This is what you should be doing. We can then tailor it for your organisation. Let’s talk.”
BERENICE: I think that’s really important to have that evidence. That’s one of those scary things. I had got the infertility, so time off for, in particular, IVF treatment and was in Cambridge University because it wasn’t actually within the university at all. It was a conversation I had with them, and actually, the evidence they had was me. “You need to plan it out. At least, let your manager know in advance, when your egg collection’s going to be.” Well, no, and what if I don’t want to? It’s an intimate thing. We’re saying, that I’m going to go in, and someone’s going to shove a hoo hah up my do dah. And I actually don’t want to tell my manager that because I don’t think that’s appropriate. So having something, and that’s a big enough thing, I think. And I find that astonishing, that there wasn’t something actually written down or guiding. So never mind, the absence of anything to do with what it’s like to be childless, but actually, the conversations that I’ve had, never mind the ones that you’ve had, Jody, and you too, Sarah and Michael, around baby showers in the workplace, etiquette, basic standard etiquette. And it’s largely a whole huge massive big hole in how people address it, because it can really, really upset people. It’s upset me.
JODY: And they don’t know.
SARAH: No, they don’t.
JODY: That once again we have been shamed into silence. And if we try to speak up when we’re still grieving and we get shamed, it’s devastating.
SARAH: It doesn’t work.
JODY: But we need each other’s support. I did a section in the talk that I gave for York University about disenfranchised grief, I talked about this being one of the things where I wanted to see change happen. In the unrecorded bit after the York University grief webinar, there were some people there, some really big cheese’s from big HR departments who were saying, “We want to do something about this. That’s why we’re here for this webinar. What should we be doing?” I think the moment has come when organisations are ready and the childless community is starting to find its voice. It’s important it’s the non-parent community: so it’s our child-free brothers and sisters, and those younger people who are hoping to become parents one day who are being stigmatised in the workplace because they’re single and they don’t have children yet. They’re also impacted by all of this stuff in different ways, so it’s a huge cohort of people in the workplace that are being impacted by these pronatalist behaviours and policies. And it’s time to change.
BERENICE: Absolutely. I see it an awful lot in freelance lines as well, I know you do, Sarah. I paid quite a lot of money for a freelance heroes networking day and the first three presenters all announced they were parents. And then the fourth one was expecting a child in so-and-so. Okay, that’s great, but I’m sitting here alone in the room that was going to be my child’s bedroom, working from home. And they’re not even sure about that. It’s not considering those demographics. They’re assuming, that massive assumption that comes, I think from freelancing, where it’s assumed that the reason that you are working for yourself is because you had children and you want that flexibility. Why on Earth would you ever otherwise be working for yourself? I think it’s starting to change, but it’s still incredibly pronatalist, particularly with home-schooling recently.
JODY: Oh, we better not start that conversation.
BERENICE: No, let’s not, because International Women’s Day got completely hijacked by the fact that the children were returning to school. When I typed into LinkedIn something I wanted to write about for IWD, the LinkedIn algorithm suggested that when I tagged it, I also put in ‘parenting’. And I thought, well there we are then.
JODY: International Mother’s Day, yes.
BERENICE: Yes, exactly. That’s what it felt like this year. That is on my hit list to target because I don’t think there’s enough voices in that. I think Jessica was part of it, but I don’t think there were many women who were childless who were part of it. And that needs sorting out. That’s not good enough, in my opinion.
JODY: None of us are retiring, by the sound of it.
BERENICE: Never. Never.
JODY: The fight goes on.
BERENICE: But then, amazing, because actually, there is us all going in to our next phase of our lives, and I can’t wait for your new book, Jody. Aging as a childless woman, I think, is just so important, but isn’t it so wonderful that Aging Well Without Children were in the news this week.
JODY: That absolutely made my day, that AWWOC is coming back. Aging Well Without Children has just registered as a charity, and Kirsty is reforming the organisation as a charity. And it is coming back.
BERENICE: We need to get them back on the podcast. It’s very exciting. I’m thrilled to bits for them. I know that when she was on the podcast, all of our guests for that episode were so passionate about what they believed in. It is something that affects all of us. You cannot deny that.
JODY: And the pandemic, I think, has really woken up a lot of people to how ageist our society is and how much the care you receive as an old person is massively influenced by having a younger advocate rooting for you. If you don’t have that younger advocate there, you are very, very vulnerable. And that’s something Gateway Women wants to do something about because as our community ages and younger women are coming in, I have this vision of older Gateway Women being mentors to younger Gateway Women, and those younger Gateway Women, those relationships maturing to become advocates. We can have cross-generational advocacy and mentorship to help produce those relationships that have the level of trust in them where someone could advocate for you when you’re old and if you become vulnerable.
BERENICE: I think that’s incredibly important. It’s something that I know the three of us have talked about behind the scenes and I think with Kirsty, as well.
JODY: And we have to do it ourselves because no one’s going to do this for us. But I think we can change the culture by doing it for ourselves in profound and important ways. We need to model how to do this and show society how it works. And then they will adopt best practice, just as now, heterosexual couples want to be able to have civil partnerships because they can see the value of that, but that right was won for people by those people in same sex marriages and things like that. There’s lots of things. Outsiders can be very powerful forces for social change.
BERENICE: Thank you so much, Jody. I really missed talking to you, to talk to you every day and get a daily sense of wisdom and just, thank you so much.
JODY: You are sweet. Thank you.
BERENICE: Honestly, I think everyone needs a Jody in their life, and I think one of the things we often say on this podcast is how fortunate it is to find new friends and new people. We’d never all have met had it not been for our story and for being childless but how fantastic.
JODY: It spoils you for the normals though! I have such wonderful conversations and connections with childless people. And then, if I am in a more normal mixed gathering of people, I’m thinking, really, that’s what we’re talking about? I’m ready to go right in there. It’s like I have to turn that bit off.
MICHAEL: Can I just say, if our community ever becomes its own country, you’ve got my vote for President, Jody.
SARAH: There you go. You’re never going to retire then, are you?
JODY: No. I worked that one out.
MICHAEL: President Jody.
JODY: Actually, Queen, except I’m not a monarchist.
BERENICE: No, neither am I. It’s a troubled word, isn’t it?
JODY: Fairy Queen.
BERENICE: A Fairy Queen, yeah. We’ll think of different names. I don’t think we should use the same language, either. I think we can create our own form of … We’re back to swearing again, aren’t we?
SARAH: I was going to say mugwump or something, Chief Mugwump, like out of Harry Potter. Sorry, I’ve started reading Harry Potter again.
JODY: I’m planning to become a childless elder, a witch, so I think some nice big powerful name for me, when I enter my crone years.
BERENICE: We need to create a new language for that, too, a new bit of dialogue.
JODY: It feels really important. I really realize how much my work and the language of Gateway Women has helped us find a language to talk about our shared experience. I’m feeling the same thing again about aging – the things I want to talk about, there aren’t even the words. Without the words we can’t have the concepts and then we can’t have a shared language to talk about the experience of aging. I guess that’s why I’m a writer, I’m always fascinated. It’s like, wow, we can’t talk about this because there’s no language. Thank you for having me.
SARAH: Thank you for coming on. It has been brilliant.
BERENICE: Thank you, Jody.
JODY: I love The Full Stop Podcast. It’s a real honour to be here. Thank you for helping me to celebrate Gateway Women’s 10th anniversary. And I hope to be on here in another 10 years, in the back of the trailer, on the Around the World Tour, Gateway Women’s 20th anniversary, Stop Podcast’s 12th, and we’ll be out there with all of our sponsors, all of the groupies, the festivals, the parties.
BERENICE: We’ll be aging disgracefully and we’ll meet you in a field somewhere.
JODY: Absolutely. Rock on.
BERENICE: Lots of love to you, Jody. Thank you so very much.
JODY: Lots of love to you all and thank you so much.
MICHAEL: Thanks, Jody. Always lovely to talk to you.
MICHAEL: And that’s where we’re going to have to leave Jody for now. But please don’t forget, we’re also on the trinity of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and all of these links can be found on our website www.thefullstoppod.com. You could also register for our newsletter that will keep you up-to-date with what we’re up to. We would also appreciate it if you could rate us on the platform you’re using to listen to the podcast. The more ratings we get the wider our spread and the more of our community we can reach. If you’d like to be a guest on our podcast or have a burning issue you think our community should be aware of, you will find a form on our website where you can fill in and give us the details. We love hearing from our audience, so please, drop us a line at anytime. And as always, it’s important for us to let you know, you’re not alone.
MICHAEL: Am I allowed to say “Any sugar mommas out there who’s willing to support me, so I can retire?”
BERENICE: Vicky might kill you.
SARAH: Yeah, reign it in. Reign it in.
JODY: You’d like to retire and focus on supporting childless people?
MICHAEL: I would. I really, really would.
JODY: But just so you know, if you get that, you will never bloody retire. I don’t think I’m ever going to get to retire.
MICHAEL: By the way, I did get Vicky’s permission to actually say that thing about sugar mommas, so I’ve got the boss’s permission.
BERENICE: Yeah, we’ll have a chat. We’ll have a chat.