What Do I Love About Being a Childless Aunt?
That picture of me holding the wee baby is when I was 18, just graduated high school. This was my niece Tawna, less than a month old. She made me an aunt for the first time. I didn’t know then that I wouldn’t become a mother. But I still remember all the love that rushed over me, holding this girl. The love of being an aunt.
All through the years, in my back and forth of wanting children and also wanting the life I had with my husband, who did not want children, I’ve known that my relationship with my nieces and nephews would not be what it is if I’d had kids of my own. Many mothers say, “You can’t know what the love for your own child is like.” I say, “You can’t know what my love for my nieces and nephews is like.” I love them. Unabashedly, completely, with clear eyes and an unconditional heart.
Of course, it is possible to be a mother AND an aunt. Many people with children have deep relationships with their nieces and nephews. But I believe, I feel it deeply, that I have unique relationships with the kids in my life because I don’t have children of my own. There is simply that extra space that is not reserved for my own child. I don’t see these children through the lens of a parent, but as something other. This otherness gives me permission to not BE a parent. And for the kids to see me as another kind of adult with something different to show them about the world.
In my memoir, This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story, I tell the story of how I came to be a person who did not have children, and the joy and sadness on this journey. But beneath it all, I recognize my good fortune. My siblings and my husband’s siblings had plenty of kids. My friends have kids. These kids are having kids with whom I get to continue the story. These parents welcome me into their lives, they appreciate the occasional off-loading, and the love I have to give.
Besides fueling these relationships with the love and energy I didn’t give to my own children, I also have a bit more surplus in time and finances. And my delight in play has continued even as I’ve reached sixty (though I am a bit more careful on the trampoline!). This play, and my desire for real conversations are the foundations of time spent with the young ones in my life, through their youth and on into adulthood.
Did I miss out on something by not being a mom?
Did I gain something unexpected and full of layers and layers of love?
YES. Yes I did.
As a childless person I feel we all have a role to play in the future of the children in the world because they are the future of the world. July 26th is National Aunt and Uncle Day. Reach out to the aunts and uncles in your lives, especially those who don’t have kids of their own.
If you’d like to see a few more pictures of life as aunt, check out the photo gallery from This Particular Happiness.
And if you are an aunt, and want some ideas on upping your auntie quotient, check out Savvy Auntie.
Also, I don’t tend to hurt myself too much with comments intended to be thoughtful but, well, aren’t. Check out this list of 7 things not to say, from the Enchanted Aunt.