Elizabeth Gillbert — author of Eat Pray Love – was interviewed for Babble last year and talked about the importance of loving, childless aunts. The Auntie Brigade, as she calls it, is the backbone in so many families, providing support (financially, emotionally) and giving those extra special treats that Mom would never allow. You know, the things that kids deserve every now and then (another cookie, another toy, a later bedtime), but, as parents, we’re obligated to not give into. It’s our job to raise responsible little humans who know their boundaries and stay appreciative, but aunts don’t have that weighing responsibility.
As every mother knows — and I’ve heard people say it a million times — when you’re pregnant you have two hearts inside of you. It’s this strange moment in time when you’re carrying two human hearts, and then one of them leaves and you spend the rest of your life having to worry about it…There’s a sobriety to that that I think those of us who don’t have children never experience, and I think kids sense it in childless women. There’s an abandon that they feel when they’re with someone who’s, frankly, just not as responsible. It’s just ‘Wheee! Wow! What are we gonna do? Anything you want!’ You know? Every child needs somebody like that in their life, and I think every mother needs somebody like that in her life, to shunt the kids off to and let them experiment with things they can’t do at home.
The first person this reminds me of is my sister, Nikki, who designates two “AUNT DAYS!” a week during the summer. During the school year (she just graduated with her teaching degree), my sister was super swamped with school and work and student teaching, so the summer is an extra special time — for both of them.
Days where they eat pancakes for lunch, go out for ice cream, spend endless hours swimming and running and laughing and swimming again.
He wakes up with a smile, saying “AUNT DAY!” and comes home — dirty, sweaty, giddyy — saying “AUNT DAY!” Even as an infant, Nikki spent her summers dedicated to Noah so that I wouldn’t have to put him in daycare — never asking for a penny, never complaining, never flaking out . And I’m so grateful. (Not only that, but Nikki takes all of his incredible photos and spends her time making clothes/toys/gifts. That’s something another mom wouldn’t have time for!)
And the second person I think of is my Aunt Debbie (Noah’s Great Aunt) who simply adores him. Growing up, she’s played that ever-important childless aunt role that Gillbert was talking about — giving all of her nieces and nephews invaluable time, money, opportunities.
After my sister was born, my mom was in the hospital for weeks — maybe even months — and my Aunt Debbie stepped in to take care of us and help out. She’s been an ever-present presence in our lives, not matter where we lived or how old we were — someone that we’ve always been able to talk to, depend on, lean on. Whether she was taking us on day trips, organizing family reunions or, in the case of my cousins, even allowing us to live with her from time to time — she’s provided such stabile support for our families. I honestly don’t know what we’d do without her, and I’m so grateful that she’s around to love my son as well. (She’s one of his favorite people. Partly because she always has a treat in her pocketbook, but mostly because she’s an incredible woman.)
So yay for the childless sisters, aunts, cousins, friends who are able to invest so much of themselves in our children. You all play such an underrepresented but ever-important role in our families, and we love you for it.
Do you have anyone in your family like this? Give them a shout out!