This one goes out to the aunties who always, always come bearing a smile (and gifts).
My children, like many lucky kids, have an amazing auntie. She’s the kind of aunt who comes along on road trips, takes my kids for the weekend, buys thoughtful gifts, and organises living-room dance parties whenever she’s over.
My children love their Auntie Katy, and my husband (her brother) and I need her.
When I peruse my Facebook and Instagram feeds, I can’t help but notice that the world is full of Auntie Katys. I’ve thought about this a lot, and concluded that there are many reasons why the adult, child-free aunties of the world are particularly wonderful. (I’m obviously talking about a specific kind of aunt here, but please don’t feel excluded if you or someone you know is just like this in helpfulness and affection, but not exactly in other ways. This could describe a good friend, or a great aunt, someone with slightly older children, or, of course, a wonderful uncle.)
So, aunties, here’s why you are so special to parents of small children:
First of all, there is your competence. You are an adult. You have a job, a home, a life. If there is an emergency when you are in charge, you’re just as likely to be able to cope with it as I am. I can trust you to be responsible for more than a few hours, for more than an evening, for a whole weekend if you’re willing, and I don’t necessarily need to leave a long list of specific instructions. And we both know it’s easier for you to maintain both the “fun” and the control, because you can go home afterward. To your home, where it is (I assume) quieter and toyless and Dora-free.
Secondly, there’s your time and energy. While parents are constantly adjusting to the schedules of their children, you are in charge of your own timeline. Obviously you have work, and relationships, and a life, but you also probably have free time that you, alone, control. So if you love my kids, which you do, you can choose to spend time with them. And then, while you’re here, you play hide-and-seek, teach cartwheels in the backyard, and pull a toddler around on the wagon. You’ve made time to see the kids, and you want to play with the kids! Everyone wins, especially me and my hot, fresh coffee.
Next, there are the presents. Oh, the presents. As an adult, you can spend money on whatever you wish, and of course you don’t need to spend any money on your nieces and nephews; your very presence in their lives is enough. However, if you choose to buy the world’s most fun board game or a huge glitter-covered princess-themed art supply kit, we will take it!
Most child-free aunties are fantastic. But what happens when you have a relative who isn’t? Robin Bailey and Rebecca Sparrow discuss how to deal with toxic relatives, on The Well. Post continues after audio.
Finally, and most importantly, there is the love. You genuinely, completely love my children. You’re invested in them. You’re interested in their lives. You think they are adorable and awesome and hilarious, and really are delighted if they call and leave a funny message on your voice mail or send you a piece of scribbled-on construction paper in the mail. These children are your family, and you love them; it’s as simple as that. I don’t think that changes, for the most part, when an Aunt has her own children–I know I love my own incredible nieces and nephews as much as I ever have. But this love? It’s the best part.
I guess that, like any parent, I am just immensely grateful to have someone, anyone, who will arrive at my house and immediately get down on her knees for kiddie hugs and kisses and tickles and squeezes; who texts to say, “Are you guys around to Skype?” but really only wants me to say “yes” if the kids are awake; who remembers all of my kids’ ages and birthdays and what they said they want for Christmas; and who will listen with obvious love and amusement to a long, rambling, confusing, nonsensical story from a four-year-old.
Child-free aunties, we parents love you dearly, and we genuinely want you to be as happy as you deserve to be, so we truly hope you’ll be a mother yourself someday, if that’s what would make you happy. We have seen, firsthand, how great you would be at it. But, secretly and selfishly, we kind of hope it’s not for a while.
Finally, I wanted to add a quick note of apology. Sometimes we mums may hurt your feelings, aunts. We have been known to say, or to accidentally imply, “You don’t understand; you’re not a mother.” This can be very insensitive and ungrateful, I know. But here’s the thing: being the mother of small children can be so all-consuming for us, we sometimes feel like we are nothing else. So we look at you, with your career and your free time, your unstained dress clothes and your perky boobs, your trip to Europe and your cool hiking adventure, and we sometimes feel just a tiny bit jealous. We feel the need to be better than you at parenting, for pete’s sake, because sometimes it seems like that’s all we have.
Please just give us this one, dear Aunties; forgive us for our insensitivity, and keep coming over to babysit anyway. If nothing else, come for the kids. They love you just as much as you love them.
This post was originally published on the Huffington Post. You can read the original here.