Thriving in My Role as Aunty Before Mommy

By Jan Tanaka

“When are you going to have kids of your own?”

My husband and I receive this often as a substitute for “Hello” from friends and family.

It’s not that we do not want children, or that we are not trying. It just has not happened. Yet. And at 38 years old, others worry on my behalf that I will never be a mother.

The truth is, I have never really worried about it myself.

I would love for us to have a child of our own, but it is not a requirement for me to enjoy my life. And for now, I hold the title of “Aunty,” which is a greatly underrated, yet deeply rewarding, role for non-moms to play.

I get to be the best “Aunty Jan” I can be to my four nephews, three nieces and my godchildren. I get to pick them up from school, teach them new things, watch movies during sleepovers and take them on adventures. We get to eat junk food, stay up late and run around acting crazy. All while still ensuring their teeth are brushed, their homework is complete and that we sneak a vegetable or two into their meals.

For as long as I can remember, my own aunt played a crucial part in my life.

She helped to cover our school expenses. She calls us on holidays and birthdays. She even stood in at my wedding when my mother was unable to attend. My aunt has always loved us like her own, and I used to wonder how she could love me so much. Now, as an aunt myself, I understand.

Raising a child is not easy.

There is so much to worry about, so much to do. Motherhood can take over and my role as aunt supports my sister in many of those responsibilities. I can help give her a break to come back to herself. My role gives the kids a different kind of support. They come to us when they are feeling hurt or sad, happy or excited. They share with us their milestones.

Being an aunt also prepares me for motherhood.

My husband and I are often called “weekend parents” because every weekend the kids sleep over. They have their own rules and routines at our house. And because, as their aunt and not their mother, I don’t see them every single day, it makes these times just a little more special.

I have the best of both worlds: I get to love these kids hard, much like my aunt loved me. And just as I loved her back, they love me fiercely in return. I get all the perks of being a part of raising them. But for now, at least, I still have my personal non-mom freedom.

When or if I ever have children of my own remains to be seen.

The love I receive from the children already in my life is genuine, unconditional and immensely gratifying. I count myself blessed beyond words to be their Aunty.

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