I love Melanie Notkin, and her creation Savvy Auntie which is a website and now a book. What touches me so deeply about Melanie is how she took what could feel like an unmanageable situation (involuntary childlessness) and turned her desire for a child into an expansion of love for the children already in her life – her nieces and nephews.
I have written about Melanie before and the importance of Aunts in the family. If you missed these blogs (I think they are really good!) please check out Savoring The Role of Auntie and The Auntie Brigade: A View of Childless Women By Choice or Fate.
But this is an issue that continues to come up over and over again in my Fertility Coaching Practice. This inquiry into the role of Aunt in the lives of my clients usually surfaces around the holidays – or when women are transitioning out of medical treatment and examining what life might be like without being a mother.
Being an Aunt is no less important than being a mother. In fact – it is possible and daring for me to say – that it is the beloved Aunt that may actually get to know a child even more than the mother! You see – Aunts are the safe adult – part friend and part family. You can tell an Aunt anything – things that you simply may not want to tell your mother! But if there is no one there to completely embrace this special and unique role of Aunt – the child may not have any completely safe adults to tell their secrets to.
Think back into your own life. Did you have a special Aunt growing up? I did. Her name was Aunt Dorothy. And it was her apartment that I went to when I needed to escape my mother. It was Aunt Dorothy who made me coffee and served fabulous Italian cookies and who told me that I should go marry my man ( I did). Aunt Dorothy was the holder of my secrets, my private cheer leader, and from whom I felt unconditional love. Now – I have a great mom. But it was Aunt Dorothy that I often turned to in ways that was completely unique. It is funny – when Aunt Dorothy passed away – her daughter Susan stepped right into that role for me. It is that important.
I am not telling you to replace your desire for your own children with the role of being an Aunt. But the role of Aunt can be as big and as beautiful as the role of a mother. There is so much the same about it – and frankly – there are parts of being an Aunt that has distinct advantages. So, think about the children in your life. If you don’t have nieces and nephews – perhaps you have a good friend whose children you can step into this role with. I bet you would be very welcome!
You can turn away from children in your life and decide that it is too painful to be around them – or you can embrace them in a brand new way that is full of pride and love. As Melanie Notkin would say “Auntie Up!”