Some of my most precious memories as a child were times spent with my aunt.
She was fun, she didn’t treat me like a child, and she never told me what I can’t do. She was simply someone who understood me in a way that my parents couldn’t.
It was probably because she didn’t have kids herself.
But now that I’ve grown older and have become an aunt myself, I realize why that was the tendency for her. More importantly, I’ve learned the extent of her value all the more.
“You’ll never know what true love is until you give birth to a child.”
I’ve heard this said before. Growing up, I’ve heard variations of this phrase told about my aunt’s interest in spending time with us kids.
To other parents, it might be easy to determine the reason behind an aunt’s breezy and loving disposition towards their nieces and nephews.
“It’s easy for her,” they would say in one way or another. “She’s not the one locked at home, burdened with feedings and diapers 24/7.”
But she has fed and clothed us. She has changed her fair amount of diapers. And there were so many weekends I now realize she sacrificed so she could babysit us,
I didn’t realize how unkind and demeaning such a sentiment was until I became an aunt myself. But most of all, it was unfair.
I’m not disputing that a mother-and-child relationship is one of the most profound in our human world. But it’s unfair to say that an aunt’s love to her niece or nephew is any less valuable.
Aunts are more important than you think
Aunts play a big role in developing a happy childhood. And childless Aunts even more so.
Childlessness influences the relationship between aunt and niece/nephew with more regularity. In fact, in this research by psychologist Robert Milardo, more than half of the aunts interviewed were childless.
And Dr. Milardo says that aunts “often mention they have the time, and consequently the opportunity to become involved with their nieces, as well as the inclination to do so. ”
One particular aunt by the name of Sandy expressed:
“I have more time to give to my nephews and nieces and the desire to do that, to incorporate them into my life. I know how stressed out and busy parents are. It’s just a whole different world….So yeah, I have a busy life, but I don’t have that 24/7 demand they do, and I have the time and the desire.”
To us, our nieces and nephews are the closest things we have to our own children, and that makes us want to treat them with all the love and attention. Childless aunts love without a sense of ownership, and that is something that touches children in such a profound way.
Why are they so valuable?
1. They are invaluable as teachers. Aunts can teach too. They serve as amazing educators to their nieces and nephews — teaching them about life, color, and so many wonderful things.
2. They are great confidants. Children can be afraid to confide to their parents about sensitive topics. However, aunts always seem more understanding all willing to lend an open ear and an even more open heart.
3. Aunts are very intuitive. Aunts are like mind readers sometimes. They are so in tune with their nephews’/nieces’ feelings that they can immediately sense when they are sad, frustrated, or bothered.
4. Their corrections and advice come through “softer.” Children may resent it when parents tell them they’re wrong. But aunts can feel less than an authoritative figure and more of a confidant. When they try to correct children’s behaviors or give them firm advice, it feels softer to children, making them respond to it more positively. This approach can help teach them better values.
Last few thoughts…
Childless aunts may be the most undervalued women in America, but they have such an important role to play in child rearing.
Not only do these relationships help maintain family unity, but they also create a special bond that, although different, is nevertheless special for kids.
Simply put, childless aunts bring a positive effect to a child’s upbringing. This is one relationship every kid needs to have in their lives.