25 Reasons Why Aunts Deserve a Day
Originally published in The Huffington Post on July 25, 2014.
This Sunday, July 27, is the 6th Annual Auntie's Day®, the day I established in 2009 to celebrate and honor the maternal women in a child's life. Aunts by relation, aunts by choice, great-aunts, godmothers and all women who love the children in their lives deserve a day to be recognized and acknowledged. Here's why:
1. Nearly half of American women of childbearing age are not moms, more than ever before. A recent national study on moms and non-moms I partnered on with DeVries Global PR, entitled Shades of Otherhood, revealed that 80 percent of non-moms have a niece or nephew by relation or by choice in their lives.
2. We don't make much of a distinction between loving kids we're related to and loving our friends' kids. About half (49%) of non-moms have a niece or nephew by relation, and 41% have a niece or nephew by choice.
3. Whether or not we want children of our own, we love the kids in our lives.
4. Even when we are related to our nieces and nephews, there's no legal obligation, or any obligation in fact, to love and nurture them. And yet we do.
5. In a study I partnered on with Weber Shandwick in 2012 entitled, The Power of the PANK®, the term I coined for the growing number of Professional Aunts No Kids, we learned that childless aunts spend on average $387 per child in their lives, per year. Moreover, 76 percent of PANKs spend over $500, per child, per year. Baseline just one child per aunt -- and many aunts have more than one niece, nephew or godchild -- that's $9 billion a year spent on kids we love.
6. Lest you think these big bucks are spent just on the coolest new toys , tech and tutus, more than a third (34%) of PANKs contribute to a child's education. That's college savings plans, tutors, even school tuition.
7. That's because we Savvy Aunties don't just want to help our nieces and nephews; 45 percent of PANKs have given gifts to parent(s) of the child(ren) in their lives to help them in providing for their kids
8. Still, one-third of us admit we're also more likely to give the children more expensive gifts than others in their lives.
9. This is in spite of our cautious spending habits, as most of us (75%) say we're more careful with how we spend money since the economic crisis, demonstrating that we are willing to make sacrifices for the kids in our lives.
10. We want our nieces and nephews to grow, develop and see the world. Nearly half (48%) of aunts love to travel with our nieces and nephews.
11. We're not solely gift-givers of course. Nearly 70 percent of PANKs say that the children in their lives see them as a role model.
12. Part of that might be our cool-aunt factor. Thirty-six percent of PANKs say that their nieces and nephews come to them for fashion and trend advice.
13. And parents come to us for a helping hand. Thirty-four percent of PANKs enjoy running errands for their nieces and nephews, like walking them to school, taking them to soccer practice, or going with them to the doctor.
14. That's because we're kindhearted "BenevolAunts." We're more likely (57%) than the average woman (48%) to participate in community service, charity work and volunteering.
15. Our Otherhood survey showed that even though the childless aunt may want her own children, very soon or one day, she is happy and always expects to be. In fact, 80 percent of women of the Otherhood said they could live happy lives without children of their own, whether or not they want children.
16. Because of the "Mom-opia" in America, the uber focus on motherhood as the holy grail of womanhood, with celebrity magazine covers touting the latest celebrity or royal baby bump or newborn, studies have shown that it can wear on childless women, making them feel less-than or unnatural for not having children of their own, no matter how maternal they are.
17. The circumstantial infertility of those who deeply yearn for motherhood within the context of a loving partnership but remain single, is disenfranchised grief, the type of grief that goes unacknowledged and is misunderstood. People in these women's lives assume they aren't doing enough to find a partner, are too picky, or don't want to be mothers enough simply because they aren't mothers, yet.
18. While Mother's Day can certainly make a childless aunt feel left out, most holidays, from Christmas to Easter, Thanksgiving to Halloween, can make her feel disconnected from family and society.
19. Many children speak of their aunts and godmothers as a second mother to them, always being there if and when their mother can't be. Some of these devoted adopt their nieces and nephews as their own, officially or unofficially, when their nieces' and nephews' mother (and father) are no longer able to parent. These "ParAunts" sacrifice so much, most often unexpectedly.
20. Of course, one need not be living with nieces and nephews to prove one's love. The LDA, long-distance aunt, travels to see those kids and spends time over Facetime or Skype with them, often saddened to have to miss milestones and events in a child's life. Yes, it often means more to us to be there than it does to the kids.
21. It doesn't take money to put a smile on a child's life. Studies show that the "QualAuntie Time" an aunt spends with a baby and young child simply through uninterrupted playtime, supports their emotional, cognitive and social skill development, not to mention their motor dexterity.
22. The love doesn't end when childhood does. Many Savvy Aunties are deeply involved in their adult nieces' and nephews' lives, moving into the cool Great-Aunt role with just as much love and devotion.
23. And parents know that the favorite aunt is always there for their children, through thick and thin. They love their nieces and nephews deeply and unconditionally -- and forever.
24. She's the "ConfidAunt" children and teens go to when they don't feel they can talk to their parents. While she's not their mom, she's also not their friend. She's their aunt, the perfect blend.
25. Babies are born from the womb. Maternity is born from the soul. There are many ways to "mother" a child. Aunthood is as close as it gets.
On Sunday, July 27, and every fourth Sunday in July from here on, celebrate the aunts and godmothers in your children's lives. Clearly, they deserve it. And if you are a Savvy Auntie yourself, know that you are acknowledged and celebrated for all that you do. Aunthood is a gift. This day is yours.