I Am NOT An Aunt
I often hear of childfree people talk about how they want to be the awesome/cool aunt/uncle. I don’t doubt that many genuinely mean what they say and enjoy the role. Still, I get the sense that many say it in the same apologetic way they say without prompt “I love kids,” as if being childfree was something one had to make up for by being involved with children in other ways, and being of some use to those who do have children. I think many childfree people feel like they have to be this way; it’s what’s expected of them. Conforming to expectation is not really my thing.
My sister had a baby earlier this year. He is my sister’s son. But he is not my nephew. He is my sister’s son. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against the baby. How could I? I’ve never met him. That’s just it – I don’t know him. He isn’t a part of my life. He probably never will be. I don’t intend to be involved, even if we ever do meet. I don’t call him my nephew because I refuse to call myself an aunt. I completely reject that label. I am not an aunt.
I remember when my dad broke the news to me. His voice was much like one someone might use to tell you that a puppy just pooped on your new carpet. He said to me, after confirming that I was sitting down, “Well, how do you like to be called “aunt?”" I was instantly repulsed.
A few months ago, my sister had her baby. I won’t go in to all the problems I have with this and how deeply disappointed I am or how much I disapprove, as none of that is really relevant. In fact, there isn’t much about my sister’s life that is relevant to me anymore. Over the last several years, I have only seen her a few times per year while visiting home, and we rarely speak. We haven’t even lived in the same state since 2007. Even before that, due to our age difference and the different circles we ran in, we didn’t really hang out. We sometimes got along. We sometimes didn’t. But mostly, we left each other alone. I have my life and she has hers. Should this have somehow changed because she became a mother?
When she got pregnant, if anything, we’ve only grew farther apart. We had a bit of a falling-out when I voiced my disapproval based on a number of factors. She didn’t take kindly to that, but someone had to tell the truth. Despite our distant relationship, I cared about my sister. I had high hopes for her, once. Was it really so wrong to warn her that she was making a mistake, that she was throwing her future away? Apparently so. The more we spoke/fought, the less I cared about her. I eventually hid her posts on FaceBook so I could forget her and not be reminded of my disappointment and not tempted to comment on it further. It’s her life, after all.
Yes. It’s her life. She had a baby. A son. She’s a mother now. Her life has been forever changed in innumerable and immeasurable ways. Who and what she is has changed. Who and what she can ever be has changed, too. That, there is no denying. She is a mother now. The life she had before is over.
But what has changed about me? What has changed in my life? What has changed in my relationships? I look around me and I can’t see any way that I am affected at all. I live several states away and haven’t really been involved in my sister’s life in years, and I’m not involved in her son’s life either. Why should what I call myself be changed another person’s actions which don’t affect me in the slightest? And why should I put a label a relationship that I don’t have? Why should I be anything to a total stranger? And why should a stranger be anything to me?
So this isn’t about any dislike of the nephew, or of my sister (although I have found that I respect her just a bit less due to her words and actions, but that’s of no relevance here.) She doesn’t even seem to mind, really. And it’s not about making some sort of point either in my disapproval. And it’s certainly not about making some kind of point as a childfree person. It’s just that I don’t feel like being related means that anything is required of me, and I certainly don’t feel like being childfree requires anything extra of me. I don’ t have to be the “cool aunt.”
This is about rejecting a role that comes with a label by refusing the label. I am not changed. I see no reason why I should change. It makes no sense to give me a label. I am not an aunt. Will I ever be? I don’t plan on moving, so I doubt it. I think we’re all OK with that.