Just like parents, first time aunts-to-be are just dying to know how to be an aunt – especially those without kiddos of their own. They worry about being a good role model, boundaries with parents, and how much candy is too much candy (in my opinion, there’s no such thing as too much candy, but you didn’t hear it from me). Well, I hate to break it to all you first-time auntie’s, there is no step-by-step guide on how to be an aunt. However, I would like to share some advice on what I feel are the most important do’s of auntiehood.
Do love your nieces and nephews unconditionally. I feel like this one is a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning. Whether they’re your nieces and nephews by blood, or by choice, always love them no matter what. When they make a mistake always remember that you’re there to love, not judge. Be their cheerleader and support their interests, even if it may seem odd to you. By doing so, you will create a forever bond that is stronger than you can imagine.
Do set a good example. I vividly remember the first time I heard my nephew swear. We were smack-dab in the middle of the grocery store! Can you image the horror of all the disapproving eyes glancing my way?! The only person I could be mad at was myself, I hadn’t set a good example. More importantly, I remember the first time my niece told me she wanted to be just like me someday because I am so nice to people and such a hard-worker. Yes, I cried like a baby.
Do spoil the bejeezus out of them! Just keeping it real here. Being an aunt is fun and extremely entertaining. There is nothing more special than knowing that you put a smile on their face, and nothing more funny than sending them home to the parents all “hopped up on Mt. Dew!”
Do know your boundaries as an aunt. In my experience, one of the biggest challenges of being an aunt is remembering you are not the parent. While you may be able to positively influence the parent’s decisions, ultimately it is not your choice. It is not your place to decide what kind of clothes they wear, who their friends are, where they go to school, what religion they follow, or how they are disciplined – unless you’ve been given express permission to do so, and even then I would tread carefully. It’s not worth the fight, or the missed opportunities to spend valuable time with your nieces and nephews.
Do set limits with their parents. In my earlier days of auntiehood, I spent an entire year catering to the every request of the mother of one of my niece’s. I was working between 90-100 hours per week, barely getting any rest, much less any “me” time. I was at her beckon call, taking my niece to school so her mother wouldn’t be late for work because she didn’t hear her alarm (a lot), or picking my niece up from martial arts practice because her mother wanted to spend more time at the bar after work – notice a pattern here? Why did I let it continue for so long? I didn’t want to be labeled as a bad aunt. When it finally dawned on me that I was actually doing the job of a parent, I learned how to use the word “no” and started to set limits with her mother.
While my experience may be a little more extreme compared to most, the point is to remember that you have a life too. As much as you love your nieces and nephews, and would do anything for them, you are not a full-time babysitter or chauffeur service – unless, of course, you want to be. While saying “no” can sting, not giving yourself much needed “me” time can sting even more. You need rest, you need your adult time, and you are certainly not a bad aunt if you don’t take over the responsibilities of their parents.
Lastly, you will probably make mistakes along the way. Nobody is perfect, and it’s easy to let emotions cloud judgement. Be easy on yourself and take one day at a time. Taking the time to read this article tells me that you already have the makings of a great aunt. Now go out there and be the best aunt you can be!
Have questions? Want to share your experiences and advice? I would love to hear them! Please feel free to leave a comment below.