Motherhood

On Being a Great Aunt

How to Be a Great Aunt

Growing up, I never felt compelled to be a mom like many of my friends. Instead, I felt called to be an aunt. I love this quote by Irish poet Robert Lynd: “There is something in the relationship between aunts and their nephews and nieces that is quite unlike any other. In the company of their aunts, nephews and nieces know that they are privileged persons. The bonds of duty are somehow relaxed: they have no obligations but to be happy.” That’s what I wanted growing up — to be the person in kids’ lives whose sole job is to make them feel loved and safe. So, we asked nine aunts what it’s like to play this role. Here are their funny, thoughtful answers…

On building a close relationship:

“One of the best ways I’ve found to foster a rapport with kids is to ask them for their opinions. Say you’re out for ice-cream and can’t decide between strawberry and chocolate. Ask Ms. Five-Year-Old and then go with what she recommends. Her face will light up. Kids are often underestimated, so when you value their opinion, it’s esteem-building.” — Tracey

“I visit my nieces every other Sunday, and sometimes we do crafts. I’m also teaching one of my nieces how to cook, and she likes everything garlic, so we make the garlickiest garlic dinner and go around breathing garlic on people and being aggravating.” — Sheila

“My niece Laila is reading the Harry Potter books, and every time she finishes one, she spends the night at my house and we’ll watch the movie and make pumpkin hand pies. Of course, her mom could do that, but it’s an adventure to go to Aunt Sam’s house. She tells all her friends at school about it.” — Samantha

“Once, I brought my nephews some candy, and even though it was before dinner, I said, ‘You can eat it now, because I’m your aunt, and this is an aunt treat.’ They were so excited. And when I go to movies with them, it’s like, who wants a Slurpee? The funny thing is that I would never do that with my own daughter, unless it’s a special occasion. But maybe that’s it — it is a special occasion to see them, because I don’t get to see them all the time.” — Lucy

“I try to really pay attention to what my nieces and nephews are reading, watching, and listening to so I can lean into their interests. My niece and I first went to Comic-Con a few years ago, and she had so much fun that it’s become our thing. This last Comic-Con, we met the actor who plays Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies. My niece was dressed as Hermione. She barely spoke to him, she was so nervous, and on the way home she was quiet in the backseat. I said, ‘You okay back there?’ And then she said, ‘Did that really happen? That was the best day ever. You’re the coolest aunt.’” — Annette

On keeping up with long-distance nieces and nephews:

“Starting when they were little, my sister would say, ‘I’m going to clean the kitchen, you can Skype with your aunt.’ And they would sit and chat with me. They loved typing in emojis and sending dancing hamster videos. Now my older niece texts me about stuff she is doing, like playing the Wicked Witch of the West in a school play or attending a local Pride parade. I love our conversations.” — Eve

“Instead of beating yourself up for not being there physically, be there in another way. A sheet of stickers in an envelope will take five minutes from your day, but those kids will be SO EXCITED to receive a letter addressed to them. (And only them! No addressing the envelope to multiple siblings.)” — Tracey

“Toby has a really good memory for events and he’s into travel itineraries. He’ll be like, ‘Auntie Lucy, remember you visited last year on May 17?’ So, one way I keep up with him is by showing him I value that expertise. I’ll send Joanna emails addressed to him: ‘Question for Toby: when do you guys leave New York and when do you arrive in California?’ Toby gets to be the one to say the exact arrival time. One time Joanna actually had the date wrong until Toby corrected her!” — Lucy

“You know how in Disney movies, many of the children are orphans? Because that is the most horrifying thing for a child, to envision a life in which they’ve lost their parents or family. Every child has that little dread in the back of their mind. But if you have aunts and uncles that you believe care about you, it eases that basic primal fear of being alone. Even if the relationship isn’t that strong, if you feel like that person is there for you, it eases that fear.” — Bevan

On being an in-between person:

“At Christmas, I didn’t hear my mom announce that kids could visit the buffet before the adults. So, here I am, plate in hand, serving myself along with the kids when one of the fathers says, ‘Hey! You aren’t allowed yet!’ His nine-year-old replies, ‘Yes, she is! She’s one of us! Well, not a kid, but in-between.’ It still makes me laugh. That’s the role of an aunt: not a kid, not a parent. In-between.” — Tracey

“I remember having wonderful aunties to talk to about things that I couldn’t talk to my mother about. They were always there, these people who were deeply invested in my wellbeing. When I was an adolescent, I wanted to use tampons, not pads, but couldn’t turn to my mother. I asked my Aunty Marcy, ‘Tell me about tampons.’ She gave me a couple, explained things, and encouraged me, ‘Go practice. It’ll be fine.’” — Sheila

“I have a close relationship with my nieces and nephews because I believe in the importance of ‘that person’ in everyone’s life — someone other than a mom or dad. As an aunt, I am a mentor, an advisor, a playmate, a shoulder to cry on and a giver of hugs. I am an encourager, a listener, a guide, and a friend.” — Shayda

On changing relationships:

“My niece and nephew both have phones now, so I try to text them about things they’re interested in, nothing earth-shattering: ‘Driving back to the office, stopped to see the seals,’ that kind of thing. I think it’ll be harder to get their attention as they get older, so maybe I’ll treat them like cats, ignore them and they will come to me.” — Sharon

“My adult nephews are old enough to tell me that I was a positive influence in their life and that they learned from me. I get texts from my nephew out of nowhere: ‘Love you, Aunty, thinking about you today.’ He made guacamole for a barbecue he was having a couple months ago and he sent me a picture and said, ‘How does it look? I tried to leave some chunky parts the way that you taught me.’” — Sheila

On creating the family you want:

“I wanted kids, but it didn’t work out. There was a time when that was super painful for me, and everyone else seemed to be getting pregnant. But my sister understood what I went through with infertility. So, when she got pregnant, I decided to make a point of being in my niece’s life a lot, and now being an aunt is a huge, joyful part of my life and identity.” — Eve

“Because my parents had split up, my mother surrounded herself with other women. All of my mom’s close friends became ‘aunties’ to me. I had a million aunties! In fact, I still call their kids my ‘cousins.’ We build our own families, don’t we?” — Sheila

“My advice for parents is to choose your village and make it known. Invite friends in by calling them ‘Aunt’ and ‘Uncle.’ Try to foster the connection: if your kid likes bugs, have him send a photo to his bug-loving aunt or invite her along for a museum day. Let them have secrets and break the rules. It really does take a team.” — Tracey

On the best gig:

“My eight-year-old niece says that when she grows up she doesn’t want to have kids. I told her, you can be both a mum and an aunty, and she said, ‘I know, but I don’t want to. My sister is going to have kids, and I’ll be their aunty.’ And I said, ‘I gotta tell you, it’s a pretty sweet gig.’” — Sheila

Are you an aunt, or would you like to be? What special things do you do with your nieces or nephews? What advice do you have for others?

P.S. 8 women on choosing not to have kids, and do your eyes light up when you see a child in your life?

(Illustration by Leah Reena Goren for Cup of Jo.)

  1. I love this post! thanks Haylie,
    I’ve been following you for a few months now and i think this is my favourite post. I don’t think us AUNTS get enough credit for being awesome! But the truth is i love spending time with my nieces and nephews. Although my nephew is very young it’s still nice to spend time with him and watch him grow. I buy my older niece gifts all the time but the best part is just spending time on Facetime or Whatsapp video as we live a little far from each other.
    Anyhow, thanks for the great share. I’m going to share in on Facebook now ;-)

  2. Caitlin says...

    I have no kids of my own and don’t have any nieces or nephews from my siblings, and I never will be an aunty by them. However, I am a Tìa to my best friend’s kids. I have one nephew and two nieces. To them I am their aunt. I am so thankful I get to be that for them and I look forward to the coming years as they get older how our relationships will develop.

  3. Natalie says...

    I was an aunt at 10 (my sister is 16 years older than I).

  4. Jess says...

    I am a long distance aunt and would love to constantly send gifts, but that’s crazy expensive and my sister would likely kill me. So, ever since my first niece was born, I’ve sent postcards. I send them from EVERYWHERE. All over the world in my travels. but also mundane places in my own town and state. It doesn’t matter that it is isn’t exciting to me, it is exciting to my niece and nephew when they get them. And they always get their own – no sharing! My sister keeps them in a big, old school photo album and occasionally they’ll each get out their own album and review the “places they’ve seen.” It is a fun and affordable way to let them know I am always thinking of them. Plus, I’m always looking for postcards wherever I go, so it has forced me to see the interesting places in my own not-normally-interesting-to-me area.

  5. Barb says...

    I have three kids that I adore and keep me so busy, but I also really relish being an aunt. I have lots of nieces and nephews and being in their lives is important to me. I love seeing them interact with my kids (their cousins), but I enjoy them for themselves, too. It takes work, especially now that I have my own children, but the investment of time to go to their events or have conversations with them or be the one that plays with them at the park, is so so special and worth it!

  6. Kay says...

    This is so totally relatable for me — I’m childless by choice but am surrounded by nephews and nieces from all my siblings, one set of whom I’m closer to as I used to live under the same roof with my brother and his family (4 sons!) and practically helped raise them. I didn’t really know how to relate to them when I was/they were younger as I wasn’t really big on kids, but I made more of an effort with the youngest of the 4. When he was little he was my adorable little snuggle bunny but now that he’s in his awkward early teens we’ve kind of gotten out of sync, but surprisingly I’m now quite close to his older brothers instead. One of them went through a protracted breakup along with all the attendant teenage drama and angst, and one day he decided to open up to me about it as he felt he couldn’t quite talk to his parents about it. I listened while he poured his heart out (and dished out some really juicy goss involving his ex’s cheating, a backstabbing friend whom she cheated with, etc) and acted as a sounding board for him as he got some long-held stuff off his chest, at the end of which he asked me not to divulge any of it to his parents. I readily agreed — I was glad I could be a bridge of sorts for him as a younger adult (his parents are much older than I am so I like to think I’m the cool semi-young aunt) who could still provide a grown-up’s perspective to his understandably teenage tunnel vision. (Also nobody in this situation was in any immediate danger so there was no need to alert his parents/play whistleblower.) The whole thing did eventually come out in the open, and his parents were more than a little surprised to find out that I had known about it all along. I said I’d promised him I’d keep his confidence so I did. So now at least the boys know this aunt is fully in their corner, judgement free.

  7. Marty says...

    I have two sweet, smart, adorable nephews, now 6 & 2. When the oldest was two, I was holding him and hugging him in my kitchen as I was making dinner. Out of the blue he asked, “Auntie M, are you a mommy?” I looked at him & said “No, I am not.” He asked, why not? So I thought for a minute & said “because I don’t have any babies.” He looked thoughtful & said “I love you Auntie-Momma” and hugged me. That was one of the sweetest & most adorable things I had ever heard & made my heart swell. I will never forget that moment.

  8. Becca says...

    I struggle with this. Before I became a mom, I struggled with infertility, and my sadness and jealousy kept me at a distance from my nieces and nephews. Once we started the adoption process, that became all-consuming, as has my current adventure of parenting a three year old. I may have missed my chance to be the fun aunt.

    • Tracey says...

      WRONG! Imagine a big gong going off as I say that. I’m the Tracey interviewed in the article and my best ever, love her till the end of time Aunt stepped properly into the picture when I was 8. My husband’s best ever, etc. etc. Aunt showed up at his age 26. If you’re not dead, it’s not too late. Good luck

  9. Briel K. says...

    I loved this post! I have two nieces and one niece or nephew on the way (we find out this weekend what it’s going to be!) and I love being an auntie! I have always said I don’t want kids (or maybe just one. haha) but I love when I get to spend time with my nieces. We live far apart so I only see them every few months or so which is a bummer but when I’m home I spend as much time as I can with them. I’m going home this weekend and we are going to have a slumber party!

  10. Alyssa says...

    This might be one of my favorite posts yet!
    I have a slew of friends who have been having babies in the last two years and being an auntie to their kids is truly the joy of my life. I get to spoil them with clothes and toys and cuddles and love and give their hardworking parents a little rest.

    This year I also became an actual aunt to my step-sister’s baby and that has been even more joyous because getting to see my dad as a grandpa is ridiculously wonderful.

  11. Ashley says...

    So, SO happy to have this written about!! I always read the motherhood posts but they don’t resonate for me, a single childless woman exploring her own life. BUT I would jump in front of a bus for my three (soon to be four!!) nephews! They are the most surprising delight of my life!

    I have ALWAYS adored them, since birth, but I remember when the oldest was only 6 or 7 months old and was crawling on the ground. There was a moment where I could have gone to sit on the couch with my siblings, or stayed to play. I remember thinking — “DECIDE, NOW, to be the fun aunt!!” So I got down on the ground with him and I haven’t gotten up in four years!! My neffies know that when Whompy is there, they’re gonna have a GOOD. TIME. I live about an hour away from all three, and when the rest of the family gets together, they ask their parents if Whompy is gonna be there, or they don’t want to go!

    It fills me up in a whole different way. I love nothing more than to hear them scream my name and come running at me as I walk into the house, or when they FaceTime me to show me the rollie-pollies. Gah I just LOVE being an aunt!!

    • Barb says...

      BEST AUNT NAME EVER. Whompy?! Love it.

  12. Jessica says...

    I was very close to my godmother (my mom’s sister) growing up and unfortunately she died in a car accident when I was 12. I wish so badly she had been around to see me grow up. I know we’d be best friends today. Aunts are special. <3

  13. Allison says...

    i love this post. i hope to have children in the next few years but i know that my sister and soon-to-be sister-in-law likely won’t have any of their own and i’m so excited to see them as aunts. they are both such thoughtful people who have so much goodness to share, their future neices and nephews will be so lucky to be loved by them.

    also, i didn’t read the beginning where it said that you interviewed 9 aunts and halfway through reading i was like, “damn, there are a lot of Sheila’s with aunt knowledge out there!”

  14. J says...

    I have 7(!) nieces, but my oldest niece and I have always had a special connection. When I moved to Ecuador to marry my husband, David, she ended up writing us a story as our wedding gift. It’s about a little girl whose aunt moves to South America to marry an Ecuadorian. In the story, the little girl doesn’t like her new uncle at first and then, after a series of adventures, makes peace with the situation. The story ended up being my niece’s way to process the feelings she was having, but couldn’t exactly express. We have been married for a year now and a few weeks ago my sister-in-law told me that my niece was saying how she missed me when all of a sudden she exclaimed, “Is it weird that I miss David too?!”. <3

  15. Sabrina says...

    This made me smile! At 23, being Auntie Bri to my (almost!!) four year old little cousin has been the best adventure of my life. There are thousands of miles between us, but FaceTime and chatting about his preschool makes us feel so close. I also love sending him little things in the mail, because he recognizes my college town as Auntie Bri’s home!

  16. Joy says...

    While I love this post, it gave me a deep sense of losing something I was not even aware I do not have. I do not have a aunts or uncles or even parents or siblings and now I am worried for my own children.

    • Jo says...

      Aunts and Uncles don’t have to be blood relatives… out of the dozen or so little people who call my Aunty Jo only 2 are actually my niece and nephew. Yes some are my cousins’ kids but many are friends kids. It’s about the relationship not just blood xx

    • Little Miss says...

      my parents didnt have any support from their families when they started creating their family. they did have great friends though that became family and their kids were our cousins.
      imagine having a friend telling you she can keep your sick child so you could go to work with no worry only to go get your kid back in the afternoon all bathed and fed and ready to go to bed.
      do you need a closer bond than that?
      we can create our own tribes :)

    • Tess says...

      I second Jo! I grew up calling all of my mother’s close female friends “Aunt” and they are still so dear to me!

    • KK says...

      I don’t have any siblings, kids of my own, and I just lost my dad 6 months ago. But my niece (goddaughter!) and nephews – who are ALL children of my friends – are some of the highlights of my life, which I 100% did not expect. They’re the best. You haven’t lost anything – your village is full of the people you choose.

    • Sarah says...

      I second what everyone else is saying! I have as many non-family nieces and nephew as family ones. I play on keeping up with them just as I would my own. Maybe you could start calling the women in your tribe who already fill those roles as ‘aunties’… then your kids would always know they had them, and it would be a reminder to you that you have family all around you… hugs.

  17. Ser says...

    My aunt was a wonderful influence on my life . She was childless and single and i adored her bohemian lifestyle. She had a shabby chic decoration aesthetic before it was a thing and was a midwife . I loved her travel tales and cosmopolitan outlook.
    And , I also became a midwife :)

  18. Em says...

    Once my daughter asked my sister – her aunt- whether she was a kid or an adult. I think she was confused at how someone so cool and kid-like could also be part of the adult world. My sister’s response: “I’m whatever you want me to be!”.

  19. Sarah says...

    As a proud aunt, this topic warms my heart so much. My aunt journey has been different than I first expected. I live very close to all nieces and nephew, but my chronic illness keeps me from doing ‘normal’ aunt things like babysitting, sleepovers, picking them up from school on some days etc. So for a long time we weren’t able to connect. Even attending family events wasn’t an option for me. But 5 years ago I started sending them mail and, as already discussed, it was the best thing ever. Every month they get another batch of ‘auntie mail.’ There are always stickers, individual messages, funny animal pictures, and often I will make animal articles for them of things I hear (like the square dog grooming trend in Japan!). As I have gained strength the mail has gotten more elabrorate, with temporary tattoos, little notebooks etc. Online shopping for sale items became an activity I could do from bed. I can now have them over for short periods of time with my husbands help, but I think it was my mail that kept us bonded. Once in a while I will hear that a niece started carrying around a notepad I sent, or how one would casually ask a schoolmate what their aunt sends them just to be shocked that this wasn’t a usual thing that everyone did… that stuff fills my the sails of my heart. It is worth it. It is worth it all. It is worth spending all of August planning and prepping their September mail. I’m in bed with loads of time on my hands, and I love to use it to love them well- in my own little way. Cheers to all the good aunts out there! There are endless ways to rock at it, and that story doesn’t get told enough.

  20. Susannah says...

    I’ve been Auntie for fourteen years now to three wonderful children- a niece and two nephews. Their relationship with their parents is complicated and they’ve been through a lot the past few years. I’ve loved being the safe person in their life who I hope they can talk to and be themselves around. They need someone in their lives who is stable, reliable, and trustworthy and I decided to step up and do my best to be that person for them. The relationship is changing a lot as they get older, but I’m trying to keep up with it and do things that they like with them even if it’s not so fun for me. I’ve listened to a LOT of Old Town Road this summer. ;)
    I’ve loved reading some of the other comments by other Aunties who feel the same way and are that person in their niece and nephews lives. Aunties are the best!

    • Little Miss says...

      you cant imagine on how many levels i relate with your comment.
      today was a very difficult day on the aunt front :)

    • Susnanah says...

      Little Miss- it’s nice to hear that you relate! I hope that things get better. ❤

  21. Esme says...

    Oh COJ, I can’t express how much I needed to read this today. My own marriage is ending, and with that ends one version of family-life that I had been planning for so long. Life does not go as planned, of course. I know I will have other narratives and I hope I will have my own children one day.
    But today I can take comfort in the fact that I am good aunt and am proud to be a mentor and a champion to the young people in my life. Thank you ladies for reaffirming my worth at a moment when I am struggling to muster confidence.

    • Yulia says...

      Hi Esme, you sound wonderful. During the hardest times maybe you can be an aunt to yourself. Take it easy and take care. Sending you love and supportive aunt vibes. <3

    • Sarah says...

      Yes, I feel this with you so much. I too always thought I would be a mom by now… learning to love myself as an aunt and feel truly proud of my place in this world as-is has taken lots of time, but I feel it now. I am thinking of you and all the layers of grieving you are wading through. You are important indeed.

    • Rebecca says...

      Saw your comment, Esme, and had to tell you I’m sending you allll the support! Even though you don’t know me and that probably sounds silly! :)

      When my marriage ended, it felt so funny (and also what a relief!) to close the chapter on that family life with THAT person. I definitely soaked up being an aunt to my nephew and nieces. And heck, a sister, daughter, friend, etc. Wishing you lots of good things on your new journey!

    • Lesley says...

      Hi Esme,
      You are so brave. To be ending a marriage when you want to be growing a family takes so much courage. I ended a very toxic marriage at 35. I decided to have a baby on my own, and that has been it’s own tumultuous journey. Now 3 years later i am reflecting on what I used to think family meant, and creating a new definition of family for myself. Good luck with everything, I’m sure you’re life will take you down weird and wonderful paths you could have never imagined.

  22. Elizabeth says...

    I am an aunt to two of the sweetest little boys, ages 5 and 4. We live about three hours apart from each other, but I love to FaceTime with them and I try to visit them as much as I can. I’ve loved the experience of watching my brother–whom I’m very close to and love dearly–grow into fatherhood. It’s so heartwarming to see. I always buy the boys really silly birthday and Christmas gifts (I peruse the Cup of Jo past gift guides for ideas!) and my brother will always send me a picture of them playing/using their gift days later and he’ll say, “You always win,” as in, I always get the best gifts that they end up liking the most. Sigh! I just love those little boys. I can’t wait for them to grow into teenagers and come rant to me about their parents and tell me about their wild rebellions and reach out to me for judgment-free advice, something I think aunts and uncles are uniquely positioned to provide.

  23. Taryn McKinnon says...

    I have 2 nephews via my step-sister and I am just absolutely obsessed with those two little boys. They are a 4-hour drive away so we don’t get to spend too much time together, but we have a tradition now that I wake up early with them when I’m home visiting and let their parents sleep in (for once!) and I treasure that time together. I’m also lucky enough to be an aunt to so many of my friends’ kids in the city I live in, and just recently became a godmother. My boyfriend and I are talking about getting married soon and I’m not super into weddings or even a bridal party, but my one dream is to have all these little people in my life be involved–not just one flower girl or ring bearer. I can’t pick 2! Instead, I want them to walk down the aisle blowing bubbles. I know they won’t cooperate and will likely end up crying/spilling it everywhere, but I don’t care. I was a flower girl for a cousin when I was little and it’s still part of a special bond between us. I want all those kids to have that bond with me as well.

  24. Sara says...

    I would love to go to Samantha’s for a Harry Potter movie and some pumpkin pie! :)

  25. Kate says...

    I was really moved by how Lucy shows Toby that she values his interests and talents. We call my 6.5 yo son the family historian – he remembers every detail about all events! He also knows the address of every house he’s ever visited and can give pretty reliable directions most of the time. He struggles with many other things, so it means a lot to me when friends and family see his strengths and value his interests.

  26. Rachel Meynders says...

    What a beautiful post! My mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer when I was 8, her sisters in law, college roommates and other women she loved gathered around us tight. My sister, brother and I would fly across the country and spend weeks with my aunts (related by blood or not) during especially harsh treatments my mom was undergoing. After my mom passed we had solid relationships established with all those women and would still go stay with them through out the year, we could truly feel our mothers love through them.

  27. Marie says...

    I have an Aunt who was a Catholic nun for most of her life (now retired, and a Buddhist!) We never lived in the same place, so our visits were limited to once every few years, but we wrote to each other often. She is one of the smartest, boldest, most independent women I know, and was absolutely my confidante about all things spiritual in nature. My parents are non-practicing Catholics, and I grew up in a Muslim country, so harmonizing the ideas of two religions that claimed to know who God is was something that took a lot of real estate in my young brain! My Aunt always made me feel that my opinion was respected, that my questions were valid, and that my intelligence was equal to hers. To this day, we still correspond in writing, and mostly about intellectual and spiritual questions. She has been my “safe space” for so long. I hope to hold the same space for my niece and nephews.

  28. Genevieve M says...

    I want to know – when do you become an aunt to your partner’s nieces/nephews??
    I’ve been with my boyfriend for 1.5 years now, we just moved in together but aren’t planning to get married any time soon.
    Are his nieces my nieces yet?! Maybe we should spend so much time together that it becomes a moot point :)

    • -Jen says...

      My son starting calling my brother-in-law’s girlfriend Aunt Carrie when they had been dating for awhile but there was nothing official. When he was their wedding’s ring bearer many guests commented on the fact that she was already Aunt Carrie. He knew she was important to him, so she got the title!

  29. Jess says...

    I’ve never wanted to be a parent, while my twin sister was always destined to be a great mom. And that works for me, because I love being an aunt! I live on the other side of the country from my two nephews and my (brand new!) niece, but with tech today, I feel like they have a real connection to me and I’m not just some distant relative. I video chat with my sister several times a week in the evening, and I just prop the phone up on the kitchen counter while I make dinner or wash dishes. She does the same, and we can chat like I’m just hanging out at her house instead of 2,000 miles apart. When my nephews (5 and 3) get a hold of their mom’s phone, they carry me around and talk to me and make me a part of whatever game they are playing. I’ve been duct taped to bicycles and gone down slides and been introduced to playdate pals. It’s great, and really makes me feel like I’m a part of their lives.

    • Sarah says...

      I think this is the best way to be in someone’s life- just prop the phone up while you potter round doing you’re normal everyday. So much more intimate and real. Thanks for reminding me!

  30. Devin says...

    I’m an only child and my husband’s sister just had her first baby. I am THRILLED. I love my two aunts so deeply and always hoped I would get to be one someday.

    We drove from Boulder, CO to the Chicago suburbs to meet our baby niece while my sister-in-law was in labor and it was one of the best choices we’ve ever made. We got to bond with her for a few days as a result and went from nervous newborn people to professional baby niece cuddlers. It was AMAZING. On the final day before heading home my husband whispered to me “I love her. I love this baby.”

  31. Mari says...

    I’m crying so much with all of this. My only brother (and my favorite person ever!) is about to have a kid and I’m moving half way across the globe. I’m so torn, because I’m so excited to meet my nephew and spend time with him. I already love him with all my heart. And the part where you feel less scared when you have that other person… Omg, so true. I have four aunts and I always knew I could count on them as much as I can with my parents. Such a beautiful post. Thank you!

  32. Jenni says...

    I had the chance to go to Paris with my 1-year-old niece this summer- it’s halfway between us (Uganda to the US). Of course, she brought her parents, too. It was so much fun to show her the world, even as a one year old. She licked her first taste of Champaign off my finger and I saved the cork.

  33. Little Miss says...

    coming back to this post i realise that sometimes our experiences make us better versions of previous generations.
    my dad has an awful relationship with his sisters (my aunts) so we were practically in a hostile environment whenever they were at my grandmas.even though we lived within 5-10 mins of each other they knew nothing of our lives.
    now that it is my turn to be an aunt,i separate my relationship with my sister from my relationship with her kids. we have complicated issues but i adore my nephews and nieces and i make sure to nurture our bond.

  34. Jenna says...

    I am an Aunt (or AJ as the kids call me, short for Aunt Jenna) to 7 kids already. It is by far one of the greatest joys in my life, and I treasure my relationship with all of them (though am closer to some than others). I especially love taking my niece, who is 4, out for special events and treats. Last week we had our first sleepover, we blew up the air mattress, ate ice cream and popcorn and watched Frozen (a first for her, she was absolutely enthralled). Too, too fun.

    • Lesley says...

      Hi Esme,
      You are so brave. To be ending a marriage when you want to be growing a family takes so much courage. I ended a very toxic marriage at 35. I decided to have a baby on my own, and that has been it’s own tumultuous journey. Now 3 years later i am reflecting on what I used to think family meant, and creating a new definition of family for myself. Good luck with everything, I’m sure you’re life will take you down weird and wonderful paths you could have never imagined.

  35. Jody says...

    I love my nieces and nephews very dearly. My beloved niece Carlee died three years ago today. My heart has ached in grief for her bitterly. Her brother has been overseas for a year now and I miss him very much. It’s a special love and relationship to be sure xxx

  36. Elise says...

    I love that post, it really hit home. I loved my auntie and she was indeed someone I could always talk to. She passed away a couple of years ago but I still sometimes wonder what she would say to some questions I have.
    I’m an auntie to four adorable kids (3 siblings!) now and I love them. I like to send them stickers (the whole sheet vanished within 30min), send them postcards from far away and not to far away places, and put together photo albums they love to flip through and show everyone. I also treat them to things that are so cute and don’t need to wait their birthday for them to enjoy, or might a size too small in a few months (gasp!).
    I talked to my sister the other day and she said that maybe I should do less and save my money for myself or when I have a boyfriend (cool single auntie here!) and have kids of my own. My therapist said to me yesterday: ‘What’s the problem with cherishing your nephews and nieces? If that’s your only relation to kids these days and you want to cherish it, go ahead!’. I think she’s right. I’m seeing them all this weekend, and I can’t wait even though I know I’ll be exhausted!

  37. C says...

    I love so many of these comments! My family is not close and has many things that cause tension: religion and politics mostly. I moved far away the moment I had the chance and have really tried to make my own life with lovely friends who my children love. I’d love to somehow Be more for my nephews and nieces but between the above mentioned issues as well as some siblings who have instilled the idea that nothing is ever good enough, I feel rather at a loss sometimes. Often I want to run from my immediate family but be there for all the kids! I wonder if anyone has something similar and found any great solutions?

    • Sarah says...

      My friend Jennifer is an only child, and her mom died several years ago. She is an adopted aunt to my kids. And my husband’s best friend is childless but treats my kids like nieces. All of the tips here can totally still apply to a friend’s kid!! My kids love Aunt Jennifer. If you can’t be there for the kids that are related to you by blood, be there for someone else’s kids and trust that someone will do that for “your” nieces/nephews.

    • I’m in a similar situation and have never wanted kids of my own. I think the solution for me is to be an aunty to my friend’s kids. An idea for you, maybe.

  38. Ruthie says...

    As the surprise baby in a big family, I amassed a large collection of nieces and nephews at a younger age than maybe most. As a result, my identity as an aunt has shifted dramatically over time as I’ve become an adult.

    I don’t live in the same city as any of them, but I pass through every 4 months or so. I try, every time, to make it a priority to spend time together one on one (or two on one) just some time where we can hang out without their parents. Going out for movies, meeting for coffee (teens love meeting people at cafes. it is thrilling for them), playing in the backyard together, going on neighbourhood tours and stopping at the variety store.

    Making the most of the time we do have together has made loving them, and connecting with them long-distance both possible and tangible.

  39. J. says...

    Every time one of my close friends is pregnant, I buy a whole library of my favorite children’s books and write a little note in the inside cover of each one with the date, how much I love them and can’t wait to read this book together someday, and ‘love, Aunt J.’ I know they won’t see or be able to read or understand the notes for 5, 6, or 7 years (and who knows where the books will end up!), but I remember so vividly seeing one of my aunt’s names and a similar note written inside Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree and thinking– “wow, she’s loved me for THIS long!?!” as a small kid.

  40. Christy says...

    THANK YOU FOR THIS POST! Shout out to all the Aunties out there!! I have been struggling with infertility for years, and the thing that brings me the most joy is just spending time with my niece and nephew. They’re so silly, and I love to play and giggle with them. And I look forward to being in their lives as they grow up, and somehow that makes me feel less sad about not being able to have kids of my own. Again, thanks for this non-motherhood Auntie post!!

  41. Anne says...

    For the last five years I have taken my niece and nephew to an event (a play, rock climbing, etc) as their Christmas gift. Sometimes it happens months after the holiday, but I have to find the perfect event. It’s always a surprise until we arrive at the event and I always give some sort of clue as to where we are going in the invitation I send them by mail. It has been so fun! I always ask if they would rather have a gift and they always say no. On the car ride home we usually stop for ice cream and tank that years’ event against all the other years. I’m proud to say every year they rank that event as the best one yet! It has become one my very favorite holiday traditions.

  42. Josie says...

    I love this article, and have several friends who are fantastic aunts, with no children of their own. I was wanting to send this, but the first sentence automatically calls into view the contrast of mom/aunt. If it had centered aunts without that comparison marker (my friends would love to be moms give the right circumstances) I would have felt more comfortable linking to these incredible women, who are heroes to their nieces and nephews.

    • T says...

      Maybe just say exactly that?
      “I know that given the opportunity you would have loved to be a mum, so some of this doesn’t apply, but I want you to know how special you are and how much my kids treasure your relationship so when I read this I thought of you” ? I’ve never wanted kids so perhaps that’s tone deaf but for me, I’d rather my friends look my struggles in the eye and celebrate me anyway than avoid the topic all together.

  43. Hilary says...

    I’ve always connected to my mom’s two younger sisters, particularly as my mom and I are often not on the same page or as I like to describe, two parallel lines that just don’t intersect on some things. I still remember after a family event when I was a tween, my one aunt slipping me a small brown paper bag before getting into her car. Inside were two training bras. I had never had a bra before, nor even broached the topic of shopping for one with my mom. I felt immediate relief and appreciation for her in that moment, as an awkward teenager not quite comfortable with her own body, and not openly willing or ready to discuss it with her mother. This to me epitomizes the type of calming and supportive role an aunt can play.

  44. Valerie says...

    I’m an auntie to my besties two little girls and I adore them!! I am single and travel a lot so I send them postcards when I travel. The almost two year old will now point to the most recent one and say my name and it melts my heart!!

  45. Malissa says...

    Childless (by marriage – my guy already had 2 grown kids) 40 yr. old. I have 2 nephews, currently ages 8 and 10. Now that I’m living abroad, I don’t see them nearly as much as I’d like to and to be honest their parents don’t do the best job at keeping us connected. But, I too have an aunt who never had kids and as I look back on our long history, I realize that I have an can choose her and be a part of her life and continue to do so without the parental-strings-attachment-issues; I really hope my nephews choose to nurture our relationship in the future as well. They may not, but I’m hoping that we can grow older together in the far off future where they can think and make phone calls and visits and plan for themselves.

  46. Meg.F says...

    I grew up with 8 aunties (and uncles) but my relationships with my aunts were some of the most formative relationships and still are to this day. I don’t think I could ever properly explain how much I appreciated their tender advice, the adventures they took me on, the unwavering love and now as an adult, their friendship.

    I became an aunt last year for the first time and I called one of my aunties crying with joy and asked her ‘Is this how you felt when I was born?’ to which she laughed and told me it is one of the most amazing roles in the world but also reminded me that I was one of 15 nieces and nephews. A very self indulgent question but I couldn’t handle the thought of getting to love and celebrate this little boy in the same way those amazing 8 women had done for me.

    Thank you for this piece and reminding me to be thankful for them all!

  47. Danielle says...

    I was incredibly nervous about being an aunt. I’m the youngest so I never babysat and I had never even held a baby before my niece was born when I was in my late 20s. To my surprise, I fucking love being an aunt!!! It’s not just watching her grow (who knew kids grow and learn so fast? oh, everyone but me?) but also seeing my brother and sister-in-law as parents. It’s brought out a whole other side of them and changed our relationship too. My brother is an awesome dad and that’s made our friendship as siblings so much better. I love that my niece can see how well we get along and that will be what she thinks family is!

    • Pascale says...

      I’m a little late going through this post and comments, but I just wanted to say I really enjoyed your take Danielle. I’m in my late twenties, and you’ve put the exact words to my feelings about being a first-time aunt to my little shrimp of a goddaughter. I was so baby illeterate before she came along, but she’s almost 2 now it’s just been so. damn. fun! It’s also brought out a whole other side of my friendship with my brother and SIL. These are three of the most important relationships in my life right there and I’m so thankful for them! I still don’t know whether or not I want children of my own yet – safe to say it’s been the subject of the hour in my mind – but I take comfort in knowing how rewarding/awesome it is to be an aunt regardless. And I just can’t wait for my niece and her sibling-to-be to grow so I can try on all of you guys’ fun tricks and gifts!

  48. Rachel says...

    My parent’s siblings lived in different parts of the country, so although I love my aunts, we have never had a very close relationship. Reading these comments made me feel kind of sad about that. I hope I can find an aunty figure for my kids someday.

  49. Lindsey says...

    I had a handful of aunts, but only one from my dad’s side, and she was everything to me. We’d always go on our own shopping dates just the two of us, and she’d buy us Godiva chocolates to eat as we walked around the mall (peak 90s!), and then she’d always take me to an Italian restaurant where I could order anything I wanted. In fact, when I said I wanted lobster bisque and a coke with grenadine (because they didn’t have cherry coke), she declared me a genius; not only did she order the same thing, but it became our new ritual. I remember feeling just soooo cool and adult that *I* had influenced *her*. She was also the one who introduced me to Star Wars and Indiana Jones, expensive skin care, and the concept of feeling no guilt for buying yourself something you like. She’s still the best, and we are just two birds of a feather. Now I need to call her!

  50. Kelly says...

    I am an aunt (not yet a mom) and it’s amazing! When my oldest niece was born, I was overwhelmed by how much I loved her instantly! I have such a special relationship with each of my nieces and I can’t wait to soon have that relationship with my nephew (he arrives in December). Just yesterday at a surprise party for my mom, my middle niece became quite upset because the cake had a filling inside (she’s highly sensitive to different foods and textures). She came right to me, held my face close to hers and we swayed back and forth until she calmed down. I ended up asking specifically for a piece of cake with a big frosting rose on it and scraped it off the cake to give to her. As I gave her the plate, I asked, “Who loves you?” She giggled, jumped a little jump, and said, “You do!” and then stuffed that big red rose in her mouth. :) They know that they are mine and I am theirs. We just belong to each other in a special, different way than with their parents and I love that.

  51. Charlotte K says...

    I joined Facebook so I could keep up with them (the nieces, nephews, and their children…). THAT is how much I love them. Nothing else could ever have persuaded me to take that step.

  52. Ellie says...

    I have four nieces by marriage (ages 3, 6, 8, and 9) and being “Big Ellie” is SO FUN especially since we don’t have kids of our own yet. (One niece goes by Ellie and we have the same last name. Before we were married, I wasn’t technically Aunt Ellie yet and then when we got married, I decided I liked “Big Ellie” better!) They live pretty far away so we don’t get to see them very often, but we just were all together last weekend and it’s always so much fun to do their makeup, take Boomerangs on the playground, bring fun little presents, try to teach them how to blow bubble gum bubbles, etc. Cheers to being an Aunt!

  53. Anna says...

    Oh goodness. Aunts are so, so special. I have an aunt who is not well now (she has early-onset Alzheimer’s) but she has shaped my life in so many wonderful ways. I remember thinking everything she did was SO amazing when I was little. She had a lava lamp (sooo groovy!), put cinnamon in her pancakes (lifechanging – try it!), knew how to fluff my pillows and make me comfortable when I was sick (so lovely for an aching and feverish little body) and took me out for pasta and wine when I was in university and homesick for my parents. There was an openness in our relationship that was so special. I could tell her anything, and I never felt I was letting her down or disappointing her. It was so lovely feeling the relationship evolve from child/aunt to adult/wise friend as I grew up. I’m so thrilled to have the opportunity to have the same relationship with my own niece and nephew.

  54. riye says...

    One of my best friends has an adopted daughter who considers me her “coolest aunt ever”. Makes me feel so lucky to be part of her life, even if I only get to see her once a year at the most.

  55. JD says...

    My aunt (or “Thea,” which means “aunt” to all the kids who grew up living out some variation of the plot of My Big Fat Greek Wedding) is one of my life’s great and constant love stories. When I was 16, my mom had a brain tumor and needed surgery. It was terrifying and devastating (but fear not, this story has a happy ending :) ). Overwhelmed I drove to my Thea’s house one evening and just bawled in her arms. That night, she took a necklace off her own neck and put it around mine—a piece of jewelry with a special history that had carried her through a crisis of her own. During the surgery, she drove me to one of our family’s sacred spaces, sat with me and held my hand. The surgery went perfectly, and my mom recovered completely. I’ve worn that necklace every day for over 18 years. I texted her the Robert Lynd quote earlier today and, predictably, she responded with her usual fount of love.

  56. Mara says...

    This is hard for me to write, but I have to say it… I have never been a kid person, and my husband and I don’t plan to have kids. I have three nieces and a nephew on my husband’s side, and we get along fine…but they are extremely spoiled and bratty, and I can only take them in small doses. I have a hard time imagining that we’ll be close when they’re adults, but who knows. However, my sister’s kids I ADORE. I would do anything for them. They are all under 5 and there are no other kids out there that I’m head over heels for but them, and this post really resonated with me in how I feel about them. I often wonder if there’s anyone else out there who has a very special relationship with their sister’s/brother’s kids. In talking to friends and acquaintances, I often get that “I love them all equally, there’s no distinction…how could anyone feel differently about precious children whether or not they’re blood related?” so I keep my mouth shut, and continue to feel pretty terrible. Thanks COJ for these times when we can truly share our thoughts!

    • Pia says...

      Haha don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone! I’m quite close to the nephews on my side of the family but the kiddos on my husband’s side are wild terrors (extremely loud, too rough, overbearing, rude) who are made even worse by overly indulgent parents and grandparents. And they’re quite touchy about their parenting/grandparenting too so I feel like I can never speak up to tame the kids even if just during our (short and rare) visits. Shudder!

  57. Silver says...

    I used to have an aunty who was my go to person. We just adored one another – even though I know I pushed her buttons. She was strict, she was posh, and she believed there were right ways to do things. I shaved my hair, I wore skirts too short, I wore gum boots to uni. But we loved each other. She helped me pick my wedding dress, she was the first to meet the man I married, she picked me when my own mother tried to kill herself, and in turn I picked her up. She’ was the mother to a sick child with disabilities, and when in turn I had a child with some serious health concerns she understood – she understood all the hardship but told me how to use love as a source of energy. She taught me so much about love and loyalty. She bought me a business class airplane ticket when I was sick and hid the fact she couldn’t take me to the hospital overseas because she was dying. When I returned, she told me and then a couple months later I held her hand as she blew out her last breath – I love my aunty. I fill my heart with all she was and I miss her every day. Aunties are the best. I’d give so much to have her for longer. My son does not have an aunty like that. My husband’s sister isn’t his fit – but I have a friend who I think will fill that role.

    • spark says...

      Everything you have written is so beautiful. Heartfelt thank you for sharing this. I have a renewed sense of wonder in the beauty of love.

    • Julie says...

      Your comments brought tears to my eyes. It sounds like she was a wonderful, magical person.

  58. I’m childless by choice and have 31 nieces and nephews together with my husband’s family (with four more on the way!). When people find out we aren’t having children, we tell them how dedicated we are to everyone else’s kids and that usually stops them from pushing their agenda. Aside from being lovely scapegoats, though, we adore these little people so much <3

    Being the best aunt has always been important to me. Because we are the only childless couple in both families, this is a little more manageable than if we had kiddos of our own. For some time, I pulled off “Library Tuesdays” with one set of nieces, three sisters. When they moved, we were all disappointed the weekly excursions must come to an end, so now we do random ice cream stops or coffee dates. All the kids on my side get birthday sleepovers: they get to choose where we eat for dinner and what we do for the evening every year to celebrate their milestone.

    The kids on my husband’s side are older, some starting families of their own. As a photographer, I got to witness and capture our niece’s baby being born – I’d never been in the delivery room before and the experience was tremendously moving for me. When our 24-year-old nephew passed tragically and unexpectedly, we made sure to pull his sister closer while she grieved. Starting a weekly dinner date to check-in, cry, talk, and eventually, laugh, helped her cope and deepened our relationship.

    I cherish being an aunt and I know my nieces and nephews feel the love I have for them. The little ones squeal in excitement when they see me, the older ones send random texts and plan visits… making sure I feel their love, too.

  59. jen says...

    Aunts have powers. My twin nieces were driving my sister crazy with rebellion. I told them smart people take Latin and they were so pretty they didnt need all that makeup. Sent them home determined to learn Latin (which my sister wanted) and makeup free. That tension with mom is just gone with auntie.

  60. AE says...

    My FAVORITE title in the whole world is “auntie/titi”. I have 3 nieces under 4, and 1 nephew [also under 4] and the JOY it brings me is…indescribable. I recently moved away from 3 of them [but luckily closer to 1 of them] and I’m always a little bit afraid of them not remembering how close we are. I try to make the 3 hour bus/train ride back home every few weeks to see them and snuggle and play. I can’t wait until they are old enough [and I am less scared?] to take them all to Disney World and on fun adventure . I love them dearly and find myself [creepily] looking at baby pics of them and sighing… In my family we’ve always made the distinction between Aunt ::FIRST NAME:: and just Auntie. If you call someone Auntie, that indicates being super close to them/that aunt being your favorite. I find myself hoping my nieces/nephews always know me/refer to me as Auntie and not Aunt so-so. Love this post.

  61. Toni says...

    My only (and favorite!!!!) aunt rescheduled our dinner plans to later in the week because she’s hungover today after a particularly rowdy book club meet up last night. It’s Monday. She’s 82. She is everything I aspire to be.

    • Silver says...

      Yes, this is golden. I think that might just be my mothering style.

    • Sarah says...

      May we ALL be your aunt when we are 82!! Amazing.

    • Charlotte says...

      This is fantastic!!!

    • Nikki says...

      Yes…just yes!

  62. Ll says...

    I moved back to my home country after 10 years abroad when my sister got pregnant. I now live 30 min away from my nephew and niece, and I live that me showing up at the house isn’t a huge deal. I love playing with them, but I also love that I’m such a natural part of their life that they also can ignore my presence and just do their thing. They are still small (2 and 4) but I hope they will see me as someone who was just always around and love them to bits and will always always always be there for them.

  63. Monica says...

    This made me tear up. My sister is all these things to my children, and I’ve never realized how lucky they are until now.

  64. jones says...

    My aunt lived in another state and one of the things she did for us which was amazing (and remember this was in the 1980’s) was to make cassette tapes for us where she would talk to us. She would call them “A Day in the Life of Aunt C”. At the time she was a surgery nurse and would have other people she worked with say hello to us and talk to us on them. We would make tapes back to her and send them back and forth. It was so cool to get those packages from her and listen to them. She used to do that for us too when we sometimes go back to see her and my grandma for Thanksgiving or another holiday.

  65. Maggie says...

    It’s as if you, Cup of Jo, always know what I need to hear (i.e. read). My husband and I are in therapy right now discussing whether or not to have children, and at times it’s incredibly challenging (I want them more than he does). I even drafted an email to you all for advice! And here this post is about Aunties. <3 What a wonderful reminder that although I don't have children now, or might never, I'm a proud auntie of so many kiddos, both blood and chosen. Being that fun, silly, loving, and stable support for them has brought me so much joy.

  66. S says...

    Trying to instill feminist values into my niece who is growing up in a very patriarchal family without offending anyone is my greatest puzzle as an aunt. I’m currently saving for her college fund but other than that I’m not sure what to do. She is only 6 months old but I’m already fretting about it. Suggestions welcome <3

    • Dom says...

      S, you’re already the best, most thoughtful auntie :*

      My suggestion is for you to have the most fulfilling life possible and lead by example. Show your niece what’s possible in most oppressive circumstances. Good luck!

    • Sophie says...

      That is such a great thing that you are trying to do for your niece. You go, auntie!
      I have six aunts who are all very different. Growing up, my sisters and I used to spend a lot of time with them and still today they are people whose opinion I value. I think the best you can do for your niece is spending time with her, bringing your point of view into her life and being an alternative role model for her. She will find you.

    • Mallory says...

      Saving for her college fund? You already get best aunt award!

      IMO being there for her, investing in your relationship with her, and then living your best life as an example for her is the best possible thing you could do for her.

    • AE says...

      I think just being you/vvocal around her will be enough– it gives her an idea that there is *another* way to exist outside of what she sees everyone else in her home doing/believing in. You’d be surprised at how impactful just showing up as your authentic self is.

    • Jeanne says...

      Wow what an amazing Aunt you are! I think that knowing she has your support, especially in areas where she might receive push back, is priceless. Just knowing that someone you love and respect believes in you and defends you can give a young person the wings to fly.

    • Georgie says...

      Good luck! I had a similar feminist values thing with my younger sister and my best option by far was fiction (apart from me and my sister, none of my family are great readers so there wasn’t any scrutiny of what I bought her). A lot of children’s fiction has underlying messages of freedom to be who you choose, carve your own path etc. Nowadays there’s more explicit feminism in children’s nonfiction especially, with great inclusivity etc but fiction’s often a subtler way of introducing things, especially if you can read alongside and discuss! I’m an ex-bookseller and current children’s book editor and I can tell you that booksellers love it if you ask for weird recommendations like ‘I need something that’s feminist but not too obvious!’. 6 month olds aren’t my speciality but I KNOW there will be great books out there (also really really recommend Eva Ibbotson and Katherine Rundell novels for this for older children). Of course this plan can also apply to films, TV etc – but books <3 Good luck, I'm cheering you on! It is so cool that you're saving for her college fund!

    • Rachel says...

      I definitely don’t have all the answers for this, but one of my sweet auntie moments was walking with my niece. She was holding my hand and started jumping, so I just said something ridiculous like “Astronauts jump when they’re on the moon. You are great at jumping, so I bet everyone thinks you’re an astronaut. Can I jump with you?” I don’t know about all the other patriarchal stuff, but I am a big fan of anything big or small that tells a child (including girls), “You are kind and smart and important”. (And your college fund for her is so important to show her that her and her dreams are worth every penny!! You’re already crushing this whole aunt thing!!)

    • Cindy says...

      Think through the things you want to talk to her about, long before it’s time for those conversations. My go-to with my nieces (actually, everyone) is, “What are you reading right now?” But also, “What have you been thinking about lately?” “Tell me about your teacher.” “What did you eat for breakfast this morning?” (good for toddlers) “What are some funny things (insert name of pet here) has been doing lately?” Long live the Feminist Aunt. We are a force to be reckoned with.

    • Tracey says...

      Model it. My niece shocked everyone when she was nine: to the inference that when (ugh) she gets married to a man (ugh) she will get a pretty ring she replied with sass “orrrrrrr, I’ll just get a good job and buy my own ring with my own money”. I’ve never been prouder!
      YESSSSS!!! kid! Go get it.

  67. Hali says...

    I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t want to read this post but now that I have, I remembered it’s because of how seriously my aunts just suck really bad. One bullied me into dieting in the second grade and would always ask between chuckles if I was “sure” I wanted that cake or second helping at birthday parties. The other would breeze in every couple of years and shower us with gifts of cosmetic samples before pulling us aside and explaining privately (and sooooo creepily) that certain things around us were aliens and ghosts. As years passed things only got worse with substance abuse and divisive cult memberships.

    It took becoming an adult to realize that my aunts aren’t only extremely damaged people (who I do feel sorry for) but they taught me the definition of toxicity. It’s shocking how different they are from my selfless mother.

    I have a handful of incredible aunts in England but we hardly got to see them and my cousins until a few years ago- it just was too expensive growing up! We’re definitely making up for the lost time now. It’s absolutely magical to see a woman look at you with genuine love and care even though you technically hardly know her. It’s also incredible how quickly you can become comfortable around someone when they’re loving family members.

    For various reasons, it’s looking like I might be the only one of my siblings with children. It just dawned on me what it will mean for my kids to have phenomenal aunties. My sisters are so great in ways that I am not! They’re laid back, they’re amazing listeners, they’re slow to judge and quick to indulge. They’re just like me in a way that will be so comforting to my kids, but they’re different enough in a way that will be VERY entertaining. And I trust my sisters more than anything. Ahhh this makes me so happy!

  68. Jorie says...

    Every Valentine’s Day, I pick out an over-the-top treat and send individually to each of my nieces and nephews. Sometimes it’s stickers, sometimes it’s candy, but I always include a big ol’ greeting card and write a note about how loved they are.

    I remember when I was a kid that Valentine’s Day could feel oddly competitive—who got the most candy at school, the most elaborate handmade cards, or the most flowers from their crush in middle school/high school. It’s my subtle little way of trying to remind my nieces and nephews that school is just one part of their lives, and that no matter how old they get, I’ll always be in their corner rooting for them.

  69. Amy says...

    The light of my life right now is being an Aunt to my 3 little nephews, all age 4 or below! I always remember not being close to any of my aunts, so I’ve really tried to make an effort to be there once a week to build a bond with them.

    It’s not a perfect relationship always, they are still children who scream when they’re mad, or doggy pile on my face while playing and therefore my glasses too. But I understand that’s all part of developing and I wouldn’t change my relationship with them for the world. They crawl into my arms so much that I’m sometimes even mistaken for their mother (this warms my heart so, so much).

    Sometimes, when they ask me to play make believe games, I realize what little imagination I have left; I just make the little toys we’re playing with act silly so I can see their little noses scrunch up in laughter.

    Right now, my personal favorite is when they want to be “Super Puppies” and fly around the room. I have them hold their arms out like a superhero so I can lift them, flying them around the room. Whenever they put their arms down, I swoop them closer to the ground as though they will crash, all until they squeal and put their arms out straight again.

    Sorry, rambling! Just love them so, so much!

  70. Vanessa says...

    I had such amazing aunts growing up that they call me (and my brothers, and my cousins) their “sobrijos” (a blend of the words “sobrina/sobrino” (niece/nephew) and “hija/hijo” (daughter/son) in Spanish). I hope to be that type of aunt too! I have three very little kids so I feel like when I see my nephews and niece I’m mostly running around managing my own children, but I have one cousin who is the BEST aunt, and she and this article have inspired me to up my aunt game. :)

  71. Mekhala says...

    what a lovely post acknowledging this special relationship!! Besides blood relations, Indian kids call most of their parent’s friends “Aunty” and “Uncle”. It reinforces the idea of a village, and how our friends can be like family

    • Sarz says...

      Mekhala, I’m glad you mentioned this! Folks of Indian descent make up the majority of my workplace, and this term of endearment is one of my favorite tidbits that they’ve taught me. I’ve found myself self-identifying as Aunty when meeting new, younger colleagues now. Fostering a sense of family wherever you go definitely makes the world a less depressing place!

  72. Polyana says...

    I can relate to the comment about having lots of aunts and uncles who are parents’ friends. I’m from Brazil, but grew up in the US, so although I have several biological aunts and uncles (16!) who are all wonderful, we grew up with our parents’ friends from our Brazilian community in the US as our “tias” and ” tios,” and so I feel like I have close to 30 aunts and uncles!

    That being said, when I was about 10, one of my REAL aunts moved to the US and lived with us before settling in herself, and we became very close. She would take us on road trips to the beach and Disney World!, taught me to drive, and showed us all the time how to be selfless, with everything she did for us and our family.

    When I was in college, probably in my late teens, she turned to me one day and said, “You’re getting too old to call all these people your aunt – I’m your aunt, not them.”

    She’s still one of my favorite people, and is the best aunt to all of my cousins and I (18 of us!), and is my ultimate inspiration for when I have nieces and nephews of my own. Fortunately, my only brother is getting married soon, and planning on having kids, and I am anxiously waiting to fight for best “tia” in their lives, and instruct them that I am their real aunt, and here for them.

  73. Lesley says...

    I am not planning to have kids of my own. I don’t have nieces or nephews, BUT I have two amazing brother/sister teenage cousins who are 16 years my junior. When they were growing up, I sent them postcards of my world travels. Fast forward a few years, and when they were just starting high school we started taking a trip together every summer – our annual cousin trip. We just completed our fourth trip together, this time through Europe before they go back to university for their first and second years. They are amazingly kind kids, adventurous travelers and eaters, my favorite travel partners, and two of my best friends. I know that THEY know they can count on me to be a non parent adult, but more than that, I’m just glad we have this super cool bond and have so many experiences together that have shaped us as a traveling trio, them as siblings, me as an adult, and all of us as individuals. Looking forward to so many more cousin trips!

  74. MMR says...

    This post brought happy tears to my eyes. I love being an aunt! I love coming up with activities that make their eyes light up – should we… Create an obstacle course? Make shrinkydinks? Go on a treasure hunt? Write a story together? Master Chef competition – the weirder the ingredients the better (always some chocolate of course)? Or how about we take a hot tub soak and turn it into a nordic spa experience – buckets of cold water poured on our heads! But my absolute favorite is when I catch one of the kids in a chatty mood and we have a conversation about life, friends, siblings, etc. I think aunts (and uncles) can offer a safe, trustworthy space for kids to speak freely and get an adults full attention. It’s so sweet!

  75. Jess says...

    I don’t have any siblings, but have a few very close friends that I love as family and, if they choose/are able to have kids, I’ll definitely be the coolest aunt. I /was/ born to break the rules, after all.

  76. Katie says...

    Childless by choice and I have to say, I LOVE being an aunt! It’s the greatest gift in the world. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was home visiting for my oldest niece’s 14th birthday party. All she wanted to do with us is play game with her aunts and uncles. My heart swelled.

    My goal is to be there for them, to help them experience the world outside of our little hometown, and to let them know they are extremely loved.

    Four close friends and I, all childless and approaching 40 next year, spend a lot of time bragging about our nieces and nephews, sending each other pictures. When we get together for cocktails, the conversations usually start with what each others nieces and nephews are up to. Aunt pride is a real thing.

    My pilates instructor told me in our session last week that she’s pregnant and she said that she hopes her child has the kind of relationship I do with my nieces and nephew.

  77. sheree. says...

    I had lots of aunts and uncles growing up. I was especially close with my uncles who were much younger, but noticed how our relationship changed when they had their own children. I have read about the value of being a single aunt and remember that even though I do not have my own children, I play an important role. And thankfully my siblings often voice their appreciation.
    All of my family lives in Nebraska while I am in Chicago. When my nieces and nephews enter high school, they get a solo trip to Chicago where I plan a fun week with just the two of us. I was recently back in Nebraska taking a walk my 13 year old niece. Out of the blue she asked how many days her older sister was in Chicago on a recent trip. I laughed when I said 4.5. I knew she was counting to make sure that when her turn came it was just as long.

  78. katie says...

    This is a lovely reminder to myself to be a better aunt – my only nephew arrived just 3 weeks before my son was born. It’s my SIL and she has two other sisters; we each had our own network to turn to rather than each other. My brothers and I basically had no aunt/uncle experience, so I’m only starting to understand how wonderful it can be as I see my husband’s side of the family rock it out in all things extended family. Will be getting stamps and mailing things ASAP!

  79. Denise says...

    I love being an Auntie! I’m very different than my family in religious and personal ways so I constantly think I’m not influencing my nieces enough to give them options in thinking about the world differently than the rigid way they’re raised, but a friend recently reminded me that just being present in their lives illustrates a different way to see the world. I send them cards and books and I give alternatives when absolute statements are made. I try to do this gently. I don’t want them thinking there’s something wrong with the way they’re raised but it’s so important to me that they leave room in their thinking for other ways of being. I can’t always be super close or fully represent myself but I try to be present in their lives and to encourage some space in their hearts and minds.

  80. Paige says...

    I have three nieces, all who are 7. For their birthdays, I let them each plan their own day with me. It’s great time together to talk and connect, but it also gives me a window into their interests and passions. This year, I went horseback riding, to a paint class, and to a local play. Kids spend so much time in adult spaces. I want them to remember me being in their space, right next to them, experiencing who they are at that exact moment in time.

  81. Brynna says...

    I don’t have kids of my own, but my little sister has a boy that I just adore. When he was born, she asked me if I would commit to babysitting him once a month to give her and her husband a little break. Now, on the 11th of every month (his birth-day), I get to spend time with my little buddy. If the 11th falls on a weeknight, we’ll play, dinner, bath, bedtime. If the 11th falls on a weekend, it’s sleepover and Aunt and Uncle’s house! We’ll do breakfast, go to the zoo, play in the park. I can’t wait to continue this tradition for as long as we can.

    I don’t have a relationship with any of my three aunts, so it’s been such a joy to develop this bond.

  82. Y says...

    My husband comes from a family of 9 and I come from 5 so my daughter has Aunts and Uncles coming out of her ears, but there are only 2 or 3 that really make an effort to get to know her. There is definitely a different bond between them. When gay marriage became legal and her favorite uncle sat her down to explain that he would be getting married to Steven, she said “Yay, now he will be my REAL Uncle!” and now I think HE is actually her favorite ;)

    • Jess says...

      This is heartwarming and I love this story to pieces!!!

    • Sarz says...

      Such a cutie! I hope she gave a little speech at the wedding! <3

  83. Kelly says...

    this post made me so grateful for all the wonderful ‘aunties’ in my kids’ lives! While most of their actual aunts are pretty busy with life and their own kids, we are so lucky to have a bunch of single friends and friends whose kids are older than mine who can lavish attention on my littles and make them feel so special and expose them to so much fun stuff! As well as give me advice and support because there’s nothing like knowing your kiddos have cheerleaders!

    my 9 year old has ADHD and aunties are so great bc they just love on her and never have to argue with her over sitting down and doing her homework and she needs those positive messages so much!!!!

  84. Barbara says...

    I’m a great aunt. I’m single with no kids. I have 3 nieces (16, 15, and 13) and 2 nephews (7 and 4). The girls are kind of outgrowing me. They’re definitely teens, on their phones, rolling their eyes, etc, but they still appreciate my gifts of clothing, etc. Right now I try to read a couple of YA books every month and then I send the best ones to them.
    The boys won’t go out on their dad’s boat unless I come, too. They’re very cute right now. I’m taking some days off later this week and I’m hoping to take the 4-year-old for a stay. His brother has camp.

  85. Gail says...

    As an aunt myself, I can attest to the anecdote about paying attention to what your nieces and nephews are into. Earlier this month, I took my 14 year old niece Emily to a Shawn Mendes concert. Earlier this spring, when I’d first asked her about him, I smiled as I watched her blush and then giggle as she started talking about him. Then, when I was vacationing with my husband’s family in North Carolina, she TEXTED ME to talk about his Senorita video. Up to that point, I had never received a text from any niece or nephew! It was her first concert and it was so awesome to experience it with her. It’s maybe my greatest aunt moment of all time.

  86. rose says...

    I haven’t got anyone to be an auntie to but this post is reminding me that I’ve always wanted to try out mentoring disadvantaged girls – via Big Bros/Big Sisters of America. I think this is the year.

    • Julia says...

      I’m a Bug Sister and it is a lot like being an aunt! We’ve been matched just shy of 4 years now, and my Little is one of the most important people in my life. Highly recommend!

    • Rebecca says...

      I second Julia! Being a big has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. As a heads up – it can take a bit to go through background checks/training/match process – so the earlier you start the better!

  87. C says...

    1) have a sibling
    2) have your sibling have a kid

  88. Robyn says...

    Some of my friends have recently started having babies, and I am lucky enough to be a godmother. However, I have no experience with kids, and am so awkward around them! I’m not really a ‘wacky’ or playful person, so just end up kind of smiling at them and saying “ooh, what’s that?” and nodding inanely. HELP! I would love to build relationships with these kids, especially my gorgeous goddaughter, but by the time they are teenagers (not to toot my own horn but I think I would be an awesome aunt/aunty figure to teenagers!) I might have lost any sense of ease/familiarity with them. Does anyone have any tips to win these little people over and get to know them?!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I think you sound wonderful! Even just asking the question “how can I connect” means you’re doing a great job and care for these kids. I’m not wacky either but I think kids really respond to people who truly listen to them with respect. Kids often care deeply about the little things in their lives so I like asking questions like, what did you have for breakfast? or what movies do you like? Or what are you doing to be for Halloween? and then really listening to their answers and asking followup questions. If they’re playing, you might just sit near them and say, oooh, tell me about what you’re playing (or drawing etc). And then watching, chatting and being present with them. Anyway, like all things, it takes practice but it sounds like you’re on your way to being a beautiful, loving figure in these children’s lives.

    • jane says...

      Just treat them like humans, keeping in mind their lack of experience as humans and small size. I absolutely hated being spoken down to or coo’ed over when I was a child and so I never do that and kids really seem to appreciate it. I just act and speak like myself. Also remember that no matter what age people are you can’t please them all so don’t take it personally if you are not able to connect. Just be genuine, friendly and model respect and general good behavior in a natural way and all will go well.

    • Sadie says...

      My nephew wasn’t connect to me until he was 3. I started sending him postcards of pictures of me and our other family members hiking or traveling, using the TouchNote app. My sister bought a little plastic album for him to slide the postcards into. Then the next time I visited he brought it out and showed me all the pictures. This created a bond. Now when I’m visiting him we take photos together so I can send them to him. He loves it so much and gets it out to show grandma too.

    • j says...

      haha, Joanna’s comment landed just as I sent mine. Great advice

    • Alyssa says...

      Thank you for the TouchNote App idea! Brilliant!

    • Robyn says...

      Thank you Jo and commenters! Such wonderful advice :) I really appreciate it

    • Musilla says...

      They’ll need to be a bit older first but my best auntie moment is being the adult at a party or Christmas who will sit on the floor and be interested in toys – cut the cable tied packaging, put in the batteries (I actually have a Swiss Army knife!), assemble the LEGO, have your nails painted/temporary tattoos applied, read the books…

      It also keeps you away from any adult- driven holiday nonsense …

    • Stefanie says...

      A friend of mine who doesn’t have kids always introduces herself and shakes the kids hands. I always loved this and try to do it now whenever i meet a new kid (no matter the age).

    • Taylor says...

      @Musilla your comment just brought back the best memories for me. I LOVED Christmas with my aunts for that exact reason. I remember being particularly excited to give my aunts manicures with a new kit. As a kid there’s nothing like having someone give their full attention to you and your interests.

  89. Kate says...

    Thank you for this post. I am seeing my nieces this weekend and now I’m brainstorming ways to make them feel special. I am not sure I’m a very good aunt. I married into the family when they were older so I didn’t have that rush of love for them that people talk about when they are born. And while I was dating their uncle, I felt I had to have boundaries in case it didn’t work out. I am learning to love them the way I am learning to love all my in laws. I’m open to any advice anyone has about that kind of aunting.

    • katie says...

      I met my husband when my nieces were, IDK, 6 and 10. They were a little weary of him at first, but finally took to him. He didn’t have to do much… j listen to them, play games, talk to them, etc.

      The younger niece year old turned 10 this year and so she got to spend a week in Chicago with us and with my other sister and her husband. We each took a day off work to do whatever the niece wanted. Honestly, her best day was probably with my husband, her Uncle Steve. For her birthday, he made her “Uncle Steve Bucks” to spend on their day. He literally made fake money with his face in the middle and a serial number and gave her denominations that added up to $25. When she opened that present, her face LIT UP.

      I guess my advice is to just be there. Take an interest in what they like. Talk to them like adults. Have fun with them! Take them out for a solo activity.

      My nephew was born shortly before the husband proposed to me so they’ve always known each other. I get a little annoyed when the nephew asks for Uncle Steve because I’m like hey, I’m blood! Although on this last visit the nephew wanted me to take him to the bathroom. I guess there is that. I get to wipe his poopy butt. That’s love.

    • Sequoia says...

      I love my uncles wives! They each have a skill that no one in my family has. One is a really amazing cook and she was always making something special for us. Another aunt came around when I was in high school and her son got a scholarship to USC. I was the first person in my family to go to college so she was the only who could and she really stepped up. So find out what you secrete super power is and offer it. Now I call my aunt all the time when making a new recipe and even though those calls are few and far between it’s still super special!

    • Marie says...

      My uncle got married when my sibling and I were in middle school, and suffice to say we were not happy. He was our fun uncle and always took so much time with us when we visited him and my grandparents and as they started dating we saw less of him and once they got married time together was usually scheduled for when she wasn’t around. I felt like she never made any effort and kind of actively disliked us and how close we were to our uncle and just in general as a family.
      That being said, I don’t think it had to go that way. We did have a great aunt so we had one who took that time with us and visited and made life special. Just the fact that you want to be a good aunt makes me think you will be :)
      From the kid who’s been there, I’d recommend first making sure you do fun things with your nieces and husband all together, and then spending special time with each of them one on one doing activities or seeing a movie they particularly enjoy. Just show interest in them and they’ll love you back.

    • Kate says...

      Thank you all for your comments. They are a comfort to me. I can’t wait to make an effort to make my nieces feel special this weekend.

  90. Twyla says...

    I don’t have kids (by choice) and I take my Aunty status very seriously. My in-laws aren’t very kid-oriented, so when there’s a family get-together, I’m the one on the floor with my nephew playing Lego for 4 hours straight. I’m also a master couch cushion fort builder, which put me into the ‘awesome aunty’ status right from the beginning. I always want my nephew to know that he can come to us for support or help, and I hope that if he has troubles in his teens – we will be the cool aunty & uncle that he can turn to and just might listen to.

  91. Abigail Leigh Jarvis says...

    My husband and I have chosen not to have children, but I’m working very hard on being an active presence in my nephew and nieces’ lives!

    When my nephew reached a certain age (i.e. when he was potty trained), we started having sleepovers—just him and us, not his sisters. We watch movies, order pizza, make ice cream sundaes, and stay up late. It’s special for him to have time with us that’s JUST his time.

    When his sisters are old enough, we’ll have one-on-one time with them, too. I think it’s really important for kids to have individual relationships with the adults in their lives! It’s so easy to think of siblings as “the kids” and forget that they’re their own individual selves.

  92. Lisa says...

    I have often felt that the role of an aunt is to break the peripheral rules of the family of origin, but none of the core values. Helps kids navigate ambiguity, reinforces work of family on those values, and is also way fun.

  93. Vanessa says...

    I am not an aunt, but this post really spoke to me as I am a Godmother and I think there are many great ideas in here that apply to other relationships with kids, even if we’re not strictly speaking their aunt. As my Godson lives about 6 hours away, I really appreciated the long-distance ideas – will go out now and find some stickers I can send him! That’s such a simple idea :-)

  94. Jo says...

    My sister (who lives in another country) has shown no interest in creating any bond with my kids.. so, reading this was painful :( even birthdays get a text message , not a phone call.

    I try to be a fun aunt to my friends’ kids, but I wish my kids had one in my sister too. Ugh.

    • Christy says...

      I am the sister that lives in another country. But my sisters don’t acknowledge any kids birthdays. Whereas I try to make each of my nephews and neices birthdays as awesome as I can from another country!

    • Sara says...

      Sometimes these kind of posts can be painful, because it reminds us of what we wish we had, what we wish our kiddos had.
      Many hugs to you, Jo. I’m an only child, so I’ve had to create Aunts/Uncles for my kids, and thankfully I have some close friends who love my kids as fiercely as if they were blood. We call them framily and remind ourselves out loud how lucky we are to get to choose to have them in our lives.
      The loss is real, though. I feel your sadness.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That sounds really hard, Jo. Sending you love. That sounds really disappointing and tough. Sara, I love your term “framily.”

    • s. says...

      similar situation here, with both sister and SILs. It’s SO painful. And so different from how I grew up, very close to my aunts who were so interested in me. I recognize that it’s a loss, but one that my children won’t know, as they have nothing to compare it to, and other people dote on them.

      Sending love to you – I think people don’t realize how painful it is…

    • annie says...

      i come to this from the other side of the conversation. i have never done anything for my nieces/nephew for their birthdays (we’re long-distance family!), but they still love me and love seeing me, and it’s probably simply because i like talking to them and hanging out with them and—now that they’re teens, maybe most importantly—letting them be and do their own thing. that’s how i ‘aunt’ and they seem happy with it, and their parents are, too.
      my point is, nobody’s perfect. maybe your sister’s relationship with her nieces doesn’t look the way the relationships highlighted in this post do. but you can’t make people be the family you want them to be. and you never know the future—maybe there’s a relationship waiting to happen!
      my lesson learned from being an aunt and seeing how others’ aunt experiences have gone awry: guilt should never be a driver in a kid’s relationship with their extended family. it just won’t work.

      hope things work out for you all in the end. <3

  95. Jessica says...

    My parents are divorced and my aunt Jenny understands my complicated dad without bitterness or anger and that’s a gift to me.

    • Robyn says...

      After my parents divorced I loved it when my aunts and uncles would ask after my ‘other’ parent – the one they weren’t related to. Like you say, there was no bitterness and anger and just a little reminder that we were once a whole family, and that people think fondly of my parents even if they are no longer officially in-laws. They also knew more about it than I probably realised, so there was no having to explain anything like there was with my friends. They all really came into their own, and made a tricky time just a bit better.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I love that xoxo

    • Emily says...

      I love this. My parents are currently in the middle of divorcing and what Robyn said about the little reminder you were once a whole family finally put into words what I have been trying to process. My actual aunts are not very nice people, but I have lots of nonblood aunties who can fill this role for me and I am realizing how much I need this and them.

  96. Little Miss says...

    i never wanted kids.
    when we found out my sister was pregnant i felt an overwelming love as if her twins were my own.
    indeed i helped raise them and i know and they know we have a special bond.
    i am already planning how i will afford their university studies.
    they take me for granted and that is how i like it. their parents had their ups and downs and still do.
    i want them to know i am a stable in their lives no matter what.
    the funny thing is they consider me more disciplined than anyone else in the family so when we all gather they always turn to me for approval. because i know and they know my love for them and that their wish is my command.

  97. My role as an aunt has another dimension now that my sister has died (and my nephew was so young when it happened that he no longer remembers her). Sometimes I feel desperate — how can I make sure that he really knows someone so important to him and to all of us that he can no longer remember. How do I balance my role of aunt (AKA not a parent) to a little boy without his mom when I constantly want to interject with what I imagine my sister’s opinion would have been on everyday things like snack choices and screen time and the obscene amount of spoiling that my mom now does that she definitely wouldn’t have done if my sister were here?

    I struggle with the fact that my daughter also does not remember her aunt. I am thankful that I made a picture book with photos of my sister and all different ages and stages — so my toddler is able to recognize her and that feels really meaningful.

    This isn’t a knock on CoJ by any means — but posts like this are generally really lovely and most people wouldn’t think twice about them, but to have experienced sibling loss at a young age makes reading these type of headlines gut-wrenching.

    • LK says...

      With the loss of my best friend’s sister at the age of 26, I feel the roll of Aunt (biological or not) is even more important. My best friend is close with my own niece, and as she is trying to become pregnant, I will have a roll as her children’s aunt (and she eventually will be the same to mine). We speak about her sister all the time and it’s obvious it is our job to remind the kids in our life about her. To make the kids in our life know that we love them and they are safe with us is everything.

    • Tovah says...

      I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like all the kids in your life are lucky to have you. Hugs from VA.

  98. Rebecca says...

    Thank you for this article. Being an aunt is something I do not excel at, and this is a good reminder that I need to do better. My four nieces and nephews all live a plane ride away, and I have my own kids keeping me busy on the home front. I see them all maybe once a year, and sadly it’s easy to put my Aunt-ness on the back burner.

    One of my aunts growing up was amazing, even though I didn’t live near her at all. I need to strive to be more like her <3

    • Catherine says...

      Me, too. I have a strained relationship with my sister who has 3 children, and I was having babies at the same time she did, so I was more than preoccupied. When we are together, I definitely feel that our own issues with each other get in the way of my children and hers getting to spend time together as cousins, let alone me bonding with her kids as a fun aunt. I don’t really have an emotional attachment to her children, and that makes me sad.

    • Rebecca says...

      I feel similarly, Catherine. And the thing that really threw me for a loop is that I feel closer and automatically more bonded to my niece who is my brother’s daughter (so my blood relative) than my nieces and nephews who are my sister-in-law’s kids (not blood relatives of mine). That’s where I truly need to make an effort because it also makes me sad. Family dynamics can be so difficult.

  99. Tabitha H says...

    This was so timely because I just became an aunt for the first time this summer! I’ve only met one nephew so far (the other lives out of town) and they’re still teeny tiny, but I’m already collecting picture books for when we babysit! I can’t wait to make new traditions and carry over some from my family, like my aunt’s chocolate cake that has 8 (!!) chopped up chocolate bars in the frosting. I remember thinking that was the coolest thing when I was little, so I hope they’ll love it too!

  100. Amanda says...

    I’m an Aunt to an awesome 4 year old boy. I’ve never lived in the same place as him, so I’ve only really seen him 5 times in his life. It breaks my heart that I can’t be there to see him grow and watch my brother be a Dad. I want him to know me so I try as hard as I can to schedule trips to see my brother and his family. Money is tight so it’s always hard. I envy families that live close to one another–mine is spread out across the Midwest and East Coast. But who knows, maybe I’ll win the lottery one day and get to see everyone whenever I want :)

  101. May says...

    Reading this with tears and also a huge smile, waiting for nephew and baby niece to arrive at my house for a visit (her first!) any minute now. I absolutely love being an aunt, even more after relating to this sweet post. Thanks, C of J :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oooh thinking of you today!!!

  102. This is just beautiful. One of the most treasured roles in my life is being an aunt, especially to my eldest niece. My sister had her young and I was just a teenager at the time, but I took on my aunt role with gusto. I babysat her ALL the time when she was little and I loved it so much. I even nannied for my sister one Summer when I was in high school. The most beautiful thing has been seeing her grow up into the smartest, hard-working, motivated, loving, responsible young woman. She just started her last semester of undergrad and is hoping to become a vet. I’ve encouraged her to continue following her dreams even when she’s wanted to give up, while always letting her know that I love her and that she will be okay in whatever path she takes.

    I teared up reading this post because I relate on so many levels. Being an aunt is a joy in my life in so many ways and I am so thankful to my sisters for letting me be so involved.

  103. Stephanie says...

    Growing up Chinese, all of my parents’ friends were my Aunties and Uncles. It used to be very confusing as a kid, when I had to explain to my friends that I wasn’t *actually* related to all of my Aunties and Uncles, but that yes, they were still my Aunties and Uncles. One of these Aunties had boys, but no girls, so she always treated me as the daughter she never had. She was always so protective of me, and so sweet to me. She even lent me jewellery to wear at my wedding. This was especially sweet because my mom didn’t have any to pass on from her family to me.

  104. Tears to my eyes! From recalling my own relationships with aunts and uncles, to seeing the relationships my brother and sister in law are building with my boys, to insisting my kids call all of our adult friends aunt and uncle. I hope I get to be a real aunt someday, but in the meantime I’m enjoying my friends’ children and to see my kids delight in their special dates with their uncle and aunt now. Loved this.

  105. Kate says...

    I love this post. It reminds me of Liz Gilbert’s writing in her book Committed about the Auntie Brigade and its importance in a child’s life. No less so than motherhood. She always felt called to be an Auntie and never a Mom and the acceptance of this, against societal norms, was profound to me. (Side note: I chose to have my own children but they have a plethora of Aunties who I rely on every day).

  106. Erica says...

    My mom is an identical twin and she has kids the same age as me and one of my sisters. I consider them half-siblings – genetically they are! I’ve always thought of my aunt as my bonus mom. When I’ve had conflict with my mom I’ve turned to my aunt to explain things, she always understands (and usually agrees with) my mom’s perspective, but it comes out softer and with less baggage somehow.

    Now that my mom has a bunch of grandkids but my aunt doesn’t yet, our kids get the wonderful experience of having a bonus grandma, which is every bit as good as having a bonus mom. She can spoil the crap out of them without any repercussions, something every kid needs in their life.

  107. Stephanie says...

    i’m not an aunt by blood, but my best-friend’s children are the niece and nephew of my heart. I adore them – and love being able to have special time with them. I think being an aunt gives you a unique role in the child’s life – you get to be their ally, their friend, and all the while someone who loves them almost as much as their parents. The one who gets to spoil them and be with them – just for the joy of it. I want to be the one who buys my niece the prom dress her mom thought was too expensive. To be the one my nephew calls when he can’t drive home from the party he wasn’t supposed to be at, and who stands next to him when he tells his parents what happened. I want to be the person their mom knows will support them and and be there for them when she can’t be there.

  108. I absolutely love aunting! I try really hard to take them on “adventures” Recently I took my 9 year old nephew rock climbing (at the gym) for the first time and my 6 year old niece to ride a pony.

  109. Heather says...

    I am an aunt to my brother’s three daughters. We have always been close but as they have gotten older and are more involved in ice hockey, lacrosse, spending time with friends, etc, it has proven difficult to find time to spend together. My oldest niece turned 16 this year. To celebrate this milestone, I gifted her a three day trip anywhere in the country (with a specified budget!) instead of giving her more “stuff” or the impersonal gift of money. She planned everything, including where we stayed and how we got there. She and I just returned from the trip a few days ago…three beautiful (but hot!) days on Hilton Head Island, SC. We did nothing but lounge under an umbrella on the beach, lounge in chairs by the pool, eat copious amounts of fresh fish, drink gallons upon gallons of sweet tea, ride the inexpensive trolley around the island, and enjoy each others company. I learned so much just from being around her, important things like her thoughts on politics, to even more important things like the type of boys she finds attractive (tall, thin, runners’ builds). We bought matching necklaces with the latitude and longitude of the island to remember our time together. I plan on doing the same with her two younger sisters when they turn 16. My 14 year old niece has already started planning…California, LA specifically, Disneyland as soon as we land.

    • Brynna says...

      This is a beautiful idea! I would love to do something like this when my nieces and nephews are old enough.

    • Julie says...

      I love this, Heather! Earlier this year on my husband’s suggestion, I took my niece to Paris. When we were planning I focused on all the ways the trip would benefit her (letting her experience a place outside of America, teaching her to navigate airports and subways, etc) but was pleasantly surprised to find it was one of my life’s most rewarding experiences. I got to *really* see her in a way I never had. I’ve always loved her deeply and felt involved in her life but being so far from our comfort zones, we got to see sides of each other we wouldn’t have found at home. We talked about my sister/her mom, I told her some of my embarrassing stories, she shared secrets, we got lost together, I learned that she’s really quite shy when meeting new people, I let her taste wine at dinner, and most importantly, she realized my love for her on a new level. We can’t quite afford Europe each year, but I’ve added a line item in my budget to make sure this isn’t our last adventure together.

  110. Sabrina says...

    I grew up with an aunt who treated me like a younger sister. She took me to things my mom had zero interested in, like musicals & art museums. She took me to all the cool movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off & Beaches. When I was a teen we would take the train to Chicago from Minneapolis. And when I was living in New England she met me in Boston and we explored the city and visited Louisa May Alcott’s home in Concord. Sadly, she passed away nine years ago and she left a gaping hole in my life.

  111. Kate says...

    Honestly my two aunts were pretty mean growing up… as though they were trying to out-parent my mom by being totally awful and unreasonable. I no longer speak to one and I have a so-so relationship with the other one now but my sister stays away for all events where they’ll be present.

  112. Melanie says...

    I’ve been an aunt for over half of my life. I always made a point of being in their lives and telling them how much I love them and what they mean to me. My niece and nephews are all adults now most married and having their own kids. I never had children so they and their children are the closest thing to my own children and I know that whether I had children or not they would hold the same place in my life. Being an aunt is a priceless joy in my life. I love doing things with them and they can tell me whatever they want and I don’t judge them, they always know I’m here if they need me.

  113. Kalli says...

    That comes at such a special time for me- we are expecting my first nephew in the next couple of days! I am so excited- and kinda anxious because we live in different countries. Will he get to know me well? Will I ever live up to the aunt my aunty was for me? The post was so spot on! Thank you!

  114. Heather D says...

    My sister is THE BEST AUNT to my precious four year old wild man. My husband’s family is Filipino, so we call her “Tita.” Tita does the fun things; makes giant living room tents, bakes messy cupcakes with green icing, encourages recorder-playing, etc. I love watching their relationship grow.

  115. Kate says...

    I got such a sweet text after a night hanging out with our friends and their kids that made me totally fall in love with the Aunt gig. I played with the babies on a blanket in the yard while the adults made food and sat and ate with the bigger kids. The little boys would pull up on me and wait for me to “attack hug” them and snuggle them aggressively and turn them upside down and then put them down while they howled with laughter until the next attack. Later that night my friend texted “(Baby) smelled like Aunt K when I was putting him to bed tonight :) Thank you for loving on my baby!” I don’t feel sadness at not having my own children but I sure do feel a ton of joy getting to be an aunt to all the kids in my life!

  116. Amy says...

    This is so sweet and timely! My niece and nephew are five hours away, and I’m unable to visit as much as I’d like due to my own infant/toddler.

    One thing that’s been helpful for my niece (age 10) is to find out what book series she’s been reading and to read the same one. She loves telling me that I will. not. believe. the twist that’s coming. Right now, I’m on book two of the Percy Jackson series and am loving the connection!

  117. Chandra says...

    I’m am a number one FUNTIE and love being an aunt to all my friends’ kids. It’s such a special relationship that allows you to be part (chill) parent as in they still have to ask for things and follow some rules and part friend. I also love my friends’ kids knowing that I’m their mom’s friend. It’s great for them to see their mom in a friend role to another adult person as opposed to “just” their mom. #funtiesforever

    • Renee says...

      FUNTIE! So Cute!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Love!!!

  118. Jac says...

    I always send one fun gift and one educational gift to my niece (and never anything pink or gender stereotypical). Dinosaurs? 🦖 Yes. Planets and stars? Yes. Professional Ad Markers? Yes. Babies and Bratz and Barbies? Absolutely not. ♥️ That’s for someone else. I feel like it’s my job to pique her interest in the world. My aunts and uncles did that for me. Order shark at a fancy restaurant? Go ahead. Try surfing? Why not? Want to play the banjo? Merry Christmas. 🎁

    • Kari says...

      I love this comment! I also try to expand my niece’s worldview a bit, expose her to things she wouldn’t normally be by her parents. But a banjo? My brother would kill me if I bought her a banjo lol! You sound like such a rad auntie, Jac. :)

    • Kristin says...

      100% this!