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And to think that they’re going to let ME name the baby! That’s trust.

April 1, 2010

For the past six years or so, a week hasn’t passed where I wasn’t asked, “so when are you going to have kids?” The question never bothered me, I figured someday I would want to. I was always quite content with being an aunt, buying stickers and candy, then leaving when discipline was needed or the tears started. Now that I’m divorced, I still get the same question, but it’s usually preceded by “well it’s a relief you never had kids!” Which is true, I don’t know how you single parents (mothers or fathers) do it!

I was ‘stalking’ one of my favorite blogs today, where stillarockstar wrote about the very same topic, expressing  my exact same feelings on not having her own children, not even wanting to have her own. She provided an excerpt from Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book Committed. This is long and may seem boring for most of you… but I loved it.

“Moreoever, while the vague idea of motherhood had always seemed natural to me, the reality-as it approached-only filled me with dread and sorrow. As I got older, I discovered that nothing within me cried out for a baby. My womb did not seem to have come equipped with that famously ticking clock. Unlike so many friends, I did not ache with longing whenever I saw an infant. (Though I did ache with longing, it is true, whenever I saw a good used-book shop.) Every morning, I would perform something like a CAT scan on myself, searching for desire to be pregnant, but I never found it. There was no imperative there, and I believe that child rearing must come with an imperative, must be driven by a sense of longing and even destiny, because it is such a massively important undertaking. I’ve witnessed this longing in other people; I know what it looks like. But I never felt it in myself.

…Being exempted from motherhood has allowed me to become exactly the person I believe I was meant to be:  not merely a writer, not merely a traveler, but also – in a quite marvelous fashion – an aunt….

…Maybe it’s not only perfectly legitimate for certain women to never reproduce, but also necessary. It’s as though, as a species, we need an abundance of responsible, compassionate, childless women on hand to support the wider community in various ways. Childbearing and child rearing consume so much energy that the women who do become mothers can quickly become swallowed up by the daunting task…. Thus, maybe we need extra females, women on the sidelines with udepleted energies, who are ready to leap into the mix and keep the tribe supported. Childless women have always been particularly essential in human society because they often take upon themselves the task of nurturing those who are not their official biological responsibility – and no other group does this to such a large degree. Childless women have always run orphanages and schools and hospitals. They are midwives and nuns and providers of charity. They heal the sick and teach the arts and often become indespensable on the battlefield of life.

…in fact, recent studies of American nursing homes comparing happiness levels of elderly childless women against happiness levels of women who did have children show no pattern of special misery or joy in one group or the other. But here’s what researchers did discover that makes elderly women miserable across the board: poverty and poor health. Whether you have children or not, then, the prescription seems clear: Save your money, floss your teath, wear your seatbelt, and keep fit – and you’ll be a perfectly happy old bird someday, I guarantee you.

In leaving no descendents, however, childless aunts do tend to vanish from memory after a mere generation, quickly forgotten, their lives as transitory as butterflies. But they are vital as they live, and they can even be heroic. Even in my own family’s recent history, there are stories on both sides of truly magnificent aunties who stepped in and saved the day during emergencies. Often able to accrue education and resources precisely because they were childless, these women had enough spare income and compassion to pay for lifesaving operations, or to rescue the family farm, or to take in a child whose mother had fallen gravely ill. I have a friend who calls these sorts of child-rescuing aunties”sparents” – “spare parents” – and the world is filled with them.

Even within my own community, I can see where I have been vital sometimes as a member of the Auntie Brigade. My job is not merely to spoil and indulge my niece and nephew but also to be a roving auntie to the world – ambassador auntie – who is on hand wherever help is needed, in anybody’s family whatsoever… There are a whole bunch of Little League uniforms and orthodontist’s bills and college educations that I will never have to pay for, thereby freeing up resources to spread more widely across the community.

In this way, I, too, foster life.”

I never would have imagined that one of the things I miss the most about being married was being an aunt. I’m very grateful to those wonderful women who let me (force me) to still spend time with their children. You just can’t NOT love all those lil’ buggers.

Thank you to my sister and her husband for finally giving me the opportunity to be an aunt, no strings attached. I’m so ready to have someone to spoil.

P.S. stillarockstar, I hope you don’t mind how I “borrowed” this from your blog. It just fit so nicely into my day, the day where I was FINALLY allowed to share this joyous news of my future niece/nephew that I can’t wait to meet. Just another one of the times where you happened to write exactly what I was feeling. Thank you.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Stacey permalink
    April 1, 2010 10:45 pm

    Very fitting! I agree with it and I love the quote.. You’ll make a wonderful ‘sparent’ and be the head of the auntie brigade!!

  2. Donna Bankson permalink
    April 2, 2010 7:48 am

    You and Elizabeth Gilbert say it very well. The biological and adopted and “great” aunts have helped us in the raising of our one-and-only immeasurably–especially, in the absence of grandmothers. So, auntie, contratulations! You’re very well suited and well-prepared. I must leave you with one thought though: I never had the imperativeto mother until about this time nine years ago and not again seriously since then!

    • April 2, 2010 8:18 am

      Oh and I’m sure my mind could change as my circumstances do. I’ve just about mastered being indecisive. Give that lil’ cousin of mine big hugs and make sure her nails are properly painted an obnoxious color.

  3. Mom permalink
    April 2, 2010 8:44 am

    Having two beautiful daughters has been my most valued treasures. I have also been blessed with the opportunity to have other children come into my life to be an “Aunt”, “Grandma” to or whatever role they felt comfotable with. That is what makes life special. Kacey you have a big heart and the capacity to love many.

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