Women who are childless or child-free face a lot of judgement. But little is said about just how much joy and wonder can be found in being an aunty. Neesha Bremner shares her views on her role as a self-described Spinster Aunt and the happiness it brings her.
I’ve survived being knee deep in glitter I tell you. Knee deep!
I have face painting down pat – rainbow fairy mermaid design you say? I got you.
I can whip up a bottle in the time necessary to placate a hangry hangry baby – well mostly.
I can “safely” bounce a five-year-old and a toddler simultaneously on an old school trampoline. (Well I pulled it off once and no one lost an arm or broke a limb though possibly the sound barrier was broken and that is an achievement.)
I can cuddle, calm, wind up a child like a clock work toy and if need be put someone on the naughty step all while being gloriously childless.
Welcome to being a spinster Aunt.
Children have never really come up as an option for me. I’m one of the one in five Kiwi women who don’t have offspring. Part of a statistic that is now edging ever closer to one in four. I live a life in which I can’t picture having children of my own. It doesn’t fit.
I can’t say I enjoy the assumptions that go with being childless. The idea that I automatically should have decimated my lady bits and sacrificed all future earnings. The reactions to childlessness range from surprise to a strong discomfort. A woman that is not participating in the culturally imposed primary objective of her gender is still an agitation point – even if only subconsciously.
But, the fact remains, more and more women are choosing not to have children or cannot have children and the reasons we judge women for this is something as a society we need to explore.
We are valid humans despite not procreating.
This feels like a justification or a defence of my womanhood but I am the happy AF aunt to three glorious creatures – the unicorn, the mullet, and the politician. Being an aunt is one of the greatest joys of my life.
The unicorn is five, insanely artistic, and bound to grow up to be a brain surgeon slash artist slash super model slash mercenary. The mullet is nearly two, hilarious, the owner of a divinely evil laugh, and has naturally forming mullet. Seriously, it has just grown that way and only proceeds to get more Westie in look and attitude. She is a girl after my own heart.
The politician is only two weeks old , it’s probably to soon to categorise, but he’s carrying that newborn old person in a tiny body look with dignity and when he speaks everyone pays attention. I dub thee Winston Churchill.
Becoming a spinster aunt is a process of awakening. The first time I saw The Unicorn via Skype my heart ballooned with love. She was tinged yellow, wearing an odd cap in her clear plastic summer Tupperware-type hospital cot and since that moment I have adored her.
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The unicorn and I go on adventures.
We’ll get her booster seat into my car – named by my niece as Mr Misty – and go hunting for magic. The Unicorn gives five-year-old directions and off we go.
So far this has led to the following;
- Swimming fully clothed, twice , and once in the middle of winter. I am nothing if not committed to this gig.
- Gathering about a tonne of “magic stones” to perform spells with Barbie, Barney (a six foot stuffed bear) and possibly Oma or The Mullet.
- Driving a wee bit too fast over speed bumps.Did you know that if a car “jumps” over a speed bump the vehicle in question collects protection magic which prevents serious crashes and other mishaps?
- Some serious tree climbing. The Unicorn will spot a good looking tree and it’s on.
At two The Mullet is a different kettle of fish altogether.
Babbling Almost-English like a happy little stream, fake reading books and then laughing, throwing her head back uproariously at their completion: The Mullet – to me at least – has a more slapstick approach to life.
Time with her is about collecting pine cones and yelling “pine-cone” every time we find one. Its about serious cuddles, eating feta and handfuls of rice with abandon, its about dancing in circles with me and The Unicorn and general silliness. It’s also about predominantly wanting her Mum and Dad, putting weird things in her mouth and cracking it when her ability to communicate and cerebral development collide – loudly.
Her personality is unfurling incrementally over babysitting and family events. The anthropologist in me finds it fascinating – I always knew my degree would be useful one day.
The Politician, this new unknown human, is all about me swaying when I get to hold him. Swaying makes all the difference. And letting his parents know I am there if they need back up.
As Spinster Aunt I have so much to give these wondrous creatures because I don’t have my own.
Spinster Aunts offer knowledge and skills that have emerged and been honed from a different life experience and perspective. I know how to successfully navigate a general strike in a developing country. I’ve shucked corn in a Nepali village. I’ve lived in a hut without electricity but with snakes. I can get from A to B on foot in a Canadian snow storm – and that might be useful somewhere down the track for my trio of darlings.
Women without children can offer an availability and flexibility that can be a valuable support system in the greater family structure – especially when that support is cherished.
My brothers and their partners have generously supplied these children – enriching my life. And in return I give myself to these growing, learning, sometimes snotty little wonders.
Being a Spinster Aunt is exactly who I’m meant to be.
Evolving journalist Neesha Bremner is a purveyor of words, images, and other incidental things. Neesha is dipping her toes back into the pool of Kiwi life after six years living between Australia and Nepal where she researched the links between paid volunteering in orphanages and child trafficking alongside other documentary projects, co-producing and street photography.
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