As Jena said, I’m now a proud member of the Auntie Brigade—a term borrowed from the incomparable Elizabeth Gilbert (yes, it’s safe to say that both Jena and I are obsessed with her). The Auntie Brigade is comprised of women who either choose not to have children, or don’t have children yet—women who get to spoil their biological nieces and nephews or even children who aren’t related, with gifts and treasures that their parents cannot.
In her book Committed, Elizabeth talks a lot about the pressure for women to get married and have children. Yet, she says, “If you look across human populations of all varieties, in every culture and on every continent, you will find that there is a consistent 10 percent of women within any population who never have children at all. The percentage never gets any lower than that, in any population whatsoever. In fact, the percentage of women who never reproduce in most societies is usually much higher than 10 percent—and that’s not just today in the developed Western world, where childless rates among women tend to hover around 50 percent.”
If this is the case, why do women who choose not to have children often get criticized and accused of being “unnatural?” It’s certainly not a new trend; the Auntie Brigade has been around for some time. I think it’s sad that women who don’t yearn for offspring are often looked at in disbelief. The beauty of being a woman is the choice. And being part of the Auntie Brigade ain’t so bad in the end.
I have fond memories from my childhood of a friend of my mom’s who was childless and who spoiled my siblings and me rotten. And not just with gifts. She would bake for us, send us cards on every mundane holiday, and dote on us like we were her own children. At the end of the day, she got the benefits of having children to love and be loved in return, without the actual hard work and long hours that comes along with being a parent. A pretty nice trade I do believe.
I do hope to one day have children, but I see it as a pretty great benefit that for now I get to just be an aunt. I’m young, single and childless—making me fairly carefree, and giving me the benefit of having a child to spoil and send home to mommy and daddy to do the dirty work ;). Whether or not I have children in the future, I will always have this little munchkin to take care of when her parents need a break. And for that I am thankful.
P.S. I hope you aren’t sick of Jena and I talking about Committed quite yet. I’ve literally been studying this book for the past month--studying. It's that good. You should read it if you have not already. It presents the history of marriage and a sort of sociological study on marriage in our society. A great read for anyone who is married, might get married one day or will never be married.