I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but I was really hoping for an 8 AM meeting this morning.
Actually, I had one on the calendar at one point. I tried not to sound too happy to tell Husband that I had a meeting at 8 AM Thursday morning and I wasn’t sure if I could move it. And then of course, the meeting organizer moved it because of another attendee’s conflict – to 8 AM Monday morning. Karma, perhaps?
I am a line manager and I suppose I could have manufactured an 8 AM meeting with Direct Report if I really wanted one. But Direct Report is an excellent employee (he won an office culture champion award), and he is starting work tomorrow at 9 AM. It is bad management to make your rockstar employee solve your personal problems outside work. So I didn’t do this. Seriously, managers, don’t do this to your employees.
Anyway, so now I have no excuse for not attending Nephew #3’s bris via Zoom. I guess that attending via Zoom is an improvement over having to travel to State We Don’t Live In. But it also makes it very difficult to have an excuse not to go.
Apparently, Millennials are obsessed with their nieces & nephews. So obsessed, that more than one journalist has coined the shorthand “niblings“. Millennials are having fewer or no children, due to marrying later, poor economic circumstances, less interest, etc. Instead, Millennials are channeling their single-person time & energy and parental urges into their nieces and nephews. Or niblings, if you prefer (Ugh. Seriously, who came up with this word?) Anecdotally, I see some truth in this. I do see fellow Millennial non-parents very interested and involved in the lives of their nieces and nephews, and seem to really, really love them. I just…do not.
It’s not the kids themselves. They are actually, nice, cute, well-behaved, smart, sweet kids (Well, Niece #1 is kind of spoiled, though not outrageously so). When Husband was recovering from surgery last year, Brother-In-Law brought Nephew #1 over to visit and Nephew #1 gave Husband a toy. (I did melt a little at that).
It’s not the parents, exactly. Husband’s Siblings are a lot more religious than us, but they’ve never insisted on tznius (modest) dress or on me covering my hair in front of their kids, or anything like that. Husband’s Family has pretty low expectations in general, which is a relief. Unlike my siblings, who have High Expectations and would expect All The Things if they had kids, Husband’s Siblings & Their Spouses really never expected babysitting (which is good, because we don’t live nearby) or birthday gifts, or even birthday calls (which is good, because I told Husband he was in charge of birthdays and gift-giving and he sucks at this).
The role of aunt just feels juvenile somehow, like a babysitter. The still having to defer to the parents for for the information about the child and the parameters of the relationship. The power imbalance between yourself and the real parents. Babysitting was fine as a teenager, but I quit that years ago. I feel too old for this crap.
I hate the way Siblings-In-Law look at Husband and Me like we’re inexperienced and naive, just because they had successful procreative sex and have experienced the consequences. Like we couldn’t possibly know anything children. Even though we’re intelligent people in our 30s and have the internet, and childbirth and child-raising is one of the most talked about topics in the universe. I hate the way Siblings-In-Law look at me like a resource to help them. Actually, my Peers-Turned-Parents Friends are a lot worse about this. You can just see them eyeing you for free babysitting, or looking at you as some other resource to exploit. I remember reading this piece once about a mom praising her childfree friends, and even though it’s meant as genuine praise, I found it condescending and insulting. She says she knows why I’m childfree (I actually don’t identify with either childfree or childless labels, and no, she doesn’t know why I don’t have kids), she knows how I feel about it (no), and all the reasons she can think of for praising childfree women center around what they do for her, whether it’s giving her wine or a break from her children. Even in praising childfree women, she sees their value only in how they can be a resource to her. Siblings-In-Law are not that bad about the resource part as my other friends. But they do it too.
Sister-in-Law once asked if we could give her and Niece #1 a ride to an activity somewhere. This wasn’t an inherently unreasonable request, as Sis-In-Law had brought the car seat and the destination wasn’t that far. But Niece #1 is prone to carsickness and I am emetophobic. Of course I expect to one day clean up my own child’s vomit. But there was absolutely no way I would be willing to do this for a child who is not mine. (I said no and the plans changed to a walkable destination, and we had as good a time as could be expected given that I don’t enjoy time with my “niblings”).
And it’s not that I never expected or wanted my siblings / siblings-in-law to have kids. I did. I just expected I’d be a mom first and an aunt second because I’m the oldest.
Husband, of course, is a good Millennial (in this respect) and loves being an uncle. He is a good uncle in fact. For him, it is the perfect channel for his parental urges and strengths without actually cramping his lifestyle. I’m the only one who hates being an aunt.
It’s like I didn’t get the lead role I wanted in the play and I’m mad about it and I’m not interested in the shitty supporting role of aunt. I’d rather drop out of the play and skip opening night.
Interestingly, I don’t think of my own aunts, even my non-blood-relative aunt and even after she and my blood-related uncle divorced, as being in a shitty supporting role. Supporting yes (no one can really outshine my own mother), but definitely not shitty. She was, and still is, an amazing aunt, even three years after the divorce. She just reached out recently and sent me a beautiful text after my grandmother died. My aunts on my mom’s side did this too. Actually, speaking of my grandmother, my dad’s cousin wrote a reflection on my grandmother, through her eyes, as a niece remembering her aunt. It was beautiful and moving and I didn’t really appreciate that their aunt-niece relationship was so close (they also lived together at one point as adults, so a totally different situation).
Right now, it’s just hard not to see being an aunt to children being raised by people who have such different values than me, as a crappy consolation prize.