Confession of a Bad Millennial

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? UPDATED: Apparently, the word “niblings” was coined in the 1950s) 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.

This extremely Millennial aunt doting on her niece is not a self-portrait. Image by Monique Vasconcelos Nique from Pixabay

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.

30 comments

  1. […] Part of it is that the things that are opening up are opening in limited ways and not in the ways I was looking forward too. This Shabbat will be outdoors (which sounds rather nice actually) but without kiddush (the luncheon after the services). Not that the food is the only reason for attending events, but it was a part of the communal experience, especially for my community in particular. The Young Professional’s event is a poorly timed (meaning the afternoon before erev Shavuot, typically a time for people to prepare for the upcoming holiday) BYO Refreshments to the park, which I suppose was organized to be more young family friendly. The organizer is a friend and I know she means well, but who has time for this? And why would I want to spend more time with parents of young children than necessary? In-Laws want us to visit and spend time all together with the niece and nephews. You know how much I love that shitty consolation prize. […]

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  2. […] I expected that Purim this year would be kind of lousy given the Coronavirus pandemic. It wasn’t all bad and, in fact, some things were an improvement. JTS’s live-streamed “Purim Off Broadway” was awesome! Not being pressured to read Megillah (Book of Esther) was amazing! (I am proficient at and enjoy reading Torah and Haftarah, but I don’t know Megillah trope well and don’t have interest or bandwidth to learn; unfortunately, in non-COVID years, everyone assumes I am happy to read Megillah) Not seeing my peers-turned-parents and their children was also a bonus, given my feelings on the matter. […]

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  3. Once again from your 80 yo reader: never judge a situation until you have been there. I had all these ideas about how I would do with children and what they would be like. 90% of my ideas were not lived out. My children, with children of their own, have learned the same thing. You can’t walk in someone else’s shoes. Being an Aunt is a bonus. Those are kids you can take home when you are tired of them. Enjoy that! (ps hope you are not getting upset with this old person passing on wisdom from many years)

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    • I hear you, and I have other peers without children who really love being an aunt/uncle, but I’m still pretty angry and bitter about not getting what I wanted (being a mom and children of my own), so being an aunt is more of a lame consolation prize than a bonus for me.

      I don’t mind an 80 year old reader! Welcome!

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  4. Hey, I just wanted to throw this out there in case it would interest you. I hope this link that I pasted works but I noticed that you mentioned being emetophobic (sp?). I have a friend who also had this issue as well as anxiety and problems with infertility. She tried a lot of things but nothing seemed to help. Then she found out that she had an MTHFR polymorphism. She started taking a special kind of converted folic acid called folinic acid and it dramatically resolved these issues. I only mention this because when she and I were researching it we read that this polymorphism is super common in the general public but also really common among certain Jewish groups. I apologize if this is too forward. I just hate to see people suffer from something that might be treatable with something so safe as a special form of a water soluble vitamin.

    https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/lifestyle/sa-weekend/how-a-vitamin-cured-my-anxiety-elisa-blacks-story-of-lifelong-struggle-and-new-hope-for-the-future/news-story/058666cc978da7ee1fca0f1ee043212c

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  5. An interesting perspective. I think it’s just a natural inclination or not. Some cherish the thought of niblings, others do not. I don’t share a core value system with my family members, so it’s difficult to be around them, let alone have conversations with them.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I have two boys and my brother has three girls and my sister has three girls. I freak my siblings out when I have conversations that question certain Christian theologies they hold to. I just want to have a discussion. Partly because their views cause them to avoid my autistic children. I honestly think my siblings fear that I will cast doubt in my nieces about their beliefs and therefore I haven’t had the opportunity to be in their lives. But I think you’re right that without shared values it might not be as enjoyable as I imagined. I feel a lot of grief when I hear my niece insisting that an autistic boy in her class does not have challenges and is just “bad”.

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    • I’m so sorry that your siblings are excluding you from your nieces lives because of your beliefs. That sounds so painful for you and for your children. (Also, I’m not following the logic of Christian theologies leading to the belief that autistic children are bad and should be avoided? I would have guessed that a Christian belief on this would be more “we’re all created in G-d image” and “every life has meaning and abortion is wrong” or something more along that line? But I don’t claim to be an expert on Christian theologies)
      Sibs-In-Law have been more tolerant of Husband voicing his opinion in from of the nephews and nieces than I expected, actually. Like Nephew #1 asked why Husband wasn’t doing something religious that his own dad was doing and Bro-In-Law was letting Husband answer in his own words, which kind of surprised me.
      The kids are little still. Maybe it’ll be better when they get older and can have more conversations.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks. Oh ya sorry I am a bit oversimplifying. They are uncomfortable with the fact that I reject something called Calvinism which is a particular interpretation of New Testament scripture as well as Lutheranism. These theologies create an insider/outsider mentality and hold to something called substitutionary atonement and imputed righteousness. I won’t bore you with the details. But to oversimplify again weakness can be seen as “badness” through the lense of these theologies and there is a certain survival of the fittest mentality. Luther suggested that the best service he could do God was to drown a handicapped child he saw in the nearest river. They believe in something called “election” and then the sign of this election is God blessing you with success. They are comfortable with the idea of a whole lot of people being chosen to burn in hell while they have been chosen to be “saved”. When you let your heart go there in terms of the afterlife you inevitably let it go there in earthly life. Also you get absolved from the need of pursuing a righteousness of your own. It is possible to be a Christian and not believe this stuff but I can’t say I I’ve been able to find a local community that questions and rejects it.

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        • That is fascinating and disturbing, I must say, though I appreciate as you mentioned that this is an oversimplification. Definitely not something I have heard about before! I do hope you are able to find a community that is a fit for you philosophically. It would definitely be a challenge to be in a community espousing this belief, I think.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Yes and just so you know there are a lot of Lutherans and Calvinists that contradict these beliefs with their lives and so I do not want to vilify them as a people. I am sure you know Jewish people who take a particular interpretation of the Torah or other Jewish texts, that you don’t agree with and yet you still know good people among them although you would prefer to worship with people whose interpretation you do agree with. Whether Martin Luther intended it or not his book Table Talk that was in most German Lutheran homes encouraged certain ideas that made Germans more likely to turn a blind eye in the Holocaust. Dietrich Bonhoeffer tried to point this out to people and formed a group called The Confessing Church but most of them were killed by the Nazis including Bonhoeffer himself. I wish more Christians would know this history and take a second look at what they think they should believe. Anyways, enough about that. I’m sure you were not looking for a church history lesson, lol.

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        • Oh of course! I never would have expected that all Lutherans or all Calvinists believe or interpret the same text in the same way. I can tell you that Jews definitely do not, even within the same community. Fascinating history re: Bonhoeffer as well. Thanks for the lesson!

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I haven’t been in this situation exactly, as my sister doesn’t have children, but it was hard when she got married – she’s younger than me, yet not only did she get married first, but I know it will probably be quite a while before I’m ready to get married, given my “issues,” and that the longer that takes, the less likely I will be to have children (assuming I don’t marry a woman twenty years younger than myself).

    I would like to be an uncle, though – I think I would be a good eccentric uncle!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, it’s hard to get over the feelings of expecting things to happen in a certain way or order, like the younger sibling / sibling-in-law getting married first or having kids first. I don’t really regret not having had kids earlier. I wasn’t ready five years ago, honestly. I’d love a five-year-old now, but I can’t regret not having a baby five years ago since I wasn’t ready.
      You sound like you’d make a wonderful uncle!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. A) I had no idea what emetophobic meant until just now. Thanks? 😉
    B) Do they have “such different values than” you? Other than being more observant? That was not clear to me from the blog post.
    C) When you say that you didn’t get the “lead role” – is that a permanent fact?

    Liked by 2 people

    • A) Anytime? 😉
      B) You have a point, in that “such different values” here = Yeshivish vs. liberal non-Orthodox; different prioritization of family, religion, work, community, education; wildly different religious beliefs; different philosophies re: child-raising and education. It’s not, say, “radical left-wing eat-the-rich religion-is-brainwashing liberal” against “right-wing gays-are-going-to-hell-and-science-is-a-lie conservative”. I get along with Siblings-In-Law (we’re not close though), but the differences in belief, personality, values, are considerable.
      C) It’s highly, highly, unlikely

      Liked by 2 people

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