I’ve shared my struggle with becoming a mother here on The Everymom. But even before my husband and I began our fertility journey, there were so many other children in my life that I never felt lacking. Blood related, my husband and I have six nephews and two nieces, and in our chosen family we have 10 more. I’ve been able to visit several of them in the hospital when they were born, and I’ve fed, clothed, diapered, and loved each of them at varying stages.
Over the last two years, though, we have struggled to conceive, survived a miscarriage, and been diagnosed with the ever-helpful: unexplained infertility. I have been grieving since the start, and the grief doesn’t seem to have an end in sight just yet. It’s both heavy and not, both present and buried. So many times throughout these years I have asked myself, would I be OK staying an aunt, never making the transition over to motherhood? My answer depends on the moment, but it surprised me that I wasn’t always devastated at the thought. I thought motherhood was going to be the ultimate prize, but it turned out—even as much as I loved all my aunts—I had underestimated the bond that can be built between aunts and kids.
I Loved My Own Aunts
Growing up in a joint family household, I loved my mother, my grandmother, and my aunts the most. As I grew, I did get excited about the prospect of being a Mashi (aunt on the mother’s side) or a Pishi (aunt on the father’s side). My own Mashis and Pishis were the ones I went to when I was too nervous to talk to my mother, too scandalous to talk to my grandmother, and too confused to know what I was thinking.
I thought motherhood was going to be the ultimate prize, but… I had underestimated the bond that can be built between aunts and kids.
As a middle schooler, I used to roll my eyes whenever my youngest Mashi talked about all the cute and ridiculous things I did as a toddler and small child. Now, I find myself filing away those same snapshots only with me in the role of the adult, and my nieces and nephews are the kids. I realize those moments are not just cute and hilarious (though they are!), but they are about learning another human being and seeing who they are right now and who they want to become. You can experience this whether they’re your kids or not.
Raising Kids Is a Shared Responsibility
For so long, I was under the impression that the parents had all the rights and responsibilities. Throughout the last decade, though, I’ve learned—while the parents are incredibly important—it truly does take a village to raise a child. Not only from a parenting burnout perspective but also from a broadening their worldview perspective.
An aunt was the one who taught me I could completely switch careers midstream when I watched her shift from an IT consultant to a high school physics teacher. Another aunt always cussed and let me know femininity is a construct and only defined by me. Yet another aunt let me know that putting up with bad behavior is never necessary from your partner or anyone else in your life.
In that same way, I see how the things I say have a lot of impact on my nieces and nephews. I’m helping frame the way these little people view the world. When I talk about leading with compassion and empathy, they are listening. When I treat them with kindness, they are watching. When I own my mistakes and can laugh at my failures, they breathe a sigh of relief. While I don’t presume to believe everything I do or say is responsible for shaping this gaggle of youth, I do know that their parents won’t be the only adults they look towards. I’ll be on the periphery with another perspective, another hand to hold, and as another person who loves them.
If I didn’t believe that motherhood was important, I wouldn’t still be on my journey towards it. But knowing that I am currently helping to raise some beautiful children still gives me a lot more joy than I ever realized possible. If I look, I find mothering when being present with them.