I am a SPANK: Single, Professional Aunt, NO Kids
For someone who works in the childcare field, people are often surprised that I don’t have my own kids. But I don’t. And I am perfectly happy about it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I have actually ever said that I didn’t want them, it’s just never been on the cards. Or maybe I have too much insider information after working with kids for what feels like forever.
But I am like the pied piper. I am rarely found without somebody’s child in the back of my car (and not in a kidnapper kind of way). And I own two gorgeous nieces. Yes “own”.
I often see those memes going around which say things like “Children get their awesomeness from their Aunt”. Well, I am that aunt. And proud of it. The bunnies are six and three-years-old now and very much little women in their own right! I rarely call them by their real names. They answer to "nuggets", "little donkeys", "noodle heads" and more. Sive actually thinks her name is "Sivey-Pants". Recently, she started calling me Niamhy-pants, so I think that nickname is about to be kicked to the curb.
I’ve heard the remarks “You’re so lucky, you can give them back at the end of the day.” And it’s true, I am, I can and I do. But, sometimes I want to keep them forever. (Ok, it’s rare, but it occasionally crosses my mind).
Reaching the milestone of the 40’s (very early 40’s I should add) and not having kids has had its advantages and disadvantages.
On the plus side:
- I get to sleep in at the weekends.
- I get to eat packets of crisps/biscuits/sweets without sharing or hiding in a closet
- I get to (mostly) speak in full sentences
- I get to practice new behavioural/discipline/sleep techniques on my nieces (good for me but not great for them). The two of them regularly visit for sleepovers but, there are no midnight feasts in my house – Pyjamas, story, bed, "See you in the morning". I have to keep up appearances as a sleep coach, don’t you know! I may have a little Mary Poppins in me, but we all know where we stand when it comes to bedtime routines around here.
On the flipside:
- I don’t get hugs when I need them
- Life is quiet. Very quiet. But spontaneous! Almost all of my close friends have children now so their social lives are a lot less “free” shall we say.
- It makes me wonder how different (for better or for worse) my life would be if I had started a family at some point.
I think, both for my nieces and for me, my role is to be a loving, caring grown-up friend and hopefully in time, a confidante. My Mum (the Granny, or “Numna” as they call her) would say her job is not to discipline at all. She’s right I think. She’s been there done that. Has a hundred T-shirts. And, boy do they love her for that.
The childcare professional in me sneaks out every so often and in some ways, I’m the one (outside of their mum and dad) who would discipline them the most. And yet, for all my of my giving-out to them, do they love me? Yes, I believe they do. I would never like to lose any of the raw, basic love that we have between us and I can’t imagine that would ever happen.
If any of the welcome hugs I get are anything to go by, there’s a bit of a mutual appreciation society going on. I popped in the other day and suggested that I might have a treat for them in my bag… they barely looked up, and the little one said “Oh Niamhy, we know. You always bring treats!” So much for surprises, eh?
For now, I will stick to being Auntie Niamh (some of my friends’ kids also greet me with this nickname) and I am delighted with it. Someone on Twitter recently described themselves as a SPANK – Single, Professional Aunt, NO Kids.
I like it. That title will do me for now.
Niamh O’Reilly is a sleep coach. She's also a baby and childcare guru, a 'parent nanny' and the answer to many a weary parent's woes. When it comes to baby and child issues, Niamh is your woman. Always on hand to offer a no-nonsense solution, in an approachable way. A regular in the Irish media, (most recently as TV3’s Late Lunch Show's 'parent nanny') over the next while at HerFamily.ie, Niamh will share some of her experiences, helping you attain that ‘holy grail’ – nights of uninterrupted sleep for all of the family.