NYT Contributor: ‘Does Being An Aunt Beat Being A Mother?’


When I saw the headline of Kate Bolick‘s New York Times piece, “Let’s Hear It For Aunthood,” I couldn’t help but think of all the CatholicMatch members who so proudly and prominently features photos of their nieces and nephews in their profile scrapbooks.

I have to admit, sometimes I see these photos and sense an invisible caption: “Look at me! I’m good parent material! I love kids – doesn’t that melt your heart and make you want to marry me?”

But that’s a pretty cynical response, and most of the time, those photos reflect real, meaningful bonds, a natural outpouring of close-knit families and loving singles. As someone who is not yet a mom and absolutely loves being an aunt, I get it.

We last blogged about Kate when she appeared on the cover of the November Atlantic with the headline “What, Me Marry?” Now I would love to hear your thoughts on her ode to aunthood. Here’s an excerpt, beginning with the birth of her first niece three and a half years ago:

Ever since, I’ve been going around telling people that Sophie is my most passionate relationship. I play it as a rueful quip about the state of my romantic life, but in truth I’m deadly serious. When I’m low, I scroll through the latest batch of digital photos sent by her mother and sit back as my brain floods with endorphins.

A real-life visit, when Sophie leaps into my arms, presses her tiny cheek against mine and won’t let go, is an endorphin tsunami. Later, when she starts shrieking in tongues and throwing handfuls of pennies across the room, her parents whisk her off to bed and I settle down with a novel.

In June, the Pew Research Center reported that nearly 1 in 5 American women in her early 40s has never had a child — compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s. I suspect the Census Bureau doesn’t have a line tallying the current aunt population. But it stands to reason that as women marry and have children later, if at all, they have more time to enjoy being an aunt. How many of these single, childless women wonder, as I have, if being an aunt beats being a mother?

Popular American culture and literature tend to hold up aunts as spinsters, not heroines, Kate notes. She also points to an interesting web development for this group:

In April, Melanie Notkin, a social-media entrepreneur, seized on this underrepresented underclass with “Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids” (William Morrow). Her book is a spinoff of her Web site, savvyauntie.com, which aims to be an “all-inclusive guide” for what she calls PANKs: Professional Aunts No Kids. It’s a rallying girl-call in high chick-lit style: lots of hot pink and cheerful advice filed under rubrics like “Auntre-Nous: Straight Talk for the Childless Auntie” and “The Importance of QualAuntie Time.”

Tell me, CatholicMatchers, do fun nieces and nephews make celebrating the holidays single more bearable? Are you looking forward to seeing them at Thanksgiving?

What role does aunthood or unclehood play in your lives? Do you see it as something that makes you more attractive, more marriage-ready, in the eyes of a potential suitor? Did you mention nieces and nephews in your CatholicMatch profile? Why?

Guys, do photos of you with your adorable Goddaughter at her First Communion melt the ladies’ hearts? Do you whip them out strategically? (Be honest.) Or is that thought far from your mind?




Further reading

Don’t miss “40, Single & Childless” by CatholicMatch member Dawn Franzen.



  1. Eric-97921 November 25, 2011 Reply

    Christina–I’ve got to say that the question posed is more than a little silly. What kind of question is it to ask whether being an aunt is “better” than being a mother? Are we doing a utilitarian, cost-benefit analysis of endorphin release? An aunt and a mother describe a family relationship. Of course, being a mother or a father in some sense is “greater” in the natural order of things simply because of the intrinsic relationship that is there.

    Anyhow, not sure what men’s profiles look like on this level. But I’ve never really had reason to question the genuineness of the photos of women with little nieces/nephews. I absolutely think it is smart for people to include photos of that sort in their profiles…if in fact they are genuine. It’s smart strategy, just as it is smart strategy to show oneself engaging in fun with friends. And…to illustrate my point above, it should tell us something about the question posed that we all naturally assume that members want to show that they are good daddy/mommy material!:)

  2. Carolyn-790784 November 22, 2011 Reply

    Nothing in the world beats being a mother! 🙂 I just spent an hour going through old pictures with my daughter to pick out some for my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary party slideshow. I have some scanning to do! Then I will be adding pictures to my scrapbook, too. The pictures of my kids as babies are adorable, chubby cheeks and all.

  3. Anna-671172 November 21, 2011 Reply

    My nephews are an important part of my life, first of cause they r my beloved sis´ weans, and yes they do complement my life and happiness just as every member of my family does, hence theyve been an important part of my life. God has allowed me to be an auntie and godmother for a reason, and am grateful for Him for them.

    I cant say that aunthood beats motherhood as iv not experienced motherhood myself, so im not fitted to make an aunthood vs motherhood statement, but i can say that i hurt when they hurt and feel bad when they r not ok.

    Why have i got pics of me nephews on my profile??, well its a strange question being that CM advices its members to upload pics of the folk we love…and am pretty sure that i can speak on behalf of all the members on this site who, like me, have been blessed with the joyful experience of aunthood and unclehood that the reason we´ve uploaded pics of them is because they r important to us and not because we wud like to advertise ourselves as good “parent material”.

    I cudnt ay whether or not the pics of my nephews have any gentleman´s heart “melt” for me, i dont find that signifcant at all.


  4. Paul-709408 November 21, 2011 Reply

    First, I would like to say that I am appalled by one even asking if being an aunt (uncle) beats being a mother (father). Sure there are benefits, but I hope it has more to do with God’s timing than one’s preference not to commit and have children.

    That said, I’ve posted a picture of me and my nephew on my profile… as well as me with the rest of my family and with friends. They are all important people to me. And absolutely I’ve considered that it may make me look more attractive as a future father, though I view that as a nice bonus–not the primary reason for posting the picture.

    Furthermore, I know God created women to be special and gave them extra grace to desire and help them survive motherhood, and its absolutely beautiful. It is also all the more attractive, I admit, to visualize a possible future spouse holding a baby or just being with a niece or nephew.

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