Did you know that, according to parenting experts, aunts are just as important as moms when it comes to raising children (especially girls)? True story! Read on to learn just a few of the many reasons why they’re such a powerful influence in our kids’ lives.
Aunts Are Just as Important as Moms
So far, we’ve talked about the vital role nieces & nephews play in an aunt’s life. We’ve even talked about how cousins are ready-made friends for life. What we haven’t discussed, though, is why aunts are so amazing. Let’s fix that! Below, you’ll find just a handful of the many ways aunts are as important as moms in our kids’ lives. First, though, let’s talk a bit about what one popular parenting expert has to say about it.
Parenting expert calls on an “auntie army” to help raise our daughters
Parenting expert and self-help author Steve Biddulph made headlines when he said during a podcast that aunts may be just as important to our daughters as we moms are. Biddulph was promoting his new book, Raising Girls (which you can preview below). While the bulk of the book is about helping to raise strong and independent women, what he said about aunts resonated with listeners so much that he practically went viral overnight.
In his book Biddulph called on an “aunties army” to help save our daughters from a “catastrophic crisis.” How can they do that? Let’s explore.
11 Reasons Why Aunts Are Just As Important as Moms
“My aunt has ears that listen, arms that hug and hold, a love that’s never-ending, and a heart that’s made of gold.” That quote says it all, doesn’t it? Our sisters (be it by blood or by friendship) play such a unique and wonderful role in our kids’ lives that it’s hard to know where to begin to describe all they have to offer. Let’s just dive in, shall we?
One little note- while Biddulph and other experts mostly explore the aunt/niece relationship, all of these benefits of aunts apply to boys, too, in my opinion. I have many friends with boys who have equally amazing relationships with their aunties as their daughters do.
1. Aunts step in when your kids feel like you just don’t “get” them
Moms and their children are bound to clash from time to time. Even if you have the best relationship ever with your kids, there will come at least one moment where you just don’t see eye to eye. Biddulph explains that this is where aunts step in, especially for our daughters (although this equally applies to our sons as well). Our kids will always have someone safe to turn to when they feel like you’re just not “getting” them. Which brings us to…
2. Aunts know how to listen without judgement
Melanie Notkin, author of SAVVY AUNTIE (below), talks about how aunts have a magnificent ability to listen to our kids without judging them. As much as we try to avoid doing the “mom freakout thing,” it’s hard not to lose our cool at times. For example, your teenage son tells you that he went to a party where kids were drinking, but he didn’t give into peer pressure. You tell him that you’re proud, thank him for coming to you…then figure out a way to make sure he never hangs out with those friends again. Aunts know how to just listen, period.
3. No questions are off limits to aunts
Aunts don’t just listen without judgement, they can also handle some of our kids’ toughest questions. You know, the ones that they’re just way too embarrassed to ask us. Think about your own childhood (especially those turbulent teenage years) and I think you’ll see what I mean. No matter how “cool” our moms were, sometimes it was just plain weird to talk to them about boys, our bodies, and other very personal topics. It’s just easier sometimes to talk to someone that didn’t change your diapers! It’s reassuring to know that our kids have someone to go to other than Google, isn’t it?
4. Aunts take some of society’s pressures off our daughters
Despite generations of women fighting for change, society still puts a crazy amount of pressure on girls. We’re still taught to value our self-worth by what we see in the mirror rather than what’s on the inside. Even science confirms that we women are often seen as and judged based on the sum of our parts, rather than as a whole person. While we’ve come a long way with getting the world to stop seeing us as objects, our fight is far from over. We still live in a world where “she has a great personality” is an insult rather than a compliment. Our girls need to be surrounded by strong women who can help counteract society’s pressures and negative messages.
5. They also help our boys become better men
Boys face their own set of societal pressures when it comes to how they view and treat women. In fact, sometimes I think they hear even more mixed messages than our daughters do. Just like aunts show our daughters that we’re more than the sum of our parts, they do the same for our sons. Raising boys around strong female role models can help them grow up and become men who respect all women. They learn to see women as multi-dimensional people, and not just as “pretty” or “smart” or “good in the kitchen.”
6. They teach kids about spontaneity and other small yet vital life lessons
A friend once told me a story that illustrates this point beautifully. One afternoon, as a young child, she was swimming in the community pool. Her aunt Dee stopped by on her way home from work. She got out of the car, walked over to the pool…and jumped right in! In her heels, her stockings, her work skirt, her blouse, her jacket, her perfectly coiffed “all business” bun! Just dove in!
That single moment of utter spontaneity seemed so silly at the moment and made my friend laugh. Years later, though, she realized just how much it taught her. Sometimes, when you see an opportunity, you just have to take it. If you pause to think too long (or take off your business suit) you could lose the chance. The sun could go down. The clouds could burst and pour rain down on you. So, grab life by the horns and take a chance.
Sure, we moms could do the same thing. We know how to have fun, too, right? Here’s the thing, though: our kids are so busy absorbing the great big lessons we have to teach them about life that it’s easy for them to miss our smaller lessons. Aunts are all about those smaller- yet positively vital-life lessons.
7. Aunts show our kids a whole new world
Both far and near, both literally and figuratively, aunts show our kids a part of the world that we simply can’t. As much as we’d love to take our children on adventures far and wide, we have neither the means nor the time to plan epic vacations every weekend. What we can do, though, is pack them up and send them to Auntie’s house up north or down south, then rest assured that they’ll be as safe as they would with us.
Even if our kids just spend a weekend with their aunt in the same town, chances are pretty good that they’ll experience it in a whole new way. Maybe you have horrible allergies that make hiking a nightmare, but your sister loves the outdoors. Perhaps she adores art galleries while your tastes run more towards science museums. With her, your kids get to experience those local nature trails and learn about the arts from someone who is actually passionate about them. From the grand vacations to the smaller moments, every minute your child spends with your sister is a chance to learn something completely new.
8. They are full of patience
Aunts seem to have a never-ending supply of patience when it comes to our kids. Probably because they haven’t heard little Tommy’s story about the cool firetruck 700 times already, or little Susie’s litany of reasons why she can’t eat her Brussels sprouts! Maybe because they don’t have to deal with the complexities of raising our kids- bedtime and bath time struggles, homework woes, planning 21 healthy recipes plus snacks every single week (and actually getting picky little Susie to eat them).
Aunts are just free to be aunts, so patience comes more naturally to them. Sure, we try to maintain patience at all times, but let’s be honest, it’s hard! Even when we’re not showing our impatience, our kids can sense it. With Auntie, though, there’s never that underlying sense that they’re getting on mom’s last nerve. It’s a very freeing feeling for our children.
9. Aunts know all the best family secrets
If you want to know what your mom was like as a child, ask your aunt! Mom isn’t going to tell you about how she got in trouble for skipping class when she was your age, but auntie sure will! Sure, there’s a few secrets we wish our sisters would keep to themselves. Here’s the thing, though- all those stories make you more relatable.
We tend to think that confessing our deep, dark childhood secrets sends a message to our kids that if we did it, so can they. However, it really shows them that all people- even parents- make mistakes. That’s an important lesson, wouldn’t you agree? Plus, it’s just plain fun for our kids to feel like they know something super juicy about mom and dad!
10. They give our kids cousins!
Remember how important cousins are to our kids? Well, they wouldn’t exist without aunts (and uncles)! The neat thing? Even when our sisters become mothers themselves, they still retain those unique “auntie” qualities with our children. They can be completely frazzled by their own kids, but still totally patient with ours. They’re just plain magical that way!
11. Aunts are an entire village rolled into one
Like they say, it takes a village to raise a child. Our sisters are like an entire village wrapped up into one beautiful package! Our kids know that they can go to Auntie when they need an extra dose of a mother’s love and support, and she’ll be ready and willing to give it. They know that she will be a friend when they need advice, a therapist when they need a nonjudgmental ear, and a playmate when they’re bored.
They play the same role for us moms, too. They’re our support system, our closest companions, the one person who will say, “You’ve totally got this parenting thing!” Like I said a whole village in one!
One last note that bears repeating- “aunts” do not have to be related to your kids by blood. So, if you don’t happen to have a sister, please don’t feel like your kids are missing out. Your best friend is just as much an “auntie figure” as a biological sister.
As the quote in the beginning said, “Only an aunt can give hugs like a mother, keep secrets like a sister, and share love like a friend.”