How To Be A Good(Ish) Aunt

You might not have kids of your own but who cares? You have someone else's kids that look a teeny tiny bit like you to enjoy...

How To Be A Good(Ish) Aunt

by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

The world brims with articles telling you how to be a good mum. Regardless of where you are in your life, your period cycle, your relationship status or whatever, there will be little hints and tips on how a woman (or girl!) can maintain a certain level of health and emotionally ready themselves for motherhood. But the funny thing is, not all of us are mums. Chances are, though, a fair whack of us are aunts, or are about to be aunts, to older (or maybe younger) siblings’ children. So, from someone who is simply an aunt to four incredibly sweet little creatures, here’s a no-nonsense guide on how to be a good-ish aunt.

1. Don’t feel the pressure

If you’re not yet an aunt then, well, first of all, why are you even reading this? Second of all, thanks for being here and just to let you know that the moment you find out you’re going to become an aunt (especially if it’s your own sister who’s up the duff), people will expect you to also show some motherly instincts. It’ll be in everything from ‘so when are YOU having a baby?’ to expectant eyebrow raises from your mum when someone tells you ‘oh, you’re pretty good with kids.’ The best way to deal with it, is either to point out your sibling's general readiness for children, how they're much more equipped to have one than you are, or to literally point to something unloveable your niece or nephew has done e.g. filled a nappy or drawn all over the wall in crayon.

2. Babies only need three things

If a baby’s crying, it’s likely they’re either hungry, need a burp or are about to/have just finished doing a poo. If you can make sure they’re fed, winded or changed, you’ll deserve a little fawning over for your aunt skills. To double up on your aunt points, be aware of secondary problems the baby may have by using your empathy. If a child’s crying in a room so warm you’ve had to take all but a t-shirt and shorts off? They’re probably hot in that mittens, puffa jacket and woolly hat combo. If the baby is wailing but you can barely hear it over the noise of pneumatic drills, then, well, why the fuck are you hanging out with a child by a building site? To do a social experiment on how to avoid wolf-whistles? Take the baby to the park.

3. No swearing

As cute as it is to hear a child say ‘fuck’, if you do hear a child saying it,the best thing to do is just ignore that they’ve said it otherwise they’ll cotton onto the fact the word is bad and just repeate it. And regardless of what you feel about children swearing, it’s not the cheekiness of the word that will upset people around them, it’s the fact they will repeat it over and over and over until it loses meaning. They say kids are like sponges, but genuinely, if I repeated a word 20 times in three minutes, I’d probably remember it. I’d also be pretty annoying.

4. Pre-plan their presents

So you want to get your nephew and niece a present at the same time? You’re going to have to plan those presents way in advance. It’s not only the hell of navigating your way past brats in tiny toyshops, or browsing through so many pages of John Lewis’s toys section that all your pre-roll adverts on YouTube end up flogging you Clear Blue pregnancy tests. It’s that boys’ toys are so much better than girls’ ones. It’s 2015, and the predilection is for companies to not only make girls’ presents abundantly pink and garish and princess-driven, or focusing purely on ornamental things like dress-up and beauty.

5. Spoil them

The best element of aunthood is you can saunter in and out of your niblings’ (that’s the name of both nephews and nieces) lives armed with gifts and sweets and anything else to spoil them rotten, and then saunter straight out of the situation. You don’t have to un-train them from only eating when their spoonful of dinner comes with aeroplane noises, you don’t have to deal with the child crying the morning after their birthday when they realise that presents won’t come every single day for eternity and that one day life will get real and they’re having to check a gas meter or fix a leaky bin. And if you’re only visiting your niblings occasionally, you also don’t have to be the boring/bad guy who makes them do mundane tasks they’re sick of. That is, until you’re babysitting and you try to brush their teeth.

6. Don’t let them take the piss

As much as it is easy to spoil them, remember that the more you spoil your nieces and nephews, the higher their expectations will grow. So you’ll end up having to deal with disappointed faces when you bring them a present they’ve either already been given, or a gift that, for all its high status in your childhood, carries no kudos with today’s kids. Like Pogs, or Beanie Babies. Oh, and if you are only seeing them every now and then, watch out for the fact they will play up and perform around you. Stop this by NOT laughing when they play a dinnertime game of shouting out ‘bum’ as loudly as they can at random intervals.

7. Make space on your phone for photos

It’s kind of sickening to see the babies or children of people you don’t know or care about clogging up your news feed on various social media. But when you see babies whose faces are a combination of someone who looks a bit like you (your sibling) along with whoever they’re procreated with, you’re basically seeing a tiny version of a tiny part of yourself crawling about with their chubby legs and gurgly cheeks. What would stop you from wanting to take a photo of that? Narcissism is a huge proponent of most Instagram photos, and your niece or nephew isn’t only a cute little kid, they’re a part-mirror of yourself!

8. Be careful where you put them

Sometimes people’s parents don’t want their kids’ images broadcasted the world over. Or maybe they’re cool with it, but don’t want their kids’ names out there. It’s really up to them and just a little note – it’s a bit ethically weird to post pictures of other people's kids on social media without their parents permission. Have the conversation with your sibling and their partner, find out what they’d like for their kid.

9. The mistakes you make might just be the same ones their parents make. Relax!

I once gave my nephew a tiny little bit of haemorrhoid cream (it’s good for breastfeeding mums) because I thought it was teething gel. Freaking out that it could make him ill, I fed myself some of the haemorrhoid cream and then freaked out further that, if we had to go to A&E, I’d be ridiculed for being so stupid as to poison us both. Turns out haemorrhoid cream isn’t that dangerous at all (we’re both alive to this day, but of course I’d never recommend you eat it or feed it to a child) and that parents do this stupid stuff all the time. It’s just they learn from their mistakes a little bit sooner.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

Things You Only Know If You're An Older Sister

Telling Women To Start Trying For Babies Before 30 Isn't Remotely Empowering

Things You Only Know If Your Younger Sister Has Babies Before You

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us