Mother's Day is such a wonderful way to show appreciation for all that moms do. And boy, between taking care of the kids (and Dad!), her own parents, being there for her friends, perhaps having a job to make ends meet, and still finding time to give back to the community-at-large, moms today are truly over-extended. They deserve their day to be honored. But Mother's Day is also an opportunity to think about all the other women in the family village who fill in the gaps when mom just can't possibly do it all.Today, more moms are looking to their sisters, sisters-in-law and close friends to help rear her children. The 2006 US Census Report on Fertility shows that 45 percent of American women are not (yet) moms. Since this report does not account for women over age 44, we estimate that nearly 50 percent of US women are childless. I've dubbed this segment of women "PANKs" (Professional Aunts No Kids). PANKs often become a child's "other mother;" an Auntie is there for them from the day they are born, offering quality time, love, and yes, a few fabulous gifts along the way.
Aunties are also there to help parents cope with the stresses of parenthood. Perhaps an Auntie by Relation (ABR) walks her first grader nephew to school every day. Maybe an Auntie by Choice (ABC) takes the kids out for a magical Saturday at the zoo and to the movies so Mom can get her errands done. Since their Long Distance Auntie (LDA) was always good at math, perhaps she's reviewing her niece's multiplication tables with her over the phone so Mom can put the little ones to bed.
Some PANKs don't just have discretionary time to offer families, they also have discretionary income. Since a PANK has no dependents of her own, many are able to offer financial support, like paying for tutors, after school activities, braces and other large ticket items when families are not able to budget for them. And in some families, the role of the Auntie goes much further. When biological parents are no longer able to take care of their kids, an Auntie may become the children's legal guardian. (We call these amazing women "ParAunts.") Whatever the situation, PANKs are becoming more and more important to the family – and especially to moms.It's easy to honor a child's 'other mother' for her supporting role without taking anything away from the true star of Mother's Day. It's also important to remember that while some women are childless by choice, many are childless by circumstances beyond their control and Mother's Day is often a painful reminder of not (yet) being moms. Acknowledging an aunt's value to your family is a very sensitive way to show you care and that she's appreciated.
Here are 10 Savvy Auntie ideas for honoring your favorite Auntie on Mother's Day:
- Have your children make a card for their Auntie wishing her a Happy Mother's Day and for always being there for them – and for their mom. (We guarantee these cards will end up on Auntie's refrigerator door art gallery!)
- Send a bouquet of flowers to Auntie. Sure, it seems a little clichéd, but when all the women around her are receiving flowers, she'll feel like one of the bunch. (No pun intended)
- Have the children call or Skype Auntie to say thank you for all that she does for them.
- Create a brag book of photos of all her nieces and nephews. She'll love the sentiment -- and she'll love showing her beloved nieces and nephews off to her friends and co-workers.
- Include Auntie in the Mother's Day festivities! Who doesn't like pancakes and BBQs?!?
- Make an annual tradition of honoring an Auntie with a meaningful charm for a bracelet or necklace so she can feel remembered throughout the year.
- Mom and Auntie can take a day off together to enjoy the spa or go shopping. Or go on a girl's night out together. Auntie may miss having Mom as her confidant – and Mom may miss talking to another grownup!
- If the kids are baking a cake for Mother's Day, they can also bake one for Auntie so she's part of the celebration too.
- If Mom's idea of a perfect Mother's Day is a day without the kids, it's a great opportunity for Auntie to spend a day with the kids! Only don't call it babysitting. We prefer calling it a "Special Day with Auntie."
- Finally, as parents, make it a point to say thank you to your sisters, friends and all the women in your children's lives for all the gifts of unconditional love and quality time they offer your family. Feeling appreciated is always the very best gift of all.