Maybe one day women will be able to talk about these things in peace. Maybe some days we do. This was not one of them. Lines were crossed, misconstructions were made, and before I tiptoed off to the 1 train, I was told, in exactly these words: why didn’t I stop theorizing about children and get down to having some?
For the sake of sisterhood and good will toward woman, not to mention the fact that I couldn’t believe my ears, I let it slide. But still. It hurt. Happily, my husband did the proper menschy thing. He gave good shoulder (to cry on) and agreed that there ought to be a special ring of hell for women who commit such crimes against womanity. But even though we were in the non-parenting boat together–and by choice (not that it should matter but it does), I needed to hear from one of my own.
I needed the Savvy Auntie.
The author and chief fairy godmother Melanie Notkin launched Savvy Auntie, first the website, then the book, to answer a similar need for community. And she’s succeeded. With a great sense of humor and a generosity of spirit for women of all stripes and life circumstances. Sure, some of the terms she’s dreamed up are a little cutesie for someone of my (imagined) sophistication, but maybe the trick to getting that generosity of spirit thing is learning to better embrace my freak flag–and everyone else’s.
Turns out I’m a PANK: Professional Aunt No Kids. (Savvy Auntie has an Auntiepedia for the acronymically-challenged.) I can’t say I was surprised to find out I wasn’t alone. I was surprised to find out that nearly 50 percent of the adult women in the United States are nonmoms. Notkin wisely avoids pondering whether this is a good or bad thing for the future of humanity. (There’s more than enough of that going on right now as it is with the world population about to hit seven billion.) Instead she focuses on the contributions every woman (and man) makes to what she calls “the American family village,” whether it is babysitting, taking on extra work during another woman’s maternity leave, contributing toward a niece or nephew’s education or any number of gestures large and small.
The book offers practical advice for women whose babysitting days are further behind them than they’d like to admit–and anyone else looking to brush up on what’s new and hip without actually buying a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. (Too many questions.) Popular baby-wrangling techniques, the latest in stroller technology (dizzying), crib notes (so to speak) on baby’s physical and emotional development. The most reassuring thing about the book, though, is that it’s impossible to read without realizing that there are as many ways of auntie-ing as there are aunties. The beauty of the role is that we are always extra, except in the direst of circumstances.
I can’t say I wasn’t happy with my life choices before I read Savvy Auntie, but I do feel there’s something to be said about safety–and validation–in numbers. On a practical level, I feel I’ve done a bang-up job in the shopping for toys and gifts that don’t choke the neffs department. But it can’t hurt to have a savvy second opinion.