By Blanche Kruk
When talking about my brothers’ five children I sometimes refer to them as “My Kids.” This is not to suggest that I am their primary caretaker or substitute parent; nor am I financially or legally responsible for them. It is just a means of stating with pride, that I am connected to them in a way that goes beyond the giving of gifts and celebration of birthdays, holidays, graduations and weddings. I am there for all of those things, but I am also there in uneventful times as well as troublesome times. I am there to share, to give, to listen, to assist, to referee, to present another point of view. I am an Aunt Mom.
I am also a support system for my brother and sister-in-law. On the side lines I stand by not as a pillar but as the base they are grounded in, or as the mainstay to assists when they need me to. How do I do this? I do it with thoughtful consideration and I do it unobtrusively. How often, why? I do it if and when I am asked, I do it when needed, I even do it for fun, and I do it to feel connected. Luckily for me my brother and his wife have set no limits or guidelines. I respect their differences and they respect mine; and as my sister-in-law once told me they trust that I “…will always do what’s right for the kids.” For that reason I was chosen as prospective guardian for all five children, even taking into consideration that at the time I was single, and other family members married and parents themselves were more qualified to do the job. But I was, am, an Aunt Mom and they knew it.
Although my husband and I have chosen not to have children of our own it is not out of lack that I am very involved in my bothers children’s lives. I have observed and know of other women with children of their own who are involved Aunt Moms to their nieces and nephews, or to take it a step further, involved Uncle Dads. My husband just attended a Giants football game with his Uncle Dad, an annual ritual that they have been doing every year since 1958.
In googling the term Aunts As Moms I found Tambi Martin, proprietor of a whole foods catering business called Aunt Moms. The web site noted that her niece coined the name, so I called her to find out why. Tambi a mother herself had become caretaker for her sisters 3 children while her sister was having a difficult 4th pregnancy. During that time her youngest niece hearing one child calling Tambi mom while the others called her Aunt, became confused and started calling her Aunt Mom and it stuck; even a child recognized the Aunt as a nurturing Mom.
As an Aunt Mom what do I do? The oldest of my brothers five children is now 32 and the youngest 23, taking that into consideration I would conclude that I have probably assisted in about 3,000 hours worth of baby-sitting, coordinated and conducted numerous trips to museums, parks, zoos and the Beach, made Halloween costumes, rode the Circle Line around Manhattan in a record breaking heat wave, assisted in a kindergarten class project, seen The Nut Cracker twice, attended at least 15 movies with the boys, watched the Thanksgiving Day parade with them from my office and visited Macy’s Santa Land at least once.
In recent years I have been asked to meet the newest boyfriend as a testing ground before the “Big intro to The Parents,” and to preview an apartment my nephew was considering renting, prior to his telling his parents he was moving miles away from home, with his new girlfriend. I don’t know exactly how I became this safe go-to person for them to seek out for support, but I’m glad they do it and I think my brother and his wife are too. As they become adults with opinions of there own I feel it is and has been also my responsibility to teach, to challenge and to share with them my perspective, views and experiences as well as our family history, so that they can have a keener sense of who they are, a broader idea of the world around them so that they make sound knowledgeable decisions and life choices based on lots of information, lots of opinion and lots of support. The kids have also reciprocated in giving back. I have gotten strep throat twice, a virus/flu/cold once (still don’t know what the heck it was) and had a projectile of mashed potatoes vomited into my hair while I was sleeping.
The movie industry also understands the value of an Aunt Mom or friend who is Aunt Mom like as is exampled in movies like BABY BOOM with Diane Keaton, RAISING HELEN with Kate Hudson and NO RESERVATIONS with Catherine Zeta Jones. But these are extreme example when death has necessitated the need for someone to enter and take hold of a child’s life. Thankfully, this has not been my situation. I have never been asked to go beyond the archetypal of what an aunt should be or is. I do theses things because I feel a responsibility to them, to my brother and his wife and to what family means to me.
As figures in the public eye Demi Moore, Bruce Willis and Ashton Kutcher set a prime example on how viable all the people in a child’s life are. As the story goes Ashton Kutcher is called “MOD” for My Other Dad – it is not meant to suggest that he is a replacement for their farther, but as an inclusive term to show that he and they play a vital role in each others life, though not related by blood each considerers the other a significant important person and the title has been prescribe to show to all that this is who this person is to me; not dad but dad like, something more then stepfather or my mother’s new husband. Like mothering, he is caring and father-like.
Family members and friends who are involved, engaged in, have input, takes care of, listens to and are there for the children in their lives, any time, any place, any where and any how, can be and are an added benefit to the family. Mothering is not exclusive to one person but should be inclusive to all those who are extension of a families relatives or friends, those who create stability for the child and the child’s family. These are the people who add to the substance, sustenance and joy of family life, who contribute to the events as they take place as a participant. I know that my nieces and nephews will not only be great Parents but because of me will also be wonderful uncles and aunts. My oldest nephews’ son is very close to my youngest niece, she is his Aunt Mom. One day she tried describing to me the deep love she feels for him but could not find the right amount words to give it its full meaning; I just looked at her smiled and said, “Well now you understand how I feel about you.”
My hat goes off to those Aunt Moms and Uncle Dads (grandparents as well) who not only supply the things that I do for my nieces and nephews, but for what ever reason have become the primary care taker to their nieces and nephews.