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Professional Aunt No Kids. Tuesday March 29, 2016

Someone at work called me a name today. She had offered some personal information about herself during a meeting and in return I admitted that I have chosen not to have children. I felt the need to quickly follow this by saying "But I love being an Auntie!" – a nervous twitch I have developed to qualify this disclosure for anyone who might look back at me blankly with no idea what to say. She just smiled and said "Oh you're a PANK! Perfect Auntie No Kids".

I was intrigued. No one had ever described my situation as perfect before. Turns out it's actually Professional Aunt No Kids. It's a newish term to replace the old, sexist archetype of a dotty, spinster aunt. A PANK is a cool auntie with a demanding career who can regale her nieces and nephews with stories of her adventurous life.

It's about a successful, adult woman offering children an alternative role model to a mother at the same time as being offered an outlet for her own maternal instincts. It allows male and female children to see for themselves that a woman can live a meaningful, happy, impactful life without necessarily being a mum.

Often when I'm in the depths of despair, my status in life is my old favourite sticking point. In spite of doing a job that makes my heart sing, having a close group of friends to go on adventures with and being blessed with a close, extended family, my own ideas about societal norms can sometimes cause me to see myself as a massive, embarrassing failure. I buy into the perceived judgement of others. I tell myself there is something horribly wrong with me. Why have I never felt this urge to settle down and start a family? I must be a freak. This has sometimes even led to meticulously planning my exit.

Words are powerful things. It'll be interesting to see if the next time I get depressed, the word PANK might be there to help me out.

How do you feel the world sees you in your darkest moments? How accurate is it? And should it really matter anyway?

Anna
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.


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Comments

Anonymous Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 7:08am

Dear Anna, Imagine my relief when this morning when I awoke to read your blog. I too, am a PANK but until this morning, I didn't know it! Your blog had me saying: "Me toooo! Me tooo!" It felt painful to identify with all you said, to acknowledge just how deeply your described experiences resonate with my own. And yet, it was such a relief to be able to identify. I think the world probably sees you as brave, open, warm and insightful. I certainly saw that in you whilst reading your words. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Eva Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 7:09am

Hi, I guess I am also a PANK, I have no maternal feelings though. I am not a big fan of kids that I have to spend time with. I am very happy to see families going about their daily lives and enjoy watching kids at play as long as I can depart at will. I don't love being an auntie as it necessitates tedious visits which are exhausting. Which is funny as at one time when very young to have a family was part of my dreams and I am a godparent twice over, is that a GMNK? My intolerance has grown I think with age. Maybe I am an IPANK ;) I do wonder if this is odd, but don't worry about it too much. I think the world needs women who are not here for procreation as well as those who are.

To answer your question, when in my darkest moments I am just very sad, and not happy or quite anxious at the thought of possibly having to live on my own if I outlive my husband (which my MIL informs me is very likely) which seems bleak as I love and depend on him so much. We just lost both my dad and dad in law so statisticaly proving her right. My solution which can take a while to kick in with a lot of reinforcement is to try not to predict the future (I may have been run over by a bus by then) and to make the most of now, and try to have as much fun as we can. Hence no time for kids, I have too much to do!

I hope PANK helps you in the future.

Hopeful One Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 7:25am

Hi Anna- an interesting blog giving insight into the female psyche. Is there a male equivalent? PUNK for short ( perfect uncle with no kids).How does the world see me in my darkest moments? I feel it couldn't care less if I am dead or alive.It is of course not accurate as I know many in my close circle do care .It matters otherwise I think it will only increase that sense of isolation depression creates.

Onward with our laugh of the day.

A wife comes home late one night and quietly opens the door to her bedroom. From under the blanket, she sees four legs instead of just her husband's two. She reaches for a baseball bat and starts beating at the legs . When she has finished she goes down stairs. She sees her husband there, reading a magazine. He says, "Hi darling, your parents have come to visit us, so I let them stay in our bedroom. Did you say hello?"

Sheena Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 8:03am

Love live idea of PANK Anna - so much cooer than Maiden Aunt! I'm no longer a PANK but feel strongly that there's a place and role for each of us and that 'fitting' into stereotyped roles just can't be healthy. Sheena

Anonymous Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 8:10am

Hi Anna. Oddly enough, my husband and I were driving back from dropping off our son and his girlfriend at the airport yesterday and I was talking about my friends and relatives who have no children. No derogatory or otherwise comment was made by either of us (Maybe one of slight but passing envy as I was feeling so knackered Lol!). I am going to think today of a pseudonym if that's what it's called for functioning and often quite happy depressives! Thanks for your blog Anna. Julxxx

LillyPet Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 8:21am

Hi Anna, I like PANK! It describes my sister so well. The kids in the family adore her, she's a ray of sunshine and very cool!
When I have been low, I'd lose my confidence and worry incessantly about what others think of me.
I've worried that maybe I am far more mentally ill than I realise and that people are more aware of it than I realise but are too polite or kind to talk about it infront of me. Complete paranoia! Thankfully, It's been a good while since I've felt like that and am determined to try remain steady even if I have the odd small dip.
Society somehow has all sorts of unspoken (and spoken) unfair expectations on us to conform. The good thing is that overall we have progressed and have much more freedom to be who we are.
I liked your awareness that when in the depths of dispair it's your old favourite sticking point. It's like sometimes we become low, THEN relate it to the negative stories that we repeatedly tell ourselves about ourselves.
Thanks for such an empowering blog Anna and it'd be good to hear if you hold on to PANK and your awareness of what is going on. Hugs to all, LP xx

Lexi Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 12:59pm

Well said LillyPet!

Sally Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 8:30am

Very good, Anna! A thought provoking blog.
Now I've just read Lillypet's comment, which basically says what I was going to say, but it is better phrased, so I'll just say big thanks Anna for such an honest blog.

Vivien Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 10:05am

Anna - I felt a bit uncomfortable with this blog. Why? Because my experience of these situations has not been nice. Certain people see me as single and therefore shouldn't be part of society! Yes folks it's true. Still I do my best to rise above it. Often these people have sad lives themselves and feel that you should conform - Lillypet, your comments are very true. Yes people want everyone to be the same. Paranoia blights my life - but hey am I going to let it get me down - am I heck! I'm happy with my life - it could be worse and then it could be a lot better. Enjoy your day everyone xxxxxxx

Frankie Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 10:54am

Morning Vivien. I wonder whether part of people's negativity towards you is because they are jealous of your independence and freedom? In other words, their views say more about themselves rather than about your situation. And well done for recognising your own "paranoia" - if indeed that is what it is - and for your fighting spirit! I think that the more accepting we are of ourselves, then the more accepting others are of our situations. Wishing you peace of mind and heart. Frankie

Anonymous Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 10:35am

Dear Anna, Thank you for this. It is so interesting to hear a story from the other side. I am a 'professional mother', and it was never my intention to lose my identity in parenting. It came as quite a shock, and have felt that sense of inadequacy and failure at not being a professional working mother for many years. It feels unbearable most days. I know I can't do it all and of course I can spout many good and valid reasons - single parent, children's long term ill health, no family support.... BUT that feeling never leaves me. I feels outcast, unacceptable, inadequate. If I meet anyone, anywhere, the first question they ask is what am I, what do I do... And the fact that in the circumstances raising my children well in difficult circumstances, never seems enough. I basically lie, pretend I'm working, and make sure I don't bump ever again. The result - isolation, loneliness and unbearable emotional pain at not fitting in with the societal 'norm'. So, to anyone who can stand strong, and proud of who they are, and the choices they've made (or the 'responsibilities' foisted upon them) - I say WELL DONE! I'm working on it myself, but ant get past the exhaustion and judgement of my situation both by myself and society.

Frankie Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 11:04am

Dear Anonymous; I take my hat off to you (and to all single parents). Parenting is a tough job and even more so when single. Lots of parents are single. Oh, and the exhaustion! Makes it even harder ... It is such a shame that you have feelings of inadequacy and failure since you are doing the most important job there is - looking after your children in challenging circumstances! I am sure that many admire you for what you are doing. You are right, of course, the first question asked is inevitably "What do you do?" Can you find a positive way of answering? If people can't respond positively, then maybe they are feeling guilty about their own choices and so they can't offer you friendship. However I am sure that some can and would admire you and offer you friendship if you let them. It is to your credit that you are working on it ... good luck! Frankie

Anonymous Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 9:40pm

I appreciate your reply to my post Frankie. Thank you. It may seem funny to say, but you made my day. I haven't yet worked on a believable 'line' about my situation, because if I wasn't depressed and struggling with CFS, I would probably be able to fit in working too. So I'm kind of on 'their' side. People I know don't like 'miserable' or 'negative' people and I've been on the edge of living for so long now, they really don't understand why I 'think' there's something wrong with me. They are oblivious to the unbearable feelings that one has to live through just to get through the day and all that needs doing. So I don't really believe my 'line' as to all intense and purposes I 'should' be able to work as they are unaware / uninterested in the 'mental health' aspects of my life.... I just can't work, I experience flashbacks fom trauma, and live in constant fear and anxiety, and the word can't and should are of yourself trigger words we 'should' 'never' (!) use, anyway, basically, this was to say thank you Frankie.

Frankie Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 10:53pm

Hi again Anon: Thank-you for replying. I do hope you are able to talk to someone about the flashbacks, fear and anxiety when the time is right ... One of my favourite quotes (anonymous) reminds us never to compare our insides with everyone else's outsides - as we are not comparing like with like when we do! Frankie

Marmaladegirl Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 11:05am

Dear Anna - I'm not sure which comes first: The bad things making us depressed or feeling depressed so looking for a bad thing that caused it. You say that when you are depressed you pin it on your "status in life". For me depression descends, but it doesn't feel like it is actually triggered by circumstances.... (I wish it was! Oh to feel sad because the dog has died rather than just to wake up feeling bereft. [I don't even HAVE a dog!] To feel exasperated, out of control, unable to cope because the car has broken down, rather than to feel those emotions for no reason....)

Having children is definitely NOT a magic panacea that takes away depression, replacing it with the feeling that one has a place in society, that life is fulfilling and happy! For me the birth of my second child in 2000 triggered depression that I still struggle with. My husband became abusive because he didn't understand the depression, so after many years I managed to leave him. He convinced my first born that I was evil so she has refused to have anything to do with me since Sept 2013. That has broken my heart. My second born has been unable to go to school since last summer due to high levels of anxiety and depression. My two children are a constant source of stress, anxiety and pain! It's funny (odd) because for me my dream of happiness is what YOU have got - a job you love, good friends, a supportive extended family. I don't have those and I sometimes think, "If I had these I wouldn't be depressed." Whereas you think, "If I had kids I wouldn't be depressed." For both of us, for ALL of us with depression, if we can nurture ourselves back to health with acceptance (of ourselves), kindness (to ourselves) and not waste ANY time or mental energy thinking "If ..... wasn't like that, everything would be OK". I would recommend that we all aim to feel OK IN SPITE of what life throws at us.

How about PLANK (Perfectly Lovely Aunt No Kids) as a word to help in dark moments? You can walk along it, it is firm and constructive... Mind you, I've just realised people may not want to say "I'm a PLANK"!

Leah Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 11:09am

Marmaladegirl, what an honest and evocative blog. I do hope you can nuture yourself back to health and one day your first born will realise your strength and worth. You are right that we often loo at others and wish we had their life not thinking they maybe envying our life. Take care.

Marmaladegirl Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 11:44am

Dear Leah - I am new to all this (writing anything on a blog) and really appreciate your personal response. I have taken a massive step towards health - I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which (once 1st born had gone) peaked in being REALLY ill, we're talking bed-ridden, between May 2014 and May 2015. I hope Frankie reads this because he has mentioned having CFS (or ME, as I prefer to call it, because everyone just thinks you're tired if you say Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Anyway, there IS a way out of that hideous illness Frankie - and anyone else out there who has it. I was misdiagnosed with depression from around 2003 to 2012 when really it was CFS. Now I don't have ME but I do still have depressive episodes and it is also taking me a long time to build my mental and physical strength back up because I was ill for so long. It's lovely NOT having the ME anymore though! I try to never compare myself to others and to never care what anyone else thinks (unless it's good!) All the best Leah! Big hug, Marmaladegirl

Frankie Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 12:44pm

Hello Marmaladegirl; actually I am "she"! Thank-you for this; coincidentally I have submitted a blog about how I came out of my condition (PMR). I think it will be published towards the end of next week. You're right, it takes SO long to build up mental and physical strength - this for me was the toughest part, as I am quite impatient with myself (but patient with others ...) Good to hear you are over the ME. Frankie

Marmaladegirl Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 2:20pm

Hi Frankie - I pondered on your gender, having known 2 males and no females (just thinking now, there is one in the Saturdays band...) but your comment about PUNKs convinced me you must be a 'he', speaking up on behalf of uncles. Nope! I am so totally and utterly delighted you are a post-ME person and I really look forward to reading your blog. I think there must be a few people on here with ME, not sure though cos I am new. This site helps people cope with all sorts, I reckon! Xx

Anonymous Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 11:06am

Hi Anon. How old are your children? I recall feeling very similar to how you describe your feelings when my children were young. Loss of identity for me was overwhelming. I started to work again part time when my eldest was 4 and full time when she was 7 and my youngest 4. Of course that brings on its own stresses. My advice is try to enjoy not having to work. If you are anything like me, working full time with two children was ghastly but on reflection, I think that was more to do with my work environment and some hateful colleagues than the fact of being a mother. I am so sorry you are feeling like this but I am hoping it will pass. Julxx

Anonymous Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 9:46pm

Thanks. I do understand your reasoning. And am fully aware as the sun is shining and the sky is blue that I should be happy and feel so, but Trying to 'enjoy' anything is a real feat. I think that's part of depression. Being unable to feel good things, only experience fear and sadness.

Anonymous Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 11:08am

Hi Frankie. Your reply to Anon is lovely. Jul xx

Frankie Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 11:08am

Morning Anna; we deliberately chose a single friend to be our daughter's god-mother, so that she had a single role model. Your use of the word "perceived" says it all. So often we see things that exist in our bleak imaginations only. Here's to all PANKs and PUNKs - our society is the richer for them! Frankie

Leah Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 11:16am

Anna,
What a great blog. It is silly how we often feel inadequate about our life when others see us very differently. Many girls I went to school with had great careers,or are academics as well as having children so in a low moment I often feel I haven't done much with life. The reality is I feel proud despite my illness I have brought up children and now run my own shop. We all can't be the same. I have a friend who has 6 children and people used to ask her when she was going to stop having kids!! You will never please everyone so you have to please yourself- there was an Aesop fable about this. Take care.

Mary Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 11:43am

I really hope PANK works for you. In my darkest moments I think "I should never have married; I should never have had children." And my own children tease me because, actually, I don't like children at all; I much prefer puppies and kittens. In fact, most of the time I don't like people much. But that might just be because right now I am going through a (minor) dark time. I think Aesop was very wise.

Marmaladegirl Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 11:52am

Hi Mary - I think that too. I used to think I would never have children because why would I want to bring anyone else into such a terrible world? And I know when I am at my lowest nowadays because not only do I want to leave the planet myself but I want to take my youngest with me cos I don't want her to have to cope without me - don't panic anyone reading this, when it gets that bad I am so shocked by myself that I get help. I would NEVER harm my daughter, or indeed myself, because my daughter needs me! As you know Mary, the darkness will pass, but I wish you strength until it does. Hang in there! Sending love, Marmaladegirl

Janice Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 12:08pm

This is what I am. Maybe a little different as I've been a housewife most of my adult life with a few part-time jobs here and there. And my body made the choice for me to not have kids. But I love being an auntie. I have patience when their parents' patience has grown thin. We have the extra income to spoil them that their parents don't have. I'm not just an aunt to family. I tend to fill that role for friends' kids as well.

Lexi Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 1:24pm

Anna, thank you for such an honest and beautiful post that resonated with so many - see all the "me too!" comments! So we can't all be freaks can we? :) I used to feel like an embarrassing failure because I was in my late 30's and never married. I felt so judged. So I got married. And then I felt worse. Not because of him - he is a wonderful man - but because I didn't want to be married. But I couldn't allow myself to be myself then. Now we are separated and I am so much happier. So what changed? The folks around me didn't - and the judgements will always be there, perceived or real. When I am in a good mood I can easily dismiss them ("Why aren't you married?" "Just lucky I guess.") When I feel depressed I just remember that they are just thoughts and they will pass. They always do. You have a great life - be proud of yourself for making it so!

The Gardener Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 1:34pm

Anna, fascinating. A great friend here, intelligent and attractive, wanted to be a chemist. (this was 50's). Only girl - you stay with the family - haberdashery shop then 6 years tied to an invalid mother. She is an adored aunt to her three nephews, who are now bringing her kids. They've married well, so it's Paris and chateaux, and does she deserve it. I think she may have crumpled, her abilities wasted in a small provincial town, but as the perfect 'Aunt' she has a vital role.

The Gardener Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 1:38pm

For us, it's sad. Have our five kids - my b-in-law's two have had loads of problems. When young, and parents quarreling bitterly, we said 'leave them with our tribe, take yourselves off' but I think mother hung of to them as her only joy. All the cousins met at b'en'law's 90th last week, our niece bitterly regretting not being allowed to romp on a farm with her cousins (father being a university professor they were city dwellers. I had loads of Aunts, whose mission in life was to tell me I was 'too big for my boots' a favourite expression. I wish the French one mentioned above had been mine

Anonymous Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 2:28pm

This is a bit silly but I thought of DAFT! Depressed and functioning thank you! Julxxx

Anonymous Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 5:53pm

now i'm older i constantly feel a failure as i've no family. how can everyone else on the planet seem to have kids but me. why did it not happen to me. it really wasn't a cause for concern until it just creeps up on you. not sure there is a PMNK? doesn't really rhyme as well, not sure it would help me out anyway. i just need other things to be thankful for. these blogs are a good start

Frankie Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 6:36pm

Evening Anon 5:53; coincidentally, my sister was talking to me about this very point; she hasn't had children and is now going through the menopause; I sense in her a grieving process, which I think is completely normal. You are right - counting our blessings does help improve moods on a daily basis; a few months ago Lex did a great blog on this subject (11th May 2015). I accepted his challenge and wrote down three things to be grateful for each day ... I can highly recommend it! Glad the blogs are helping you - they help me enormously. Frankie

Rachel Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 7:15pm

My experience of not having children and being single (not by choice) has been very negative. People including friends and family have said it is my own fault as I have depression and no one wants someone who is depressed. I am an aunt but I have had comments to the effect of oh well never mind or I could have had kids had I not left it too late. My friends and family are settled with children and don't understand that it is hard to be single and don't place value on it

Rose Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 8:46pm

This blog and the comments have really resonated with me. As someone who has suffered depression since a teenager, and now in my 60s, I've often wondered whether my depression would have been less had I been able to have the children I desperately wanted. But then reading
posts by mums maybe I would have just been depressed about different things. I think I've finally got to the stage where it feels ok to be childless and single, and my niece and great-niece would definitely consider me a PANK. My breakthrough came from meeting Jody Day and joining Gateway Women www.gateway-women.com which is specifically for people who are childless through circumstance and not choice. It has been tremendously helpful and I hope that Rachel and Anonymous will take a look at the website. I think it may even be helpful if you are childless through choice as people share feeling 'other' and outside of a society that really is geared to families. Lovely to feel everyone's kindness and warmth in the responses, and thank you Anna for the post.

Anna Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 11:30pm

Rose, what a small world! I have just been filming with Jody Day for a BBC One documentary so know her well. Amazing woman. Thank you :-)

Rose Wed, Mar 30th 2016 @ 12:48pm

That's great. Jody has been a life saver for so many women, and I don't say that lightly. What's the documentary? I'd love to see it.

The Gardener Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 9:14pm

Mary's remark about women with 6 children. We have 5, and in the early 70's we stressed that two were adopted in self-defence to accusations of cluttering up the planet. We did not want to 'show' any difference, all our children - but people were really quite unpleasant about it. Feel catholic attitude wrong - noticeable round here that really devout catholic families never have more than 3 children - what inference do you draw from that.

Anna Tue, Mar 29th 2016 @ 11:37pm

Wow. Thank you all for your amazing response. It has really helped me more than you will know. The first comment really made me smile - Anonymous #1 I'm so glad you could relate and feel the same. Anonymous #2 you really touched me with your honesty about the difficulties of being a single mother AND a carer and I take my hat off to you. I think if you are brave enough to say to people "I am a single mother and full time carer" it will not fail to make people feel full of admiration for you. Not a sympathy vote - just the truth of what you do which is essentially a job with no regulated lunch breaks or holidays.

Marmalade girl, thank you for such an honest response. One thing I need to clarify is that it is the lack of desire for children that can add to my depression, not the desire for them. I love my niece and nephew to bits but for many un-listable reasons I have never ever wanted to choose to be a mother myself. It's just the judgement I fear for not having that desire.

In general, thank you to all of you for helping me put things into even greater perspective than the woman who called me a PANK. Ultimately we probably all feel that society judges us in different ways. It is often distorted. Reading all this has really madam smile and put an even bigger Spring in my step. Thank you :-)

Eva Wed, Mar 30th 2016 @ 10:54pm

Hi Anna, your response has made me feel a bit better, I hemmed and hawed about my response to your blog, because of the reaction that I feared I might get (predicting the future again, I have a crystal ball!) to not wanting to have children and the fact that I find them so exhausting to be around, but decided to publish anyway. It's not something I have discussed with anyone except my closest friends and family so I was rather nervous. Your response shows me I am not alone, which is a comfort, and I am so glad you have some spring in your step.

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