Life As a PANK (Professional Aunt, No Kids)

We’ve all seen them ... LOL, BFF and of course TTYL, DD and so on. Well, it’s time to add a new acronym to the family — PANK (aka Professional Aunt, No Kids).

Think Mary Poppins with discretionary spending money (actual genetic relationship optional).

First coined by Melanie Notkin, the term PANK refers to women who do not have children of their own but are fostering a strong relationship with others’ kids (nieces, nephews, godchildren, friends’ kids, whatever). After all, it takes a village, right?

And the benefits go both ways.

“There is an incredible sense of love, pride and joy that comes with becoming an aunt for the first time, by relation or by choice to a close friend’s child,” says Notkin. “From the moment those babies are born, we are able to become invaluable sources of love, support, and development.”

From spending time playing (dubbed “QualAuntie Time”) which can help children’s evolving cognitive, social and emotional skills to serving as a trusted “ConfidAunt” for tweens and teens to talk to a PANK can be an invaluable asset.

Being an aunt comes with its perks too. For women planning on having children in the future it’s a good chance to develop practical childcare skills. Even more important, however, is the opportunity to see life with all its wonder and joy through a child’s eyes again.

That’s not to say auntiehood is not without its challenges also. Women who would like to have children but are unable to for whatever reason at times may find it difficult as they enjoy being close with the child but feel reminded of what they are missing.

It can also be tricky to balance PANK-hood with an illness such as multiple sclerosis. Fatigue, dizziness, pain and balance issues can make some physical activities like playing chase at the park tough. However, there are plenty of things to do when a quieter time is needed.

In fact, Melanie Notkin founded a whole website at Savvy Auntie devoted to aunthood. Not only do she and others offer articles about health and nutrition, books, entertainment and more but they suggest a wide range of activities to do together. Whether looking to stay in for cooking, crafting and movie night or venture out in the world for volunteer work, geocaching and treasure hunting—Savvy Auntie has it covered. (The site also features gift guides and an online community for aunties to interact with one another.)

“Aunthood is a gift,” says Notkin. “It’s a gift for the children who never suffer from too much love. It’s a gift for the parents who can use more hands as they are pulled in so many directions.”

And it’s a gift for the aunt who can experience the magic. And let’s be honest, sometimes sending the child home at the end of the day isn’t too shabby either!

To learn more about Melanie Notkin and Savvy Auntie visit the Savvy Auntie website at www.savvyauntie.com and look for her next book OTHERHOOD: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness which comes out on March 4th.

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