As the founder of SavvyAuntie.com®, the lifestyle destination for aunts, godmothers and all women who love kids – primarily the growing segment of women I’ve dubbed PANKs (Professional Aunts No Kids), I connect with women from all corners of the world who don’t (yet) have kids. These children may be nieces and nephews by relation, our BFF’s kids we love by choice or any of those precious little kids in our worlds we just can’t get enough of. In the U.S., 45.1% of women through age 44 (based on the 2006 US Census Report on Fertility) do not have children. And in the Jewish community, that number is actually greater.
As a Jewish woman in this segment of the population (I’m tipping toward 41, single and not a mom), I am particularly interested in how being an aunt influences our dating lives and relationships. While the data around the general U.S. population of fertility rates among American women is astonishing to some – after all it seems most media, marketers and even politicians are speaking only to mothers – the data is even more surprising among our tribe.
Jewish women are more likely to have a bachelor’s or graduate degree than non-Jewish women, which is a factor in our later-aged marital rates. We are also more likely than non-Jewish women to have no children (or fewer children). In fact, the National Jewish Population Survey (2000-2001) reports that 52% of Jewish women ages 30-34 are childless compared to 27% of all American women. And when we do have kids, we are more likely to have had them over age 40 than our non-Jewish peers. Which means we spend much of our lives as aunts before becoming moms, if ever.
The same Jewish tradition that encourages our education and worldliness is also central to our sense of family. Many Jewish women struggle with wanting to have it all. While we are just as likely as our brothers to work in management, business and professional/technical positions (59% vs. 60%), we are also responsible for American Jewish continuity since we’re the ones who birth baby Jews. We’re not doing a great job at that, by the way. We have on average 1.8 kids while the replacement level requires 2.1 children per mother. Of course, the fact that we are less-likely to intermarry than Jewish men means we’re left with fewer choices in mates.
There’s no denying that our Jewish holidays are often so much more fulfilling when celebrated with children. We can’t wait to hear our nieces and nephews recite the four questions at the Passover Seder. Truly, what’s the point of Chanukah if we can’t over indulge with a few gifts for those adorable children in our lives? And the Jewish New Year is so much sweeter with a child with whom to share an apple dipped in honey.
So, girls we have a lot of pressure to live up to; the expectations of our family, our community, our friends, ourselves, our bosses, let alone a guy we met here on JDate. Well fret not my PANK sisters! Being an auntie can help endear you to the right Jewish man (if it doesn’t, then he may not be the right man).
1) Date divorced dads! Divorced dads are often pretty mature because they are fathers and if they are serious about being in a relationship, they are more likely to be looking for a woman of any relative age who will be kind and generous of heart with their children. Savvy Aunties make great stepmoms!
2) A man who is looking for a relationship that leads to marriage and children will be looking for signs to see if you’re potentially the mother of his future children. Talk about your nieces and nephews and how you go out of your way to bring them joy. That will show him you like children and do wonderful things for those you love very much. Of course, know your social cues; don’t risk over-talking about them. Keep it to one sweet story per date, or one iPhone photo album. He’ll pick up on your love for children pretty intuitively.
3) Be an auntie everywhere. Smile at children who walk by you on your way to brunch. Coo over cute babies while waiting in line on your ice cream date. Pick up a runaway ball and return it to its tiny owner. And don’t roll your eyes at children making a little too much noise at the restaurant. He may not say anything, but he’s taking it all in.
4) If you’re involved in a children’s charity, share that with your date. We have the ability to care and show compassion for children all over the world.
5) Don’t let him see you sweat. It’s normal to want children (if that’s what you want), but sharing your pain of not having children with your date may put undue pressure on him and make him back away. Men don’t want to think you are interested in them only for their sperm! So talk about motherhood (if that’s what you want) in a glass half-full kind of way: “Aunthood sure is preparing me to be a better mom one day!”
6) After a few dates, invite your date for a day in town with your nieces and nephews. Let’s see if he’s a Savvy Uncle!
7) Offer to go out with his nieces and nephews on a special adventure. It will be a great way for you both to silently role-play parenthood together. And surely the way you take care of his beloved nieces and nephews will endear you to him. Be sure to stuff your bag with kid essentials, like juice boxes, wipes, and tissues. Remember to ask the parents about any allergies or other special needs. He’ll be impressed at your savvy. And do your best to help make him look like a super star uncle. He’ll adore you for that.
8) Many Jewish women are hard working and stay at the office late or travel for business. Show your guy how you think of your nieces and nephews when you’re not with them by bringing home fun souvenirs from that trip to Paris. Also you can use video calling to read the kids a good night story while you are burning the candle at both ends to get that report done.
9) Ask your date about the children in his life. Even if he doesn’t have a sibling with children, his buddies probably have a kid or two. He may not have many chances to talk about his uncle-hood to many others and may enjoy ‘schepping a little nachus’ over the kids in his life or how he got them the most awesome birthday gift.
10) Remember that being an aunt is a very important role in the Jewish Family Village. We are there to offer love, play, quality time and magical experiences to our nieces and nephews. We also offer their parents the support they need when they are pulled in so many directions. Aunts are often selfless women who share their time and income with the children in their lives and children around the world. Whether or not you have children at some point (and if that’s what you want, I truly hope that for you) remember that you are an aunt. You bring joy to children. And there is no child who couldn’t use more love and affection. Your confidence in all that you are (not dwelling on what you’re not – a wife and mother) is very attractive. And the right guy will agree.
Melanie Notkin is America’s premier Savvy Auntie, empowering the nearly 50% of American women who are not moms to celebrate all they do for the children in their lives, while living their own lives to the fullest. As child lifestyle expert and tastemaker, Auntie Melanie has been featured numerous times on NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX and CW showcasing the coolest kid trends of the season. SavvyAuntie.com is a 2009 Webby Award-nominee for the Best Family/Parenting site. Melanie and Savvy Auntie can be found at Twitter.com/SavvyAuntie and Facebook.com/SavvyAuntie.