Having a sales office in New York has become a cool thing, especially since my sister and brother-in-law moved to the Tri-State area. I travel East at least once a month and get their guest bedroom, and now I get to see my niece and nephew grow up. I get to be Aunt Jory--the pinch story reader, bathgiver, and fun kink in the usual schedule for my niece and nephew.
Though, unlike Mom and Dad, Aunt Jory can take a night off for a late business dinner, or just to finish some email in her room. Sure, there's that "best of both worlds" argument that can be made about being a childless aunt; we get to do the fun stuff, and Mom and Dad can do the care and feeding. But I experience more a feeling of belonging to no worlds: I'm not a mom and not a young single. But I'm definitely in some deeply contemplative phase of life. I do think of kids constantly, but they're not mine.
There are online communities that I tap into (for moms, and elderbloggers for instance), more for market research and anthropologic curiosity than because I can relate. I think, though, I have discovered a group that actually applies to me--PANKs (professional aunts, no kids). Finally, I get an acronym!
Melanie Notkin, founder of SavvyAuntie.com, a site for PANKs, describes us a bit more:
A few years ago, DINKs were the new segment marketers had their eye on - Double Income No Kids. PANKs, while focusing specifically on women (married, partnered or single) who have no kids, is a pretty large market in the US. In fact, the 2004 US Census Report on Fertility reported that 45% of women up to the age of 44 did not have kids. And that number has been steadily growing over the last couple of decades.
Browsing the Savvy Auntie site, I can appreciate that there's content for women who are not: 1) trying to lose child weight; 2) (necessarily) trying to attract a mate, and who 3) have loads of financial independence, if not money.
The content on this site could easily fall into plain, vanilla female content, and in areas it does seem generic, but in others it knows its target audience. Since my niece is going into kindergarten, I read some of the advice for aunts with kids going back to school--a seemingly pointless topic upon first glance, but then as I read, it occurred to me that there is a space where I exist--between adult hip and kid clueless--where this information is actually usable:
School supplies are something that should probably be shopped for with your niece or nephew in tow, and perhaps with their school supply list in hand. Before you scoff at this advice, think back to your middle school years – I know that my aunts definitely wouldn’t have known about the Trapper Keeper that I was coveting for months before school shopping began!
Working Woman magazine opened the field for working women by providing a place where women could talk mostly about career. Today, if you go to workingwoman.com, you are redirected to Working Mother. I think this is more an indication of the realities of economics, and the need for two-income families, than a slight on childless working women. I enjoy pubs like Pink Magazine because they provide inspiration by celebrating women's evolving role in business, not strategy for how to compete with men.
But professionally-driven, childless women like me don't really have a problem tapping into our business sides, or obsessing over our professional legacy. We do, however, struggle during the holidays with finding the right gift for a 3-year-old. Or with what to say when our siblings' progeny asks us where babies come from. What are the boundaries for not-so-primary caregivers? How do we prevent the triangulation that occurs when our nieces don't like Mommy's rules for bedtime? How do we hit that balance of appropriate support--emotionally and financially--when we lack the reference points moms find with the other moms at the playground? I like Savvy Auntie because it addresses these things and is on the right path for really getting this demo.
I admired pubs like TheKnot for knowing its target so intimately. When I got married I felt a symbiotic relationship with this site, which seemed to answer questions for me even before they were fully formed in my mind. Months after I got married I received TheKnot's sister publication, TheNest, both online in newsletter format and in a slick glossy. This magazine also appealed to me, as my husband and I struggled to merge our post-college and post wedding furniture styles, not to mention our finances. But now, a few years in, the family planning content loses me. Clearly I've fallen away from what media and marketers expect of me.
I think that the real appreciation of Savvy Auntie comes from recognizing me in this offroaded place. Reading these pages I don't feel like I'm stuck in the crack between important demos. I AM an important demo. I'm an aunt.
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