By Amy Whitfield Richardson
I turned 30 this year. Either something you face with great enthusiasm or great hesitation. I can’t say I faced it with the former, but I got used to the idea slowly and somewhat painfully. After all, being a woman reaching this “pivotal age,” used to be quite intimidating if you hadn’t reached a couple of key milestones by the time the big 3-0 came a knocking. Marriage and kids, and preferably in that order, right?
Being a spinster wasn’t part of my hesitation (okay, maybe more like devastation) over turning 30, since I’m not one, having married at age 27. But here I was turning 30 and that mysterious, scary “biological clock” thing wasn’t ticking yet. And now that I’m a few months past the “ripe” age, it’s still all quiet on the fertility front.
And do you want to know a secret? I’m glad!
Now, when I begin to think about the unease with which I approached thirtyhood, I wonder why I felt the way I did. Things are so different than when our mothers became mothers. In fact, according to a recent National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) report, in 1970 one in 100 births was among women ages 35 and older, compared with one in 12 in 2006. In that same time period, the average age for first childbirths went up 3.6 years from 21.4 to 25 years old.
Even though statistics from the 2006 U.S. Census Report show that close to as many women ages 15 to 44 do not have kids (44.5 percent) as do, let’s admit it mommies, there’s a lot less love going around in our society for non-moms, whatever the reason for their “non-mom” status may be.
With this inequality on my mind these days, I was thrilled when my sister, BirminghamMommy.com cofounder and wonderful mother of three of my four beautiful nieces, recently introduced me to the new term PANK. Similar to DINK (Dual Income No Kids), PANK, coined by Melanie Notkin, CEO and founder of the successful online community SavyAuntie.com, stands for “Professional Aunt No Kids.”
A PANK herself, Notkin points out that her online community serves and supports the other half of the female population, the “cool aunts, great aunts, godmothers and all women who love kids.”
She also notes, “Without kids of their own, aunts have more discretionary time and income than most moms. That’s why they are most likely to indulge themselves and the children in their lives.” (Hey, that’s not a bad thing is it?)
Let the indulging begin. With the holiday season upon us, “professional aunts” like me, will step into foreign territory braving the local Toys R Us store with a Googled list of this year’s hottest toys. At the mall, we’ll confusingly mull over kid clothing sizes in months and years instead of inches and strictly adhere to the “age 3 and up” labels. We want to safely spoil your kids. Let us. We have the chance to be the “favorite” aunt and we don’t want to screw it up.
I was already feeling better about being 30 sans children. After all, I have four nieces and one nephew to spoil (yea for my sister and sister-in-law for taking the pressure off me!). But I feel even better now knowing that there are many other women, excuse me, PANKs out there who love the children in their family to pieces, but just don’t want their own little ones yet (or ever).
Maybe one day, I’ll hear that tick-tock sound ringing in my ears alarming me that my fertility window is closing. And maybe¸ I’ll get off my uterus and do something about it. But until that day, when or if it ever comes, at least I’ll have a lot of great hands-on training, applicable observation, and sweet memories with my nieces and nephew, all gained during my PANKster years.