How to be an Awesome Aunt When You Don't Have Kids

young aunt with niece

Halfpoint / iStockphoto

Embracing your role as aunt—whether to a biological niece or nephew or to a close friend's child—is one way to get involved in the life of a child. Of course, if and when you do have your own children, you can still continue your Awesome Aunt role. Your children will likely have close cousins or "Mini-Aunties," depending on their age, to grow up with.

That said, embracing the role of aunt isn't always easy, especially for women who cannot conceive. Many of the emotions and struggles of infertility can get in the way. Here's how to get past those feelings and step into your Awesome Aunt shoes. 

Let Go of Jealousy

Letting go of jealousy needs to come first. Dealing with envy and frustration may be the number one obstacle someone going through infertility must overcome. Who doesn't feel jealousy when friends and family members conceive easily—especially when it seems everyone around you is either pregnant or caring for a newborn?

If you feel a heavy weight on your chest when your sister, sister-in-law, or friend calls and says she's expecting again, you're not alone. It's normal.

Feeling jealous, or even heartbroken, when you learn of a new pregnancy is fine. Just don't hold onto it.

Don't let it get in the way of your relationship with your sister, relative, friend, or their new child. Take a few deep breaths, and then let the pain go. If you don't, you won't be able to fully embrace your role as aunt.

Being an aunt not only comes with a number of rewards but it also can be very healing. In fact, a 2018 national study found that 89% of women said that becoming an aunt was much better than they ever imagined.

And, of the aunts surveyed, 91% felt their role as aunt was vital to the development of their nieces and nephews. While nothing will replace the desire to have a child of your own, you may still be able to find fulfillment and purpose in being the best aunt possible to the children in your life as long as you don't let jealousy stand in your way.

Get Involved

As soon as possible, even during the pregnancy, let your sister, friend, or relative know how much you hope to be involved in your new niece or nephew's life. How involved, and how soon, will depend on your comfort level as well as your sister or friend's comfort level.

Your sister may love to have someone to hold her hand during uncomfortable pregnancy exams, but if you find the experience emotionally painful, don't feel obligated to be there. It's also possible your sister may feel the pregnancy is very private and not want your involvement. You should respect that wish as well.

Instead, focus on what you can do and how you can help once the baby arrives. It's common for new moms to hear from friends and family that they'd love to help, but once the baby comes, no one calls. The new mom then struggles through the fourth trimester alone because she feels bad or awkward asking for help. You can help remove that burden from her.

If you want to be involved, be sure to call and show up.

Bring them dinner. Offer to come over and care for the baby while Mom takes a nap. Do a load of laundry. Clean the house. Ask for pictures of the baby to show off to your friends.

Be clear that you're taking your role of aunt seriously. You don't want your sister or friend to feel they are being a burden by asking for help or by accepting your help. Let them know that time with their baby is a great blessing. If they know about your fertility challenges, go ahead and share with them about how this is helping you.

And, if it gets to be too much, take a break. Offer to help at a level that feels comfortable to you. You are not obligated to be there all the time, but help out when you can and be honest about how you're feeling. People won't know how this is impacting you unless you tell them.

Remember Special Events

When you're an Awesome Aunt, you get to check out toy stores and buy birthday and holiday presents for your niece or nephew. Unlike Mom and Dad, however, going out to buy the gifts will be easier. You'll likely have more time to browse different stores and really put some heart into the presents you buy.

You also may be more willing to purchase those messy or noisy toys that kids love but parents may be hesitant to offer their kids. If Mom and Dad object to these toys, you can volunteer to keep them at your place for when your niece or nephew come over to play.

Birthdays and holidays aren't the only time that Awesome Aunts need to be present. Try to be there for their activities as well.

If your niece or nephew has a sports game or holiday concert at school, they may love for you to be in the audience for them. If they're involved in scouts, you may be able to volunteer in their troop and help out with camping and activities. Look for ways that you can stay involved—with your sister or friend's permission, of course.

Spend Time Together

Birthdays, holidays, and soccer matches are all good times to spend with your niece or nephew, but don't forget about spending time together "just because." When visiting them, take the time to play with them and read books together. Play a favorite board game, have a tea party, play tag, build with legos, or make something with Play-Doh. The important thing is that you spend time together.

You also can take them out for ice cream on a Sunday afternoon while their parents get some alone time at home. Or, bring them to the zoo, to the movies, or to a paint-your-own-ceramics shop while their parents have a lunch date. You could even build your own traditions.

If you live far from your niece or nephew, don't let the miles get in the way. You can call them or even Skype or FaceTime together. Kids also love getting mail. So send them notes of encouragement, cards, and letters when you can. Although time in person is best, if you can't be there physically, at least try to be there in spirit.

Children feel loved when people give them gifts and spend time with them. Your time is a precious gift, maybe even more precious than the latest video game. So, be intentional about spending time together.

Be There For Them

Kids need someone they can share their problems with, but sharing with their parents may feel awkward for them. Kids may feel that their parents won't listen without judging them or trying to intervene, when all they want is a sympathetic ear.

You can be a trusted adult who they feel comfortable talking to.

Hopefully, whatever things they choose to confide in with you will be normal childhood issues. In the event that they have a serious secret to share—the kind that must be shared with their parents or the authorities—you'll be there to hear it and help them through a difficult time.

Share Your Life

Kids benefit from having different people in their life who have different experiences. So, recognize that you have something of importance to share with your niece or nephew, especially as they get older. Share parts of your life with them that give them an inside look at who you are.

For instance, you can talk about your career, your life in the city, your latest vacation, or even how you picked your family pet. This inside look at another person's life that is likely very different from their own home life can broaden their perspective on the world and let them know that there are many options available to them.

A Word From Verywell

Whether you are struggling with infertility or childless by choice or circumstance, not having children can be challenging at times, especially if it's not how you imagined your life. But, if you have a friend or family member who has children, you may soon realize there are many benefits to being an active and involved aunt.

Talk to your friend or family member about wanting to get more involved, and then follow through with their permission. You might be surprised how fulfilling being an aunt can be if you put some effort into the relationship.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hasanpoor-Azghdy SB, Simbar M, Vedadhir A. The emotional-psychological consequences of infertility among infertile women seeking treatment: Results of a qualitative studyIran J Reprod Med. 2014;12(2):131–138.

  2. Melanie Notkin Media, Inc. Generation PANK: A report on the social and economic influence of professional aunts no kids or PANKS. 2018.

By Rachel Gurevich, RN
Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about women’s health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.