About three years ago, I found out I was going to be an aunt. Naturally, I got pretty excited. I mean, when your siblings start making people it’s kind of impossible not to get excited.
But at first, I was also a little worried — I’ve never been that girl who’s into baby stuff. Growing up, I would rake a dozen lawns before I would try to make money babysitting. I’ve always felt that baby showers are punishingly boring, and any time new mothers start passing around their teeny tiny newborns for people to hold, I’ve always been the girl who’s like, “No thanks, I’m good.” But when it comes to my nieces (and only my nieces) all of that’s different. Because those little girls are amazing, and being an aunt to my nieces has definitely made me a better person.
I had no idea these tiny little humans would have such a positive affect on me, but they have in ways I never anticipated. If you’re a proud aunt to young nieces, you probably already know what I’m talking about, but if you’re currently niece-less or expecting a niece any day now, let me assure you that being an aunt will make you a better person. Not only will being an aunt raise your self-awareness, it will make you want to be the kind of woman you hope your nieces will become. My oldest nieces aren’t even three years old yet, but they’ve already helped me change for the better in the following six ways, and I’m sure as they grow up they’ll push me to change even more.
1. They Inspire You To Be Brave
Having nieces has made me do things I really wanted to do, even though I was afraid to do them. Although they’re really little right now, I know my nieces need to see examples of women doing what they want to do, despite the fact that it can be really scary.
In the past year I’ve traveled alone, pitched my butt off, and I’m currently in the process of moving to New York City alone — despite the fact that nearly everyone in my small Midwestern town thinks I’ll be murdered the second I step foot out of LaGuardia. Now, I’m not saying I wouldn’t have been able to do these things without having nieces, but just knowing that they’re watching my every move helps me find the gumption I need to follow through on my goals when I start to freak out or have doubts.
2. They Empower You To Put Yourself First, Even When It's Really Hard
Less than two weeks ago I broke up with my first love, a guy who I still love, and had spent nearly four years of my life with. (Five, if you count the “just friends” stage.) It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and it’s going to suck for a really long time, but I’d known for a while it would be the right call for both of us. So I finally did it.
Of course, I’m certainly not blaming my nieces for my break-up, but I do want to teach them to put themselves first — and I can’t show them that if I don’t do it for myself. Someday, they may have to choose between breaking their own heart and the heart of someone they really love, or staying in a relationship that is no longer working. I can only hope that my example will help them make the choice that’s going to put their well-being and their ambitions first.
3. They Teach You To Be Less Judgmental
I’m not proud of this, but I used to be a lot more judgmental toward parents. Before I had nieces, I had a lot of trouble understanding why sometimes parents just have to let their kids run free, loud, and crazy. I also couldn’t understand why friends kind of disappear for a while after they have kids, or why moms and dads never seem to have completely clean clothes on, or why they stop giving a crap about going to the gym for a while.
But now, I get it. I can’t even spend two hours watching my nieces, with help, without being utterly exhausted. And after hearing them giggle-scream and make those squeaky toddler noises that sort of sound like the coos of baby dinosaurs, I wouldn’t want to go out to some noisy restaurant, either — I’d want to take a nap. And I certainly wouldn’t want to go to some building where I’d have to pay someone to let me lift things and do stupid cardio either. I’d want to drink wine in my pajamas, and take another nap.
4. They Challenge You To Be More Body Positive
Even though I love writing about being body positive, I still have a hard time with it. But I want my nieces to love their bodies as much as possible, so when I start to think negative things about my body, or when I start to compare my body to those of other women, just remembering how I want my nieces to feel about their bodies challenges me to be more positive about my own.
5. They Inspire You To Be More Sex Positive
Obviously, my nieces should not be sexually active for many, many years — but when they reach the age where sex will become part of their life, I want to be able to be a good example of sex positivity for them. I want them to know that sex isn’t shameful, that being a sexual woman is perfectly healthy and good if they’re going about it safely, and that their sexual experiences should not be all about catering to someone else's needs instead of their own. And I can't really teach them those things if I don't apply those morals to my own sex life.
6. Their Very Existence Makes You A More Grateful Human Being
Even when I’m having a really bad day, or I’m feeling super down, (which has been literally every day since the whole the break up thing) just looking at a picture of any one of my nieces makes me smile. I know that, no matter what’s going on in my life, I’m so lucky to have those little girls in it. Regardless of how many crappy feelings I might be experiencing right now, that feeling of gratitude for their existence and their role in my life never goes away. And it never will.