October 5, 2017

PANKs and PUNKs (Professional Aunties and Uncles No Kids)

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The number of PANKs (Professional Aunties No Kids) and PUNKs (Professional Uncles No kids) is growing and their influence on children is in the news. The founder of the auntie movement is Melanie Notkin at www.savvyauntie.com. She has an active blog and book that guides child-free aunties on all things kiddie. Notkin is the creator of the term PANK and she also owns the trademark.

From her website:

A few years ago, DINKs was the new segment marketers had their eye on – Dual 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 2010 US Census Report: Fertility of American Women states that 47.1  percent of women through age 44 do not have kids (check “All Races” report). And that number has been steadily growing over the last couple of decades. In 1976, only 35 percent were childless.

Notkin gives statistics on the spending potential of the emerging PANK market:

–  According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 50 percent of single women own their own homes. They’re also the fastest-growing segment of new home buyers, second home buyers, car purchasers, new investors, and travelers. (Who hasn’t dreamed of taking the nieces and nephews on their first trip to Disney World?)

–  Twenty-seven percent of American households are headed by women, a fourfold increase since 1950.

–  Of American women who draw annual incomes of $100,000 or more, nearly half don’t have children. In fact, the more a woman earns, the less likely she is to have kids.

That means that these PANKs and PUNKs have money to spend on their nieces and nephews since they don’t have kids of their own.

A November Forbes article Raising Children: The Role of Aunts and Uncles says that many adults in childrens’ lives today are not relatives but close friends that are considered stand in aunts, uncles and godparents.

Notkin says, “The more aunts and uncles the child has, the more influences a child has,” says Notkin. “If the uncle is a fantastic artist, the child may be inspired by that talent.”

For kids the diversity of influences could be beneficial. Parents who share their kids with aunties and uncles might benefit too. And it fits with the notion that “it takes a village” to raise a child.

Author’s Note:

I’m not really an aunt, but I’m a godmother three times over and consider most of my friends’ kids my nieces and nephews, so that makes me a PANK.  I just finished shopping, wrapping and mailing all their Christmas gifts. I take my role of Auntie Amy very seriously at Christmas time, and put A LOT of thought into finding the exact right gift for each child. (One gift was noisy and I’m sorry for that.) And I hope, hope, hope the kids love them! I find that books are the best gifts and still remember all the books my PANKs and PUNKs and real aunts and uncles gave to me as a child. Hope you will share your favorites.

Hey WNKers (and PANKs and PUNKs) what is your favorite book to give to kids?

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Dog Mom and Uber Aunt Will Travel

Me with my dog as a puppy

If I had my own children, I’d like to think that I would be a unique parent, that I wouldn’t be exhausted, that I would make the kids fit into my lifestyle, instead of the reverse.

But, really, would I? Would I have the energy? Could I have a kid and not increase my carbon footprint exponentially? Could I really ban all plastic toys and never buy a mini van, gigantic SUV or synthetic no-stain fabrics for my home and wardrobe?  Could I really not pin my own personal needs and dreams on them?  Many parents achieve these feats, but it’s hard to say where I’d fall in the spectrum.

My Dog Now

Moreover, I’m a worrier and a neurotic type. I was a fanatic when my most recent Labrador Retriever was a puppy. I checked on him three times a night. I carried him in a baby sling. While the mothers brought their pack and play units for their kids, I brought one for my puppy so that he would stay out of trouble.  I installed baby gates, plug protectors and the like.

Crazy woman, they must have thought. Get a baby already. It’s only a dog!

He’s a big boy now and not much maintenance, but I still worry enough about his canine being, that I have trouble imagining responsibility for a human being.

Every stair, every car, every body of water would pose a serious hazard, and my efforts to protect my young child from every living obstacle would drive me — and everyone around me — simply nuts.

No, let me be an eccentric dog mom and über aunt instead. I love the children that my friends and family members have been generous enough to share with me.  For now, I can enjoy the company of all the kids in my life without feeling responsible for how they turn out. I can be myself and allow them to do the same. I can chase adult pursuits without the guilt that a dependent being needs my constant attention.

Have No Kids Will Travel

“What do you mean you’re going to China?” a parent friend asked me last year. “Didn’t you just come back from India?”

Yup. Have no kids, will travel! Get it?

Have no kids, have fun. Have no kids, have cool adventures, great passion and so on. You get the idea.

To all those parents out there, I admire you immensely, especially those of you who have figured out how to have your own identity and how to pursue dreams outside of your children.

Just know that I’m here to play with your kids if you need a break, and I’ll give them the straight talk on sex and drugs if you’d rather not.

In the meantime, though, I have some wind to sail and a plane to catch.

Susan and virtualDavis boarding a bush plane in Africa

A Plane to Catch

Am I Selfish For Not Having Kids?

Prince Albert (later King George VI) and his w...

Prince Albert and his Wife Elizabeth with Their Labrador (Image via Wikipedia)

Despite my friend’s frequent reminders of “yet another woman over 40 who has successfully had a healthy baby” stories, I’m not the gambling type.

My friend thumbs through People magazine, identifying the aging celebrities touting their late-in-life offspring.“Look, 50 and a healthy baby,” she beams.

“That one had a surrogate,” I quip.

“Oh, right, she did. But she had twins at forty-two,” she’ll protest.

“And a staff of forty nannies and household servants, and tell me in ten years that she doesn’t get cancer from all those hormone injections,” I counter. She sighs and closes the magazine, failing to put me on the parent track.

The truth is, it isn’t really about my age. It’s a convenient excuse, but if I were in my twenties with all else being equal as it is now, I think I’d still make the same decision not to have children.

Early in my first marriage and in my twenties, before I got a dog I stopped every dog I passed on the streets of New York City.

“Oh, look at that one – soooo cute!  And a yellow lab and a chocolate lab.  I just looove labs.  Can I pet your dog?”  I would coo.

I finally got a yellow lab who became my pride and joy for fourteen years.  She outlasted my first marriage.  Everyone thought I was practicing to be a “real”  mom with her.  When she died she was succeeded not by a ‘real” baby but by an energetic male yellow lab instead.  As it turns out, I was practicing all along only to be a dog mom.  Sorry to disappoint, but I think I’ve done well with those skills.  Does this mean I don’t get to celebrate mother’s day?  Can I be a mom if my dependent happens to be canine?

The same impulse for babies, however, never emerged.  Passing strollers never merited a second glance from me.  That was a strong sign to me to avoid having a baby.

Okay, so not every happy parent started off ogling babies on the street.  Nonetheless, the fact is there is just so much I still want to do with my life that I don’t think even if I were twenty years younger I’d be able to accomplish all that I hope to do.

I’m not just talking about my career. We’re busy people, busy seeing friends and family, busy doing volunteer work, busy working, busy traveling, skiing, biking, hiking, kayaking, waterskiing or windsurfing, in short busy being involved in our community, and in our world.

So, then, why do so many people think I’m selfish for not having kids? Is it selfish to forgo children when you could perhaps raise one successfully, when you have no obvious major impediments to parenthood? Is it selfish for me to want to work on myself, to be the best person, citizen, sibling, wife, daughter that I can be? Could I work on myself and achieve the same goals if I had kids? Knowing me, probably not.

Some people would say it is self-centered to reproduce yourself.  The world is already overpopulated and there are already so many parent-less children who need a good home.  It’s a good point. We’ll have more thoughts on this topic later.  It’s in important one but since this piece is an introduction of one founder’s background and viewpoint, I will save that meaty conversation when I can interview multiple folks on the issue.

Frankly, the thought of disseminating my genes multiple times over just scares me.  I like who I am and I’m proud of my family and heritage, but, boy, I think one person like me in the world is really enough. I’m a handful all my own.

The way I see it, I can have an influence on a greater number of kids if I don’t have my own.

My hope is to be the adult who doesn’t treat them like a parent would, to be the person they can ask embarrassing questions, the person they can call in the middle of the night and say, “I need help. Please don’t tell my mom.” I want to be the person who takes them on safaris in Africa, fashion shows in Paris and hang-gliding in Bora Bora. That doesn’t seem selfish to me.

As my cousin’s 8 year old child said of me in the car once while I was driving a heap of kids down a dirt road in the country: “You can talk about it in front of her. She’s not a mom.” That made me feel good. They all nodded in agreement and spoke of a subject that would have been just too embarrassing or dangerous in front of their moms. It was an enlightening moment.

I recently became a CFES high school mentor in our local public school. I help juniors with the process of choosing, applying and gaining acceptance at the colleges of their choice. It’s a great program and if I had children when the majority of my friends did, I’d likely only be thinking about college preparation only for my own kids instead.

Let me be the mentor, friend, aunt, water ski and windsurfing coach to a number of kids.  Most children don’t have enough positive adult influence in their lives outside of their parents.  That’s where I enter.

Upcoming Posts:

  • Wednesday March 16: What I’ve learned From Hanging Out With Moms and Why are The Dads Having More Fun?
  • Friday March 18: Forging My Own Kid-less Path
  • Monday March 21: Dog Mom and über Aunt Will Travel
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