Why should I be happy to be an aunt?
I am really glad I found this site. I have been reading the forums and articles hoping to gain some sort of understanding about why I should be happy to be a first time aunt. I became an aunt in December when my brother, 5 years my junior, and his wife had their first child. I do not feel happy about the child though I am pleased she was born healthy and I do not feel as though I want to be an active aunt. But, I feel like I SHOULD. I feel as though aunthood has been constructed as something I should be happy about and I am not sure why. Perhaps after I explain, some folks here can offer some thoughtful insights (by thoughtful I mean kind and considerate) into how I might better navigate my feelings toward aunthood.
I am 39 years old, never been married, globe trotter, and career academic. My numbness toward being an aunt stems goes back to when my brother and his wife found out they were expecting. They live in my hometown with my parents and I don't get home very much. But, I was home last spring in between trips to Turkey and they had already told my parents they were expecting. They did not tell me. I found out with everyone else about eight weeks later. That hurt, especially since I don't get home very often. I wondered if it was a bit of foreshadowing into the role my brother (really, his wife) wanted me to have as an aunt.
When I first heard the news I went through multiple layers of feelings. First, I thought about my decision not to have children and for a fleeting moment wondered if that was the right decision. Second, I thought about my parents and how excited they were over their first grandchild. Though I knew they were happy for the good things going on in my life, I realized I could never bring them the kind of happiness my brother could (this also goes back to childhood issues of favoritism toward my brother). Third, I thought about the fact that this meant when I was home for holidays with family, I was now going to have to spend those times with a possible crying, whining, or bratty child. I realize it was selfish to think this way but its true. My holidays now involve a child should I choose to continue spending them with my family as I always have.
Along the way, I told a few friends I was going to be an aunt and their reaction was something long the lines of, "Oh, that's great. You must be so excited!" In reality, I wasn't. I felt nothing. Why should i be happy about being an aunt? It's not like it's my kid.
I made it home a few days after the baby had been born and there was so much hoopla over the baby, I wish I had waited. I didn't feel the excitement everyone else felt but I felt the chaos and the painstaking task of pretending to be happy. My story may be making some of you shift in your seat and even feeling a bit angry or feeling like I am "the one with the problem." Maybe so. I don't deny being selfish, competitive, and attention seeking at times. You don't get to be 39 with a career in academia and not know those kinds of things about yourself. So I am not here to have my flaws pointed out. What I am here for is to see if anyone has an insights. I want to know is why, literally, why, why should I be happy about being an aunt? I'm not looking for "children are a blessing" because that would tell me how someone feels about kids. I want to know what is good about being an aunt. Why has society constructed aunthood into something I am "expected" to be happy about? Why is it not okay in some circles to be ambiguous toward a new baby and the role you are "supposed" to play? What makes you happy about being an aunt?
Here's hoping for some thoughtful insight and feedback! Thanks for reading.