Dear Savvy Auntie,

I am the proud auntie to two nephews and a niece, all of whom I love dearly even though I am also a long-distance auntie. I live VERY far (continents away) from my family, but ever since I became an auntie and met my first nephew, I have made every effort to visit them as often as possible (which is usually just once or twice a year, mainly because the airfare is prohibitively expensive) and to talk with them on the phone and Skype whenever the time difference and our conflicting schedules allow it.

When I do get a chance to visit my nephews and niece, they (especially the older ones, who are 6 and 3) have as much fun as I do. We love spending time together. I have been dating and living with the same man for well over ten years. We are not married, and we don't have kids of our own; but we are in a loving, committed relationship and may well get married some day when the time is right for us. My brother and sister-in-law are great about reminding their kids who my boyfriend and I are, surrounding them with photos of us and mentioning us in conversation so that they don't forget about us with the distance.

However, I have always felt—perhaps unjustly—that I get slighted in favor of the kids' other aunties because I live far away and am not married. Usually, I feel this way because of little, subtle things that may well be too petty for me to be concerned with. But the biggest piece of evidence that I am not considered an important part of my niece and nephews' lives is being continually passed over for the role of godmother. My family for the most part is not particularly religious (and neither am I), but for me being a godmother is more of a moral responsibility than a religious one, and it is one I would happily accept were it to be offered to me.

When my first nephew was baptized, my brother chose my sister and her husband as his godparents. Even though she is younger than I am, she is married and lives a little closer (although still not in the same area). As the older sister, who, although not married, is very responsible, has a good job, and was (and still is) in a committed relationship for much longer than my sister had known her husband, I was hurt. Then when my sister had her first child, she chose my brother and sister-in-law as godparents. For my brother's second child, he chose his wife's sister and her husband as godparents.

Clearly, in my family there is a trend of aunties by relation overlapping with godmothers, and it makes me feel hurt and left out that I have been passed over for this honor, in my opinion, because of my relationship status and geographical distance, not for any lack of love or responsibility. Am I overreacting or being selfish? If so, please set me straight. If not, how can I create a unique role for myself in the lives of my nephews and niece, without being a godmother to any of them? Or how can I make my feelings known to my siblings without seeming whiny and self-centered? I am not sure how many more chances I will have to be chosen as the godmother of one of my nieces or nephews, and I would hate to be passed up again.


Feeling Left Out

Dear Feeling Left Out,

Being chosen as a godmother has different meanings for different people. I would suggest that you start a conversation from an open-minded standpoint, asking your brother and sister what it means to them. Although to you it reflects closeness and honor, to them it may mean someone who could “adopt” the children if something were to happen to the parents.

Your distance and “non-traditional” relationship status may well play a part; as well as your sister and brother’s reciprocal choices… I choose you, you choose me. Also, their spouses do need family acknowledgement.

The important element is your relationship with the children. There are ways to enhance this: You could begin little rituals of a subscription to an age-appropriate magazine, a book a month gift, knock-knock jokes sent once a week, post cards, developing silly private words, and holiday cards and gifts.

I am sure it is difficult for you to live so far away; be careful you don’t project your feelings onto the kids. Children have that special sonar for people who love them and are able to hold them in their hearts even when they don’t actually interact with them often.

I am glad to hear that the parents keep you and your boyfriend’s presence alive for the children.

You are not alone! Many of the letters we receive are from aunties who feel disenfranchised, disconnected, passed over or distanced in some way. You might know some and could form a group to share feelings and strategies…it would be very supportive for everyone. Do let us know your experiences, if this comes to pass.

Best of Luck,

Natalie Robinson Garfield

Content Rating