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Family and Friends

“Confidantes and role models”: why our aunties are so important

This Mother’s Day, Stylist speaks to three women about what it’s like to be an auntie and why this often overlooked role in our family is so important.  

“You were my first love.” My auntie once proudly proclaimed these words to me and told me about how she held me as a newborn baby and instantly fell head over heels. To me, the thought of falling so in love with a baby that wasn’t even mine was unfathomable – until I met my own nephew for the first time and became just as besotted.

Stories like this aren’t rare – so many of us who are aunties will attest to the deep and unconditional love we feel for our nephews and nieces. But, it’s a familial role that can often be overlooked.

Here, three women, all proud aunties, tell Stylist about their experiences and what they’ve learned from this rewarding role in their families.  

“My nieces and nephews bring out my playful side”

mother's day aunty
Kia Abdullah describes herself as a 'mega-aunt'.

Kia Abdullah, 39, London 

“I’m something of a mega-aunt – I have 23 nieces and nephews from my seven siblings, aged from 11 months to 28 years.

In my professional life, people would describe me as diligent, methodical, disciplined and all sorts of other boring adjectives, but my nieces and nephews bring out my playful side.

With them I’m goofy, excitable and spontaneous. If I hear the chime of an ice cream van, for example, I’ll leap up like a child and tear out the door to buy ice creams for everyone. I’ll do silly TikTok challenges with them and am more carefree. Being with them is a tonic in stressful times. 

I don’t have children of my own and I’ve never felt a maternal instinct. I always assumed that I would have children because ‘that’s what everyone does’, but as I grew older and gained more choice in how I lived my life, I realised I didn’t have to follow the traditional path. In many ways, my nieces and nephews have eased the pressure to have children. I have such a big family and, with that, a busy and full life. I don’t feel the need to make it busier. 

Aunts are important because they offer a different perspective on life. For example, I come from a conservative British-Asian community in which women are expected to get married and have kids. I chose not to do this. Instead, I travelled to 60 countries and seven continents, wrote four novels and started a company.

I’ve shown my nieces and nephews that there is an alternative way to live your life, which will hopefully make them think more deeply about their choices in life.”  

“I won’t feel like I’ve missed out if I never have children of my own”

mother's day aunty
Lucie Rose is an aunt to two nephews.

Lucie Rose, 27, Luxembourg

“I was delighted to meet my nephew for the first time because up until then I’d never really had the chance to welcome any babies into the family.

After he was born, he stayed with our family for a week, and every morning I woke up early and excited, like a kid at Christmas, just to see him wake up. I couldn’t get enough of staring at his little face. 

I don’t have children of my own right now as I’m still building my own life and career, but I’m grateful that I’ve had this experience before I become a mum. And luckily, as an auntie, I don’t feel like I’ve missed out if I never have any of my own.

Being an aunt to my two little nephews has taught me to engage more with my own inner child and appreciate the small things. With them, I’ve learned to be creative and play and not care about what people think of me. It’s allowed me to take myself a little less seriously when I’m with them and embrace the randomness of life.

I also don’t have rose-tinted glasses about motherhood. I’m fully aware that taking care of children is a beautiful experience, but it’s also a difficult and full-time job.

Aunties are important because they allow children to benefit from another positive female role model in their life. It’s in these first interactions that we create foundations for every other relationship we’ll have.

I know being an aunt is a role for a lifetime, and as long as I’m alive I’d always want my nephews to know they could come to me for anything.” 

“I want to help my niece understand she can do whatever she wants”

mother's day aunty
Sonia Barlow is focusing on her relationship with her niece.

Sonya Barlow, 29, London

“I never quite understood the idea that ‘you could feel a different kind of love’ but when my niece, who is now two and half years old, was born I felt it instantly – she changed my life.

Every week I make time, even if it means deleting events from my calendar or shuffling work around, so that I can be with her.

I have no children of my own, and despite the expectations that come with society and being a brown woman, my family have never placed pressure on me, so I am happy focusing on my niece for now. Having a niece has also taught me about how a parent’s life changes and what to expect.

I want to help my niece understand that she can do whatever she wants as long as she carries on working hard and doesn’t lose her own spark and energy.

Reflecting on the roles of aunties in my life, they have been confidantes, role models and, most importantly, an extension of my own mother.

Aunties are complementary – they bring care, love and knowledge, yet they also need to be responsible, forward-thinking and positive role models. Young girls today need to see who they can be.” 

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Images: Kia Abdullah, Lucie Rose, Sonia Barlow