Dear Dr. Rachel,
I’m a singleton, never married, no children. I consider myself a PANK (Professional Aunt No Kids.) In my personal and professional life, I feel I make more concessions than my friends and co workers with children. For example, in a work situation, someone may ask me to alter the schedule/meeting for a project because they need to attend a kid activity. Yet I feel I could never do the same for taking a writing class or meeting a friend for a walk. With friendships, the time and sheer volume of emails and texts it takes to set up a get together with a friend who has kids is nauseating. My largest commitment is work (her’s is her family) which means I’m not as available as she is during business hours. You’d think weekends would be easier but they’re also packed with family time for my friend, so it’s still a huge challenge to connect.
I get that everyone has priorities whether they be children, pets, doctor appointments or personal commitments. But where’s the give? Do I need to be more flexible since my commitments aren’t little humans? How does a childless singleton remain patient with others and themselves in these situations?
We all belong to the same society but within it are different cultures. The culture of people raising kids can differ vastly from the culture of those who are child free. At times, these differing cultures clash. People without kids feel misunderstood or infringed upon by those with kids and vice versa. Even within the parenting world lies conflict – look at the tension between parents who work outside the home and parents whose job is to care for the home. At other times, these differing lifestyles come together harmoniously, such as when you’re in auntie mode, loving and learning from the little humans in your life.
How can we respect and support one another, especially when other’s choices rub up against us? In social acronym terms, how can the differing vantage points of PANKs, DINKs (Dual Income No Kids), SIPS (Single Income Parents Supporting), SITCOMs (Single Income Two Children Oppressive Mortgage) or SNAGs (Sensitive New Age Guys) for that matter, understand one another and prevent a NIMBY(Not In My Backyard) attitude?
The underlying tension between those with children and those without occurs frequently but is rarely named out loud. There’s an unspoken rule that disruption in plans stemming from kids prevails over anything else, the end. This is because you’re a self-sustaining adult who can go with the flow whereas kids are unpredictable and needy. Although you might not feel like you have more flexibility in your schedule, chances are that compared to your friends/co-workers with kids you probably do. Nonetheless, this does not mean your schedule automatically gets trampled upon and theirs gets trumped. Your chosen commitments aren’t greater or lesser than those of your co-workers and friends with kids. If you matter to them or their job matters to them, they can and should get a babysitter or rearrange their schedule. This is more clear cut in a professional realm. You have the right to express your dissatisfaction for people who interfere with work projects because of their personal life. It’s not too much to ask that colleagues be available during business hours. That being said, everyone is allotted personal time (PT). You can use your PT for a writing class just as they can use their PT for kid time.
Where’s the give, you ask? You have the choice to no longer bend over backwards to accommodate other’s schedules because of their kids, or any other aspect of their personal time. Choose to stop making concessions for others if it interferes with putting your own self care first or builds resentment. Your life priorities are just as valuable as theirs. Extend yourself only when your tank is full and you genuinely have energy to give. Do it because the individual or the larger purpose deeply matters to you, not because you feel you must carry the load by default. Years from now your friends will have more time once their kids are older but in the meantime make space for new people in your life who are child free and have the time and energy to meet you where you’re at.
You have a right to feel frustrated if a double standard exists at work. You have a right to feel perturbed if you’re inconvenienced by those with children and the ways kids control the agenda. But this is the world we live in. Get curious with yourself about why you haven’t been able to find more peace around this. Take time to explore if there are deeper unresolved issues going on. Could you be envious of people with children? Do you regret circumstances in your life that have led you to be a child free singleton? If so, your anger is an expression of these wounds wanting some attention and tenderness. Keep in mind that your role as an aunt is needed at this time on the planet. Your involvement in their life is a gift, not only to the beleaguered and worn out parents who can use a break, but to the little creatures who will model from you and adore their beloved PANK.
Dr. Rachel Allyn is a licensed psychologist in private practice. Learn more about her unique style of therapy at DrRachelAllyn.com. Send questions to Rachel@DrRachelAllyn.com.