Fiercely present and largely unbothered, rich aunties, like mine, provide a special brand of love for children and tired parents alike.
My Aunt Jewell drove a black Acura Legend and let my cousins and I play Brandy’s Never Say Never on repeat and at full volume. She bought me my first pair of Jordans and didn’t judge when I told her about the boys I liked. She was a safe respite from teenage life, a midway point between sister and mother. Looking back on the section of life when we all felt too old to be children and too young to be women, her guidance and unobtrusive supervision were exactly what we needed.
There’s something to be said about the rich auntie. And by rich, I mean free. Most of our families have at least one, especially in the Black community, where single parenthood is statistically common, and kinship networks hold historical importance.
Tasnim Sulaiman, a licensed professional counselor specializing in marriage and family therapy, said the presence of an auntie can be game-changing. “Having key support figures outside of parental support it's so vital. It can help take some load off the parent of having to be everything, which we know is an unreasonable expectation.”
A 2010 Vital Statistics Report found that 73 percent of babies born to non-wed mothers were Black. This data point is often weaponized by traditionalists, boxing our families into voiceless tropes that ignore systemic racism, which has plagued the Black community since the dawn of slavery. What is rarely quantified, however, is the ways in which extended family—like aunties—often supplement what may be otherwise lacking, limited or exhausted.
Child-free Doesn’t Mean Anti-Kids
Another benefit to being a ‘rich auntie’ is that it gives women without kids a small glimpse into what potential future parenthood might entail. Sulaiman says it might even be the thing to seal family planning with more certainty. “It gives you another way of seeing like, Yeah, I might want to be a mother one day, and I might want to rear.’ It also opens up the door for people to be like, ‘Hey, you know what? Maybe I want to find other ways to be impactful in children’s lives without having the day-to-day responsibility.’”
Chrissy King, a 37-year-old Brooklyn-based author, is a proud ‘rich auntie’ to her 16-year-old nephew, who has felt like her own since he was born. “My sister had my nephew when she was only 18; I was 21 at the time. And so right away, I was like, ‘I have to help her, I have to step up.’ And that became my role.”
King credits her ability to be supportive of the kids and mothers in her ethos to her decision to remain child-free. “Within my family, so many things have happened over the years that I've been able to help primarily financially, but emotionally and in so many different ways,” she explains. “I would not have been able to do these things if I had my own family that I was taking care of.”
In a world that values women based on what they choose to do with their wombs, the aunties of our community are an under-appreciated resource, mostly because parents are tired. No matter how well-planned children are, the work of raising, housing, clothing and feeding them sucks up a lot of energy. As helpful as it is to have friendships with other moms, the women with the most capacity and patience with my son have typically been child-free women who aren’t stretched thin or shackled to a relentless schedule.
A Pew Research Center survey from 2021 asked non-parents about their plans to have children one day. Over 40% said children were not too likely or not at all likely in their future, marking a 7% increase since 2018. As women increasingly opt out of having kids, their time is freed up to travel, make greater strides in their careers, invest in their self-care and, in turn, show up for the people in their lives.
Stories From the ‘Rich Auntie’ Chronicles
Chrissy and my Aunt Jewell are far from the exceptions. I posed a question on my Twitter (X) timeline, asking people to share how their aunties—rich or not—showed up for them. Over a thousand people responded with tales of that one auntie who had time, disposable income and dropped game on everything from business to love.
Here are just a few:
“My rich auntie is my girl Shirley. Sister of my Papa, Louisiana woman who will wear Burberry to the socks and still carry a water bottle with vodka everywhere. Her annual Christmas parties were the things Black paintings are made of. She was my first lesson in grace and charm.” — @oksomik
“My mom's sister is a safe space. My cousin and I go to her for the things are parents might not understand. She always had a carefree spirit about her. Unbothered and I love it.” — @Britt_S_O
“These women changed the legacy on both sides of my family. They were the first to get graduate degrees on both sides ( math and molecular biology). They were examples and contributors to generational wealth and traveling. I can’t wait to be a seasoned rich aunty like mine were.” — @BudgetFoody718
“All my aunts have kids but one in particular used to travel a lot and collected refrigerator magnets from every state she’s been to and different countries, that was always inspiring to me. I’ve been to 46 states and my fridge is covered in magnets.” — @Kyla_Lacey
“My Auntie V, has always been a glamorous role model in my life. She is fresh to death and has a generous heart. Took me in at my lowest of lows, and if it wasn’t for her love & support I have no idea where I’d be now. Forever grateful to have her as my aunt and friend.” — @LaCara91
“She treated me like I was her own child. She taught me financial literacy, tho she still gave me money. She invested in my [art] when I displayed I was gifted in music & art. She was always there for my accomplishments and [through] the process. She’s still active in my life now.” — @brranson
The Other Mothers
Sometimes, the ‘rich auntie’ is the blood-related sibling of a parent. Other times, she’s a play cousin, an older sibling, a neighbor, or a close family friend. No matter the origin story, the title of “auntie” isn’t handed out lightly, but a long-held and well-respected designation that refers to women who are fixtures in the lives of children.
This auntie is not passive, occasionally stopping by to drop off gifts, take a few selfies, and leave before things get too real. There’s nothing wrong with being a light-touch auntie and sticking to monetary donations or brief encounters if that’s where capacity ends. But aside from the well-stamped passport, the non-repeating wardrobe and the expansive capacity for showing up, the aunties who make the biggest impact are those who build real relationships with kids and genuinely invest in them.
Chrissy says she takes her role as auntie to heart and has remained a constant in her nephew’s life even though they now live in separate states. When he was five, her nephew's father was killed by a drunk driver, leaving her sister, who was in nursing school at the time, to take on the role of two parents.
King and her then-husband stepped up to pay her nephew’s private school tuition and even kept a room in their apartment so he always felt at home. “I love that little boy like he's my own. I'd do anything for him. He could call me for anything. And he does call me all the time for anything and everything that he thinks he needs,” she chuckled. Chrissy’s unwavering support ensured that her nephew remained insulated in love, a gift that her sister acknowledges by sending her Mother’s Day cards every May.
To anyone who aspires to be a rich auntie in the future, Sulaiman has some words of advice. “I don't think an auntie should be the disciplinarian. That's what makes the relationship special and safer. Aunties can be a safe space for a child, and in order to be a safe space, make sure [they don’t] feel like you're the one that's disciplining or trying to control.”
Rich aunties aren’t always rich, and they aren’t always child-free. But across the spectrum of definitions, there is one resounding fact—aunties are essential. They prove that you don’t have to bear children to mother and that mentorship (or the occasional CashApp payment) is just as beneficial as parental nurturing.
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