When we talk about raising children in this country, we often get stuck in no-win debates: Should you have them? Should they be allowed to exist on airplanes? Thankfully, the reality is richer and more complex. So many of us play essential roles in the lives of children who aren't ours, and so many of us were shaped by women who were not our mothers. These relationships exist beyond the confines of the nuclear family; our aunties made us who we are and showed us another way to live. These women were an essential bright spot in our lives, whether they were the neighbor down the street with great nails who checked on us when our mom was working late, the family friend who always took us swimming and bought us ice cream, or our aunt who went on glamorous trips and bought us our first diary when we were 9 years old. (It had a sunflower on the cover.) As a tribute to all the aunties who shaped us, we’ve asked some of our favorite writers to share their own stories of being a bonus parent, godmother, or friend to the kids in their lives. You don't have to be a parent to shape and be shaped by children — and to be a cherished part of that village we worry no longer exists, but has in fact been there all along.

- The Romper Editors

Auntie Kim

There Are So Many Ways To Have Children In Your Life

Once I figured this out, missing out on motherhood was no longer the foundational disappointment of my life.

by Kim France
Auntie Suzie

I Love The Person I Get To Be With Kids: Silly, Rebellious, Completely OK

How will they move through the world when their parents aren’t there to tell them how to be? I am an adult in their lives who offers them low-stakes practice in figuring that out.

by Suzanne Maria Menghraj

I Never Wanted To Be A Parent But I Love Being “The Lady Down The Street”

I want to be able to say, “Oh, we’ve been friends for his whole life,” and to know that’s something we both chose.

by Erica Cerulo

Why Breed When I Can Babysit?

Becoming a babysitter in my thirties, I discovered I can be a kid person without having kids.

by Rachel Sanders

I’m A Live-In Aunt Helping Raise My Sister’s Kids & I Love It

“And I have a tia, a mommy, and a daddy. I’m so lucky.”

by Sophie Katzman
Auntie Glynnis

My Job As An Auntie Is To Tell Parents They’re Doing Great

The oldest kid in my life is 15; the youngest is in diapers. Here’s what I’ve learned: Your child will probably be fine.

by Glynnis MacNicol

Not Having Kids Means I Get To Support My Friends Who Do

Looking back, I would not want to have been my mother. But I would want to be her friend.

by Ashley C. Ford

I Thought Adulthood Meant Separating From My Sisters. My Nieces Brought Me Back.

By starting a new generation, my nieces made my sisters and I feel the contours of our own.

by Jazmine Hughes