Hanky PANKy

I’m a PANK – a Professional Aunt, No Kids. We’re the hippest new demographic. We’re digital women influencers. Here’s a soundbite:

“PANKs are a valuable demographic to consider not only because they are digitally savvy, they also have a high degree of influence over others in their lives, and they take an active role in the lives of children they are close to by spending time and money ($9 billion annually, an average of $387 per child) with them.” (From Weber Shandwick.)

The spinster is dead, long live the PANK.

Much as I’m not a fan of the acronym, I do fit the model. I work full-time in what is essentially a media industry; I spend silly amounts of time on the internet; and I don’t have any children (we’ll get back to that), but I dote on my nephew.

Selfie: me and my cutie-pie nephew, a couple of years ago (picture shown with consent from his mum)
Selfie: me and my cutie-pie nephew, a couple of years ago (picture shown with consent from his mum)

He’s four and lives far away; he knows me largely through Skype and family gatherings. Occasionally we chat on the phone. I am notoriously shit at remembering to get presents and cards out in time for everybody else’s birthdays and Christmas, but I will move heaven and earth and pay stupid amounts to get them to him on time.

I get him silly presents because I can (did you know Halloween presents are a thing? They are now.) I bought his Christmas present a month ago. I have agreed to babysit him on Christmas Eve when CM and I are over visiting my family, and right now that’s the bit of the trip I’m looking to the most.

Excitingly, by the time we arrive for Christmas, the newest niephling, who’s due in about a week courtesy of my other sister, will also be there.

So when I (inevitably, I guess) facebooked the PANK thing, my family amused themselves by coming up with variations on the acronym to suit their points of view. My dad came up with DUNK (daughter, unmarried, no kids) – which I’m less of a fan of than PANK, because that really does make me sound like an old-fashioned spinster as opposed to the reality, which is that I live with my partner of 7-ish years and our two hounds. We’ve been together for longer than a lot of marriages have lasted.

But then, the marriage-and-kids pressure is ON. I’m not claiming this as a woman-only issue, either. I have single male friends who get grief from their parents because there’s no wife and kids on the horizon yet.

It’s ON for me because at this point, of the English branch of my family, I am the only one out of my sisters and all my cousins not to be married and/or have children. I know my parents would kind of like it if I rectified that. To be fair, they don’t hint very often (I know people with parents who are far pushier than mine) but it comes up occasionally. CM’s parents have never mentioned it, and for that I thank them.

Also, I look the right age to be bugged about this now. It seems to be standard, on finding out that I’m an aunt, for relative strangers to ask me if I’m planning any kids myself. Even my foot doctor asked this last week (no, she wasn’t overstepping the bounds of propriety – we chat about a lot of stuff and this came up). I think she thinks I’m younger than I am, though, because when I said no, she said, “Ah, you’re young, you’ve got plenty of time to decide.”

tom selleck
To baby or not to baby? Tom Selleck has been in this situation before.

I am sort of looking forward to looking old enough that people assume I’ve left it too late and leave the subject alone. When I’m honest and say that, no, I’m not married; no, I won’t be getting married; and no, I don’t want kids, many people tend to get defensive/offensive, and they jump to one or more of the following conclusions:

–          I judge all married (or want-to-be-married) people and think their life choices are ridiculous. No. The world would be boring if we all wanted the same things.

–          I don’t like children. Not the case – I love my nephew, I love my friends’ kids. I, er, don’t really know any others,but even child-centric life updates on social media don’t bother me any more than other whatever-subject life updates.

–          I’m being stubborn for political reasons. Nope, not particularly. I mean, I can list some facts and figures that apply to the conversation, but they aren’t the reason that I, personally, don’t want kids or marriage.

–          I’m just being stubborn to annoy people. No. This is a massive life choice and pretty integral to happiness and so forth. While I am a stubborn ass, I’m not stupid enough to be stubborn about this. If I woke up tomorrow and wanted kids, I’d admit it straightaway.

–          CM must be very disappointed. No – we’re on the same page about this and always have been.

–          I’m anti-marriage. Again, no. I’m totally supportive of everyone’s right to marriage (EVERYONE – if you get my point) and I cry at weddings. I just don’t want one myself.

–          Lack of mothering instinct and white-dress dreaming is somehow related to being bi. Sure. Because being bisexual means I want to sleep with everyone so don’t want to be tied down, and also being a bit gay totally turns you off that kind of thing. You can tell by all the gay couples clamouring to get married and have kids.

–           I don’t know my own mind and will change it/regret this in 40 years. Mate, if I do reach 70 and regret that I didn’t get married or have kids, or if I change my mind  next week, next month or in ten years and go for it, it’s really not anyone’s problem but mine. (Yes, I admit I might change my mind – I’m human like that.)

–          I am a selfish woman-child, who wants to keep partying hard and is not ready to grow up. I’m an adult, I have responsibilities. I’m already not in a position to just drop everything and jet off to the Seychelles at a minute’s notice. It’s nowhere near the level of looking after a child, but I’m certainly not holidaying every weekend, either. And just writing ‘partying hard’ made me laugh because, well, I don’t do that.

Yeah, I don’t understand why I’m expected to justify myself on this subject. I don’t quiz every person I meet on their reasons for having children. ‘I really want/wanted kids’ covers it nicely, just as ‘I don’t want any’ should be an accepted answer. It’s not as though if I list reasons, someone will be able to pick them off one by one and logically argue me round to a different point of view. Why would you do that, anyway? We’re not low on humans on this planet; you shouldn’t be ‘convincing’ people to have kids when they don’t want them – that only makes for a very unhappy family indeed.

Anyway, now that I’m part of an officially recognised demographic, for which marketing can be created and from which more money can be leached (economy boosting, yo!) maybe folks will back off a bit and let me get on with shopping for my nephew, instead of wondering why I’m not shopping for a white dress.

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