By Leslie G. Lee

I became an aunt almost a decade ago, when my older sister gave birth to her first son, Nathan, who is now nine years old. At that time, I had no inkling that my life would change upon the arrival of this little boy. Sure, I was excited about the newest addition to our family, but what I didn’t expect was just how much I would grow and evolve as a person by being an aunt.

Pre-aunthood, I was a driven, workaholic advertising account executive. I’d put in long hours in the office and obsessed about work day and night, so determined was I to climb and claw my way up the ladder. My life was centered on my career and nothing else.

Nathan changed all that.

I remember when my parents informed me that my sister was in labor in the wee hours of the morning. That day was a particularly busy one for me, as I was juggling various accounts and neck-deep in paperwork. I wanted to be with my parents in the waiting area but since I couldn’t, I arranged for flowers and gifts to convey my congratulations. My sister had to stay in the hospital for two more days after giving birth, and I wanted more than ever to visit her and go to the maternity wing to get a glimpse of my first nephew.

But I couldn’t, because I was buried with work.

When I saw the baby, however, it was love at first sight.

My obsession with work was replaced by my passion of seeing my nephew grow up. I grew resentful of my work since the long hours meant less time with him. Finally, I decided to quit my job in advertising and sought another job that would offer a more balanced work-life.

Apparently, I had made the right decision, for I now have three precocious nephews, and among their slew of aunts, I am the one whom they see most often.

Just as every person has his or her own style of parenting, I too have my own way of being an aunt to these three little ones. I’m a hands-on aunt: babysitter, caregiver, and surrogate mother on call. My family knows that I would cancel or postpone meetings or plans with friends at the drop of a hat, should my sisters and their husbands require someone to pinch-hit as a parent. I spoil them rotten with gifts almost every month and always buy them souvenirs whenever I go abroad. In fact, in one of my business trips, I bought more stuff for them than myself! I indulge their whims, understand and love their quirks, and bond with them at every opportunity.

Everyone gets a glimpse of parenthood one way or another, but for me, being a hands-on aunt not only gives me that, but also provides a good training ground for future parenthood. I’ve picked up a lot of tips and skills in my 10 years of being an auntie: from the practical and technical (changing diapers, cradling a newborn, putting a baby to sleep) to the emotional and psychological (dealing with three very distinct personalities, instilling good manners and virtues, satiating their curiosity with truthful yet carefully crafted answers).

And more than just learning the ropes and prepping myself for future parenthood, my “auntie” style has given me an idea of how I would be as a mother. But then again, we will never really know, not until I have a child of my own.

A recovering workaholic, Leslie G. Lee is a staunch advocate of work-life balance. Her passion for words has led her to work for and contribute to a number of publications in the Philippines and Singapore. Currently, she is taking a break from the frenetic world of publishing, in order to rejuvenate her creative juices, focus on her personal growth, and, most importantly, spend more quality time with her three adorable nephews.

Photo by Joshua Reddekopp on Unsplash