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Aunt and Niece: The Unique Relationship

Sharilee has been an aunt since 2001, when her first niece was born. Her second niece was born 2 years later. She adores being an aunt.

Brought together by blood. Kept together by love.

Brought together by blood. Kept together by love.

Becoming an Auntie

Becoming an aunt (or auntie) is completely out of one's control. When your sister or sister-in-law becomes a mom, you become an aunt. There is no life planning or great thought put into this occasion: basically, it just happens! And it changes your life.

In a similar vein, one does not choose to become a niece. You simply are one, by virtue of being born into a certain family.

A niece is a daughter of a sister or brother, a name, and a technical term. It is a female related by blood. It is not a parental relationship, where roles are clearly defined. Nor is it a stranger, where no roles are necessary. It is a special relationship, nonetheless.

In this article, I will take a look at the unique bond that exists between aunts and nieces: two females brought together by blood, but kept together by love. Here are the areas I will focus on:

  • The unique relationship
  • Portrayal in literature
  • How aunts are in real life
  • Modern aunts
  • My own nieces (and our special relationship)
  • My traditions with them
My life changed the day my niece was born and I became an aunt.

My life changed the day my niece was born and I became an aunt.

The Unique Relationship

There is something special about the relationship between aunties and nieces that is like no other. The aunt plays a unique role in a little girl's life, different than a mother's role or a grandmother's role. The aunt is usually a peer to the mother, and equal in the family hierarchy, unlike the grandmother, who is one generation up. The aunt is the mom's equal.

The aunt knew the mom first, and the niece is born into that female relationship, whatever that might be. If the parent was close to the aunt beforehand, the niece will benefit from that relationship.

If that relationship is strained, the one with the nieces may be a bit distant, unless the two make an effort to repair it. The aunt is a woman in the child's life that will always be there: through moves and changes, ups and downs. Unlike friends, who can come and go, aunts will always be aunts: a steady presence in a niece's life.

The aunt has known the child as long as the Mom and Dad has. She knows the history of the family, but from a different angle. The aunt knows the family history, too, and can give a powerful sense of perspective to a niece who wants to know more about the pre-her life of mommy and daddy.

Jane Eyre and her Aunt Reed

Jane Eyre and her Aunt Reed

Portrayal in Literature

In literature, an aunt is often portrayed as the alternative caregiver for a child if the mother passes away. She is often cold and uncaring, forced into caring for the young one, but doing so only as a duty. This typical aunt is found in the novel, Jane Eyre, with the wicked and cruel Mrs. Reed, Jane's aunt by marriage, who treats Jane as less than her own family.

Another common aunt type is a female who must come in after the mother has passed away, to help care for the children and the household. For better or worse, the aunt is a presence in the child's life, and may seem to act quite selfishly. An example of this is in To Kill A Mockingbird, where a prissy Aunt Alexandra comes to care for Scout, and tries to persuade her out of her tomboy ways.

A much more flattering image of an aunt can be found in the modern novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, where Aunt Sissy is the flirtatious sister of the Katie Nolan, whose generous nature gets her trouble with men, but makes her love her nieces and nephews extravagantly.

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My creation.

My creation.

How Aunts are in Real Life

Unlike the often troubled images of aunts portrayed in literature, aunts in real life are often considered to be fun. Some aunts are the fun shadow of the mother: unencumbered by the daily tasks of cleaning, bathing and disciplining the child, and able to add extra colour and excitement to a child's life.

I myself remember very clearly my Aunt Dale taking us for rides, and making a song about every single thing that you saw, such as:

"There goes the blue blue cadillac,
It would look better if it was black.
The rain is coming fast and true,
As we ride along this day anew."

Literally, she would make songs about nothing! And it was fun. Some aunts are just like that.

Modern Aunts

In doing research for this article, I came across an interesting website called Savvy Auntie. This site is a place for women, including aunts, godparents, and great aunties, who love the kids in their lives, but don't have kids of their own.

Run by Melanie Notkin, the site offers activity ideas, gift suggestions, free articles and a community for aunts. Melanie has also written a companion volume to the website called Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids. The book has excellent reviews, and is one that I would like to pick up myself.

A resource directed at the other side of the aunt-niece relationship, is called What Aunts Do Best, What Uncles Do Best. This sweet little book showcases all the cool things that aunts (and also uncles) can do for their nieces or nephews.

My two beautiful nieces -- a drawing.

My two beautiful nieces -- a drawing.

My First Niece

When my oldest niece was born nine and half years ago, the waiting room was busy with her family who were absolutely breathless to see her. Two of her new relatives were two aunts that loved her equally, and waited together in intense anticipation.

I was auntie number one, the sister of the mother. Auntie number two was the sister of the father. Both of us became aunts that day, and what a day that was.

My sister had a difficult pregnancy, to say the least. She had lung complications to start with and then the little darling refused to come out on time, forcing mommy into a Cesarean delivery that lasted over twenty-four hours.

We all waited around the clock, hovering at or near the hospital, praying for a miracle. And come out she did, finally. Screaming and all-out mad at being shoved so abruptly into this world. And she was the most gorgeous piece of baby you ever saw! Not that I'm biased.

When she came out, her mom and dad held her for a short while. Then she was whisked away to the incubator room, where she lay writhing and crying under a hot light. Her grandma and her two aunties made inquiries and managed to track her down within the labyrinth of that enormous hospital.

As soon as we spotted this explosive little bundle with dark curly hair and a perfect little red body, we could not hold back our excitement and screamed in utter jubilation.

My mom, the grandmother and the matriarch, did not wait for protocol, and check with the nurse to see if we could hold her. No, taking all rights into her hands, she went in to hold her granddaughter and welcome her into the family. We aunts held back a bit, waiting for permission, but beamed in pride at having now become aunties. We now shared a new bond, these two aunties, forever together in a love for this child that would never end.

Only An Aunt ...


can give hugs
like a mother,


can keep secrets
like a sister,


and share love
like a friend.

-- Unknown

My Second Niece

I was not able to be there in person for the birth of my second niece. I was living too far away to get there on time, and even when I did, she had bonded so strongly to mommy that she hardly took notice of me for the first year and a half.

The relationship with my second niece was one I had to work a bit harder to establish. Because I did not see her every day, she saw me as more of a stranger. Whenever I saw her, though, I played with her, and loved on her, all the while giving her space.

Around the age of five, she declared to her mother, "I miss Auntie," and from then on, she and I have been close. She loves to show me her room, and last summer, she learned how to sew, and made an incredible pillow, with the word "Aunt" stitched upon it.

I love my nieces!

I love my nieces!

I suppose I will always be known as Charlie's Aunt.

— Princess Margaret

Our Special Relationship

I am an auntie, and I am proud of it. As an aunt, I feel a strong obligation to be there for my nieces. I share a bond with each of them that is very special. Because of the distance, I only see my nieces three or four times a year.

But these visits are an essential part of our lives. With my one niece, I talk about books and fantasy literature, like C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. With my both my nieces, we are silly together.

They are silly with me, and I with them, in a different way than they are with their Mom. I am like a kid with them, and that is okay, because I don't have to be the one to discipline them every day.

the-unique-relationship-between-auntie-and-nieces

Aunt Marion was right . . . Never marry a musician, and never answer the door.

— Charles Schultz (found on BrainyQuote)

Traditions With my Nieces

Since my nieces have been born, I have developed certain traditions with them that I endeavour to keep the best that I can. First of all, we usually spend Christmas together, although last year was the unfortunate year that we were not able to do so. During the Christmas season, my sister and I try to maintain some of the family customs that our family did to celebrate the Savior's birth.

While I'm there my nieces and I usually do at least two sleepovers. The way it usually goes is that the girls come down to the guest room where I am sleeping, and we talk until very late at night, finally stopping the fun with the tired protestation that I simply cannot stay awake a minute longer, and that mommy is going to get mad at us if we don't finally fall asleep.

Another thing I love to do is buy a book for each of them, for birthdays and Christmas. As the bookish aunt, I want to share my love of books with them. They already do read prolifically, but I also want to share that passion with them.

Another habit that we have as a trio, is to share certain stories, told over and over again—joyous ribaldry! One of those stories is the story of how my grandpa, their great-grandfather, "accidentally" used the lady's bathroom at the camp, thus creating dire embarrassment in the hearts of his two daughters, my mom and my aunt. This story has been passed on from my mother, to me, and now to my nieces. I love passing on family history.

My nieces also love to talk about past summers and Christmases, and we love to recall in great detail the time we got locked out of the pool at my apartment. My nieces also remember my pre-marriage days, which they barely can remember, but ask me to fill in the details.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Sharilee Swaity

Comments

Deborah on January 05, 2020:

I disagree that childless Aunts are unique. I am a childless Aunt and I"m going,thru a difficult, upsetting situation. My Dad passed away on,Feb 2019. My,house was sold and I mov4ef out of state to live with her until my apt is ready. I"m on a waiting list and have been living with her for 6 months. My niece was so happy when she heard I was coming to stay with my older sister. Thrb sitiation has changed that my Nuece, husband and 2 girls are moving in and eventually my niece will buy the house so my sister can retire. She now resents me living there. She avoids. me and acts unpleasant. This is very hurtful. I haven't done anything to make this relationship sour. Any suggestions?

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on April 07, 2019:

Renee, first of all, thanks for the comment. I am sorry for your friend who is going through such a difficult situation. In this case, this aunt is thinking of herself first, and therefore, I think it is acceptable to tell the kids, so they don't find out in a more difficult way, especially considering they are of age.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on April 07, 2019:

@dels, thanks so much for your question. I think that your ex still thinks of himself as an uncle, because of the close relationship that he formed with them, even though the two of you are no longer together.

dels on April 06, 2019:

if your ex calls your niece they niece what does that mean

Renee on April 04, 2019:

? I have a friend who is going thru matetial

Issues where she believe her husband and her sister are having an affair .

Since she is there aunt and a very close one to them

Aunt to her sisters kids should she discuss or bring this up with the kids who are over age 20 years old ?

Or wait .. til there mother who may or may not bring it up ..

Or wait til it blows up and everyone will know

Damari on November 27, 2018:

Do you feel it’s appropriate to ask a child if you’re their favorite aunt? I don’t. My sister in law felt the need to ask my nephew when she thought no one was listening. What an awful position to put a child in and how low is your self esteem that you need to ask?!?!

Seriously on September 25, 2018:

Get a life! You’re not the mom but you make it sound as if your role is more special. It’s not. You did not do the hard work of pregnancy, labor or raising a child. Stepping in to chat and have fun is nice but that’s all it is.

Katana on August 15, 2018:

Hi, im an aunt who raised my niece... i was 12 when i started raising her. Her mother was a major drug addict and would make her daughter cry... she was never there, and when she was she neglected my niece. I'm currently 19, and its time that i depart my mother's house... and leave the child that i raised behind. I honestly don't know how to feel about it. Shes gonna cry. But rhis article made me hope for the day that i could be her aunt figure, not her mother figure. Thank you so much.

shaliza mohamed @22 call on August 05, 2018:

anisa happy birthday you

hemant verma on February 26, 2018:

yes,

you suposse, you will always be known as hemant's #mØsî

love uhh

Alice Chavis on December 07, 2017:

I love and have four nieces 2 that are 12and 2that are 7 anda nephew that 14,. I love them and need help please help me.I'm

Auntie M on September 25, 2017:

Angela,

I empathize with you, and I am experiencing the same thin as you of being disinvited because the kids talk too much about me, the fun aunt.

Angela on September 10, 2017:

Hi all,

I am really struggling. Since the day they were each born, I have been like a second Mom to my nieces. I have such special relationships with each of them, am the Godmother of #2 and I love them like they were my own kids.

Throughout their lives, I have lived 10 miles away from them and I have been totally engaged in their lives - going to every sporting event, every school function, every extracurricular event, etc. My sister-in-law always made a point to include me in everything and make me aware of every single one of their events. Patterns were established over the course of their early years as to my interactions with them/my level of involvement with their lives. My sister-in-law and I had an amazing relationship, as did she and my Mom.

Over the course of the past five years, my sister-in-law has become someone I don't even recognize anymore. See acts like she is bipolar - you just never know who you are going to get when you see her. She yells at the kids more and her fuse is very short. I feel so bad for the kids (they have 2 girls and 2 boys). Her and my relationship has been incredibly strained and she is often condescending, rude and downright mean to me - many times in front of the kids. And she is very passive aggressive. Every time she has been, I have taken the high road and not responded - for the sake of the kids. I don't want them to feel more uncomfortable than they already do.

Recently, she blocked me from Facebook and stopped talking to me. I was finally able to talk to my brother the other night and they are basically blaming me for all of her hurt and anger the last several years - because I am too close to the girls and am "sabotaging" her efforts to build her relationships with them. My nieces are 14 and 15 and her relationship with the 15-year-old is very strained because her daughter just doesn't like her - which I don't blame her quite frankly. I hug them too long and too much, I have all the fun with them - which makes her look bad because she is the one that has to discipline them, I take too many pictures with them on special occasions, I spend too much time with them at family events, we look at pictures on our phones too much when we are all together (Maybe if I start printing them, that would make it ok?), I text/Snapchat with them too much (which is now my only way to communicate with them), I go to too many of their events - basically everything I have always done with them throughout their lives. My brother says that even though I may think I am acting in the best interest of the kids, I am really being selfish and doing it all for my own happiness when I do all this because I am trying to fill a void in my life (I am single with no kids). I was flabbergasted. He said this has bothered her for a long time and now it is making it near impossible for her to be close to the girls. I am supposed to stop having the type of relationship I do with the girls and am supposed to ask my sister-in-law what I can and can not do / how I can and can not act with the girls and "fall in line" with what they think is acceptable. Basically, she would be happy if I just disappeared altogether.

Beside myself, the ones who are really suffering here are the kids. They all walk on eggshells when they are with me and their Mom is also there. It's like none of us know how to act for fear of setting her off. She doesn't think she plays any role at all in the deterioration of our relationship and that it is all because of how I act. She will never take any form of accountability.

My brother said the ONLY way this will be resolved is if I approach her and apologize (for being myself, basically) and ask her what the "rules of engagement" are. And I am SICK of having to be the bigger person and take all of the abuse and bullying from her. Yet, my youngest niece, my Goddaughter - with whom I have such a close/lovey relationship - has told me she is sad that her Mom and I don't get along anymore. All the kids are torn because she is their Mom and they love me dearly. And I am torn because I don't even want to see her, much less talk to her, yet the kids are the loves of my life.

tayba zafar on July 27, 2017:

ah, i love aunties, i love my puwa kaneez. love you aunty kaneez

SBM23 on April 25, 2017:

Hi, I know it is a bit late to comment, but I just feel so related to this article. I'm currently 18 and I have a 2 and a half year old niece (brother's daughter), it was love at first sight and lately we have been closer than ever! she wants to see me everyday and visits me often. What makes me sad is that I'll be leaving for college (to europe) in august and we won't be able to see each other that often. I know there's skype and stuff but how can I keep that bond alive? it hurts me so much to leave her every afternoon and hear her cry for me. If mom is not there, she calls for auntie, she trusts me, she loves me and I love her deeply too. I usually feel sad after 2 days witouth seeing her and now I will only see her twice a year! any tips would be extremely appreciated. It hurts so much!

Jonathan on April 18, 2017:

Hi. I am a Dad and have a 3 sisters in law- 1 unmarried, 1 divorced and 1 married. The divorced one who is not so close to my wife and lives interstate has made a habit of visiting every month for the last year to see our first born daughter who is 3 years old. We feel this is excessive and believe its unusual as sometimes when she goes back, 3 year old says she misses her and we don't feel this is fair on the child. Is auntie fulfilling her motherhood needs at the expense of the child somewhat becoming rather attached to interstate auntie?

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on March 08, 2017:

@peachpurple, thanks so much for your comment. I guess it depends on how close the sisters and brothers are. Have a wonderful day.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on March 14, 2016:

I never had an aunt who loves that much, I wish I had one

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on June 05, 2015:

@Stephanie Mclain, I am sorry I missed your comment so many months ago. I have been away from HP for quite some time, but just wanted to thank you for the comment. It sounds becoming an aunt has truly been a life-changing experience for you. I am so glad you have such a close and loving relationship. Take care and thanks for the comment!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on January 17, 2015:

@Chastity, I am so sorry I missed your comment, and obviously, you have already written your paper. I am honoured you were able to use the quote, and hope your paper turned out well. Take care.

@kerlund74, I apologize for the late response to your comment, but I am still glad that the hub had a good effect in your life. Thanks for the comment. Take care.

kerlund74 from Sweden on February 17, 2014:

You bring up something important here; how wonderful close relatives are:) I will remind my children to call their aunt she lives in England. It is far away but they have a special bound. Great that you share your own experiences as well, a great hub!

Chasity on February 14, 2014:

Hi i am using a quote from the "aunt and nieces unique relationship" and I have to quote it in APA style using author tags, the year this was published and the page number.. I was wanting to know if someone would please help me with that? I also loved reading these stories because I can relate to them with my neice:)

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on February 04, 2014:

Flourishanyway....that is so nice that you have such a close relationship with your niece. That's great that you show your nieces and nephews a different side of life than their parents might offer. Thanks for the comment, and have a good night!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on February 04, 2014:

@Toytesting ... I am so glad to meet a fellow auntie here on Hubpages and I am happy that the hub resonated with your experiences. Have a wonderful night!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on January 02, 2014:

Lovely reminder of how much I love my nieces . I have a bunch and each one is special and unique. there is one that I am much closer to than the others because she lived with us at our home for several years and we have remained close.

I also have such fond memories of five of my Aunts. There were 8 of them altogether.

The five treated me like a little princess...the others I really did not get to know very well.

thanks for the memories

Angels are on the way to you ps

Stephanie from Texas on November 30, 2013:

The day my niece was born was the first time I decided I wanted kids of my own one day. I got to teach her all sorts of things and learn right along with her. She's so precious to me and continues to inspire me every time we are together! Thanks for writing and sha