Saturday, 12 April 2014

Free and Open Combox Today

Today I am terribly busy preparing lectures for the women's retreat in Kraków, so talk amongst yourselves. A good topic, on that I will be writing about soon, is how an adult Single can contribute meaningfully to her family. By adult, I mean someone who has graduated from a bachelor programme or training programme and now has a job, or a graduate fellowship--income independent of parents, that is.


Sarah said...

I'm not sure what you mean by "contribute meaningfully." I have a steady (if small) income and live on my own in the same town as my parents. They certainly don't need financial assistance from me. I have seven younger siblings, one is also an adult and living on her own, and one is 17 and goes to college and has a job and a car and is quite independent even though he lives under their roof.

The rest are still children, and when I go to their house to visit, I don't really "contribute" much except playing with the kids (sometimes disciplining them, too) or helping set the table or something. I think the younger half of my parents' eight children see me more as an aunt. My youngest sister (now five)and I had a deep discussion on Thanksgiving where I had to convince her that I am, in fact, her sister. In her mind, her sisters are the ones closer to her size who also like playing dolls. I like getting to be the fun grown up who gives them way too much candy and then gets to leave, though.

Anyway. I am fairly independent of my family. I have never been the one who was super attached like my next younger sister, who goes to my parents' house when she is sick so she can watch movies with them in their bed.

Anyway, I guess I am just not sure what "contribute meaningfully" means to a daughter who doesn't live with them, and whose parents are still fairly young.

Seraphic said...

Do the children enjoy playing with you? Does them being under your supervision please your mother?
If yes, that is indeed meaningful!

Anonymous said...

Hi - long time reader but new commenter here.

I decided to comment this time because I think I might know what you are getting at here. I, like Sarah who commented above, am the eldest child in a large family (six kids), and I too, live independently and self sufficiently in the same town as my family. My next-younger sibling is married and also lives nearby.
(Unlike Sarah above however, I am the attached one who goes home to watch movies with my parents in their bed on occasion....glad it's not just me :-P )
Anyway, I wonder if the topic here is more intangible than money, and is more of a desire to be sort of "meaningfully involved." As of right now, I am still fairly involved with my siblings everyday lives as long as I have the time - I'm teaching my brother to drive, I go shopping with my next younger sister, I'm planning a baby showe for my married sister, we mostly all attend the same church, etc.
But I fear, in the future, as more of my siblings are married and sort of operate within the context of their families, that I'll be left in the dust, so to speak. I have a great and secret fear of being that old maid aunt who sort of hangs around, and everyone feels obligated to invite to things but who doesn't really have a place, or a way to fit in like the others.
I may just be paranoid! Anyone else better at articulating this than I?

Anonymous said...

I forgot to add, my name is Sarah as well! It must be a popular name for the eldest child of large families. :-)

Seraphic said...

Yes, I wasn't talking about money, though that could be a contribution, especially for those living with other adult relatives. I was talking about any kind of service or participation in your families. Meanwhile aunts are very useful to parents of small children, and perhaps big children, for sure! Nobody invites a useful, sharp-eyed, child loving auntie "just to be nice!

Domestic Diva said...

I had a terror of being that "old maid aunt" that everyone invites out of obligation…we have a few of those in my family and I did NOT want to be that!

I live fairly far away from my family, so when I go visit I try to be a good guest and help out with meals and cleanup, etc. I try to cultivate a good relationship with my siblings and their spouses - which has had its trying moments! - but definitely pays off. I have a small income, but I look (at garage sales or the dollar store) for inexpensive gifts that I know the kids will like, including whatever treats their parents will allow. I'm a little introverted, but I show interest in the kids and their interests, asking questions about what they are playing/doing and joining in wherever I can in ways they want me to. Of course I love holding the babies, but I've realized that the older they get the more interesting they are, and the better I'm able to interact with them.

One thing I've done is to celebrate each child's First Communion by taking them out for Mass, lunch at their favorite fast food joint, and a fun activity that child will like (zoo, pottery painting, etc.). This is a little more expensive, but they all look forward to this one on one time with me.

There's no better payoff than to have them cheer and pile into my arms when I arrive, or to have them tell me at the end of a visit, "I had fun while you were here!" At least for now, I don't think they think I'm that Horrid Old Aunt.

Stellamaris said...

When my brother and his fiancée bought their house, I spent a lot free time on weekends and after work during the week helping with renovations: pulling down wallpaper and old fixtures, repainting, scrubbing grubby kitchen cupboards. When my younger brother gave his first talk at a faith event, I was able to go and give him feedback. I make the Official Family Birthday Desserts. I am pretty attached to my parents, and am encouraged by this especially by my mother who is always delighted to have my company. Just because visiting them often is fun for me doesn't mean it's not also a favour for them! When my parents go off on vacation, I try to prepare supper for them so they have something tasty waiting for them when they get home from the airport. When I visited my cousins in their city, I protected the youngest from the dog, whom he likes but is a bit frightened of. I played endless games of checkers and coached the eldest at chess. We also played "Hide the stuffed animals so Stellamaris can look for them". Then we played "Attack Stellamaris with the stuffed animals". I helped them with their homework. I entertained their parents and grandparents with much conversation.
Outside of my biological family, I try to be a healthy model of contented single life, for the faithful and the secular. I hope to be a successful older sister figure for the young single Catholics in the various groups I hang out with. In my parish "family" I occasionally cook meals for overwhelmed new moms. I also am working towards being a better representative of my Church in my field.
I actually have no fear of becoming the Old Maid Aunt. I plan on being the Cool One.

Amused said...

Domestic Diva and Stellamaris, you both sound like really cool aunts! You're an inspiration to me. I want so much to be a kind and cheerful aunt, daughter, and sister, instead "that one who never got married--you can't blame her if she's a little sour." No, a thousand times, not that! I'd like nobody to ever feel like I was person disappointed by life, whom they had to make allowances for.

Magdalena said...

Sarah, I also know that fear of becoming the "old maid aunt". I am still trying to overcome that, but I'm getting better and better. What helps is that I just love to be with my siblings and their kids. And I have discovered that I am quite valuable for my parents: Firstly they don't have to worry so much about me as they do about my siblings (when the kids are ill, when they struggle with money matters...). Secondly they like my visits because I am just myself and they can talk to me without having to run after a few wild toddlers. And thirdly, at family gatherings, I can cook/look after the children/generally be there to help without contributing to the chaos. As long as my parents are there, I won't be a "useless" old maid aunt. And of course, my siblings are also relieved when I come and help out occasionally! Meanwhile, I hope my relationship to my brother and sisters will stay as good as it already is, so they just enjoy my company without thinking about my marital status!

Julia said...

Stellamaris, I plan on being the Cool Aunt too! My siblings, like me, are neither married nor parents, so I might actually have children before any of them do, but either way I plan to be an awesome aunt. And I don't ever fear that should I never marry, I'll be forgotten about and "useless". My parents are in late middle-age now, but one day they'll be old, and I can imagine that a Never-Married Aunt would be very useful in caring for ageing parents

Belfry Bat said...

The second of three boys, I'm the only one who isn't still within public transit of my parents; it seems to cheer everyone immensely whenever I manage to visit (which isn't nearly regular enough, but I'm very blessed indeed that I can get home as often as I do!)

I hope I get to be an uncle soon! Older is engaged to be married, for one, though I'm not clear on when... Anyways, all my uncles are really nifty guys, and it looks like great fun.

Girl with the yellow hat said...

I currently have cool aunt status. Having 26 nieces and nephews has given me a bit of practice! One niece was overheard saying why does everyone want Auntie to find a guy and get married? I, for one, don't want her to because then we'll have to share her and it won't be the same.

Belfry Bat said...

Twenty-five other niece-or-nephews doesn't count as sharing? =D

A yellow hat sounds very right and proper; wear it well!

MaryJane said...

I love being an "auntie" to all my friends kids, although they're pretty small and I don't take nonsense from them, so I don't know how "cool" I am, but I do read stories and play board games and have dance parties.

I hope as they get older, esp. the girls, we can do more fun "cool girl" stuff, like going shopping and talking about boys. My friends say they hope it will happen because they know it's easier for kids to talk to someone other than mom sometimes!

Bee said...

The notion that a family could treat an adult single woman as "useless" old maid aunt is just really foreign to me. Perhaps that is because my much older sister married a man with few family connections (and never had to negotiate where to visit) and they have never lived more than 15 minutes from our parents. Invitations to holiday dinners isn't out of obligation because the poor single twins have nowhere else to go, but invited because we are the beloved son & daughter/brother & sister. Even though I now live far away for work (and frankly, better opportunities for potential holy husbands), I am beloved young auntie to the kiddoes. If anything, I'd love more advice about how to stay involved when at a distance.

Iota said...


I'm semi income independent (semi, because I borrowed some cash from the immediate family, not from a bank, for "responsible adult purposes" - in theory, if they suddenly insisted on getting all that money back right now, I'd gave a little problem.

There are no kids in my immediate family, so I don't occupy an aunt role. As an independently living disabled person, I'm also awful at chores (I do them, it takes me twice to four times as long, so that's most often NOT an improvement on what the hosts are doing).

Technically, you could argue I don't contribute. I'm pretty much "that old aunt", if you ignore the fact I'm under thirty.

Thing is, though, I'm pretty sure my family would be pained if I just died suddenly. So there must be some way my continued existence contributes to their lives. I suppose it would be better to ask them and not me what that contribution is. All I can tell you is that it has nothing to do with normal measures of productivity and usefulness... :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your insights! Hopefully it's just my paranoid side that is slightly apprehensive of this idea! I think perhaps I see how society, maybe especially church/polite society, seems to function in couples, and wonder if that might extend to family as well. It sounds like it does not, in most of your experiences, thankfully!

Those are some very cool ideas for, I suppose, taking a more proactive role in the family instead of feeling like one is just tagging along.


Seraphic said...

I have no interest in arguing that you don't contribute! This is not at all about money and work productivity! It's about showing Single women that you are (or can be) significant parts of your birth families with a real unique role in your families. Contribution could be giving your mother opportunities to mother, or inspiring your siblings with your independent living.

Seraphic said...

@Sarah. Tagging along!? Heavens, no. I admit, though, that sometimes adult children are not swift to embrace adult child responsibilities or opportunities to serve as an adult. We don't really have many models for that, though. In Canada and the USA, the dominant ideal seems to be that you move out by 20 and do your own thing. In reality, though, the older Dad gets, the more someone else needs to shovel the snow, and someone else needs to drive Mom to the doctor's office.

When I was a teenager, I learned that my beloved unmarried fifth grade teacher lived with her father, taking tender care of him, and my messed up reaction was "How awful." I lived in a Catholic family and I went to Catholic schools my whole life, so how I could think that way is astonishing, except of course that the world's values were all "leave your parents, leave your parents, leave your parents."

Iota said...

> Contribution could be giving your mother opportunities to mother

From beyond the grave, possibly. Though that could in some way apply to my father, I guess.

> or inspiring your siblings with your independent living.

I'm not a big fan of "being inspirational" but that's also a possibility.

Fundamentally, I really wouldn't know, though. "Why do you like me so much" would be weird question to ask, so I usually just don't ask. :-) I'm quite okay with things as they are - if I can help them with something, that's swell. If I shouldn't, because it'll just be more fuss than it's worth, that's fine too.

I might be taking a very soft line on this, but my own take has pretty much always been: "If you exist and don't commit crimes or horrible sins - even legal ones - you are contributing a bit by that fact alone. If you also try to do whatever it is you're good at, you're golden." Live, take opportunities and responsibilities as they present themselves (they may or may not) and that's that.

Sometimes the point might be that your family doesn't need any helping and, instead, you help other people (I'm a huge fan of volunteering, for example). That's swell too - they free my resources to go and do other stuff, so any good thing I do is actually invisibly singed by the whole "clan".