An apathetic aunt...
January 5, 2011 4:26 AM   Subscribe

My brother's having a baby. Shouldn't I be a little more excited about it?

I'm 28, my brother's 31. He's my only sibling. We've always got on well - we're a close family - though since he's been with his wife (about the last five years) I haven't seen as much of him, and we only really see each other at family gatherings like birthdays and Christmas.

His wife's pregnant and is having a baby in February. (He told me in August by text, which I thought was pretty weird, especially as I later found that they visited her brother and his wife especially to make the announcement.) And in all this time I have completely failed to muster up any excitement or even interest - I have to really force myself to be happy for them, and I'm usually very good at vicarious emotion.

There are I suppose two possible explanations here. Firstly, I don't like babies. (I know, I know, I have no soul, but there it is.) If forced to interact with a baby or person with a baby I will of course be polite and act interested, but these certainly aren't situations I'll actively seek out. (I don't hate children per se. I teach 11-18 year olds and I love working with them. I wouldn't want to be around younger kids all the time, but once they start talking I find them quite interesting. It's the baby stage that leaves me at a total loss - I don't find babies "cute" at all. I go really gooey over baby animals, but baby humans leave me cold.) However, it's hard to believe this is the problem - I know plenty of people who feel much the same way as I do about babies and little kids, and who are still crazy about their siblings' progeny.

Secondly, I've never been close to my brother's wife. We get on okay when we're together, but there are a few factors that make it very difficult for me to look past our differences and really embrace her as a sister-in-law. In the past I've felt that she's tried fairly transparently to exclude me from things, though this bothers me less than it used to; she's extremely materialistic (to an extent that my parents, my husband and I all find fairly shocking), and I resent the control she has over my brother - though it has to be said that he is as much to blame for this as she is. And yet, it can't be that she's entirely the reason I feel the way I do either: if they were getting a puppy or a kitten instead of having a baby I would be wild with joy and they would have a hard time getting me out of their house.

I'm certainly not jealous of them, on several counts. I'm not simply jealous that they're having a baby and I'm not - I certainly don't want to have a kid right now, though it may happen someday. I'm not jealous of the attention they (and the baby) are going to get from my parents - despite my feelings about her wanting to push me out of my own family, I know my parents will never let that happen, and that having grandchildren won't make me any less important to them. And I'm not jealous that they got there first - I know if I did have kids, my parents would never let them feel any less important for not being the first grandchild (they joke that my rabbits will always be their first grandchildren anyway). So I don't think that's it.

It just seems weird to feel nothing about it. People ask me about it and I reply in this totally bored and don't-care tone and I catch myself doing it and think, this is weird. This kid is going to be biologically related to me - it's not as if it's my husband's sibling's child, in which case this might be more understandable - so whatever issues I may or may not have, I ought to feel something, and I don't. I see other friends announce on Facebook that they're going to be aunts (with five exclamation marks) and I just don't understand why I don't feel like that; I ought to be mad with excitement at the thought of visiting them when it's born, and instead I keep wondering whether they'd really mind that much if we just didn't go. At the very least I ought to feel happy for my parents, who I know are really excited, and I can only do that in a very dim and forced kind of way.

It's true that I wasn't that overjoyed about my brother and his wife getting engaged either, but I did manage to talk myself round about that and ended up pretty excited by the time the wedding came around - I'd hoped the same might happen by the time the baby was born, but there's a month to go and I still feel distinctly, well, meh. I just feel as though I shouldn't have to talk myself into feeling anything - I should feel the same visceral adoration for my niece or nephew that everyone else I have ever known who has a niece or nephew feels for them. And I don't. (Although I do appreciate that it isn't actually born yet.)

So what I'm asking is:

1. Is this completely unheard of? Has anyone else ever felt the same? If so, how did you get past it?

2. I know I'm me and I should know better than you, but is there any logical reason why I feel like this? (I would just self-diagnose as autistic, but as I say, normally I empathise readily.)

3. If there is, then how do I re-think or re-frame this in order to see it more positively? Can I force myself to feel what I ought to be feeling in this situation?

I should point out that as an aunt I will of course do everything required of me - I just want to want to do it, rather than do it out of a sense of duty. Is that even possible? I'm doing the best I can to sound interested, but without really feeling excited, I'm worried my brother will pick up on my lack of enthusiasm, and I really don't want him to be hurt by it.
posted by raspberry-ripple to Human Relations (40 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, there is no niece or nephew yet. Your brother and sister-in-law have a much more hands-on involvement in the whole pregnancy process, so obviously they're excited because they already see things changing from day to day and having some sort of "personality". You don't. I don't blame you for not being overjoyed.

Yes, your friends viscerally adore their nieces or nephews, because they're little things they can touch and hold and play with. You don't actually have one of those yet. Wait until the kid is born and stops looking like a squished alien, and then see how you're doing.
posted by olinerd at 4:34 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


1. No. Many people don't connect to their own children for quite a while after they're born. So it's not at all strange that you can't connect with your brothers child before it's born.

2. No. Logic doesn't come into this. It's about emotion.

3. To reframe it, continue loving your brother. I'd guess that a little bit of his love for his child will eventually rub off on you via your love for him.
posted by Ahab at 4:36 AM on January 5, 2011


Look, it's not unheard of for the PARENTS to not be 100% excited about the impending delivery of a new baby. You are not required to feel any particular way, and if you don't feel close to your sister in law and you're not crazy about babies then there's your answer. Anyway, babies aren't particularly interesting: they scream and poop and eat and sleep, and that's about it. If you want to get a little more excited about this, consider that eventually there will be a new functioning human there who you can interact with, and who will look at you as a figure of significant authority.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:38 AM on January 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


I don't have any sort of explanation to offer, but just that I'm another "baby - meh" person, and I don't know that I've ever been truly excited for a friend because they're having a baby. Instead, I'm happy they're happy, and I'm excited they're getting what they want. And I think that's a perfectly OK way to think about it.
posted by Madame Psychosis at 4:45 AM on January 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


Firstly: relax.

Secondly: It's their kid. You're under no obligation to feel any particular way about their sprog. To cover your points 1 and 2, your reaction is entirely natural and normal.

As to 3: you may eventually build a relationship with the currently-non-existant-sprog. That's fine. Forcing any of this is probably wrong. Celebrate your siblings' kids. That's all they're after.

I'm worried my brother will pick up on my lack of enthusiasm, and I really don't want him to be hurt by it.

If your brother is BRINGING PEOPLE INTO THIS WORLD, he should be big enough to understand that not everyone must believe everything that he believes. If this is not the case then I'm sorry, but your attitude is really not going to be the problem with these children.

Conversely, perhaps your brother has grokked the big deal here, and he may be entirely sympathetic to you and your apprehension (my sister was). I think you should explain your apprehension to him, and I think he may be expecting that. After that: ignore the kid, and do your brother the sort of favours that you would have (sans kid) done him without thinking about it.
posted by pompomtom at 4:48 AM on January 5, 2011


I think this is pretty normal. There are people who get wildly excited about new nieces and nephews, but they are generally people who, you know, like babies. If you don't like babies, you don't get nearly as excited.

That's probably also why you got a txt instead of a visit -- they know you don't like babies (yes, even if you've never explicitly said so) so they didn't make the effort.

I'm not sure you need to get past it, really. If you want to feel more excited about the baby coming, you could try making something for it -- knitting or sewing or something, depending on your inclinations. That'd add a level of deadline stress and the feeling that you were involved that might get you more into it, but you're not likely to be giddy with joy over this.

You *might* find you're a lot more excited about the new baby once there is a new baby. But you might also find it's still just, you know, a baby, and that while it's a baby you're reasonably fond of, babies are just not very interesting. That would also be normal.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:52 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chiming in to say that I had a hard time being really excited/bonded to my own son while pregnant.
I only truly "got past it" once Baby Murrey arrived. I too am not a baby person and prefer kids once they are verbal. But I adore my own son.

Maybe you will feel more once your niece or nephew is here, maybe you won't. No big deal either way. One of our son's aunt's doesn't seem to warm up to him very quickly when she visits (but gets more interested as time pases) but I really don't mind at all. His uncle, on the other hand, outwardly adores our son despite seeming pretty ambivalent when I was pregnant.
posted by murrey at 4:53 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's possible feeling excluded by your SIL in general might make you hesitate to get too attached to her kid, since who knows what kid-related events she might try to exclude you from in the future. Maybe you're just protecting yourself.

To be honest, though I have preschool-aged nephews whom I adore, and the adoring didn't start until after the oldest had been around a while (I find infants cute but kind of boring, really) and started to DO things (besides sleep, eat, and poop) and after I had a sense of how much interaction his parents wanted me to have with him (a lot, as it turned out). I was totally one of those "I'm Gonna Be An Aunt!!!" people on Facebook when I heard about the next one only because I knew I'd enjoy it after the infant phase.
posted by camyram at 4:59 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


"His wife's pregnant and is having a baby in February. (He told me in August by text, which I thought was pretty weird, especially as I later found that they visited her brother and his wife especially to make the announcement.)"

Even if you had a good relationship with the wife, this isn't super-unusual; men often leave the telling to the wimminfolk, and remember to tell their own friends/relatives as something of an afterthought. Some men are like, "OMG, I MUST TELL EVERYONE IN THE MOST EXCITING WAY POSSIBLE!" but some are like, "Oh, right, I was supposed to tell people that Jenny's pregnant. I should text right now before I forget."

"Firstly, I don't like babies."

Babies are boring. Your own baby is a kaleidescope of fascination (what kind of poop did she poop today? Write it down! OMG, it's so exciting, she pooped!), but other babies are boring. And I like babies. Two of my close friends just had babies this month and I was happy to hold their babies and ooh and aah over them, but I realized I would rather just be talking to the adults.

"if they were getting a puppy or a kitten instead of having a baby I would be wild with joy and they would have a hard time getting me out of their house."

This is the only part I find a little weird. And this does make me think some of your reluctance is related to disliking the SIL, although I can't express exactly why.

My own siblings (I have 3) have been various degrees of excited about my baby, from "over the moon OMG BABY BABY BABY BABY CAN I COME RIGHT AWAY?" to "hey, that's great! I know you guys wanted that" to "is it going to poop on me? Do I have to hold it?" All of that is fine and more or less what I expected from each of them. Amusingly, when he was still an immobile nugget, my son would laugh hysterically when the "is it going to poop on me?" brother held him. My son just LOVED looking at him. This warmed up unenthusiastic brother considerably, but what warmed him up more was toddlerhood and the kid becoming interactive and more interesting. But I knew they were all happy I was happy, even if they weren't all like "OMG BABY," and I didn't worry about it for even a second. I barely thought about it until I was answering this question. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:06 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure when I got pregnant I made a huge deal out of it with my sister, and my husband probably just let his mom tell my sister-in-law.
posted by padraigin at 5:33 AM on January 5, 2011


I too am going to be a first-time aunt soon. I feel similarly to you about babies and have decided not to have any myself. I'm also a little older than you, so I'm at the stage where many of my female friends have children.

What I consider is that my sibling took one for the team. Our parents will have a grandchild to moon over, and the pressure will be off me. So my feelings of "ohgod, this is the last Christmas when I won't have to feign interest in a baby" are tempered by a certain gratitude and relief.

Plus, there's the long term to consider here. The kid will eventually become a person. What sort of person? They'll be someone else when they're 6, someone else at 11, someone else again at 15, and so on. That's the interesting part: trying to guess who they'll become.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:41 AM on January 5, 2011


What's your relationship like with your aunts/uncles? I thought it was odd that my husband wasn't more excited about being an uncle - but then I realized that while his aunts and uncles had always been around none of them had made any kind of effort to have an individual relationship with him, they were just all 'family'.

So it could just be that what you've had modeled in your own family doesn't match what you think an aunt should feel - which causes a disconnect.

Also, my totally awesome younger brother (no kids of his own) clearly loves my kid now, but she's a walking talking 4 year old - when I was pregnant/she was a baby he really could have taken her or left her, so you may find that the baby grows into being exciting and fun.
posted by dadici at 5:48 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I honestly don't see a problem.

Births, like deaths, cause a wide range of emotions in people, including not feeling anything at all. Both are big big things and often you will feel different things about them depending on the point in life you are at. More than that, you NEED to feel these different things in order to process what is happening. Births are simply too big as a topic to feel just one way about them!

I often wish people would stop worrying about how they should be feeling, because it gets in the way of doing what you need to do. You are perfectly normal and okay. You are planning to be a good aunt, you are happy for your brother's happiness and that is enough for any reasonable person.


I am getting a baby myself in a few months, and if you were my sister, I'd be very happy that you're there to support me without going gaga! Similarly, I know of people who go crazy cooing over babies but who are more of a pest than anything else because of it.

Part of your question is how you can learn to enjoy the new baby more for yourself. I think you need to make up your mind to find your own way to have a relationship with the little person who is coming. It will be a unique relationship. Maybe you will only be able to do that when he or she is older, but it is certainly going to happen. Take your time.

I take pleasure in being the person who doesn't coo over baby stuff, but talks to the kids like I take them seriously, like adults. The kids seem to enjoy it and it allows me to have my own relationship with them without feeling like I have to compete with other people's baby craziness. (I do get excited about other people's new babies and even the newest poop news, but I really don't enjoy having to hold or entertain them myself.)
posted by Omnomnom at 5:54 AM on January 5, 2011


Not abnormal. Not by a long shot. Whenever my sisters announce another one, my wife has to elbow me in the ribs to remind me to even say "Congratulations."
posted by notsnot at 6:02 AM on January 5, 2011


I assume you're "meh" about it because a baby will make your brother and SIL even closer and more of a family unit that excludes you. A marriage is often temporary but co-parenting is forever.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:04 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is no problem. Be as happy for them as you can; don't worry that it isn't enough. I'm not the biggest ooshy-gooshy fan of small children and infants, either, even as a father of three. Babies, as was said upthread, ARE boring. Our 9 day old daughter is no exception.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:07 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


My kids' favorite uncle barely had anything to do with them when they were babies. When they turned into interesting little people, his interest for them turned on and he's been just the most amazing figure in their lives. They absolutely adore him. You're just not a baby-person and that's okay. I'd wager that once the little one starts talking and asking questions and saying really hilarious things, you'll be in your comfort zone. I would caution you, however, to at least try to form some sort of attachment to the kid while he/she is an infant. Otherwise, your sister-in-law might harbor some resentment toward you when you do start coming around - when the going gets easy, as it were.

Oh, one more thing: it's pretty common for men to be more attached to their wives families than their own families-of-origin, at least in the US (generally speaking, of course; your mileage may vary and all that). It seems as if the wives are the ones doing all the social organizing and they tend to stick more with their families-of-origin. I wouldn't find it at all odd if one of my brothers-in-law (my husband's brothers) texted him about an upcoming birth. Actually, I might be astounded they told him anything at all! We usually find out things via their mother or the wives.
posted by cooker girl at 6:15 AM on January 5, 2011


This is skewed for humors sake - I have a kid and two dogs. There is some stuff to take away from it.

Ok, so lets talk about learning curves:

Puppies and cats start out real strong they learn to romp about pretty quickly. It is cute when they paw at things. They fall over. As an added bonus, all their baby fur/hair is really soft like a brand new stuffed animal. Inevitably though they crap and pee where they shouldn't, probably once or twice on you. But, because they do all that cute earlier stuff, the last bit there seems even cute and endearing...

From day one, you are training them to poop outside or in a litter box - that's it. Really its not a hard concept, go there - poop.


Well, the same just isn't true with people. We don't poop and pee outside. We do it in a room and it is a complex system, which a baby can't operate. Period. We've made it way harder on them, so we put a stupid napkin around their genitals and call it good. Furthermore, we generally temporarily store these napkins in our homes - and we have to replace the napkins later... And those napkins are expensive. More importantly, adults, by their own stupididity have to replace these napkins for the kid - because well... its too damn hard for a baby. (Incidentally, 10-14lbs refers to the weight of the baby, not the amount of storage capacity)

Now lets revisit all those cute things, but lets talk about them in terms of babies. Babies, don't walk, don't move much, they cry often, and they only really want to eat and sleep. Seriously, newborns are like having a bipolar sociopathic napoleon come and hang out with you - if you are not the parent. With a dog, by the end of this point, you are able to run them around a little bit, and maybe roll a ball at them and they'll bat at it and fall over a lot.

After newborn, we go to baby state - yeah they quiet up, they might bat at things, but for a few months you can plop them in a car carrier and use that as a paperweight asides from the inevitavble bottle you give them and the napkin you need to replace. By the end of this point, the dog may have chewed up a shoe, and piddled on the floor unexpectedly, but they can fetch.

After 6 months with a baby, you've got something interesting happen... they transition from sitting to maybe moving a bitand that seems like fun. now you get to chase them a bit, but they're far more interested in cramming an electrical cord in their mouth than you. Basically its a game of how do I prevent this thing from hurting itself... the good news is, this all changes once they become a toddler - because then they aren't crawling to danger - they are running towards it. By this point with a dog, you can probably complete an AKC certified obedience course. You probably are walking the dog an awful lot - because - wow that thing has a lot of energy and on occasion he eats a sock that he's not supposed to.

Now back at the toddler... Ok, so they can move, they can smile and laugh and maybe they are starting to show an interest in you and not just wrecking havoc on the coffee table. More than likely you've got edge protectors, because these things fall over constantly and need constant hugs after they do this. THen one day, bam! he picks up a toy car and makes a car sound. From then on out it is playtime - everything becomes a car or a drum or a train or a ball. Maybe, just maybe they even play with you and not just in parallel with you. The dog, continues to need walks, fetches things, poops outside and occasoinally eats socks.

Both start to understand the concept of love for you, the dog develops their recognition of this dependency much earlier, and as such there is a great deal of gratitude and affection reciprocated from them. With a baby, eh - even as their parent you don't see it right away. (My wife differs on me from this, with her role as "food", the baby recognizes their dependency on the mother much much sooner - just doesn't understand gratitude - just anger when mom isn't fast enough).

If you are the uncle or aunt, its a long wait to really get to that "yay this is awesome" point. In the interim, support the parents, be excited, but don't expect much in return from the kid for at least 6 months. They start to get interesting then - but they get awesome by two.

Also, despite rarely getting to see me, my niece and nephew are always wicked excited to see me (they are 7 and 10). My son is wicked excited to see me when I get home from work (he's 2). My dogs are excited to see me (or the mailman, or the neighbor)....

Hang in there, let the excitement build.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:40 AM on January 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


When my sister (who I'm fairly close to) became pregnant, I was somewhat happy but not really. Many different things happened, but they all made me feel one way: That she had her own FAMILY now and that I wasn't part of it. She was now part of and creating family XYZ rather than family Raccoon with my parents, brothers and me, which she had been in since birth. I felt this way even though I love her very much and I am pretty close to her husband to. I can't imagine feigning an sort of happiness if I had already been feeling left out of THEIR FAMILY even before the baby arrived.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:59 AM on January 5, 2011


I wouldn't invest too much of your time worrying about the idea that you should be more emotionally involved. Once you meet the baby, assuming everything goes well with the pregnancy, and you start to develop a relationship with him/her as your niece/nephew this lack of emotional investment will probably change. My husband was not all that interested in our nieces until they reached the one-year mark. At that point they started to interact more and they became more like people than little baby bags people carry around and/or coo at.
posted by teamnap at 7:06 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're normal. I have 3 of them - love them, want the best for them, think I've been a pretty helpful aunt spending a two-weeks to a month with both of my sisters to help after they gave birth and being a supportive sister/aunt, but personally find it a little odd when people get crazy head over heals obsessive with their nieces and nephews. I find it creepy, even.

Babies are boring. Most toddlers are annoying little spawns of satan. Once they reach 4-5, they become more like little people that you can relate to, and them to you. My 4.5 year old nephew completely cracks me up, but sometimes (often), I'd rather curl up with one of my sister's cute and friendly cats than play racecar. Bring out the legos though, and I get torn. I don't think this makes anyone a bad person, bad aunt, bad uncle, etc. I don't even think it makes them weird. You have a soul. Our baby and kid obsessed society might think otherwise (especially when it comes to women/aunts), but plenty of people know that not liking babies or kids doesn't make you a bad or soulless person. Offer your congrats, offer some supportive comments, don't actively tell them "I don't really care that you're having a kid," and that should be fine.
posted by raztaj at 7:06 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have a sister who is pretty "meh" about babies, so when I announced my pregnancy she congratulated me but wasn't too interested in hearing about the pregnancy or anything like that. My other sister, who loves babies and little kids, was much more interested.

So now that my kid is almost 2, the less-interested sister is still pretty less-interested, and the more-interested sister is ALL over being an aunt - she babysits, brings my kid little gifts, stuff like that. However, my less-interested sister is gradually becoming more interested the more time she spends with little sutel jr. She's not up for babysitting just yet, but I think once sutel jr. is potty-trained and can talk more, my sister will be way more into it.

I would basically not worry about not being excited at this point in time. Things might be much different once the kid is on the outside and they will change all the time, especially after huge leaps like walking, talking, being potty-trained, going to school, etc. Heck, it was hard for my husband to get excited sometimes. I think it is hard to believe it's "real" when you are not the one carrying the baby, or partnered to the one carrying the baby.
posted by sutel at 7:10 AM on January 5, 2011


Your question made me think something similar to Fingersandtoes' comment. Maybe you were subconsciously hoping they would break up and now the baby is linking them together more permanently? That's a little crudely stated, but you know what I mean.
posted by apricot at 7:41 AM on January 5, 2011


Whenever one of notsnot's sisters gets pregnant I have to elbow him in the ribs to remind him to even say "Congratulations". Which is amazing, because I honestly give less of a crap than he does.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:44 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I became an uncle for the first time just over a year ago, and although I was excited about it, that doesn't mean you have to be. There is a big difference between the abstraction of an unborn baby and a flesh-and-blood new human. I would wait until the baby is born and then see what happens.

how do I re-think or re-frame this in order to see it more positively? Can I force myself to feel what I ought to be feeling in this situation?

Instead of focusing on what you feel, how about what you think? Are you someone who's interested in learning about new topics? If you want to become more interested in the baby and the pregnancy, think of things to learn about those topics. Read up on fetal development, how a typical pregnancy progresses, what the first year of a baby's life is like, etc.

In other words, if you can't get yourself more involved emotionally, maybe you can get yourself more involved intellectually.

You seem like you're concerned about being a bad family member because you're not connecting with everyone else's joy. But there are different ways to connect. It doesn't have to be emotionally.
posted by Tin Man at 7:45 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


My sister's pregnant and I feel the same way (though we're probably not as close as you sound to your brother).

There is no law that says you have to have any emotional response to this at all. What you're feeling, IMO, is external pressure to conform to what every smug yummy mummy and life-affirming earth mother thinks is the only natural response to their rampant fertility.

You can beat yourself up about all things that might be wrong with you for not being more into this, or you can give yourself a break and wait till you've actually met the child first and been given time to form a relationship. It will probably happen naturally in time. Or not - which is fine also, by the way.
posted by londonmark at 8:06 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not unusual at all. I went through the same thing with others until I had my own and I still have a touch of the "mehs" when it comes to others at times. You have every reason not to feel excited. I wouldn't guilt yourself to death over it. There are those overly excited about babies and those that could take or leave them. Be happy and leave it at that. I think as the kid grows older it may become more fun for you. Babies don't really do anything anyway except eat, sleep, poop, and cry. Why feel so "OMG LOOK AT THE BABY COO" when that's all they do. When they ride a unicycle and juggle at 3 weeks, then maybe go HOLY COW. :)
posted by stormpooper at 8:22 AM on January 5, 2011


Much much gratitude to you all. Most of all, thank you, so so much, for the reassurance that how I feel is normal and possibly even okay. I'd got so used to hearing "but you're going to be its auntie! Why aren't you excited?" whenever I expressed my ambivalence, I'd convinced myself there was something seriously wrong with me. I do feel guilty about this, and I do feel like I'm being a bad family member - it is a tremendous relief to hear that some of you have felt much the same way. It's also great to hear that those of you with kids of your own weren't deeply traumatised by your siblings' lack of enthusiasm.

There are a few things that have made me think particularly hard here.

Eyebrows McGee: "if they were getting a puppy or a kitten instead of having a baby I would be wild with joy and they would have a hard time getting me out of their house."

This is the only part I find a little weird. And this does make me think some of your reluctance is related to disliking the SIL, although I can't express exactly why.


I've had a think about this, and I wonder if this makes sense. I appreciate that while babies are pretty dull (gosh it's a relief to be able to say that without fear of being stoned), this kid will eventually grow into a person and that is when I am more likely to bond with them. However, I wonder if this *is* all to do with my sister-in-law, and my fear that any child she has will turn out exactly like her. I'm an introvert and find most social interaction reasonably taxing even with people I like; I find my sister-in-law very, very hard work indeed. (I've met her mother a few times and find her nothing short of unbearable; as do my dad and my husband, the two most patient, tolerant people I know.) I wonder if my lack of excitement stems at least partly from my concern that even when the kid gets past the less-interesting stage, it'll just be one more person I find difficult to be around? I feel like this has to have something to do with it: if there was any chance I might be able to take it to farms and show it ducklings, or shuffle through leaves with it, or have a nice messy poster-painting session with it, I think I might be a bit more excited - but those just aren't the sort of things I can envision my brother and SIL doing.

(Just to extend this a little bit, I think those of you who are suggesting that I don't like the idea that this will make my brother and SIL more of a family of their own and less of one with me are spot on, but I also think (and I hadn't thought about it much before) I don't like the idea that I am now in some way tied to her family; ie. my niece/nephew will have her parents as grandparents. Given how I (and indeed my parents) feel about her mother, this is rather a discouraging thought.)

On a similar note to that last (non-parenthetic) point:

camyram: It's possible feeling excluded by your SIL in general might make you hesitate to get too attached to her kid, since who knows what kid-related events she might try to exclude you from in the future. Maybe you're just protecting yourself.

I think that's very possible indeed. I think this is in a way something of a vicious circle: they know I don't like kids so they don't involve me in things, that gives me the impression they're not going to want to involve me too much in the kid's life which makes me less excited about it, they pick up on my distance from the whole thing and respond by involving me even less, and so on. This is why I can't really get too attached to the idea that the kid will ever look at me as a "figure of significant authority" - it's going to grow up with very little idea who I am, probably knowing its maternal grandparents' friends' cousins better than it ever knows me.

dadici, I think that's a very relevant point. I have a lot of aunts and uncles and I was quite close to them as a child - one particularly cool uncle always had a particularly fascinating variety of pets, and we used to spend whole days with him very happily. However, over the years they've now got to the stage of being lumped together as "family", much as you describe. So if anything, to me a close relationship with one's nephews/nieces is the norm, and I feel weird and slightly guilty that I can't really see it happening to me.

I like the idea of taking an intellectual interest rather than an emotional one (I find the language development of children truly fascinating. I almost think it would be worth having kids for this aspect of it alone), and I like the idea of just being quietly supportive without being overtly coo-ey over the baby (I did help my brother put up some of the baby's furniture before Christmas, and he has not yet stopped expressing his amazement at my ability to use a screwdriver). I also like the idea of making something for the baby, but this is a total no-no, unfortunately - they've set up a gift list for people who want to buy things for the baby so that everything's from the same range (I find this astonishing, personally), and I know my SIL doesn't like anything hand-made. (I did want to paint a giant dinosaur/fairytale castle mural on the nursery wall, but that's right out too.)

I will bear all these things in mind as I anticipate the new arrival, and I thank you all once again for your, as ever, incredibly helpful insights. (I wish I'd asked this ages ago, could have saved me an awful lot of guilt and anxiety.) Thank you!!
posted by raspberry-ripple at 8:55 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


You don't see him a lot, and you won't be super-involved in the baby's life, and you're not a baby person. That's normal and reasonable.

It's also sort of a weird shift in perspective when someone you grew up with becomes a parent. It's strange to see someone you built couch forts or skipped classes with carrying a baby around.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:55 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I was very excited and went to visit my brother and sister-in-law (whom I love dearly, and get along with much better than I do my brother) when they got puppies. Because, dude, PUPPIES!

While I will be very, very happy for them if they are eventually successful in their attempts to adopt a child, and I will go visit them should that happen, I am not nearly as excited about that prospect. Becuase, well, babies aren't exactly PUPPIES!

I look forward to one day being the Aunt who swoops in from out of town, and stuffs her niece full of candy and leaves again. Or the Aunt who takes her niece to inappropriate rock concerts when she's 14. But I'm just not all that excited about pre-verbal children.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:07 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


From one indifferent aunt to another... you're normal! My younger brother and his wife had their first child 3 years ago, and I didn't really feel anything positive or negative about it. I was happy for them and glad that they delivered a healthy child, but I didn't feel any personal investment in the baby. My brother and I have always been close and I like his wife very much. However, I am not a baby person and my husband and I have chosen to not have children. I'm not at all interested in parenting or the minutiae of daily life with children.

I send my nieces birthday/Christmas gifts and play with them when we visit, but other than that, I don't think about their kids much at all. I'm just not that involved, and frankly... until you brought it up, I never knew it was an issue! (kidding, kidding) :-)
posted by MorningPerson at 9:07 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Raspberry-ripple,

I was about to hotly agree with apricot: "Maybe you were subconsciously hoping they would break up and now the baby is linking them together more permanently? That's a little crudely stated, but you know what I mean" - when I read your follow-up.

So I'll just add what I really wanted to say.
That your brother is really, really lucky to have you as a sister.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:14 AM on January 5, 2011


If you want to try to get a little excited, remind yourself that this baby is going to be an older cousin to any babies you might someday have. That's very cool! My older cousins have done nice things for me like giving me makeovers during my awkward phase, or acting as caring older siblings for me since I'm the oldest kid in my own family. Even if you never really bond with your SIL, it's the sweetest thing in the world to see an older cousin take your child by the hand and lead her off to play.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:02 AM on January 5, 2011


I have a dislike of babies, which is fine because I am not an aunt, but...

I have generally apathetic aunts and uncles. My father's s-i-l is just kind of cold, I suppose. She participated in my life in a general way, but she was busy with her own kids, and I rarely see her even though she lives close. My mother's siblings are split on being people with kids and people without kids, but due to geography and temperament and my mother's own relationships with her siblings, I would say I am not particularly close with them- I love them in a general sense, and enjoy seeing them when I do (though I also find it stressful since they all turn back into children in each others' presence) but mostly this has involved quarterly phone calls asking what I am doing with my life from the ones without kids, and basically no contact with me specifically from the ones who had kids, though I know they call and email my mother.

And I turned out fine. Trust me on this. You may warm up to the kidlet, and you may never, or you may warm to him or her and never see them since you have to live 1000 miles away. And the kid will be fine. They will join scouts and have friends and see you at Christmas and endure your phone calls and create their own lives and blah blah blah. Not all families are close. And if you never befriend this kid, (s)he will turn out fine.
posted by jenlovesponies at 10:58 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I wonder if my lack of excitement stems at least partly from my concern that even when the kid gets past the less-interesting stage, it'll just be one more person I find difficult to be around?"

I think it is a little different with people you know from the time they are small children. Things that are intolerable in an aunt or uncle are often quite tolerable in a niece or nephew; it's just different when you've known them since they were immobile nuggets. And they relate to you differently as an adult than your peers or YOUR adults do or did.

And if she's 24/7 around extroverts, it's good for her to learn about the care and feeding of introverts from a relative. Little kids don't register relatives as "weird," and having a diversity of personalities in an extended family helps them learn about normal human differences while still "speaking the language of love," if you will, instead of the language of rational analysis or anything else. If you let her (or him) love you, she'll probably grow up more sympathetic a person than your SIL apparently is.

"I feel like this has to have something to do with it: if there was any chance I might be able to take it to farms and show it ducklings, or shuffle through leaves with it, or have a nice messy poster-painting session with it, I think I might be a bit more excited - but those just aren't the sort of things I can envision my brother and SIL doing."

Which is exactly why auntie should do those things. :D I mean, even just with my husband, there are certain activities he and my toddler do that just make me have to leave the room and trust that nobody's head will get cracked open and even if it does, that's what emergency rooms are for. It's good for kids to have different KINDS of adults in their lives who take them to do different KINDS of things, as long as those adults are trustworthy about safety. Make super-serious faces and diligently abide by the raft of ultra-organic feeding rules I feel sure your SIL will issue, and then take the kid off to see the ducks. From what you've said of your SIL, in my experience, if you take her 8 zillion control-freak rules seriously and make her feel validated as a parent by doing so, she'll be a lot more open to you doing stuff with the spawn. (And give first-time parents a bit of a break on the control-freaking ... they're making it up as they go along. But your SIL sounds like more than your run-of-the-mill first-time parent rule freak!)

"I think this is in a way something of a vicious circle: they know I don't like kids so they don't involve me in things, that gives me the impression they're not going to want to involve me too much in the kid's life which makes me less excited about it, they pick up on my distance from the whole thing and respond by involving me even less, and so on."

If you do want to be involved, find a way to be involved that can be your thing. (If you don't care, then don't, that's okay too.) Maybe your thing will be sending her a library of classic novels. Or always having a special cookie-baking day together at a certain time of year. (Not sure how far away you are.) Or sending her Chirstmas ornaments from all over the world if you travel a lot. But you can find a way to create a special connection that just belongs to you and her, and there are a lot of things you can pick (books, keepsakes) that even your SIL will have a hard time objecting to. I'm sure you could think of something that she'd have trouble coming up with a reason to reject. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:35 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


My guess is that when your nephew or niece is old enough to have a relationship with you separate from his or her relationship with the parents, you will be an awesome aunt.

Right now, you're "supposed" to be excited about a potential human life growing inside someone you don't like very much who doesn't seem to like you very much, so I feel you.

Mr. Sidhedevil is so not a baby person; he didn't really start to groove on his nephew until he was old enough to talk, and similarly he's just now getting to dig my littlest goddaughter because now that she's 3 they can chat and play Lego together. Nothing wrong with that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:19 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


they know I don't like kids so they don't involve me in things, that gives me the impression they're not going to want to involve me too much in the kid's life which makes me less excited about it, they pick up on my distance from the whole thing and respond by involving me even less, and so on.

That may well be. But the thing is, you don't have to like kids (in the abstract) to like THIS kid. I can see why your SIL is offputting (I mean come on, who doesn't like handmade gifts? Some of them might be tacky, but you have to honor the intent). BUT: you can focus on the fact that this is YOUR BROTHER'S child. Don't assume that he or she is going to have your SIL's traits; this baby will be a unique person, one who carries (among others) some of the genes that made you and your brother who you are.

Also, it's somewhat true that babies are boring, but they are also damn cute! Wait until you get a chance to hold that baby before you worry too much. You don't have to fall in love immediately, but you very well might. Just don't overthink it too much right now.
posted by torticat at 2:28 PM on January 5, 2011


I look forward to one day being the Aunt who swoops in from out of town, and stuffs her niece full of candy and leaves again. Or the Aunt who takes her niece to inappropriate rock concerts when she's 14. But I'm just not all that excited about pre-verbal children.

That is exactly the sort of aunt I would like to be. Thank you!
(And if they ever did get puppies...well...)

It's good for kids to have different KINDS of adults in their lives who take them to do different KINDS of things, as long as those adults are trustworthy about safety. Make super-serious faces and diligently abide by the raft of ultra-organic feeding rules I feel sure your SIL will issue, and then take the kid off to see the ducks. From what you've said of your SIL, in my experience, if you take her 8 zillion control-freak rules seriously and make her feel validated as a parent by doing so, she'll be a lot more open to you doing stuff with the spawn.

Reading this did actually start to make me think that I could still have some sort of a relationship with this kid, and that just because I am unlikely to get too excited about a baby that, to me, looks, acts and sounds very much like every other baby I've ever seen doesn't mean I can't one day be the sort of aunt I'd like to be and the sort of aunt he/she might actually get along with. More than anything I would like to be responsible for cultivating a love of nature in this kid - that's not something its parents are ever going to provide, and it's one of the best things my own parents did for me. Maybe that could be my thing...?

Jody Tresidder, it's wonderful of you to say so, but I can't help thinking that, in a parallel world, my brother's writing an AskMe question starting "I'm having a baby. Shouldn't my sister be a little more excited?". Just as well he's got more important things to worry about at the moment!
posted by raspberry-ripple at 6:02 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"More than anything I would like to be responsible for cultivating a love of nature in this kid - that's not something its parents are ever going to provide, and it's one of the best things my own parents did for me. Maybe that could be my thing...?"

That can DEFINITELY be your thing, and that's something you can do with board books, kid books, adult books, fiction, non-fiction, science/nature toys and kits, zoo outings, park outings, nature hike outings ... and it's hard to object to an 8-year-old getting a compass. Totally educational. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:01 AM on January 7, 2011


I didn't really care about my niece until she was born and I met her, and I didn't have any of the concerns you're dealing with (I love my sister and my family and figured I'd love my niece once she was born).

So enjoy your new niece or nephew once they arrive. You'll like 'em, I promise. :)
posted by timoni at 12:39 AM on January 12, 2011


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