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"Cool aunt" Melanie Notkin is the founder of SavvyAuntie.com. She is a proud "PANK" -- that is, Professional Aunt, No Kids. (Ana Schechter)

Calling All 'Cool Aunts': It's Time To Get 'Savvy'

May 8, 2011 (Weekend Edition Sunday)

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Mother's Day may honor the mothers of the world, but Melanie Notkin argues that being a mother isn't just limited to the biological definition. As the founder of the website SavvyAuntie.com — the first online community for aunts and godmothers — Notkin celebrates the lifestyle of women who don't have children, but still love them.

Notkin is a proud "PANK," which is short for Professional Aunt, No Kids, she tells NPR's Liane Hansen. Although Notkin is the biological aunt to six, she has many more nieces and nephews by choice. "Those are children that I choose to have in my life based on friendships that I have," she explains.

Women who opt out of having children can remain an important part of the lives of the children close to them, Notkin says. And just as parents need guidebooks, so do aunts. So Notkin's written a new book, Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, And All Women Who Love Kids.

"Life doesn't come with rules ... and yet as we spend more and more time with the children in our lives, we want to make sure that we can be the best support for the parent and the best aunt for our nieces and nephews," she says.

Notkin isn't alone — there are plenty of women who enthusiastically take on responsibility for children who are not their own. "When nearly 50 percent of American women are not mothers, it becomes very important for us to be able to be the savviest aunts we can be," she says.

But being an aunt is a delicate balance between being a fun role model and a disciplinarian. Notkin says that it's crucial to be an ally for your nieces' and nephews' parents. "Our first rule is it's the parent's child, it's their rules," she says.

"Of course, parents break rules once in a while, and I'm sure an aunt is caught breaking a rule once in a while, too — we do have that reputation," she adds. "But we want to make sure that we're doing what's right for the child and what's right for the parents — we're here for both of them."

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