Parenting teens · Parenting tweens · What Do You Know Wednesday

Why I Don’t Always Put My Husband Before My Kids

A few days ago a young, newly married, Facebook friend of mine posted an article entitled Why My Husband Will Always Come Before My Kids The author of the article discusses her policy of always prioritizing the needs of her husband over those of her children. She explains that making him number one is the best way to divorce-proof their marriage and to model a good marriage for her children. And while I admire her efforts to keep her marriage intact and to provide her children with the basis for their own future happy marriages, I think she is colossally wrong.

Her’s reminded me of a story I heard not long ago about a guy who would tell his children that if the family boat were sinking and they were all drowning, that he would swim past the children to save their mother. He told them this to stress the importance of the marital bond and to emphasize how much he loved their mother. But I imagine that to young children, who should see their parents as a untied front determined to protect them, such a story would be confusing at best and terrifying at worst.

Don’t get me wrong. Keeping my marriage healthy is a priority for me. I have seen and heard of couples who drifted apart because they had no shared interests. I certainly don’t advocate couples putting their marriages on hold while they are raising their children. Couples need to make creating strong marriages a priority. I just don’t believe that the way to do this is to make one person in the family more important than the others.

I admit it. I don’t always put my husband first. Why not? Well, if I am being honest, there are a lot of reasons – reasons I’m not proud of, but I am a flawed human being and an imperfect wife. As much as I really do want to be selfless sometimes I don’t put my husbands needs first because… I’m tired. I’m hungry. I’m grumpy. My favorite show is on. I’m into my book. He annoyed me. It’s Thursday. I want to sleep. I’m angry. I want to paint my nails. I want to go out. I want to stay in. I want my way… You get the idea. But beyond these selfish, petty reasons, I also don’t always put my husband first because I don’t think it’s realistic or wise or the best thing we can do for our family. Here are the best reasons for not always putting my husband first.

  • I don’t even know what that means. How does one always prioritize the needs of one person over those of other family members? Does putting each other first mean that we skip out on the kids every time we want to? Can we skip the bedtime routine? The band concert? The baseball game? Because one or both of us need a date night?  Yes, sometimes we can. But we can’t always put each other first. More often than not, we just have to put date night on hold, suck it up and to to the dang ballgame. Being married means (for most people) having kids and having kids means sometimes having to do things that don’t necessarily bring us closer. In fact, sometimes all the constant going to game, practices and events makes us tired and grumpy and not so nice to each other. But we do it for the kids because the kids are our priority – not always, but often. After all, if they aren’t our priority, whose priority will they be? Do they have to wait until if/when they get married to be first on someone’s list?
  • We believe in putting the person first who is the neediest in the moment. That makes sense. Right?  Sometimes that’s the kids. When they were small, it was often the kids. Sometimes it’s my husband. Sometimes it’s me. The point is, that we want to model sensitivity for our kids. Who is really having a bad day? Who needs some extra attention?  A pat on the back?  A little one on one time?  Trust me. When it’s one of us, we don’t hesitate to make that a priority. Date night is a very important part of our marriage.  But when it’s one of the kids who is the neediest, we aren’t afraid our marriage will suffer because we put the kids first sometimes.
  • Love does not divide. It multiplies. The author of the above mentioned article points out that as much as she loves her children, she loves her husband more. Why? Why does someone have to be loved more? My husband and I are crazy about each other, and we are crazy about our kids. I have never thought of  it as an either/or scenario. Our love created our children. There’s no reason for us to see them as threat to that love.
  • He doesn’t expect me to put him first all the time. If I always put my husband’s needs before our children’s, then our kids will see a man who thinks his needs are more important than theirs. They will see a great marriage built, at least in part, at their expense. We would rather they see a great marriage built on an extravagant all encompassing love. And that guy with the boat? I can’t speak for his wife, but if my husband swam past our drowning children to save me, he would be wasting his effort, because when he finally did get to me, I would kill him – by drowning. I don’t want to always be first. And I wouldn’t want to be married to a man who always wants to be first either.

My marriage is a gift – one I intend to nurture. But one of the gifts of marriage should be that it helps both my husband and me be less selfish.  A marriage built on the idea that someone is more loved, more important than the other members of the family misses the point of marriage.

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19 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Always Put My Husband Before My Kids

  1. Hi there – here from CWBN! This is a really interesting reflection you wrote, and provides some good food for thought from me. I’m a first-time mom with an 8 week old, so my relationship with my husband and our marriage is something that’s hot on my mind at the moment. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Blessings to you!

    1. Hi Elise. Congratulations to you on your new blessing. The baby/kids/marriage balance can be a tricky one. We were attachment parents which naturally involved minimal separation from our kids, co-sleeping, etc. Maybe AP isn’t for everyone, but our children are now 19, 16, 13, and 11, and they are all loving, happy kids who genuinely enjoy spending time with us. As parents, we have not done everything right, but love we got! 🙂

  2. I love this! This is exactly how I feel about my marriage and children. My favorite part of this post is about love multiplying. This is the truth. Thank you for this post!

    1. Ha! So true. I always tell my kids, “You’re all my favorite – just not all at the same time.” I could just as easily say, “I like you all – but some days I like some of you more than others.” 🙂

  3. I love this post. I was raised by a single mother that believed that we all had needs that should be tended too. That meant that if she needed time alone to just sit back and relax, we gave it too her, but if we needed her, she was there for us. We knew that sometimes spending time one on one was important as it helped strengthened the bond.
    She re-married when we where in high school, and he had the belief like that of your friend Dotty, or the man that would save his wife over the kids. And suddenly we when from not being able to have one on one time with our mother. One or twice a year we would have a girls night (my sister, mother, and myself) – usually when we’d been having a hard time getting alone, and needed to reconnect – to help strengthen our bond, and I remember the first time we did this after he came into the picture, he spent the entire night calling and eventually showed up at the restaurant.
    With half my life spent the way you describe, and the other spent the other way, I can say that from personal experience, the second way runs the chance of breading resentment within the family.
    I agree with the statement “Put your self first” because if you don’t nobody else will, I also believe that it takes work and time to build a strong marriage, but when you consider everyone’s needs, you often have a stronger family.

  4. I absolutely agree with one of the first points made – I feel certain that if I were to tell our little bear that I would rescue Daddy first, she would well up, her world would be crushed, along with her confidence. Just ‘no’. Daddy can look after himself, to a degree! #magicmoments

    1. Right. Our kids need to see that together Mommy and Daddy will do whatever it takes. And sometimes it takes getting away by ourselves!

    1. I just read your article. Yes, we are on the same page. I definitely miss the days when our kids went to bed early.

  5. I find that saving her wife instead of his kids a bit weird. I think that the wife would want him to save the kid/kids. I love your view on this topic. Marriage is complicated and parenting is too. For me parenting is something that parents have taken because they know that things will change in the marriage. And priorities will change. I am so happy that my husband wants me to prioritize our son instead of him. As I also understand that he is working harder because we have a son now. #magicmoments

    1. Thanks, Merlinda. It can be a tricky balance, but I think it’s a sign of maturity and a healthy marriage when the parents are able to balance the kids needs with their own without having to establish a hierarchy of love.

  6. Thank you! I’ve seen quite a few of those posts recently, including the one you mention, and it drives me mad. A family unit is where everyone is equal and everyone is important, and as we create those wonderful children with the man we love, they are an extension of our love. Why would you neglect them for him? Also, is this the 1950s?!

    1. Well said! I think there’s something distinctly anti-woman in asking a woman to consistently put someone else before her children. It’s definitely a balance, but always making the kids second doesn’t seem natural.

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