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.