Woman, Wife, Mother, And In That Order: Why My Husband Comes Before Our Kids

62 comments
September 14, 2012 ‐ By madamenoire

From YourTango

By Amber Doty

Less than one month after my husband and I were married—before I even had a chance to mail thank you notes for our wedding gifts—I found myself holding what appeared to be, to my surprise, a positive pregnancy test. Weeks later, in a room lit only by the glow of an ultrasound screen, we learned that our baby’s due date was exactly nine months from our wedding. As it turned out, our new life together wasn’t the only one that began on that spring day.

Eight and a half months into our marriage, while we were still getting comfortable in our roles as husband and wife, we became mom and dad. We were newlyweds and parents. I won’t say that our son was poorly planned—we were both anxious to start our family—but I will say that in hindsight becoming a mother in the same year that you become a wife is not for the weak. The first year of our son’s life was the most difficult of our marriage to date and it is also the year I learned a very important lesson: My husband must always come before our children and, according to a survey of counseling professionals from Your Tango, the lesson is a good one. Half of the experts polled believe that wives should prioritize their husband over their kids. Who Should Be The Priority: Your Husband Or Your Child?

It is an admission often met with outrage when shared with my mom friends, and as novelist Ayelet Waldman knows all too well, with the general public. The wife of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon published a 2005 New York Times essay avowing her love for her husband first before her children, making clear the distinction that while she loves her kids she is not in love with them as she is her with husband. A media firestorm followed, with condemnations from mommy bloggers across the country and an invitation to the Oprah show in order to “explain herself.”

After all, this goes against the golden rule of motherhood, the one that tells us being a good parent means sacrificing all for the happiness and well-being of our children. Putting aside our own needs for theirs is practically a requirement, but, I’m sorry, I’m just not buying it.

Read more about how Amber “baby-proofs” her marriage on YourTango.com.

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  • Pivyque

    “Ninety percent of couples’ marital bliss declines within a year after the birth of their first child, according to a study done by the University of Denver.”
    This is probably because 1 (or both) of the spouses stop making the marriage a priority.

  • Viki

    My mom until this day prioritized my biological dad first and then her children. It still pisses me off and now I’m a grown woman with my own daughter. Because she picked out my dad before her children, she would go out with my dad and I got sexually harassed for many years. Traumatized, lets just say and from a family member. And then came the drugs and she still picked him. He was abusive too, I always asked her to leave him bc obviously he was not a good person. But honestly she was not a good mother and I still love her but no person that is sane should pick her spouse before her children. Now I’m married and I’m happy to say I have a great husband, a good man and a wonderful father to my daughter. But you see, my daugther will always come first to both of us, that is just the way it should be. My love for him is so intense but my love for her is unconditional. I will protect, love, raise her, give her that great childhood and watch her grow until she becomes a lady and no I won’t forget my husband but if we have to make a few sacrifices we will bc we just want the best for our daughter. Plus how can you trust in others to look over ur children? Just so you can have a good time with the spouse? I don’t think so. It happened to me and its not going to happen to my daughter.

  • robin

    what is wrong w/loving your husband, then kids? I love them all unconditionally and would do anything for them all.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JAI4SRENU2A5WKRTELXXYJPDSI Kayla

    Your husband was there before the kids came along, and he will be there when they grow up and leave the home. I have seen it too many times where all the energy,love, time. etc was put into the kids that once they moved out, they had nothing to say to each other, it was like two strangers living in the house. And why on earth would you get married if you feel that one day you two won’t last. Seems to me at least in my opinion that you’re basically planning on the relationship to fail, before it began.

  • Drew Smith

    This is a solid thread. Intelligent people weighing in on the subject, but also taking care to acknowledge differing modes of thought. This is a very macro-level topic; thus, to really be on the same page, you have to form your argument accordingly. I don’t hold a strong opinion on this one, but I’m a certified fan of the folks who wrote about different kinds of love. I suppose I’d lean to the side of agreeing with the author, because you DO have to work at the love you have with your spouse. If you allow your attention to drift for an extended period of time, may the Lord be with you. Meanwhile, teenagers go through years of despising their parents — which would be unacceptable in an intimate relationship — only to find open and loving arms as they reclaim their mental faculties. Lastly, two people putting each other first in love only rains down infinite love on their offspring. It’s not doing Meth while the kids starve; it’s letting them pour their own milk in their Frosted Flakes while you work on a new baby! Good day, people.

  • elsebeth

    It’s simple. When you’re married and have children, don’t forget about your husband. Of course, there are women who have babies out-of-wedlock, so priorities are different in those cases. But when you have a stable relationship, and you want to keep it, you have to put time aside for your husband! Your love for your husband and your children needs to be UNCONDITIONAL.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/thesapphireempress96?feature=results_main A.J.

    I’m all for someone trying to make their family work, and I also believe that a strong marriage is the basis for a good relationship. I also acknowledge that there are some people who go overboard with putting their children over everything and anyone. I don’t agree with this either. There is a distinction between someone making sacrifices for their kids, and giving up everything for their kids. However, it can be very problematic for someone to say that they will always have their spouse come first over their children; the statement doesn’t make any sense. It depends on the situation. The love that someone has for their husband or wife is COMPLETELY different from the love that they have for their child. Just as marriages have become strained over someone neglecting their spouse, just as much (if not more) damage has been caused by people putting their spouse over their children.

    • grateful

      obviously you leave.
      but why is it that people always bring up “what if he is abusive?” whenever we talk about relationships, marriage and love? is this all black women grow up around? are there no healthy marriages in the black community?
      i really need to know

      • redfingerpaint

        My parents met at 18, married at 27, and had me at 30. They have a wonderful, healthy marriage. I hope one day that I can have the same. Not all men are abusive, and the majority of the guys I know aren’t abusive.

        I’m on the put your husband before your kids side. Your kids are yours forever, but your husband can be here today and gone tomorrow. Like I’ve been told in church, the order is God, husband, then kids.

        • Pivyque

          Thank you! At the end of the day, everyone runs their household differently. We go by the way we believe God intends things to be. God, spouse, kids then everything else. It’s worked thus far and I pray that our family will continue to be blessed. There is a difference between nurturing your marriage and neglecting your kid(s). People always want to bring up the most extreme hypothetical situations when trying to prove a point.

      • http://www.youtube.com/user/thesapphireempress96?feature=results_main A.J.

        Not necessarily. I was surrounded by healthy, strong relationships and marriages, and have used that as a pattern for my own life. The abuse issue is not just a Black thing, it’s a woman’s issue. The reason people bring it up is because we hear and see and hear about so many cases of women staying in relationships that are dangerous to themselves and their kids because they don’t want to be without a man, and put his needs above theirs and those of the children’s. Obviously this is not the norm, but it begs consideration.

        • grateful

          ok. i think what needs to be understood is that there is a difference between cleaving to a man in needyness and insecurity vs making your spouse a priority.this does not mean when the baby cries at night you”ll opt to have s*x instead, of course tend to the baby and then get back to hubby. like i stated earlier in a healthy relationship hubby will understand and have no resentment to you doing so.
          nobody should stay in a bad relationship because of stupid reasons, but these are the minority so i have to keep wondering why people keep bringing them up…oh well.
          good talking to ya!

          • http://www.youtube.com/user/thesapphireempress96?feature=results_main A.J.

            Same here!

      • guest

        Ok but that is exactly their point….if you leave, then the love is not unconditional.

  • Ashley

    I personally believe the type of love for a husband is different than the type of love you have for your children. Yet, I must agree with the author. To me, marriage is the first institution created by God. When that relationship is in order then there is a functional and stable foundation for the home and children. When the husband or wife comes first, then both individuals’ needs will be met which will ultimately teach your children how to have a healthy relationship with the opposite sex and show the importance and seriousness of a marriage. Yes, there will be arguments between spouses and you won’t agree on everything, but it’s how you deal with the arguments and settle the issues that will reflect your love for one another and help in your child’s learning and understanding of relationships. Just because one chooses their spouse above the children DOES NOT mean that they love them more than the children. That’s just my take on it :-)

  • http://twitter.com/EMPOLLA Mitchell

    This is obviously just a TV show but on The Cosby Show they put their marriage first; before all them kids.

    Stronger marriage is better for the entire family. If one side feels neglected whether that be man or woman the marriage suffers. Since love for your kids is unconditional, doesn’t it make sense to make your husband the number one priority; as that love will require constant work.

    Clearly I’m in the minority over here though.

    • Ashley

      Agreed!!

    • Drew Smith

      Concise, and awesome point. Strong work.

  • flyguy

    Nikia, Jan is right when you lose the relationship everybody suffer. Your spouse comes before the kids. Think about all the bad that comes with divorce and how it affect you your spouse and the kids. You put your spouse first SO YOU DON’T GET DIVORCE. i ‘M speaking because it happen to me my ex put her daugther the boy friend her mom, job the dog and everything before me.

  • helado31

    why would you have children if you don’t want to love them unconditionally? I think that’s more horrid than having an abortion. My mother put my father before us, he left her and now she is loosing her marbles. Some women have children to keep a man and then put that man on a pedestal just to say that they have someone. That is the biggest mistake that you can ever make.

    • redfingerpaint

      It’s not that you don’t love your children unconditionally. By not neglecting your spouse, you show your kids what love looks like.

  • flyguy

    I have been saying this for years… this unconditional love thing is fancy words they tell couples that sound good. Your love for you mate is CONDITIONA. Why do you think there are so many people getting divorce, when their condition is not meet they leave. Only my kids get unconditional love it’s forever but not my mate i have conditional love for her. If most of my condition are meet i’m there if not i’m gone.

    • lol

      thank you for answering your own question (the reason why the divorce rate is so high). the minute your needs are not met, you’re gone. how about the minute your spouse’s needs aren’t met? i bet you are one of those men who complain talkin’ bout ” women ain’t what they used to be, leave when the bad times hit ya”.

      • flyguy

        You sound angry sorry… it’s the same for her lady..not at the drop of a hat i’m talking months and years of your needs not being meet.

  • Wood

    The thing is, they didn’t decide to become children, but YOU made the conscious decision to become a parent. Don’t neglect your spouse, but the kids are the first priority, always.

  • Jan

    I think in terms of making the family unit work smoothly was what the writer had in mind. I too heard this a few months ago from a preacher. When he said it at first I had my eyebrows raised but when he explained how loving your spouse before your children motivates the partner to be better in all things including household, children, finances, feelings, etc. Kids also benefit. So its not to say bump the kids and focus solely on the husband.. Who could really do that?

  • Jan

    I think in terms of making the family unit work smoothly was what the writer had in mind. I too heard this a few months ago from a preacher. When he said it at first I had my eyebrows raised but when he explained how loving your spouse before your children motivates the partner to be better in all things including household, children, finances, feelings, etc. Kids also benefit. So its not to say bump the kids and focus solely on the husband.. Who could really do that?

  • James Kennedy

    This is what a male poster wrote on this issue:
    “As someone that is [in] a marriage in which the wife chose to prioritize the children over the relationship, I can say that it really sucks. Now we are at the point the kids will all be out of the house and we have nothing upon which to base our marriage. And I was told point blank that I was not as important as the kids.”

    If my wife told me something like this I would pack my bags and leave. Because we all know how a woman would feel if her husband told his wife “You are not as important as the kids”. This is why you sit down and discuss the process of raising children before you actually have children!

    • http://www.facebook.com/nikia.dshiznit Nikia D-Shiznit

      The process does not include loving spouse “more.” You have to work harder at that kind of love because it isn’t unconditional like loving your child. Stop comparing two different kinds of love. They will never equate on any level. People starting to sould like Freude.

      • James Kennedy

        For starters, don’t ever tell me what to do. You’re not in a position of power so don’t come on here like you’re in control of something. Secondly, if a woman wants to put her children before the husband so be it. She just needs to understand the decision she made when I put everyone else including my mistress before her. Case closed.

        • Pivyque

          Oh my! Mistress? Why not just divorce her rather than step outside of your marriage?

        • http://www.facebook.com/nikia.dshiznit Nikia D-Shiznit

          I suppose this^^^^^ is unconditional love. Case closed.

      • Pivyque

        My love for my husband IS unconditional. Just as God placed this child in our lives, he placed my husband and I together. How can you not love your blessing (be it husband or child) unconditionally?

        • flyguy

          Ok that mean no matter what you will always love your husband…are you hearing yourself…so if he start beating your azzz are you still going to love him?

          • Pivyque

            I would love the memory of him. Lol If he ever beat me, I would kill him..in self defense of course. On a serious note though, I would still love him. That doesn’t mean that I would stay with him. We would divorce, but that divorce is not going to erase 10+ years of deeply embedded feelings. I would be lying if I said that it would.

            • Firedancer

              Welcome to my world, because the moment my husband started beating me in front of our child… if he was on fire, I would walk right past him, then dance on the ashes. All love was lost after that.

              • Pivyque

                I’m sorry to hear that happened to you but I am glad that you got out of that situation.

                • Firedancer

                  Thanks, but I reading about your marriage it gives me hope that there are better marriages out there.

    • Pivyque

      I agree with you. My husband comes first and that is no secret. As long as neither one of us mistreats the kids in any way, we will continue to put each other first. Our marriage is a garden that needs to be watered/fertilized daily. A child is born into that unconditional love (in most cases). A lot of women cater to their kids and forget about their husbands. I was a wife before I became a mother. Therefore, I will continue to be a woman, wife and mother. <–In that order lol

      • victoria

        Wait…you said that you love your husband unconditionally. Then you state, ”As long as neither one of us mistreats the kids in any way, we will continue to put each other first.” That’s not unconditional- Unconditional means NO MATTER WHAT. This includes if he mistreated the kids… It cant be uncnditional when you attach an AS LONG AS to it
        My children were born into a very loving, traditional home. They see my husband as the head of the family. They see us come together when making decisions. They see us a united front.

        • Pivyque

          I said my LOVE is unconditional (meaning that I will LOVE him no matter what). Him coming first IS conditional. Just as my job is to take care of my husband, my job is to protect our children. I’m sorry that you seemed to have confuse the two. Loving him unconditionally and putting him first are 2 different things.

  • http://twitter.com/howlinglove HowlingLove

    This is a very inflammatory declaration. It’s dangerous and irresponsible.
    While I completely understand the “idea”. It’s not explained in an intelligently loving way. People can take this in a very, very wrong way. Families are not at their best presently. Child abuse is still alarmingly high as is domestic violence. This “idea” doesn’t have the space right now. And may not have it for while to come.
    I too remember Waldman’s book and what entailed. And I’ll always remember her appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She’d ran herself into an intellectual wall and realized that she couldn’t articulate this notion in a healthy way. Upon discussion she’d brought own self to TEARS imagining her daughter feeling unloved and not prioritized by her!
    The bottom line, is that life is really all about family. FAIMLY comes first. FAMILY comes first.

    • grateful

      i understand your concerns , really i do but looking at the way my parents did it, nobody ever lacked for anything (like lol). whenever i wanted something from my mom i almost always got it. she made time for my dad, me and my siblings and herself. and yes if my dad was hurting me (he would never) she would have kicked him to the curb and protected me. same with him when she felt i was disrespecting him she told me so.
      one’s marriage is usually the first thing to be neglected in a demanding schedule, so when you put spouse first what you’re basically saying is “i’m making time for you because you are important to me”.
      you know why my mom could do all of the things i listed?
      because her needs were being taken care off, by my dad.
      when you’re a woman who has married a good man and take the time to make him feel loved and cared for he does the same for you. my dad always made time for us too, partly because he loved us and was our dad and partly because he knew it was important to our mom. also because it took the weight off of her shoulders as the primary care giver. she could have time for herself too, or do other things.sometimes if i needed something even though my dad was doing something with my mom he would tell her to tend to me first and him later, because he wasn’t feeling neglected, he knew he was important to her too.

      • Pivyque

        Well said. This is how my parents were growing up and this is how I run my household.

  • victoria

    Personally, I love my children unconditionally. I dont have unconditional love for my husband. I will sacrifice to ALL extent for my kids. Not for my husband. And I love my husband very much. Cant imigine not spending the rest of my life with him.

    • http://www.facebook.com/nikia.dshiznit Nikia D-Shiznit

      Thank you.

    • James Kennedy

      How would you feel if your husband came home and told you ” I love our children unconditionally, but I don’t have unconditional love for you. I will sacrifice to all extend for out children, but not for you as my wife”. How would that make you feel? Because if I were your husband and found out you felt this way about me I’d file for divorce. IJS…

      • victoria

        An example, if I got pregnant with another man’s child my husband will be out the door and the love he has for me will eventually fade. Im not going to pretend my husband loves me unconditionally.
        Also, should a wife put her 2nd husband, the stepdad, before her children? Or does this only apply to the biolgical dad?
        Lol. Clearly, you are not married b/c this little discussion should never lead to divorce.

        • James Kennedy

          Of course you wouldn’t think it should lead to divorce because you’re the one saying it. If I came home and told you “I love our children more than I love you” I guarantee you would have a problem with it. You’d sit up all night in bed and contemplate what I said, how I said it, and why I said it. There’s no way in the world I’m going to believe you wouldn’t be upset, even offended by being told you’re not all that important especially in regards to the children. People say men have fragile ego’s but in reality women are far more likely to take offense to this. This is very similar to a man telling his wife he loves he mother more than you. How would you feel hearing this?

          • victoria

            It’s about unconditional love. If I asked my husband if he loved me unconditionally and he said yes, I wouldnt believe it. Forget the kids scenerio; even if we didnt have kids I know that he has limits on our love. Because he is human. My husband and I have a strong bond. And if he told me that he loved our childre more I wouldnt be offended. It wouldnt bother me. Because I know our love is strong; we are a great couple. And actually, I talked to my husband about the difference between a mother’s love and a wife’s love. He didnt agree, but that was it. It didnt turn into an argument, a heated discussion (not my husbanb’s style), and certainly didnt consider divorce.

      • Daija

        I’d say that’s fine, we seem to be in the same boat because I love them more than I love you.. IJS

      • ep

        exactly, james! i dont understand how you dont unconditionally love the wo/man you chose to bring life into this world w/? what kind of backwards logic is that?! o_O

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/thesapphireempress96?feature=results_main A.J.

      You nailed it. There is a bond that is formed between mother and child that is not the same as a bond between husband and wife. There is an instinct to protect and nurture that child; to see to their safety and make sure that they come out alright. That’s probably one of the things which makes your marriage so strong in the first place.

  • grateful

    i agree with the experts. in decision making, spouse before kids. in life-and-death situations, kids before spouse.putting your spouse first does not mean you don’t love your kids and it doesn’t mean they are neglected. in fact, you’ll find both of you will be able to give them a lot more because both of your own needs are taken care of already.

    • BBBEE25TEE

      That’s a great way of breaking it down. Life and Death situation kids first!

      • grateful

        thanks ;>)

    • victoria

      I do agree concerning decision making in MOST instances. However, I witnessed a situation with family members…the child was a drug addict and the stepdad didnt want his family, including his wife, the mother, to have anything to do with the son. In that instance, I will have to place my child first. i dont believe in giving up on your child. I may have compromised that the son isnt allowed in the home. But to cut him off completely, I cant do that.

      • grateful

        i hear you, really i do ,and quite frankly i generally recommend this “spouse1st” thing to no-kids-1st -marriage folks. it can work in other situations too but this really depends on the character and type of adults involved.
        but i do wonder though in the situation you mentioned;
        1) did the kid become an addict before or after these 2 got together?
        2) if before , was the situation discussed? if so what did they agree upon?
        3)whatever the answers to the 1st 2 questions what kind of history do these 2 have (stepdad and stepson) ? is he the only stepchild? if not, how is stepdad’s relationship with other stepkids?
        i would have to know these things so that i can further deduce for myself what is really going on. this man might be doing this because that is exactly how he would treat his own kid if they were an addict or he could be doing it because he didn’t like the idea of having stepkids and is just trying to get rid of him(yes, some men date women with kids with no intention of forming a bond with said kids). or keeping the kid around is becoming a huge expense both financially (addicts steal) and emotionally so even though he might love him stepdad still thinks he needs to go.
        this is 1 reason why i stick to dating men with no kids.

        • victoria

          The husband is a strong, loving, hard workig man. The good type. Maybe not a man I, personally, would like to be married to… he’s a little on the dictator side. Not abusive. But it works for their marriage. They were married in their 40s. No biological children between them. I cant recall if the son was an addict before, but he is a bad case, steals, distroys their home (which he doesnt live in, but stays the night against the husband’s wishes), takes advantage of the wife. So I see why the husband doesnt want the wife to deal with him. It could be a tough love thing or a protection thing. I agree with the husband when he says their money should not be given to the son (Im not sure if she still gives him money). Before I became a mother I would’ve said, ”Stand by your husband on this one.” But as a mother I cant see myself cutting off my child. I do believe it tough love, but to what extent I will demonstrate that tough love is hard to say. He’s a great guy and I would hate for this situation to tear their marriage apart. But I, personally, wouldnt support my husband in a decision if it meant disowning my son.
          Some in my family believe that for her own peace, she should. I couldn’t do it.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/thesapphireempress96?feature=results_main A.J.

      The problem is that there are some people who, in a life and death situation, actually would put their spouse before their children.

  • Kimster

    Welp, that’s one way to ensure that your children are no where around for you when you’re old and gray.

    • lol

      not at all. my parents did this and because i’m doing really well and i’m grateful for their love and care i’m about to tell them to retire because i can take care of them.

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