Kids Come Second?

Two years ago, the New York Times Modern Love column ran an essay that got stuck, apparently permanently, in that large storage space between my ears where the mommy wars simmer. The author, Ayelet Waldman, wrote in Truly, Madly, Guilty that after four kids and 12 years together, she was still in love with her husband -- and that she was not in love with her children. "If a good mother is one who loves her child more than anyone else in the world, I am not a good mother," she wrote. "I am in fact a bad mother. I love my husband more than I love my children." Her candor set off a firestorm of criticism from other moms who wrote the Times angry letters and blogged in rage that a mother could place her husband above her children.

And now someone else has reignited the debate. Despite commenters Mehitabel, Gottabeanon and Patrick pontificating on my admitted "fascination with bimbos," I will bravely risk "sinking to a new low of irrelevancy and bimbodumb," by bringing up People Magazine. In the November 19th issue, there is a large, splashy piece about the musician Seal and his wife, the model Heidi Klum, dishing about "Their Sexy Marriage Secrets" after two years of marriage and three children ages three and under.

I hate marriage advice, especially from two of the most impossibly beautiful, professionally successful human beings on the planet. And theirs is particularly inane: 1) Find Common Ground; 2) Seize the Moment; 3) Commitment and Respect; 4) Embrace Both the Big and Small Gesture. And...drum roll...5) Put Each Other First...Even Before the Kids!

"Heidi is No. 1 at all times, then it's the kids --- then it's health and career," Seal explains. Heidi agrees. "When the children are old...it will be you and I."

My husband is on a business trip so I'll admit it: My kids come first. Maybe this will lead to us throwing china at each other one day, but I don't have a choice. If a bus were barreling down on my family, I'd push the kids out of the way first. I sure hope my husband would do the same. It's not a right or wrong thing or a deliberate choice. It's just the way I'm made. For me, "balance" means accepting this reality.

So what about you? Do you feel pressure to choose between spouse and kids? Who comes first? Can anyone make a conscious choice to prioritize beloved and kids? Do you priorities change as your children grow older? Do you feel guilty about your priorities? Why does this issue warrant newspaper stories, magazine articles, and marital advice from celebrities?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  November 14, 2007; 7:45 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
Previous: View from the Front Lines | Next: How Not to Write About Parenthood


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Comments

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I'm pretty sure I speak for both my husband and myself when I say that the kids come first. I kind of admire people who say their spouses come first, because part of me feels that's really the way it should be. And hopefully, as my children get older and become more independent, that's the way things will go. We work at our relationship to make sure we don't lose sight of the fact that we are in it for the long haul and there's no other place we'd rather be.

As for celebrity advice, I think they live in such a different world than I do, that, while I'd read the advice (yes, I sometimes read People magazine), I'd probably not put it into action. Had we but world enough and money, everything would get boring sooner or later.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | November 14, 2007 7:56 AM

I can't provide too much comment on this as my husband and I don't have a child yet. However, I would hope that as with everything there should be balance as to who is first. I think that there are times where your child should come first and times where your husband should come first. One of the things I worry about as I try to enter motherhood is losing the wonderful relationship with my husband. It is my thought that in order to keep the relationship where it is that I will need to place this relationship first at times. And, the relationship will need to become flexible so it can place the needs of the child first.

I believe that a couple needs to maintain a strong relationship in order to provide a good home in which to raise a child. If the relationship is neglected post-child, I don't know how its strength can be maintained and I think it would impact the child.

I am interested to hear what others with a child/children have to say. This is certainly a topic my husband and I have discussed as we start trying for #1.

Posted by: Thought | November 14, 2007 8:03 AM

If it were one of those bizarre scenarios where I have to choose saving the life of my husband or my daughter, I choose my daughter. My husband also chooses my daughter. We're in agreeement there.

I think it's how you define "putting someone first." My daughter requires more nurturing. She's an infant. Is that putting her first? Then I'm guilty. I choose putting money in retirement before her college fund. Is that putting my marriage first? Then I'm guilty. My marriage is different than before the baby, but it's still great, and I still adore my husband. I put my family first, sure, but I'm not comfortable saying my child or my husband comes first.

And, no, I don't listen to celebrities. The super rich are not real people. Sorry. They have nothing to offer me.

Posted by: atb2 | November 14, 2007 8:03 AM

Second! (chomp!)

Posted by: nonamehere | November 14, 2007 8:03 AM

darn, not even second!


Patrick is spelled pATRICK, BTW

Posted by: nonamehere | November 14, 2007 8:04 AM

Somebody, tell me: what is putting your spouse first? What does that even mean? When is there a choice between kids and spouse? The baby's crying, but I want to enjoy our dinner? My teen wants me to go with her to get her nails done, but it's date night? Seriously, what does this mean?

Posted by: atb2 | November 14, 2007 8:08 AM

I think what Waldman meant is that the passion/committment has to remain a priority for the family to go strong. I think this does 2 things: it helps keep the couple together, it helps them make decisions as a pair (regarding childrearing and running the household and so many other things), and it helps the children understand that they are not the center of the universe (a useful lesson, in my opinion). The families I've known where the children become the center end up seeming like the parents are just coexisting. I don't live with them so I cannot know what goes on behind closed doors, but the appearance is of no warmth or spark between the parents. I suppose one could maintain a relationship like that for a long time, but I find it sad.

Posted by: ninny | November 14, 2007 8:15 AM

I think what Ayelet Waldman is saying & what Seal & Heidi are saying is different.

I read Waldman's piece & was very struck by it. She said she would be more devastated by the death of her husband than the death of one of their children. Because they could have another child, but without her husband she could hardly imagine going on with life. She would go on, for the sake of the children, but in a black and joyless world. So I think that's pretty clear that her husband is first to her, because it is instinctive to protect children. I think if my husband and I were in front of a bus and some children who were strangers were there, I might very well push THEM out of the way. At the same time, this is just what Waldman says and I hope that her feelings on this matter will never be tested.

Seal & Heidi to me are just saying the kind of advice that is sometimes expressed, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" or "The best gift you can give your children is to love their mother." That is, don't forget your marriage and when parents are appreciated by each other, it improves life for the family as a whole.

Posted by: ssolnick | November 14, 2007 8:17 AM

Hello all, it's been a little while.

When ProudMama went into labor, she wanted me to promise that if there were complications I would choose the baby's health/survival over hers.

I would not make that commitment.

I had never met my baby boy at that point and if faced with such a difficult choice I know I would have chosen my wife, my partner, who I am committed to spending the rest of my life with over a baby I haven't built a relationship with yet.

It's an horrific choice we are talking about but I know where I stand.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | November 14, 2007 8:24 AM

"It's not a right or wrong thing or a deliberate choice."

Why the need to write a blog about the choice?

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 14, 2007 8:26 AM

ProudPapa, yours is the same choice a husband of a close friend of mine said he would make if something happened to her while she was in labor. Everything went well and they now have a beautiful child, but if something had gone wrong he also would have chosen his wife.

It is a hard choice and one I hope very few if anyone has to make.

Posted by: Thought | November 14, 2007 8:37 AM

Proud Papa - I agree with you totally. Sophie's choice decisions are horrifying, but I would want my husband to choose me.

Even Ann Landers and Dear Abby say the marriage is first, then kids. Note I said marriage, not the spouse. They are referring to normal every-day decisions, not Sophie's choice decisions.

Posted by: dotted_1 | November 14, 2007 8:41 AM

Why are Seal's and Heidi's advice, so "inane?" Sometimes it is the simplest advice that is the most difficult to follow, even in the most difficult parts of marriage. I'm newly married, but have been with my partner for many years. The simple things -- remember one another, be considerate, love each other, revel in the smallest things, KISS one another every day -- these are the easiest to forget when life and work are busy. On our wedding day, the most common advice we got from couples ... even those who have been married for 35+ years... was simple: LISTEN. LOVE. UNDERSTAND. COMPRIMISE.

So simple. So "inane," as the blogger pointed out. But so true.

Posted by: dennaj | November 14, 2007 8:47 AM

Proud Papa and Thought- I'm sure your wives appreciated your concern for their lives when they were in labor, but that's a choice you would never have had to make. Seriously, once you're in the delivery room, there just aren't any possible scenarios in which you'd have to choose mom or baby.

Posted by: barfster | November 14, 2007 8:51 AM

Dotted, do you really listen to Ann Landers and Dear Abby's advice about marriage??? I'm stunned. I always thought their marital advice as inane as HeidiSeal's. (Although their toilet paper roll solutions were pretty nifty.)

These comments are all really interesting. Like so much in life, it's rarely a stark Sophie's Choice kind of dilemma. I hope none of us ever truly have to "decide" who to push out of the bus's path (and I'm with you, SSolnick, that I'd probably push anyone's children out of the way first -- basic maternal instinct applies to all kids).

WorkingMomX, I'm with you in admiring people who say their spouse comes first. I admire that depth of love -- it seems very romantic. I get it that a strong marriage is critical for children's happiness. In a way, putting your marriage "first" is a longerm form of putting your children "first" too. But I do not feel the way Ayelet Waldman does, that I could get over a child's death more easily than my husband's death.

And I think what Waldman was saying is that she doesn't have a choice in her feelings -- it is just how she is made. So despite my admiration for her marriage, I cannot imitate her approach.

Posted by: leslie4 | November 14, 2007 8:52 AM

I would choose my kids any day. Hopefully you don't have to make that choice. I brought these kids into the world. They did not choose to come into this world. Unlike spouses, they don't choose who gets to be their parents. I love my husband and I think it is very important to constantly work at the relationship. I think the committment to marriage is very important and I hope to be married till I die. I also think that people are meant to go forth in the world two by two. I don't think you should get soo wrapped up in your kids that you neglect your marriage. Because the natural order of things is that kids grow up, leave home (after yesterday-we wonder when), and form their own lives. So you better have a decent marriage in place or you are going to be miserable. But in life or death choices, I would choose my kids and I would expect and want my husband to do the same. As far as death of a spouse, to certain degree there is an expectation that one of you will out live the other. But that is never expected with a child. I have never met anyone who has gotten over the death of a child. They simply learned to live with it. I know 80 year old people, who have been widowed and found another companion. How do you ever find another child replace the one you lost? Saying you are putting marriage in the fore front over silly over blown kid issues is a good thing. But it is very differnt then saying that you love your spouse more then your child.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 14, 2007 9:05 AM

ProudPapa, welcome back! I just figured you were still out celebrating the Virginia elections last week.

While I agree philosophically with your choice (it's what I would choose, too) it was made clear to me at both hospitals where our children were born that it was NOT my choice - it was DW's and DW's alone. In other words (even though as a practical matter it just doesn't happen any more, as barfster said) they asked DW about it ahead of time and they were going with what SHE said. I did not have the right to overrule her once things had started.

(The hospital in Colorado Springs made it clear that they had no choice in the matter - "women's bodies, women's choice".)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 14, 2007 9:08 AM

Well this is way too easy for me -- I'm divorced! But I am more than a little envious of Waldman's relationship with her husband. I think it's great for the kids to see that and I worry (because I do it so well) that my kids are growing up without seeing what a solid and passionate parental relationship is like. That said, I'm hardly running out each night in search of a relationship like Waldman's -- and that's because I put my children first!

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 14, 2007 9:08 AM

For me the answer to the question of who do you love more--kids or husband--is I love them both the same amount but in different ways. Who would I save if both my kid and my husband were drowning? My kid, hands down. And while I can't fathom life without my husband, the thing I honestly don't know how I would bear is losing one of my kids. I have a friend who lost her 5 year-old a few years ago in a car accident and I literally can't imagine how she has gone on living after that; it was almost 5 years ago and I still think of that little girl almost constantly and mourn for her and she wasn't even my kid.

That said, what I don't agree with is the concept that kids preempt a marriage to the point that the whole relationship between a husband and wife becomes basically ships passing in the kitchen between runs to and from school, sports, work, etc. I'd say that 9 out of 10 couples I know have marriages like this. The weirdest and saddest to me are the couples where the parents either sleep with a kid between them in bed or, worse yet, one parent sleeps with a kid and the other parent either sleeps with the other kid or alone in a different room. Not only is this SUCH a bad example of what marriage is supposed to be, but it is basically ensuring that one or both spouses will end up cheating at some point.

It also puts an unfair burden on kids when parents center their lives around them because whether a parent like that realizes it or not they must then seek adult satisfaction from the kids because they're not getting it from adult interaction. For instance, I know parents who wear their dedication to their kids like a badge of honor--"sorry, my kids come first and my husband (or wife) knows he/she comes second" (yes, I have heard this exact statement more than once)--but then have basically no relationship with their spouse so have to look to their kids for social interaction and emotional support. These are the parents who treat their kids like friends, telling them too many details of their own lives, bashing the other parent or depending on the kids to be their constant companions. Yes, family night is a great thing--but ALWAYS making it family night, or "girl's night" for a mother and daughter, and never having it be date night for a mom and dad is, to me, the eventual death knell of the marriage.

Ultimately kids grow up and go on to live their own lives and if you want to grow old with your spouse you need to make sure there's a relationship there by the time that happens. I don't see how people can expect to ignore their relationship or put it on an 18 year hold then turn to each other once the last kid leaves for college and just pick up where they left off.

And as far as sex goes--the whole "I'm just too tired" or "there's no time" or "the kids will hear us"--just doesn't cut it. To me sex is part of adult life and if you're not getting it in your marriage it's just a matter of time until one or both of you end up getting that need met outside the marriage.

Posted by: maggielmcg | November 14, 2007 9:12 AM

Why are we making the assumption you have to choose? I put my wife and both kids on equal footing. If we assume you have to prioritize then doesn't that mean everyone with more than 1 kid has to priortize them too? i.e. you'd push kid 2 out of the way before kid 3? WHy not just try and push them all at once?

Posted by: happydad | November 14, 2007 9:13 AM

For purposes of this discussion, I read, "putting your spouse first" as, "don't forget that the fundamental structure for this family is a strong and happy marriage." Without focusing on your spouse, it's easy to get to a point where every conversation and every social event is focused on one or all of your children -- their needs, their ups, their downs, their upcoming activities, their recitals or theatrical productions or band competitions. We've all seen marriages where the participants stopped doing all of the things that they enjoyed and that drew them together in the first place, stopped sharing thoughts and emotions unrelated to the kids or the job, and started putting every ounce of emotional energy into their kids. It takes deliberate effort to put your spouse first, to prioritize date night over assisting your child in studying for that spelling test or in kicking around ideas for that science project. It's easier - at least for some of us - to parent than it is to be a thoughtful, focused spouse. It takes conscious effort to acknowledge that your marriage needs more attention.

It's in my childrens' best interest that their parents model successful marriage. We can send them out into the world with no better gift. IMHO.

Posted by: MN | November 14, 2007 9:13 AM

Waldman is playing the "who do you love more" game. I don't love my child and husband the same, so I can't compare. I do know for sure that losing my daughter would be much more horrible than losing my husband. My fiance was killed 10 years ago, and then I met my husband. I know I can recover from that kind of loss. Maybe I'm biologically compelled to choose children, any children. They need us. We protect and care for them. But these are deeper, more dramatic choices. Day to day you should nurture your marriage, especially since, in my case, it's easier to love a baby. I put more effort into my marriage. I don't have a choice about caring for my daughter, but I do for my marriage.

Posted by: atb2 | November 14, 2007 9:13 AM

Waldman lumps several different emotions together into her claim that she loves her husband more than her kids. She's more attracted to her husband and enjoys his company more than her kids. HOw is that abnormal? Her claim, however, that she would be less devastated by the deaths of her kids than of her husband is totally foreign to me. I agree with her that it is hard to visualise life after one's spouse's death, but if my kids died, that would definitely be worse. I attribute this to empathy: I empathize with my kids' pain more than with my spouse's, because they are younger and less able to handle it. Waldman seems to lack empathy with her kids.

Posted by: jcadam | November 14, 2007 9:17 AM

How many marriages have I seen break up after the kids were born? PLENTY. I asked one spouse why his marriage broke up and he said, "my wife looked at me as a piece of furniture. I didn't exist." How many marriages have we seen where the kids take over their lives and they forget why they even married in the first place? I know couples that haven't had sex in YEARS because the kids take every impulse out of them. What a role model of a good relationship for kids! Then the marriage breaks up and the kids have to suffer through a broken home.

Enough said. Clearly, this is not an inane discussion.

Posted by: dennaj | November 14, 2007 9:25 AM

I don't have a problem with celebrities giving marital advice, but you need to have more than 2 years experience to have any credibility with me. I'm most interested in advice from couples who seem happily married 15+ years.

Posted by: raraca1 | November 14, 2007 9:33 AM

Okay this one I have a story for.

My daughter's labour was traumatic and she was born blue and I was not doing that well myself. The neonatal team was about to whisk her away and my husband turned to me and didn't even have to say anything; he looked torn. I told him to go with the baby and he did without a second glance - I swear I watched him become a father just like that, not a biological parent but a FATHER.

Although we had been married over 10 years at that point I had NEVER loved him as much as I loved him right then. I cannot explain how powerful it was to know that he would go and look after her just like that.

All of which is to say that I think that where a relationship is healthy, there is no need to balance love out - there is simply more and more of it.

Yes, sometimes one person or one relationship needs more TIME, and time is definitely limited. But when my husband and I are too busy dealing with the latest cold to get down and dirty - guess what? Filling up the humidifier and getting out the dreaded nose bulb is love too.

Having said all that, a family member of mine went through discovering that her girls' father was molesting them and she immediately chose her kids and good for her. Sometimes there are situations like that, but hopefully they are extremely rare.

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | November 14, 2007 9:35 AM

Weldman seems to be equating material love with a love that has an erotic compontent. The two are different and freestanding in relation to each other. The value of each love may be the same but they cannot be judged in the same context. To judge the grief for the loss of a spouse verses a child is spurious.

Many individuals do "recover" from the loss of a spouse or a child. Many do not. The pain is still there in either case. It comes down to a matter of acceptance that death is the one inveitable in life.

On the issue of the unborn child verses the mother, I personally know people who have had to make that choice. It came down to this, do you sacrifice yourself for the unborn child or the spouse and children living now?

Posted by: Fred | November 14, 2007 9:36 AM

With a 50% US divorce rate, it's not the Spouse at all. More like Job, Dog, everything else, Kids.

Posted by: richierichsr | November 14, 2007 9:38 AM

Wapo ate my post so I'll try for a secon time.

Again, MN writes more eloquently than I do.

Yes, Leslie, I do pay attention to what Ann Landers and Dear Abby wrote about marriage. I remember reading their advice over 20 years ago. It struck a chord in me. My own parents put their marriage first and they've been happily married for over 50 years. I tried to live it. When #1 son married a couple of years ago, he spoke to us about our good marriage example. As MN wrote "I can think of no better gift".

Posted by: dotted_1 | November 14, 2007 9:39 AM

Shandra -- What an amazing story. Thanks for sharing it. (It would have made a great Guest Blog!!!)

Anne Saunders, with her characteristic candor, wrote "I am more than a little envious of Waldman's relationship with her husband." I too am envious of this kind of deep love. Do you think envy, masquerading as maternal superiority, is why Waldman's piece provoked such an angry reaction from readers?

Posted by: leslie4 | November 14, 2007 9:42 AM

To be sure there are times when it comes down to making a choice that puts a child/children above one's self, a marriage, partnership and other times when the reverse would be true. At this point in my life (near 40, two young children and a 15 yr old marriage, I don't see how the choices I've made have always placed one individual above all else. It's really been a mixed bag as far as choices have dictated. My great hope for my own children is that my husband and I show them the importance of building a life with someone where each individual is valued and has the requisite self-esteem to look at available choices in a way that maximizes personal happiness and the commitments we make as partners and parents.

Posted by: rlcooperman | November 14, 2007 9:45 AM

I'm with MN. This isn't about who you'd push out of the way of a bus -- you push the kids. Grownups can protect themselves; kids can't, so it's your job to do it for them. I'm with the earlier poster who said she'd push anyone's kids out of the way first (of course, I'd hope to be yelling a warning at my husband while diving for the kids). I would hope and expect my husband to do the same.

This is about how your family life is focused: are the parents the center of the household, or are the kids? Do you have a basic core of "parent(s)" around whom the kids revolve? Or does it all revolve around the kids?

Theoretically, I'm in the former category. But practically, I don't always live up to that. Kids do need a lot of time and attention and energy -- and they WANT even more, and will happily suck up all you can give them. Whereas parents, being adults, are a little better at pushing off their own needs without whining or tantrums (well, you'd hope). So it's very, very easy to fall into the habit of thinking, ok, I've been traveling, so now that I'm back I'll spend a lot of time with my daughter; my husband's a big boy, he can wait. Squeaky wheel getting the grease and all -- the kids whine and sulk when they don't get attention; the husband just goes off to play computer games, so it's easiest to give the kids what they need, figuring that you'll have time for your husband tomorrow, next week, next month. But then suddenly you realize that a month's gone by and you haven't gone out on a date or had more than dinner-table conversation -- plus now your daughter is completely spoiled because It's All About Her.

The problem is that reversing course basically requires swimming upstream -- it takes real force of will to disengage from the kids, who are in your face and vocal when they don't get what they want, and instead pay attention to your husband, who (one would hope) is not. That's why people say marriage is work -- it's not because you don't want to spend time with your husband, it's that you have to commit yourself to doing that even when it would be easier to just push it off for a day or a week or a month because work or the kids or the clients or the sports teams or the homework or -- gasp -- sleep seems more important at that moment in time. Because there's ALWAYS going to be something that seems more urgent.

Posted by: laura33 | November 14, 2007 9:54 AM

Barfster, I am the wife. :)

I can't imagine any scenario in which one would need to make the choice, but the idea of childbirth really scares me. So, I tend to envision some of the more "worst case scenarios".

Posted by: Thought | November 14, 2007 9:55 AM


"Do you think envy, masquerading as maternal superiority, is why Waldman's piece provoked such an angry reaction from readers?" Leslie4


I read Waldman's article as more narcissism than anything. I have the impression that her love for her spouse was more a reflection of her love of self.

If I were Anne, I would not be too envious of this and as jcadam pointed out, she seems to lack empathy for her children.

Posted by: Fred | November 14, 2007 9:55 AM

I don't see how you have to have your spouse "first" to have a successful happy marriage? As in the title of this blog, balance, is the key. When the children are small, their is an imbalance. They need more than an adult. As my children have gotten older, there has been more time for the marriage. However, when time is limited I would prefer that my husband spend time with the children because they need him in a way that I don't. I understand why he might be working and not spending time with me, they don't. We had a number of years, just the two of us, before we had children that I believe has provided us with a solid foundation, strong enough to weather the inevitable inattention that comes with children. We go on regular dates and "check-in" to make sure we are both getting what we need. Every year, it gets easier and there is more us. Nothing is forever, this is what we are doing now. In 10 years our time and family will be different. Most importantly we consider ourselves family focused, not child focused. We try to structure our lives such that everyone gets what they need and most of what they want. We all, including the children, make sacrifices so that another family member can get what they need.

When I hear about people like Waldman, I think of two things. #1) I know it is done, but I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine how one can even breathe after losing a child, let alone act as if they are replaceable (you can have another) #2) Ron Regan Junior once said of his parents great love that it left no room for the children. How sad.

I think with some thought and effort. No one has to be first and everyone can be happy and nurtured. It is not an all or nothing proposition.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 14, 2007 9:57 AM

Laura - I like your swimming upstream metaphor.

And everyone, I believe there is a tremendous difference between 'wants' and 'needs'. First lesson back in toddlerhood actually..."I need to go to McDonalds to get finish out my collection of Power Rangers," says son. I said, "you don't *need*, you *want*". Many examples given this morning about kids *needs* are really *wants*. Once you filter out the wants from the needs, life becomes simpler all around.

Posted by: dotted_1 | November 14, 2007 9:59 AM

darn, not even second!


Patrick is spelled pATRICK, BTW

Thanks for noticing. Apparently after 1000 posts, Leslie still has not noticed. Well, a twofer! Named in Leslie subject and getting her to admit she has a fascination with bimbos. A zippa doo da day.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 14, 2007 10:00 AM

BTW,love is not a zero sum game. I love my kids and I love my wife, one does not take away from the other.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 14, 2007 10:02 AM

When I got to college, I was so interested in meeting my friends' families from all different backgrounds. My parents' approach was very well-defined: Mom loved the kids WAY more than Dad, no question. If there was a dispute between a kid and Dad, Mom pretty much always took the kid's side. I think that was incredibly damaging to their marriage and ultimately led to their divorce (which occurred 10 years after it should've, IMHO).

It's a question of team loyalty: is your marriage a partnership, where you work out together what's best for the kids and the overall family (and disagree in private and come to compromise), or are you teamed up with your children, and anyone who disagrees (including the other parent) can go screw himself...

Posted by: newslinks1 | November 14, 2007 10:06 AM

pATRICK, glad Leslie could make your day (with so little!) :)

As Frieda says, "It takes so little to make you men happy!"

Leslie,

When/why are you Leslie4?

Posted by: Fred | November 14, 2007 10:07 AM

I saw Waldman on Oprah after that article came out, and there was an additional line that the NYT made her cut out saying that she would gladly throw her children in front of a bus to save her husband. Who even thinks about things like that? Sick, sick, sick.

This whole thing reminds me of the old 7th grade debate about who is your "first best friend" vs your "second" best friend and so on. I can't imagine an adult actually sitting down and thinking about who they love more.

I have been with my husband for 14 of my 30 years, and I'm still crazy in love with him. But I would never think that I love him more or less than our daughter. I honestly don't see how "ranking" your spouse vs your kids is any different than picking a favorite child, and no one seems to think that is a good idea.

Posted by: floof | November 14, 2007 10:08 AM

"Patrick is spelled pATRICK, BTW

Thanks for noticing. Apparently after 1000 posts, Leslie still has not noticed. Well, a twofer! Named in Leslie subject and getting her to admit she has a fascination with bimbos. A zippa doo da day."

Pathetic. Really pathetic.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 14, 2007 10:08 AM

"love is not a zero sum game."

Nicely put.

I too agree that marriage advice from a couple who've been married two years is jumping the gun.

You have to wait until she puts on weight, and he loses his job, and the kids get arrested, and a million other this-is-life things before you get to tell us how to do it.

Posted by: RedBird27 | November 14, 2007 10:11 AM

Hmph. I don't see why there has to be a choice, either. Love isn't a pizza, where if you take one slice away, there are fewer slices left. Love is a muscle - the more you love, the stronger the muscle gets and the more you CAN love.
My love for my husband supports and increases my love for my son, and vice versa. Nurturing both loves is important to me. Everyone in my family, including me, deserves to have their need for love and time and energy met, and finding balance according to everyone's needs is the crucial thing, not arguing over who's more important or who I choose to be "first". There is no "first". There's just "us."

Posted by: upyoursgoaway | November 14, 2007 10:12 AM

Which do I love more, kids or wife? Hmm - I love them in very different ways. I'd like to claim equal amounts, but probably "kids more" when they were younger and needed more; "wife more" now that the kids are (mostly) teenagers.

Really liked Laura's and MN's posts - I think they pretty much hit the nail on the head as far as the important issues.

And agree with those who say that parents how to demonstrate a loving relationship as a model for their kids. Kids learn more from what you do than from what you say to them.

Okay, this might be verging on TMI; if so my apologies, but: how to gross out a teenager in one easy step:
Last night, I was watching Jeopardy; 15 year old DD and 16 year old DS were in the room, too. (Helping DD with chemistry homework; helping DS with his web design project.) DW came into the room, walked over and sat in my lap.

DD: "Eww, yuck!"
DW: "I'm sorry, how was it you thought you got here, again?"
DD: (running out of the room) "AUUGGGHH!"
DS: (walking out of the room, because he was carrying his laptop and books) "Would you two get a room? With a door? That locks?"

Great stuff!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 14, 2007 10:15 AM

We normally don't get the choice. And it happens when we least expect it.

Just as some people who lose spouses remarry, some parents who lose children do move on and, I guess, replace them:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21767764/

I'd think it was more of a sign or miracle if they had been conceived without intervention, IMHO.

I'd really rather not spend too much time worrying about this, and enjoy my family while they're here.

Posted by: JS1978 | November 14, 2007 10:15 AM

Aw, Chitty, let pATRICK be happy! pATRICK, I still await your guest blog.

BTW Chitty, you have never explained my you find my service in Viet Nam so flabbergasting? I would like to know.

Posted by: Fred | November 14, 2007 10:15 AM

Ayelet, Seal, I think even Dr. Phil says the same thing, spouses come first. Having grown up in a household where the parents put each other first, I can't say I'd recommend it for the children or the parents (as kids we struggled emotionally and our parents have an emeshed, enabling relationship). As far as I'm concerned all of these people have attachment problems, otherwise why would they even need to make this an issue? Why would you need your spouse to put you first, unless there is just something so deeply broken inside of you that you need to compete with you children for your spouse's nuturing and attention. Truly, truly, bizarre and neurotic stuff, but I do give them credit for honesty. Now time to figure out how to give yourself the comforting that you didn't get from mom and dad, that your spouse is now providing, and the kids are threatening to steal from you. Get help!

Posted by: pinkoleander | November 14, 2007 10:18 AM

Army Brat - lol. I read once that the best way to get your tween/teen kids to stop fighting in the car on a long trip is to pull over and start making out. It will gross out and horrify them more than any yelling or other threats you may come up with. Sounds hilarious! I can't wait to try it!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 14, 2007 10:24 AM

You think Seal is one of the most impossibly beautiful people on the planet? You might want to get your eyes checked.

Posted by: rlalumiere | November 14, 2007 10:28 AM

ArmyBrat

"Last night, I was watching Jeopardy; 15 year old DD and 16 year old DS were in the room, too. (Helping DD with chemistry homework; helping DS with his web design project.) DW came into the room, walked over and sat in my lap. "

Sounds like your wife was jealous and making a play for your attention and clearing the room of kiddies, to boot. If DW sat on your lap all of the time, your kids would probably not have been grossed out. And if DW sat on your lap a lot, you wouldn't be writing about it on a blog ...

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 14, 2007 10:28 AM

Fred, it drives me crazy that now I am Leslie4. Technology...

MoxieMom, thanks for the Ron Reagan quote. Good to think about the far end of the spectrum. I have seen extreme love like that firsthand, and it gives me the creeps, because it's true, their kids could be starving (emotionally or physically) in front of them and they wouldn't notice.

It's all about balance...

Posted by: leslie4 | November 14, 2007 10:29 AM

chitty, okay, make that two eggs short of an omelet.

Seriously, other than your comment about being expert on widowhood, and repeated allusions to breast milk, have you ever actually been in a relationship?

FWIW, DW was just in a playful mood and thought that it would be fun to gross the teens out. Not that I objected at all to my role in her nefarious plot, mind you. And it doesn't matter how many times you try it, the kids still get grossed out.

moxiemom: hmm, never tried that one. That's one to keep in mind for the next long trip.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 14, 2007 10:36 AM

Army Brat, lemme know how it works out! I'm expecting dialog along the lines of when the Hindenburg crashed. "Oh the humanity"! haha

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 14, 2007 10:39 AM

leslie4- as atb2, I understand.

Waldman's article didn't make me jealous. It creeped me out. She sounds obsessed with her husband. Those poor kids are going to be seriously warped.

Posted by: atb2 | November 14, 2007 10:40 AM

Kinda' funny how coincidental that small thing in life can be. I caught a few minutes of The Bridges of Madison County on Sunday night and at the right time to hear this bit of dialogue. This is the son talking about how his mother, Francesca, cheated with the photographer

"...Like she cheated on me, not dad...."
"...You're sort of made to feel like
you're the prince of the kingdom, ya
know? And in the back of your mind,
you kind of think your mother doesn't
need sex anymore because she has you."

Posted by: Fred | November 14, 2007 10:45 AM

pATRICK

"Seriously, other than your comment about being expert on widowhood, and repeated allusions to breast milk, have you ever actually been in a relationship?"

pATRICK and I have been producing midget porn for years.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 14, 2007 10:47 AM

I have to say the kids. It wasn't something voluntary on my part. I just suddenly realized when my daughter was born that I had never loved my husband with that kind of intensity and connection. Like I really didn't know before what love was. I thought I loved him deeply, but it was more of a head thing than a heart thing. Not that I ever had any erotic feeling for my kids, not at all. Just a far stronger bond. Maybe that was the beginning of the end, because we divorced several years later.

Posted by: catherine3 | November 14, 2007 10:47 AM

This exact topic - did you prioritize the kids and, if so, too much?? was on the table at my single mom support group, Rainbows, last nite. Everyone said they had, many thought this was OK. Several, including me, recalled dads who chafed at demotion on the arrival of kiddos. All this talk of surgical life-and-death decisions or looming auto fatality masks the fact that many dads - including the one I was married to, felt left out or marginalized over time, not in one fell swoop. Intentional or not, good intentions or not, this is true. Not sure the moms who zealously proclaim their kids as priority are "jealous" of the super-happy marrieds and covering it up - but it is food for thought. If I had it to do over I would hire more sitters for date nights and go away one nite as a couple several times a year. You can fall out of love and it is indeed painful for the other spouse to see daily that you still have love, affection and attention to lavish on someone - just not them.
p.s. give Seal's looks a break. he has his own kind of charm and I am all for a celebrity praising marriage, even a rookie.

Posted by: OrlandoNan | November 14, 2007 10:52 AM

Chitty does have a very health relationship....................with that electrical device she keeps in her nightstand. ;)

Posted by: pATRICK | November 14, 2007 10:53 AM

Leslie uses Seal and Heidi Klum for advice about marriage. HMM,I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 14, 2007 10:54 AM

Life can be strange, Fred. The other night I was cooking and listening to music from the 'puter on shuffle. A song from ages ago came on, and I though, is this the Replacements? I realized it wasn't, but the next song that came on was the only one by the Replacements on the computer, among a couple thousand songs. The 'puter read my mind. Weird.

Posted by: atb2 | November 14, 2007 11:20 AM

Something is wrong with a woman who values her husband more than her kids, something is really, really weird in her mind.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 14, 2007 11:23 AM

pATRICK- I take it you just read her creepy article? She's nuts.

Posted by: atb2 | November 14, 2007 11:24 AM

Her children are "replaceable," because all kids are the same, I guess: people who get between her and her husband.

Posted by: atb2 | November 14, 2007 11:26 AM

"So it's very, very easy to fall into the habit of thinking, ok, I've been traveling, so now that I'm back I'll spend a lot of time with my daughter; my husband's a big boy, he can wait. Squeaky wheel getting the grease and all -- the kids whine and sulk when they don't get attention; the husband just goes off to play computer games, so it's easiest to give the kids what they need, figuring that you'll have time for your husband tomorrow, next week, next month. But then suddenly you realize that a month's gone by and you haven't gone out on a date or had more than dinner-table conversation -- plus now your daughter is completely spoiled because It's All About Her."

I realize this is just an example, but I think this is very interesting. If your daughter literally becomes completely spoiled and thinks "it's all about me" because you came home from a business trip and spent time with her, that is a symptom of a larger problem. I don't think that children who have enough of their parents' time on a regular basis become spoiled because of a month of attention. Children who regluarly have their parents' attention don't demand more and more attention, because they are fulfilled already. And children who regularly get enough parental time and attention don't interfere with couples time because the time and attention is done as part of a balanced life, not out of guilt.

Posted by: fake99 | November 14, 2007 11:27 AM

A little old man shuffled slowly into an ice cream parlor and pulled himself slowly, painfully, up onto a stool.. After catching his breath, he ordered a banana split.
The waitress asked kindly, "Crushed nuts?"
"No," he replied, "Arthritis."

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | November 14, 2007 11:38 AM

pATRICK- I take it you just read her creepy article? She's nuts.

Posted by: atb2 | November 14, 2007 11:24 AM

yes and frankly i would be very worried if i was married to her.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 14, 2007 11:38 AM

If you had 11:23 in the "people who believe differently from me are weird and stupid" pool, you win.

Come pick up your prize down at WaPo headquarters....

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | November 14, 2007 11:42 AM

I don't have a problem with Ayelet Waldman's feelings for her husband over her kids-- what I have a BIG problem with is her publishing her thoughts on the matter for the whole world to see. That has got to be pretty damaging to her kids-- and really, who is helped by her talking about it? If she wants to talk about these things, she should keep it under wraps, not make a buck off of it!

Posted by: baby-work | November 14, 2007 11:42 AM

klb - catching up with a ton of posts in the last hour or so...yours was the only funny one...giggle

and I don't believe Waldman's publishing her thoughts is going to hurt her kids. People spend way too many cycles worrying about things like that.

Posted by: dotted_1 | November 14, 2007 11:47 AM

Why thank you dotted_1. I'm here all week - two drink minimum.....

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | November 14, 2007 11:48 AM

One for the road:

An elderly gentleman...
Had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed the gentleman to hear 100%
The elderly gentleman went back in a month to the doctor and the doctor said, "Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again."
The gentleman replied, "Oh, I haven't told my family yet.
I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I've changed my will three times!"

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | November 14, 2007 11:49 AM

Here's a virtual drink sent up to your stage, klb...virtual drink of your choice with a side order of wasabi nuts!

Posted by: dotted_1 | November 14, 2007 12:05 PM

From Leslie: "Do you think envy, masquerading as maternal superiority, is why Waldman's piece provoked such an angry reaction from readers?"

No, I think a lot of people--even those who have not experienced parenthood--are kinda grossed out by a woman who would throw her kids under a bus before her husband. It's unnatural; most dogs have better maternal instincts.

I would die twice over to spare my child's life. I did have a deep love for my husband and we shared an intimacy that some people go their entire lives and never know...but at the end of the day, his unwillingness/inability to deal with his mental illness and alcoholism--and my unwillingness to raise my daughter in that environment--led me to choose my daughter over my husband. My daughter is the center of my life, and my lovelife falls somewhere way behind. For me, that's the natural order of things.

Posted by: pepperjade | November 14, 2007 12:07 PM

It's great that she loves her husband so much. Really. It's just that in my experience, those who feel the need to talk about sex so much are often the ones who aren't getting any.

Oh, and hopefully she won't send the message to her kids that sex=love. Not one in the same at all.

Posted by: JS1978 | November 14, 2007 12:10 PM

Pepperjade - I feel for you. It seems to me your ex didn't put your marriage first, but rather, his addictions came first with him. It takes two to put a marriage first. It doesn't work if only one does.

Good quote from Ron Reagan jr., though perhaps he is of the type that always laments the amount of attention he receives. He may always want more. We just don't know.

Posted by: dotted_1 | November 14, 2007 12:16 PM

"Do you think envy, masquerading as maternal superiority, is why Waldman's piece provoked such an angry reaction from readers?"

Leslie, I don't think so. I think what Waldman is saying is different from what many people are saying. Of course, a married couple has to give their marriage priority, in the sense that preserving the marriage is beneficial to the long-term good of the family. I think most people get that, intellectually at least, and probably don't have a problem with it. Good, stable marriages are good for kids as well as parents. The kids will eventually grow up and leave, and the parents will be left with each other. So they should definitely nurture their marriage and make sure it is strong, which sometimes means choosing your partner over your child, having a date night, communicating, doing things together, even if it means that you can't be available for every single one of your children's moments. The kids will be okay.

But it is another thing to say that I would choose my husband over my children in times of crisis where my children's survival depended on my protecting them. In that case, I would choose my children, and my husband would do the same, and we would both expect each other to do so. If something happened to my husband, I would be devastated, but I would find the death of my child to be even more devastating. Children are not supposed to die before their parents.

I keep on thinking of the things I have read about Nancy and Ronald Reagan's family life. Apparently, they were everything to each other, and had an incredibly strong and happy marriage, putting each other first in all things. But they seemed to have done this in a way that excluded their children, and their children have complained that they did not seem to feel included in the love that their parents had for each other. I think that is pretty sad. I do think that there are some marriages where the couples do feel more strongly about each other than anyone else, and where perhaps the love they have for each other cannot encompass children. I think that such people probably shouldn't have children.

Posted by: Emily | November 14, 2007 12:22 PM

I also sensed a tone I didn't like. While she wrote that she thought she may be defective for desiring her husband, she didn't mean it. Rather, she felt superior to other women who were still struggling to get there marriages and desires back after the birth of a child. And she also seemed proud that she would throw her kids in front of a bus for her husband. It's bizarre.

Posted by: atb2 | November 14, 2007 12:35 PM

It all comes down to blood is thicker than water.

Posted by: sharonw | November 14, 2007 12:38 PM

fake99: first, yes, it was just an example -- it's not like one month "spoils" a child, or "cures" a child, or whatever. I was trying to show that slippery slope, where it starts with one incident, and then 15 years later you wake up next to a husband you don't know with a daughter whining that her Beemer was the wrong color, and you go, dang, how did that happen? We're not there (my kids are 6 and 2), but I do see myself having those "must take care of girl" thoughts from time to time, so it takes conscious effort not to overlook my husband in the "who needs attention" sweepstakes.

Also, I do have to disagree somewhat with your statement that "Children who regluarly have their parents' attention don't demand more and more attention, because they are fulfilled already. And children who regularly get enough parental time and attention don't interfere with couples time because the time and attention is done as part of a balanced life, not out of guilt."

That's a really nice platitude, and it may even work for a lot of kids (like my son, as a matter of fact -- Mr. Mellow, just a normal happy kid, who wants to sit on your lap and read books for a while, and then happily trundles off to entertain himself with play-doh). But with some kids, enough is never enough. That's my daughter. At 6 weeks, she'd shriek her head off the entire time I was in the shower if she couldn't see me; from the time she got mobile, she would follow me around the house; from the time she learned how to babble, she always had to be talking with me, playing with me, communicating with me, connecting in some fashion. All. Day. Long. (Yes: my life is a Volvo commercial). For her, too much is never enough. So I truly could spend all my time with her, to the point where she'd end up spoiled and entitled, yet she still wouldn't be "filled up." (This is why we all love school, BTW -- ALL those other teachers and kids to pay attention to her!!)

And that is why the balancing act is so hard -- when you live with one extremely squeaky wheel, you have to work to find the right balance between giving her enough attention and giving too much, between making her feel safe and loved and valued and spoiling the bejeebers out of her, between giving her what she needs and not overlooking the quiet guy spending another evening at www.gizmodo.com.

Posted by: laura33 | November 14, 2007 12:39 PM

not overlooking the quiet guy spending another evening at www.gizmodo.com.

I understand your post but don't feel too sorry for him. A quiet night browsing gizmodo.com is pretty appealing to men. Fortunately we can get by on far less attention then women. :)

Posted by: pATRICK | November 14, 2007 1:05 PM

Kids come first. This includes the life of my unborn child over the life of my wife, such as in the case of cancer during pregnancy. My wife wouldn't be able to live with herself knowing that she willingly chose to save her own life over that of her child's.

I pray that I never get put to the test!

Posted by: GutlessCoward | November 14, 2007 1:09 PM

Gutless coward - you scare me. May I suggest reading "The Handmaid's Tale"?

Posted by: dotted_1 | November 14, 2007 1:12 PM

Wake me up when the floor show starts...

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 14, 2007 1:15 PM

Ever heard of Gianna Beretta Molla? She did just that and saved the life of her unborn child and then succumbed to cancer shortly there after. Sad, but beautiful in a life-giving way.

Posted by: g8leys | November 14, 2007 1:28 PM

P
epperjade, I just wanted to let you know that witnessing you tow the line of incredibly high standards over the past year makes you a very attractive human being . :-)

Posted by: GutlessCoward | November 14, 2007 1:28 PM

Also, we have always said that we would put our marriage first, but I agree with other posters that this lady seemed off her rocker about loving her husband more than her children.

How is that possible when her children are an extension of her husband?

Posted by: g8leys | November 14, 2007 1:29 PM

"P
epperjade, I just wanted to let you know that witnessing you tow the line of incredibly high standards over the past year makes you a very attractive human being . :-)"

That should be TOE the line....

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 14, 2007 1:41 PM

Chitty, can we share an office together? The boss would probably seperate us though, like a teacher does with 2 unruly brats. :-)

Posted by: GutlessCoward | November 14, 2007 1:55 PM

Posted by: GutlessCoward | November 14, 2007 01:28 PM

Thanks, GC...I've never thought of it that way...just thought of it as an incredibly strong love. I feel truly blessed.

Posted by: pepperjade | November 14, 2007 1:57 PM

Hard to know if she was just in a particularly good mood when she wrote this and more focused on her husband. We don't know what the reality truly is -- and so I find it hard to judge her.

I didn't find it creepy, just perhaps not as true as she might have wished. You could feel a bit of "fill in the gaps" to make her point as a writer.

Posted by: goodhome631 | November 14, 2007 1:59 PM

Are you sure it's not pAtrICk, from the original Gaelic?

:-p

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 14, 2007 2:05 PM

"Are you sure it's not pAtrICk, from the original Gaelic?"


is dòcha!

Posted by: pATRICK | November 14, 2007 2:19 PM

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Dreeeam, dream, dream, dream......

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 14, 2007 3:16 PM

If an asteroid were on a collision course with earth and my husband, daughter, and I were sent up to set it on a new course by detonating a thermonuclear weapon AND and the remote detonator was smashed in a freak accident on our flight AND I had to chose to leave behind my daughter or husband to push the little red button BECAUSE I was the only one able to fly the spacecraft back to earth I would choose to blow up...

Posted by: pinkoleander | November 14, 2007 3:17 PM

"If an asteroid were on a collision course with earth and my husband, daughter, and I were sent up to set it on a new course by detonating a thermonuclear weapon AND and the remote detonator was smashed in a freak accident on our flight AND I had to chose to leave behind my daughter or husband to push the little red button BECAUSE I was the only one able to fly the spacecraft back to earth I would choose to blow up..."

Bruce Willis

Posted by: laura33 | November 14, 2007 3:20 PM

over Ben Affleck?

Posted by: pinkoleander | November 14, 2007 3:26 PM

Well, personally, I'd rather keep Bruce Willis. But I'm just staying true to the plot.

Posted by: laura33 | November 14, 2007 3:34 PM

"Hard to know if she was just in a particularly good mood when she wrote this and more focused on her husband. We don't know what the reality truly is -- and so I find it hard to judge her."

Well, if you saw her interviewed about the article, she came across as a bit... unstable. Basically she was obsessed with her husband, talked about staying awake at night because she was so worried he might leave her, and viewed her kids not as second, but as a wayyyy distant second. If I had been the husband, it would have creeped me out. It was almost like "fatal attraction" except that they were actually married.

Posted by: floof | November 14, 2007 3:34 PM

Just that she would publicly say all this makes her a nutbag of the highest order.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 14, 2007 3:39 PM

I'd pick Elvis over Bruce...wait a minute...

Posted by: dotted_1 | November 14, 2007 3:40 PM

"I'd pick Elvis over Bruce...wait a minute..."

Sounds like the floor show is about to commence...

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 14, 2007 3:42 PM

klb started the show hours ago...where were you?

Posted by: dotted_1 | November 14, 2007 3:49 PM

Its a tough one for me, the screenplay of Good Will Hunting beats anything Bruce Willis has ever been in. But Bruce has more kids... I suppose I would have them draw straws.

Posted by: pinkoleander | November 14, 2007 3:53 PM

dotted_1 | November 14, 2007 03:49 PM

"klb started the show hours ago...where were you?"

Getting a tattoo.


Posted by: chittybangbang | November 14, 2007 3:55 PM

drum beat roll....

(I'm making a terrible pun)

Posted by: dotted_1 | November 14, 2007 4:09 PM

I was always raised to believe that, once married, your priorities should be thus - 1. God (if you so believe) 2. spouse, 3 kids. It is very difficult to make the time and the effort to put your spouse first and easy to put kids first, because they are so needy. But without the spouse, without the marriage, there would be no kids, and your goal is to raise those children to be self-supporting members of society with their own spouses.

It is not the "run down by a bus" decisions that are integral to this discussion - that's hyperbole and over-reaching - it is the daily decisions of love and respect and support for your spouse that make the difference. By focusing on the worst case scenarios (bus running over you, death during delivery, etc) you ignore the larger picture. When he/she comes home from work, do you acknowledge them or focus on the child? Is there time each day/week where you spend with each other, for each other, listening to each other, or do the children and chores and ... fill up all that time? Do you take the time to reconnect with your spouse, to focus on the love that brought you a family? This is what it comes down to, and this is where it is important. because eventually, god-willing, the children will grow up, leave the house, become independent, and you and your spouse will be left with whatever remains - either a massive hole where the children once were, and two separate individuals around that hole, or a strong united and loving couple ready to move onto the next stage of their lives together.

Posted by: mdsails | November 14, 2007 4:13 PM

Bruce Willis.

What Laura said.

"Children who regluarly have their parents' attention don't demand more and more attention, because they are fulfilled already."

ROFLMAO. Some kids are bottomless pits of want and demand. They are still lovable but we are not all born with a fully developed awareness of what constitutes "enough". Children demand more because they can and because positive attention feels good -- to all of us, forever. It is up to us to teach our kids that it is not. always. all. about. them. That's a crucial lesson to learn so you don't burn out your friends, your spouse, your colleagues with your ever-present neediness and demanding nature.

Finally, at the risk of TMI, when we had our son, there were more than 17 NICU personnel hovering and they whisked him away across the room out of my sight to stabilize him, etc.. My husband and I met eyes and wordlessly agreed that his job was to leave me and stay with our newborn son, without a backward glance. I wasn't going anywhere and if I did, our son needed one of us watching out for him. I completely agree with those who say, if the building was burning and I could only go back in for either my kids or my spouse, DH and I are in full agreement that we grab the kids. That's in the job description, I'm pretty sure, LOL.

Posted by: MN | November 14, 2007 4:13 PM

Children first and DH second. DH is about 6 feet and 200 pounds and DD is about 40 inches and 40 pounds. She is smart but can she take care of herself at age 6 I don't think so.

My mother always said give to your children first. Now she says give to your grandchildren first and yourself second. There is always time for a quick pleasure but childhood is short and precious.

Time to go home and kiss DD.

Posted by: shdd | November 14, 2007 4:25 PM

pinkoleander, yeah, see, there's the problem. I get the feeling that Ben Affleck is smart. And I really, really like smart. Or, well, probably more accurate to say stupid gets real boring, real quick. And yet, still, I've had a thing for Bruce Willis since '85. . . .

But now I have this mental image of the two of them standing out on the doomed asteroid playing rock, paper, scissors to see who stays and who goes -- so thanks for that. :-)

MN, you must have gotten the same manual I did -- my husband kept looking back as the doc stitched me up, asking when the manual was going to come out! (And strangely enough, we had a fairly similar birth experience, too, with baby girl blue and not breathing real well for a while. Like you, words were unnecessary -- I NEEDED him to be with her then more than anything else in the world).

Posted by: laura33 | November 14, 2007 4:32 PM

Laura, so now that you mention it I'm stuck with the rock, paper, scissors image too, except I have also have that Arrowsmith song going through my mind... I could stay awake just to see you dreaming...over, and over, and over again. If your lucky, you've already logged off, will not read this, and hence will avoid the same fate. Have a good evening.

Posted by: pinkoleander | November 14, 2007 5:22 PM

pinkoleander, now that's just downright cruel. . . .

Posted by: laura33 | November 14, 2007 5:24 PM

pinkoleander, you are one cruel, cruel woman.

laura, that's eerie. isn't it? Definitely, the same manual. and two kids who aren't even the slightest alike, except they both love us dearly. Nope. Didn't work. I can still hear Steven Tyler singing in the back of my brain. ACKKKK!

Posted by: MN | November 14, 2007 5:27 PM

Wow, I feel guilty now, anybody out there have an antidote to having Steve Tyler stuck in your head?
...the wheels on the bus go round and round...
...celebrate the times COME ON! dodododododododo...
HELP!!!!

Posted by: pinkoleander | November 14, 2007 5:35 PM

"BTW,love is not a zero sum game. I love my kids and I love my wife, one does not take away from the other."

pATRICK, I couldn't have said it better myself. People who feel the need to "rank" their love mystify me. I love my mom, dad, brother, and husband equally. And I would certainly save them in favor of any stranger, child or adult.

Posted by: Meesh | November 15, 2007 8:40 AM

"It all comes down to blood is thicker than water."

If that's the case, do you love you parents and siblings more than your spouse?

Posted by: Meesh | November 15, 2007 8:50 AM

Love can't be measured by a litmus test like "Who would you save from a burning building?" or "Who would your grieve for more if they died?" I don't think it can usually be ranked or compared fairly either. I think the only important questions about our love that we might be able to answer are, "Is it enough? How can it grow?"

Also, it may very well be that for one woman (or man - either gender works, change the words appropriately), she loves her children the most when she loves her husband far more than them. Another woman may love her husband more when she knows it is okay to pour her heart into her children and let him come second. Does there really have to be a cookie-cutter answer? The warning flag is when we don't love someone in our family - not when we don't love them as much. If loving inequally means we love all family members more than if we loved them equally, isn't that the better option?*

*This is not to imply that favoritism amongst children is acceptable - there is a difference between loving someone more and treating them unfairly better.

Posted by: ethele | November 16, 2007 7:22 PM

Marriage vows are "til death do us part," not "til children do us part." Husbands and wives should put each other first...how else do their children learn from an early age how marriage works? People who put their kids ahead of their spouses may find that one the kids go off to college or lives of their own, that the ignored spise may leave, too. I know of too many marriages ending in divorce when the children leave home.
http://www.DearParent.com

Posted by: DearParent | November 17, 2007 12:22 PM

Who comes first, spouse or kids? If we're serious about striving for balance in our lives, we have to stop talking about our priorities in such absolute terms. The spouse-first proponents make good points about cherishing and caring for your marriage. The kids-first side makes good points about nurturing and teaching your children to be the fabulous human beings we all want our kids to be. No doubt there are a few in the self-first group who argue that we can't be our best for our spouses, children (or anyone else in our lives) unless we meet our own needs first.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it's impossible to obtain, and it eats away at our confidence in an insidious way. I realize that most people don't say explicitly that they put one above the other always, but by saying they prioritize one part of their lives over all else, it sets people up for feeling guilty about meeting the needs of the other parts of their lives. Meeting one person's needs is not an inherently damaging and neglectful act towards another person. I can get a babysitter to play with my kids while I go on a date with my husband or have a gathering with my girlfriends, and I'm not neglecting my children. I can have a hard day of work/mothering/chores/whatever and go to bed too tired for sex and I'm not neglecting my marriage. I can enroll in a night class to learn something new and meet new people, leaving my husband home with the kids once a week, and I'm not neglecting my children nor my marriage. It's when people do everything for one part of their lives (i.e. put it first) and not much for the others that they have a problem.

So, relax, do your best, but spread it around. You can't be all things to all people all the time, but you can be a lot of things to a lot of people at different times. Don't bite off more than you can chew, stay happy, and look on the bright side. This is the way to put everyone "first".

And talking about putting kids/spouse/self first in terms of choosing life for one and death for the other is ridiculous, and counterproductive. This is where it gets insidious. You start by saying, well if I only had enough time to push one or the other out of the way of a speeding bus, it would be my blah-blah-blah, then all of your daily decisions become clouded by that thought. I have no idea what I'd do if my family faced certain death and I had to opportunity to thwart it for one of them. I hope I never have to decide, but if I do I'll decide it then. For now, I'll decide who needs to eat breakfast first, and who needs extra cuddles at bedtime, and who needs my undivided attention mixed with undiluted effort to solve their current problem. And I'll continue to make decisions in that manner each and every day, never consistently choosing the same person to be first or the same person to be last. (Women particularly have a problem of consistently putting themselves last even if they juggle their other priorities to see fair time in first place.)

I think we hear and read about this in the media because so many of us struggle with balance. It's so easy to be entirely caught up in one part of our lives - work, relationships, children, etc. And we all want reassurance that we're doing "the right thing". So when a celebrity comes out and says she values her marriage above her children, many of us feel relieved that it's okay to have such an unconventional thought. We feel like we're not alone in our struggles.

And the super rich are real people, just as are the super poor. Privilege and fortune do not make you less human. We all have joy, we all have pain. We all have feelings and we all deserve to be treated fairly and kindly. Stop picking on celebrities just because you can.

Posted by: lisa | November 19, 2007 3:03 PM

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