When my husband and I made our wedding vows in the fall of 2002, I swore to love and honor and cherish him. Then we had kids.
Don’t get me wrong: 10 years and two daughters later, I still love the man I married. But like most moms out there, I would sacrifice anything, including my husband, for my children. And though we’ve never discussed it, he knows this about me, and I think it upsets him.
If the topic were ever to come up, I’d probably justify my feelings by telling him to ask any mother out there if she feels otherwise. In my opinion, he’d be hard-pressed to find someone to admit that yes, they love their husband more than they love their children.
The smart and diplomatic among us might say, “I love them all equally” – just as we’re programmed to say about our actual children. But they’d secretly think, “If I had to pull just one person from a burning house, it would be my child, no question about it.”
I mean, what mom wouldn’t say that?
To date, I have only found one. That would be writer Ayelet Waldman, who in 2009 confessed that she loves her husband more than her four children. People were aghast! Some even labelled her “bad mom.” Here’s a snippet of what she had to say:
I used to worry what was wrong with me. Why do I seem to be the only mother who hasn’t transferred all the burning passion I felt for my husband to my children? Why aren’t my precious children the center of my universe, as they appear to be for every other mother?
When my first daughter was born, my husband held her in his hands and exulted: ‘She’s so beautiful.’ And she was. Friends came to coo over her. I remember one marvelling: ‘Aren’t you completely in love?’ And of course I was. Only not with my baby.
I do love her. But I’m not in love with her. Nor am I in love with her two brothers or sister. Don’t get me wrong. I relish spending time with them. In fact, I quit my high-powered job as a lawyer when my eldest child was 17 months old because I missed her so much…
But, while I cherish the time I have with my children, I’m not in love with any of them. I am in love with my husband. It is his face – not theirs – that leaves me aching with infatuated devotion. Quite simply, I love my husband more than I love my children.
Truth be told, I know lots of women – myself included – who may have been surprised by Waldman’s “confession,” but who were also envious. “Where is my burning passion?” we’d ask ourselves late at night, husbands snoring by our sides.
And I think that’s what tends to happen. We’re so busy running around, caring for and nurturing these little beings, that we often don’t have enough to give to our partners – at least not while the kids are little and require constant attention. I have friends who are over the hump – their children are becoming more self-sufficient and they suddenly have a renewed interest in sex, date night, adult conversation (all the things that made them fall in love with their partner in the first place).
But when the kids are whining and there’s no food in the fridge and it’s freezing cold outside and nobody has slept, we tend to look at our unshaven husbands and think, “How did I get here?” We still love them, yes, but the passion is on hiatus, let’s just say.
Then we’ll look down at our kids, all wide-eyed and innocent, and we’ll feel a pang of love like no other. It’s that mother-child connection that, even in the most trying of moments, never disappears. And is it ever powerful!
I guess the trick is differentiating the various types of love we feel for our family members. Like most moms I know, I love my kids unconditionally. I love my husband, too, but it’s not innate – at least not in the same way. And I’m pretty sure he feels the same way about me. So there you have it.
Waldman may have gotten shit for her big revelation, but I’m going to the other extreme here by saying, You know what? I love my children more than my husband. And I don’t care who knows it.
(Photo: Dynamic Graphics)