There’s an odd discussion in motherhood circles that I’ve never quite understood. It centers around the idea of balancing your role as a partner and your role as a parent, as if the two parts of your life are sitting at separate ends of a teeter-totter, battling for dominance. As if you can either have a healthy marriage or a close relationship with your kids. It manifests into, “Which do you put first?” debates and recently, tips on how to save your marriage from your children.
Over at HuffPost Parents, Jackie Morgan MacDougall writes about the ways to protect your happy marriage from the scourge that is parenthood. Because obviously, your kids are the jealous ex-girlfriends of romantic comedies, scheming for ways to tear you and your spouse apart. Her advice is standard fare, if punctuated by a few seriously disturbing bits of sexism. She advocates that women, “Just say yes,” even if they don’t feel like having sex, to prevent their husbands from losing interest in them. Because obviously sex is all about men’s desire and adult males are incapable of controlling their sexual urges or caring about their partners.
But aside from my serious issues with MacDougall’s so-called advice, I refuse to jump on board with the premise at all. I do not think that healthy relationships need to be “protected” against kids. I do not believe that women need to choose which aspect of their family they care about more, their spouse or their children. And I seriously do not understand why women keep having these arguments, when men are never asked to consider whether marriage or children “comes first.”
Call me crazy but I believe that being a good partner to my husband makes me a better mother. And vice versa, by the way. I don’t think that being dedicated to my family is an either/or scenario. I prioritize my entire family, every part of it, above anything else. There’s no teeter-totter in my home.
As mothers, I would think we all know that love is not a limited supply. Just like you don’t stop loving your first child to make room for your second, loving your husband doesn’t take away from the love you put into motherhood. And simply acknowledging this does a lot to negate the arguments about which priority comes first or which person your love more.
Now, there is a real element of time management when it comes to strengthening your relationship with your partner and your children. Yes, there might be a time when you have to choose between date night and a kiddie cuddle fest. But if you don’t look at these decisions as mini-tests to your commitment for either marriage or parenthood, the events of your evening are going to be a lot less stressful. Sometimes you’ll choose date night and sometimes you’ll choose family movie night and it won’t really matter which way a specific evening goes.
My husband loves and appreciates the time that I put in volunteering in my daughter’s classroom or playing with her in the evenings. And honestly, every time he goes out of his way to do something special for our daughter or to teach her something interesting, I fall a little more in love with him. Our shared experience of involved parenting helps make our marriage and our family stronger. Just like investing time in our relationship makes us happier, healthier parents and role models for our little girl.
Mothers need to stop wrangling over which priority comes first. I am tired of hearing, “Your kids are going to move away and your spouse is the one you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with,” or “You can get a divorce, but your kids are your’s forever.” Maybe we if stop pitting these two important parts of our lives against one another, we wouldn’t have to worry about losing either one.