I remember asking my mom when I was little who she loved best between me and my dad. “It’s a different kind of love,” she told me then. But the kisses she and my dad shared in the toy aisle, their constant holding hands, and their long vacations sans kids while we stayed with the grandparents told me otherwise. She loved my dad more. And I am so happy she did.
When a family is strong, mom does prioritize the marriage over the kids. But we live in a culture where kids come first. Or, as my friend recently said, “Since when did kids move from the card table at Thanksgiving to the head of the table?” Since when, indeed.
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Blogger Joanna Goddard addresses this in her blog and the result is very interesting. She spoke of a conversation she and a friend had after her friend saw writer Esther Perel, the author of Mating in Captivity, a book about sex within a marriage (and after having kids). Goddard says:
Perel believes that there’s a badge of honor among American women to not prioritize yourself or your marriage: It’s all about the children. Without realizing it, she said, women can end up getting their emotional intimacy and physical satisfaction from their children, instead of their partners, said Perel. They give their babies tons of wonderful affection — and then don’t have anything left over for their spouse. The marriage can become an afterthought.
Um, yep. How many women do we all know like this? It’s not their fault. And I don’t blame them. But it’s a problem. A huge one, in fact.
The fact is, in a family, if mom and dad aren’t happy, ain’t nobody else happy either. The marriage should be prioritized higher than anything else.
I see it in my own family all the time. When my husband and I are happy and loving with one another, our children are happy and loving with us. They want to get in between us and cuddle and they are much calmer. After all, the marriage is the foundation of the family.
Ideally, children are born from the love two people share with one another. They grow under the umbrella of that love and then they find their own loves with whom they will do the same. Romantic love is so different (thanks mom!) than the love I feel for my children. I would die for my kids, jump in front of a train for them, and move mountains to keep them happy. But my love for my husband is different.
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It’s burning and passionate and sexual (one would hope!). It gets me through the hard days and sustains me when things feel low. Without him, the rest would fall apart. I know this, he knows this, and we both work very hard to maintain it. It’s not easy. My love for my children is much easier and comes more naturally and takes less work.
So in that sense, yes, my marriage is priority number one. It’s what made my family and it’s what will stay after my kids fly the nest.