Before I had my own babies, I envisioned the kind of mother I would be: cool-headed Carol Brady mixed with the high-energy Claire from Modern Family and a pinch of Married with Children’s Peg Bundy just for fun. I could never pull off the June Cleaver type; it’s simply not in my DNA to make dinner from scratch or starch things. And I knew I wouldn’t be the crafty mom, fashioning homemade Halloween costumes from cardboard, felt and glitter.
So I set realistic expectations for myself, because what’s the point in having goals if they’re not attainable? What never occurred to me, however, were the expectations that society, particularly other women, had set—for me and all other moms.
Challenging stale notions of who mothers are supposed to be was the theme of an article by Amber Doty titled, “Putting Your Husband First.” In it, the author boldly states that her husband is her number-one priority:
“While I understand Patricia’s point on the possible impermanence of marriage versus the indissoluble bond between a mother and child, I view my investment in my relationship with my spouse as one that is beneficial to our family as a whole. Prioritizing my husband’s needs decreases the likelihood of divorce and increases the probability that our children will remain in a two-parent home.”
When I read that passage, I nodded, recalling the times I had put my husband’s needs before our kids’ and—are you sitting down?—the days, though rare, I have put my own before them all.
The author’s rationale, one with which I agree, is that she and her husband are a team, and winning teams practice together and exercise open communication. The latter, granted, is not easy to do with children constantly interrupting conversation (and sexy time), so a date night now and then is important. And I’m sorry kids, but sometimes Mommy would rather cuddle on the couch with Daddy than play Candyland for the eleventeenth time.
Does that make us bad mothers?
Yes. At least according to the venomous comments left by several “anonymous” (shocking!) readers.
Many were upset at the idea that a mother would so “selfishly ignore her children” by “catering to her spouse.” Others just couldn’t wrap their brains around why a woman would have kids if she wasn’t going to make them the center of her universe.
YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE BABIES IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO GIVE UP EVERYTHING ELSE IN LIFE!
Let me help these people understand something: if our kids are our everything, they will grow up self-centered, entitled little a-holes. Don’t we have enough of those already? Asking our kids to wait a minute or telling them “no” is not going to hurt their budding self-esteem. Showing love and appreciation for their other parent will not damage their delicate psyches.
Quite the contrary, in fact. By making our spouses and sometimes ourselves a priority, we teach our children how to respect others and themselves. Witnessing their parents tend to one another’s needs every once in a while just might instill some patience and compassion. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see how that is selfish. In fact, it sounds like pretty stellar parenting to me.
I don’t believe someone whose keyboard courage trumps basic dignity deserves an explanation, but I wholeheartedly believe that the time we invest in date nights or dinner with friends makes us better parents. Anyone who disputes that just isn’t being honest. I was born Stephanie, not Wife or Mom, and while I wear those titles proudly, I refuse to lose myself to them.
This piece was originally written for and published at Families In The Loop