Why I Put My Husband (and Sometimes Myself) Before My Kids

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.

Gasp! Shudder!

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.



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.

Be a better parent by being a better spouse.

This piece was originally written for and published at Families In The Loop

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  1. This makes me think of Tuesday night’s dinner. I make this quasi-Asian stir-fry dish that my husband loves. I’m not wild about it myself. My son asked me what was for dinner, and I told him, and he was disappointed. I told him I don’t love it, either, but his father does, and he’s been having a stressful month at work. I explained that it felt good to make it for him, even though we didn’t particularly like eating it ourselves, because it would make him happy. He ended up helping me cook, and gobbled up his own portion that night. It really was a good lesson on “You’re not always number one.” I didn’t really realize it until I read this!

  2. I remember when you wrote this for FITL, and the madness in the comments section. I felt sorry for the husbands of those women, and I felt sorry for their children, too. Seeing my parents enjoy each other’s company, and sacrifice for each other was a key component in what I looked for in a spouse. Good for you to put your husband first. Your children will reap the benefits.

  3. Amen.

  4. It’s shocking to me that people don’t understand this concept. And, let’s get serious, when our kids leave home to go out into the world, what do we do then if all we’ve done is identify ourselves as “Mom”? I want to have a relationship with my husband and a life that includes ME!

  5. Such a great post.

    Finding the balance between being consumed by my children, still knowing myself, and making sure my husband still knows how much I love and am attracted to him, has been a major struggle for me.
    As a younger mother (turning 30 this year) it’s been quite the ride, figuring all of this out, while still learning about myself as an adult!

    I have come to a similar conclusion as yours: my relationship with my husband must be a top priority because of what it shows our children, and how they understand relationships.
    I’m still working on the taking care of me part :)

    But I’m getting better a it every day.

    Thanks for such great content, love reading about your crazy!

  6. Amen, amen, amen. I simply don’t know how to completely disappear. Also, I don’t like myself when I get close to that. I’m a better mom if I can be me too. Smart, brave article, friend!

  7. I saw this on Facebook and just had to read it. The only other person I know that agrees with me on this is my husband. Originally, I never wanted to have kids, but when I met my husband, that changed. We were together for 2 years before we had our daughter and during those 2 years I thought about the many times my mom said “children come first.” To me that never made sense. You create your children with your spouse, making you the foundation of the family. Then all of a sudden when the kids are born, they become the priority?

    The last time I spoke with my mother several years ago, she was telling me I needed to get rid of my husband for reasons I won’t go into (the comment would be way too long), and she reminded me that I needed to do what was right for my daughter because she was the priority. Well, I took part of her advice and did was right for my daughter. My husband and I’s relationship takes priority and our daughter gets to see what a happy and strong marriage is supposed to look like. She’s also more independent and knows that the world doesn’t revolve around her; she has to make her way in the world.

    I also did one other thing that was best for my daughter. I stopped talking to my mother.

    Thank you so much for this post. I really thought I was the only one I knew who thought this way. It’s nice to know there are others who agree with me!!

  8. Yep. Yeppers. YES. HELL YES!!!!! You nailed it Stephanie!!! Who wants more entitled self-centered kids in this world? We teach them how to be independent and also? We are role modeling how to have a healthy marriage and how to take care of ourselves- which is possibly the greatest lesson of all in parenting.

    Excellent post!!

  9. My children are grown, but I’m left with the residual effects of “crazy meets exhaustion.” As in everything, there has to be balance. Kids need to learn that the world does not revolve only around them. Of course, I loved my little ones more than anything, but husbands and selves need nurturing as well. I mean, hello, the kids are gone and guess who is still here with me??!!
    You kind of remind me of Erma Bombeck and that’s a compliment. My mom always read Erma when I was growing up, so I read her too. My mom has been gone for awhile, but I kept her Erma books. They might be a little dated, but her writings about family life are still funny and touching. So are yours.

    • Laura,
      I just happened to be online at this very moment and, after a craptastic few days, I needed to read your comment. THANK YOU for reading my crazy, for comparing me to the incomparable Erma, and for (hopefully!) sticking around for more.

      You made my heart happy when I really needed it–thanks, stranger :)

  10. I wholeheartedly subscribe to this. Once the kids are gone, if you haven’t nurtured your marriage then what?
    I wonder how many of those who’ve condemned you are still together in say, 5 or even 10 years when you’re going strong.
    Kudos for writing.

  11. I learned early on in the whole parenting journey that basically, whatever you do as a parent someone is going to criticise. So we might as well just do whatever we like. :)


  1. […] point in 2013: I wrote a piece entitled Why I Put My Husband Before Our Kids and a lot of people really liked it. A lot of people also really hated its guts. Why? Because I […]

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