A post in honour of St. Valentine (sort of)

I happened to read this article by Ayelet Waldman today. The article isn’t new (it was published back in 2005) nor is the argument really but it is one that fascinates me. In her article, Waldman reveals the fact that she loves her husband more than she loves her children. (Her husband, for all you book nerds out there, is author Michael Chabon.) She reveals this fact as something a little bit shameful, something best kept secret. And she was widely criticized for declaring her greater love for her husband. Apparently, when she was invited to appear on the Oprah Winfrey show, audience members yelled and jeered at her. This seems so weird to me.

Okay, so I don’t have kids. I have no idea what it is to love a child that is your own, that you carried in your body for 9+ months, that depends on you for everything, that you spend most of your time with. I understand that mothers (particularly new mothers) spend more time with their children than they do their husbands. I have no doubt that it’s amazing and I hope to experience all that myself one day.

But I agree with Waldman. I think she should love her husband more than her children and I applaud her for saying so. I can’t say I agree with everything she states in her article and I am by no means agreeing with every choice she’s made (I really don’t know very much about her beyond this article) but I think she’s right about this.

I think the distinction she makes is important – she says she loves her children, but she’s in love with her husband. Her husband maintains that number one position in her life. Now, I firmly believe that the number one position in my life belongs to Jesus Christ. So when Waldman talks about how her life would fall apart should her husband die, I can definitely sympathize but I know my life is built on something stronger than my marriage and my husband (no matter how great both may be.) That’s an important distinction between what Waldman believes and I believe. That said, my husband comes first, before my friends and family. In no way does that diminish the love I have for the other people in my life. I knew my parents and my brother way before I ever knew Peter existed and I love them dearly. I treasure the friendships I had before I started dating my husband and the way I feel about them hasn’t changed since I started wearing a ring on my finger. But when it comes right down to it, Peter’s the only one I’ve sworn to spend the rest of my life with. I won’t make that promise to my children, nor should I. Hopefully, they will one day go on to live independent lives from me. (It’s weird to talk about my hypothetical children’s hypothetical futures.)

Reading this article, I pondered what my own mother might think. I’m inclined to think she’d agree with me (perhaps this is the first place I learned to have this opinion!) My parents will celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary this year. Only 21 of those years have been spent with children living under their roof. Yes, 21 years is a long time but, God willing, they’ll have more years together in the future. The point is, your marriage is what you have when your kids have left home, when they’re starting relationships and families of their own. My parents always made it clear that their marriage was a priority and it set in motion strong relationships for both my brother and I. Granted, I’ve been married barely a year and a half so I’m not setting myself up as some sort of marriage expert. I simply hope that when I have children I’m able to both love them with all my heart and love their father even more deeply.Image

What do you all think? I’m curious about whether any mothers out there agree with me or not? Do you think I’ll change my mind once I have children? Are the two loves even comparable?

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8 thoughts on “A post in honour of St. Valentine (sort of)

  1. hi Karissa! maybe you don’t even remember me, or think I am just some sort of weird creeper.. haha. But I saw the link to your blog on facebook so that’s not quite as creepy, and i do love a good blog…
    anyway, i thoroughly agree with you. my non-mother self used to think this, and now that i am holding our 4 week old daughter i still agree. I love Bronwen, but my love for and relationship with Brian is greater and comes before her. It is hard to see that right now sometimes, since newborns are needy little people, but I was a wife before I became a mother. also, i think that a strong marriage will help us in being better parents, together!

    • Hi Jen! Yes, I remember you! And I’m glad you read my blog, you’re not a creeper. Or if you are, I am too because I checked out your blog. Bronwen is adorable! I appreciate hearing from a mother about this since I don’t yet know what that’s like. I definitely agree that a strong marriage leads to better parents, based on what I’ve witnessed.

  2. I completely agree that you should have greater love for your husband than your children. I wouldn’t say love them less, but it is a different kind of love for sure.
    I once heard it explained this way: you love your children in a way that readies them to one day be separated from you, but you love your husband in a way that will keep him there forever. They are two different kind of loves that go two different directions. I hope that makes sense. I heard it at a conference a year ago and can’t remember it word for word.

  3. Hiya,

    So as a Mom to three little ones (who just happen to be your neices and nephew 🙂 here’s my take on it…

    I loved my husband first, and I love him as a stand alone, without our kids, without the title of “Dad”. When I look at him I see the man I married and fell in love with, not just the father of my children. This is important I think, especially because this whole parenting thing is tricky sometimes! It is all too easy to become so overcome by the love, work, demands, growth required by our children that you lose your relationship in your shared role as parents. I wonder if that is the sort of thing that the original article was written in response to?

    BUT The birth of our children has solidified, tested, and deepened that love and allowed us to have a shared experience of family that is such a gift from God. Our shared love for our children is something that has bound us closer together, which is part of God’s plan I think! My love for my husband came first, and will remain once our children are grown and gone from under our roof – but our children are the product of that first love (and Gods love for us) and somehow they grow and are nurtured from the richness of that relationship. The two are intertwined, and hard to separate as more or less. There is a bit of a false tension in comparing the two in a way – In drawing closer to my spouse, in loving him more, I am sharing the fruit of that love, loving and serving my children as well.

    This makes me want to spend more time thinking about what Love is, as it is biblically defined, and to ponder more about the intersection between love and service as it applies to our spouse, our children, and God. Hmmm.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post Karissa!

    • Hi Kimmi! Thanks for your thoughtful response to this. I appreciate your point of your love for your children being an extension of the love you and your husband have. It makes sense that the two are hard to separate and I guess they shouldn’t be separated. One of the things that excites me about having my kids one day is that they will be part of me and part of Peter and I look forward to seeing the traits I love in him in our children.

      What I find concerning is this attitude where mothers put their children above their husbands, devoting themselves so much to their kids that the love relationship they had first gets ignored. I think that comes, like you said, from the trickiness of parenting but it strikes me as something to be cautious about.

      I’m really enjoying these mother responses!

      P.S. Peter described this post as “the one where you say kids suck and husbands rock.” He said it was his favourite.

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