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Why I Don't Love My Children More than My Husband

By caseymullins |

11 years and still ticking...

Have you read the DDB study about Mother’s Day? There’s several things the lifestyle study found, but the one that has gotten the most attention is the fact that 75% of mothers admit to loving their children more than their husbands. I admit to being in the 25% — not in that I love my husband more than my kids, but I certainly don’t love one more than the other. More so, the love I feel for each of them is dramatically different yet both overpowering and sometimes frightening. I can see the validity in other mothers’ arguments that husbands can leave but children always remain with you, but I grew up in a home with a single working mom. My relationship pretty much stalled out with her around 15, and I moved out shortly after my 17th birthday as an independent minor. Yes, husbands can leave, but so can kids.

I had been married about a year when I got into an argument with a friend about the fact that I had complete faith in my new marriage and my new husband. “How can you KNOW he won’t leave?” she argued. “I have to have faith that he won’t, or I’ll spend everyday a wreck wondering if tomorrow is the day he doesn’t come home,” I said. I’ve never worried about him leaving, there was a time I considered leaving (and I’ve written extensively about that on my own blog) but in the end we were both able to make it through, stronger than we ever were in our first eight years of marriage. We were both willing to work on our relationship and fight for us — things would have turned out much differently had one of us not been 100% committed. It’s scary to give every bit of trust you have to another person but it has proven to be the best relationship I’ve ever had.

I have numerous friends with much older children who have admitted to the fear they feel that when their youngest packs up and leaves for college, they’ll be left with a roommate whom they barely know who also happens to be their husband. Their kids have been their whole life, and suddenly their moving away to start new lives of their own, and the parents are left in an empty house with a relative stranger. I refuse to let that happen.

I look at my relationship with my husband the same way I look at my relationship with my own parents and my own children: I’m never going to give up on any of them. I don’t care how strained one of them may become or how distant we may be; I’m not going anywhere. I’ve been welcomed back as the prodigal daughter into my own family without question, and I’ve rectified some difficult relationships with my own parents in recent years. They are my family, and I cannot and will not give up on them. I’ve seen moms do some crazy stuff for some of their crazy kids, and I fully expect to be doing the same things as my girls grow. (I should clarify here that as the wife of an attorney, I’ve heard tales of many moms who walk their kids through some very hairy legal situations, I’m of the firm belief that there is a difference between hand-holding and supporting. My mom always said that if I ever got arrested, I’d be spending the night in jail but I’d always have a bed to come home to when I got out. That kind of love served me well (as it convinced me very well to never get arrested because I knew I was on my own.))

Back to my husband. Unlike family, I chose to love him, and there have been some days when we have both had to remind ourselves that we choose to love each other and sometimes that choice isn’t considered as strong as blood, but we made people. We made new people bonded by blood, and if that doesn’t knit us together forever, I’m not sure what ever could. I promised him that I would stick by him for time and all eternity and he promised me the same, in a world where promises don’t mean much anymore, we’ve been able to keep ours because we both choose to. I haven’t always been the best wife and at times he hasn’t been the husband I needed, but neither of us have given up on the other.

I am able to be the parent I am because I have him as a partner. He’s able to fulfill his responsibilities because I do my best to support him as well. While we’re not codependent on each other, we both do better out in the world knowing there’s someone back at home who makes us the best possible people we can be. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a pretty good bet that someday our kids are going to move out, leaving us where we started, just the two of us, madly in love, leaving our socks in the middle of the living room floor, and spots all over the bathroom mirror. We realize that it takes moments away from our kids to foster our relationship, but it’s worth it for us. I could never say my husband is “just an accessory” or that “I only like him for the sake of our kids.” It was assumed that women who didn’t love their children more than their husbands were “young teens or drug-using moms.” There was also a debate that the question “Who do you love more?” wasn’t clear.

Who do you love more when it comes to saving one or the other out of a burning building? That’s not really a valid question. The truth is Cody is going to be more capable of getting himself out than Addie or Vivi so obviously most moms (me included) are going to go for saving the littles. It’s not because we love them more than each other, we just know what our spouse is capable of.

Many of my friends have been hurt by men, my own mom included, and I can understand their answers and the trust issues. However, not all men are lifelong jerks, not all men abandon their families, and not all men are liars and cheats, this is where I believe the 25% comes in. It’s not that we’re all drug addicts or young moms, some of us just can’t straight up say we love our kids more than we love our husbands. While I may not love Cody more, I certainly don’t love him any less and recognize the situation I’m in as a very good one for myself and a very good environment for our kids to grow up in.


I have several friends who grew up in homes where it was apparent their mother loved them more than their father and that they were only staying together for their children. While I can’t personally speak to the intricacies of growing up in such a situation, I can say that it has devastated several of my friends to have their parents divorce after they move out and has damaged their relationships because of the example laid down by their own parents. My parents divorced when I was very young, and my mom divorced for a second time several years ago from someone who came to mean a lot to me in my life. As a young child, it’s hard to understand why your parents just can’t get along, yet as a grownup it’s equally as hard to see your parents as flawed individuals who make mistakes and struggle in relationships. Had my parents stayed together for my sister and myself, we would have never had the influence of my stepmom, which I’ve documented as being one of the best influences in my life. I may be grown with children now, but it still means a lot to me that I can go home and see my parents happy with the people they chose to be with years after my sister and I left.

I wear my heart on my sleeve in love, which means I love with all that I have, but it hurts exponentially more when things go wrong. I encourage people who are in a difficult relationship to fight with all they have to save it, but at the same time realize that they as individuals are worth fighting for and if their partner isn’t fighting for them? It may not be worth the heartache.

(I should also state that my husband is not my best friend, he is my husband. In the words of my friend Angie, “Asking your spouse to be your partner, lover, roommate, co-chair, and your bestie is just too much for one person to handle.  And if, God forbid, anything ever happens in your marriage, it’s going to be really awkward crying and sharing a pint of ice cream with your ex-spouse/best friend.” But that’s a post for another day; this one has gone on long enough.)

Read Buzz’s salon on the topic here and Whit’s opinion here.

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About caseymullins

caseymullins

caseymullins

Casey Mullins is a writer, photographer, and nice person living in Indianapolis with her two little girls, husband, and a one eyed cat. She writes regularly at her personal blog moosh in indy and can be found trolling local bakeries and napping whenever possible. Read bio and latest posts → Read Casey's latest posts →

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37 thoughts on “Why I Don't Love My Children More than My Husband

  1. Katie says:

    I am in the 25% too. I love my boys differently than I love C, but not “more than”. That is too black and white. I mean, how do you quantify love for a person?

    I DID marry my best friend. At least, one of them. I have a best girlfriend too, but C was my best friend before we ever dated.

  2. Allison says:

    LOVE. THIS.

  3. pgoodness says:

    Well said, as always, Casey. :)

  4. The Diaper Diaries says:

    I have so much to say I could write a book. But I won’t. I will say that my husband and I have been teaching marriage preparation classes for 10 years and we actually talk about this in class. If you put your kids before your spouse your marriage will suffer. And when they leave the house you will be two strangers living in the same house. My kids are served FAR more by my strong marriage than by me making them the center of my universe.

    although my hubby is unashamedly my best friend. I have other friends for sure, but no one comes remotely close to “getting me” like he does. I am ok with that because I plan on spending my twilight years hand and hand with my best friend :)

  5. Pam says:

    I feel the same way….I realized as my grown kids moved on and got married and had kids of there own…My hubby and I are best friends…He stands up for me against something one of the kids have said…he defends me as I defend him…we realize that now it is just him and Me…we have to survive in a dog eat dog world…we struggle together…share one anothers tears, fears etc, we both realize that our health is not getting any better…we are both in our 50′s, I am a few years older and I have mulitiple health issues some pretty serious.and he is always right there for me….so yeah I do love my hubby more than my kids…

  6. Kate says:

    This was so well written, This world anymore not only spoils children but they live like they were born to cater to every want for their children, catering to their every NEED is much different to their every WANT. It makes me sad that so many people do not know that their husbands should come first. Has anyone ever thought about why God ordained marraige only between and man and woman? You have such a unique relationship that God designed for your spouse, if you don’t believe that to be true theb explain why God created sex, just saying! What a beautiful post about putting your husband first. :)

  7. Michelle@Gotchababy says:

    Casey, I’m in that 25% too- my parents put their marriage first, and it’s worked out well for them (they’ve been married for 42 yrs)! I could say more, but basically, you’re dead-on.

  8. Angie @ Just Like The Number says:

    First off all, I’m so flattered with the mention. Thanks!

    I think you touched on something really important at the end – if your partner isn’t fighting for you (and placing you as an equal priority in their life as you’re placing them), then you might need to rethink your situation. I wonder how many mothers (or fathers) who feel a greater love for their children simply aren’t in a relationship that encourages that kind of love and loyalty.

    I hope that parents who overtly shower more love on their children than their spouse will think about the pressure that puts on their children. I have a dear friend whose mother made no secret about the fact that her children were the main purpose of her life – above her own happiness and definitely above the happiness of her spouse. My friend, who is an adult now, has terrible anxiety about the pressure to remain that source of happiness for her mother.

    Finally, we need to remind ourselves the message we’re sending to our kids when they see us shower love on our spouses. It tells them the world is bigger than them. It tells them that one day they can find and nurture this kind of love in their life. I’ll never forget the joy I saw in Elena’s eyes as she was in on revealing the big surprise trip Mike had planned for me. You could tell that she was seeing a love that was bigger than herself, and I know she’ll remember it when she loves as an adult.

  9. DJ says:

    Of course I love my children more then my partner, I did not carry him for 9 months, I never pushed him through the birth canal, I have never felt that sense of I would die for you if I had too as when I held my children in my arms for the first time. I don’t hate men nor do I think all men are rubbish in fact I celebrated my 33rd year of marriage last week to a man who is one in a million. I actually think that is one of the problems in today’s society not many parents put their children before themselves and their own needs and working in welfare I see many women put men before themselves and their children even if it means losing their kids.

  10. grace says:

    LOVE this! You hit it dead on. My kids have a happy home environment BECAUSE of the relationship/friendship my husband and I share. I don’t love one more than the other, just differently

  11. shana says:

    I can’t imagine loving someone more then my own child. I personally think a lot of these women just have a strong maternal bond to their children. Perhaps there is no trust issue. I am a single mother who puts all my time in with my 20 month old and I know one day yes he will leave and live his life, but we will have a special bond because I put the effort in it to. He is a part of me. I can not help but to love him more.

  12. amanda says:

    I dont think its accurate to assume that the 75% are only staying with their husbands because of the children. I love my husband and when our babies grow up and move out I’m still gonna love him. I put my children before anyone and I know my husband does too. That doesn’t make us love each other any less.

  13. Malisams says:

    My mom and stepdad did couples’ therapy for a little bit a while back, and the therapist told my mom that she needed to stop focusing so much on her grown children, and focus more on her husband – that she needed to put him first above all. That stuck with me, and now that I’m married and we’re expecting our first, I know that I will absolutely keep him first, since dealing with all else (be it kids, work, family, whatever) will be infinitely easier with him at (and on) my side. We are a team. So I guess I’m part of the 25% as well, even if our kid’s not quite here yet. :)

  14. Audra Hoy says:

    Fabulous post. Absolutely fabulous.

  15. MailDeadDrop says:

    Huh. I read the title as “Why I Don’t Love My Children More than My Husband (Loves Our Children)” which is a completely different topic…

    MDD

  16. Claire says:

    I love my daughter, but man, she can be super annoying! :) She is my precious child, but she is not my friend, whereas my husband is both my friend and my love. I love my husband because we give to each other, rather than just one way giving. I lveo my daughter, but my husband is my soulmate!

  17. Claire says:

    I love my daughter, but man, she can be super annoying! :) She is my precious child, but she is not my friend, whereas my husband is both my friend and my love. I love my husband because we give to each other, rather than just one way giving. I lveo my daughter, but my husband is my soulmate!

  18. Diera says:

    I’m literally not sure I’m capable of loving anyone else as much as I love my kids. That doesn’t translate into catering to their every whim, or not being willing to spend time with my husband because I’m too busy packing elaborate lunches for them or something wacky and obsessive like that, and it’s not so much that I think they’ll never leave me (I know too many people who hate their parents to count on that)! I love my husband, but my love for my kids is on another plane. I’m not sure I would have predicted it would be this way before I actually had them, but that’s just how it is.

  19. Shawna says:

    Could not have said it better!

  20. I didn’t think I was in the 25% until I read this. You put it into words that fit me perfectly. Thank you! This was a great post and I especially like part about getting the family out of a burning building and your husband not being your best friend.

  21. Jessica says:

    I’m that 75% and I don’t want to judge I really don’t. Who AM I to judge? With that said (and this is going to hit a nerve with most of you, I do apologize), It is only my opinion (You know what they say about those) that this minority of women who wouldn’t put their children first are selfish for one. Again it is my opinion that the ONLY person you should put before your children is yourself, and ONLY because you need to be the best and healthiest you that you can be FOR your children. Who else is going to teach them self-love, self respect, self esteem and self worth?.I would never want to convey to my children that somebody, ANYBODY meant more to me than they do. Yes, they should be brought up in a loving home, watching their parents love and respect each other, but I alone brought my girls into this world, so it’s me and my CHILDREN against the world. Our love for our children is unconditional, will you stop loving your child if he draws on the wall? Or, God forbid tells you that he hates you? I would certainly hope not! I know I wouldn’t ! However, wouldn’t it be kind of hard to love your husband if he walked next door and had his way with the neighbor’s wife? Or anything else of that caliber? I agree that not all men are this ridiculous, I happen to have an outstanding husband here, who is an exceptional father, I am just simply trying to point out and make you realize that if you really dig deep, you’ll find that your love for your husband is conditional. “I’ll always love you IF…you stay faithful to me, etc.” So, it is MY opinion that a deeper love is an unconditional love. The love that the majority of us have for our offspring, flesh of our flesh, our children, our BABIES, is much deeper than the love you put a condition on. I think that the majority (notice I don’t point my finger at ALL of these 25% here) have some kind of codependency, they need to be loved by someone, OTHER than their children, an adult, So if they’re loved, that’s all that matters and a lot of these women will stay in a destructive relationship forever if it’s able with a man, even if it meant watching her children being abused. I’ve come across this too many times. It’s scary. Love your babies like none other, because NOBODY will EVER love you like they do! Bet your bottom dollar!

  22. Ann says:

    Great article! The number one way you show that you love your kids is making sure you’ve married the right person to HAVE those kids with you! And then, to keep your wedding vows to love each other above all else til death. Of course, parents should make their children a priority while they need them, but they grow up and WILL take a spouse of their own to love more than you. Thinking you always will need to put them above everything else in your life is very controlling and stifling for them. The purpose of raising kids is raising them to be independent of you!

  23. Laura Scarborough says:

    great job! I’m on Team Husband too. For what it’s worth my experience is based upon the fact I am now at a different stage of parenting(oldest is 25 and I am a Mi-ma with 2 grandbabies too)…along with the fact I was there in the trenches with the majority of mommies out there just a few years ago (youngest is 10 and it has not been an easy-peasy ride with these 5 living children or the 2 we buried 2 decades ago. still the stage we are now with some out of the house starting their own lives, families and adventures and some at home needing mommy and daddy stiil quite a bit, all the time…I am so glad we have put “us” first. The moments where we find we are all alone under the Big Top are becoming all the more frequent and I am so glad he is so much more than a room mate as many of my contemporaries say. The feedback from my grown kids confirms I am glad I put their daddy first too.
    Here is my take…for what it might be worth…and yes, some have already questioned the valdity of my perspective and eperience still here is THIS mommy’s opinion and experience:
    http://adventuresinjuggling.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/recycling/
    Thank you Casey for speaking up for us 25%…or perhaps more.

  24. alejandra says:

    Just like you don’t have favorites with your children, you love them equally for different reasons, I don’t favor my children over my husband. Very well put in your article.

  25. Mary Beth says:

    I think the type of love for your kids is different than for your husband. I don’t have to decide to love my kids. I just do. But to love my husband in a spouse kind of say, I have to make that decision every day. I appreciate this article but I kind of hate articles like this…. mainly because I don’t think men write nor read articles like this. Yet women seem pressured into analyzing things like whom we love and how much and how to display it. It’s tiring.

  26. the anthropologist says:

    I think Mary Beth nailed it. Well said.

  27. Amanda says:

    I have said this before, and I’ll say it again, I love my husband as much as I love my child. But on top of that love, I have a responsibility for my child, for their health and well-being that I simply don’t have for my husband. If both my husband and my baby were to be in mortal danger, and I could only choose one, I would choose my daughter, because that is my responsibility, not because I love her more. I think people underestimate the value of a vital, truly healthy marriage has to their children. If you allow children to be the center of your universe, then your husband will suffer. But if you give your marriage priority, your children will flourish. When you love your spouse passionately, you’re not talking away from love for your children, you’re building a sturdy foundation that allows them to grow securely. My children will always know that their parents adore each other, they will never wonder if we will get a divorce.

  28. Alley says:

    Your family is beautiful, Casey. It’s so good that you and your husband are in it for the long haul. So many people give up so easily, my ex-husband included.

  29. Sheetal says:

    Superb Post !…. U married ur husband believing u both will grow old together, but u never dreampt the same with ur baby…. u love ur baby because he is ur blood n its so natural…. u love ur husband coz he is ur partner for life even after ur baby leaves u to live his own life….. i’ve seen situation where moms are left with nothing but to obsessively depend on their children for happiness in their old age.

  30. Mel says:

    Thank you for posting! I have been one of the 75% and now, after working through issues in my marriage because of it. I have learned an important lesson, and agree with you. They are equal. Marriage is the foundation of our happy family and needs to be taken care of too. Not, that children should be neglected, its just balancing needs and the daily grind. Thanks again.

  31. The Mommy Psychologist says:

    Does anyone remember when Ayelet Waldman admitted in NYT to loving her husband more than her kids? She got death threats! I talk about it here and provide a link for the original article for anyone who is interested:

    http://www.themommypsychologist.com/2012/02/29/whats-wrong-with-us-part-iii/

  32. Jean says:

    I’m also in the 25% and I take offense that you can’t also be best friends. My husband and I are partners, lovers and yes best friends. We share the same interests and are just absurdly close that way and have been since our teens( we’re in our mid 30′s).
    I feel bad for husbands in the 75%, who’ve basically been regulated to sperm donor and breadwinner. Something they sure didn’t sign up for. You have kids to raise them and release them, husbands should be forever.

  33. Laura says:

    I like what Mary Beth said, above. While I ‘get’ what you are saying about not focusing so much time on your children that you let the marriage suffer and then are left with a roommate when the children are gone, I don’t think the 2 loves have to be compared. I don’t always do my best at keeping my marriage a priority in the middle of all the effort it takes to care for my children, but I do believe that we should all put more effort into maintaining good marriages.

    I remember the Ayelet Waldman article and give her credit for putting her marriage first and admire the love that she has for her husband. But, when I got to this paragraph (copied below), I cannot relate AT ALL. My worst nightmare is to lose any of my loved ones, but I feel the exact opposite as she does about it being harder to survive after losing her husband or her children.

    ” I often engage in the parental pastime known as God Forbid. What if, God forbid, someone were to snatch one of my children? God forbid. I imagine what it would feel like to lose one or even all of them. I imagine myself consumed, destroyed by the pain. And yet, in these imaginings, there is always a future beyond the child’s death. Because if I were to lose one of my children, God forbid, even if I lost all my children, God forbid, I would still have him, my husband.

    But my imagination simply fails me when I try to picture a future beyond my husband’s death. Of course I would have to live. I have four children, a mortgage, work to do. But I can imagine no joy without my husband.”

    Anyway – I know this article is different than hers. I just don’t think we have to go comparing the two loves – a more effective thing to do, in my opinion, is to just focus on valuing the marriage.

  34. MrsK says:

    All I want to say is that we have the same pj bottoms….I love my strawberry pants!!

  35. Amber says:

    I cant honestly say I love my child more than my husband. The way I see it if it wasnt for my husband I wouldnt have my daughter. Granted if we werent together I still may have had children but I wouldnt have the same sweet baby girl I have now. Im not saying that I wouldnt step in front of a bullet for my daughter because everyone around me knows I would. But I will go to the ends of the earth and back for my husband as well.

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