Why I Don't Love My Children More than My HusbandCasey Mullins
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.)