Write Idea, Wrong Execution.

I read a post the other day called ‘Why I Put My Husband Before Our Kids.’

It’s not the kind of thing I usually read, but I was curious, because I don’t, actually, put the Handsome Sidekick before our Offspring, and I wondered whether the article might have something interesting to say about why I should.

Apparently, it’s written in response to another article, which I also wouldn’t normally read, especially given the advertisements for other articles interspersed in the text (7 Sex Positions Men Love/I’m Cheating On My Husband… Am I A Bad Person?/How to Kiss Well …no, I am not making these up).

I’m not dismissing all relationship advice columns, of course—or parenting ones, for that matter. I also honestly believe that there’s a lot to be learnt from reading pieces you’d not normally read, especially if it’s not something you agree with. And usually, I’d just leave it at that, but what interested me is that Stephanie Jankowski, the writer of the Huffington Post article, mentioned how many vitriolic comments the original piece by Amber Doty had received. Doty was attacked for being ‘a bad mother’.

Now, there’s a nasty slur if there ever was one, isn’t it? And I totally disagree—I don’t think that saying you put your husband before your children makes you a bad mother. But I do think it makes you a bit of a glutton for punishment, and a less than stellar example to your children.

One of the points both Doty and Jankowski make is that their relationships with their husbands existed before the children came along, and hopefully, will continue after the children leave home. They advocate fostering that relationship so that, as a couple, they’re less likely to grow apart from each other. They also argue that focussing all attention solely on one’s children leads to spoilt, bratty children. And again, I’m on their side.

But I’m not about to start putting the Handsome Sidekick’s ‘needs’ before my children’s, because here’s the thing about the Handsome Sidekick: he’s an adult. We met when we were adults, and we spent ten years together before First Offspring was born. Of course, having a baby was an adjustment—it is for everyone, regardless of how long they’ve been together. But it was an adjustment which required both the Handsome Sidekick and me to work out what needed to be done, and to do it. It didn’t require me to put his needs first. It required for both of us to care for each other and our new baby. Together.

If women continue to talk about how they’re putting their husbands first, to protect their relationships, to reduce the risk of divorce, they are essentially using language which is writing the men out of the equation, and painting women into a corner from which we’ve struggled so hard to emerge. We should be talking instead about how we can better work together, as a team. We should be encouraging men to step up their game, instead of inviting them to leave everything to us. By talking about how we’re putting our husbands first–by placing them at the top of a the hierarchy of needs–at best, we’re excluding them from an enriching relationship with their children. At worst, we’re both infantilising them and disempowering ourselves.

On any given day, the needs of all the members of our particular family must be met. Some of them—usually the ones involving poo, or food—are more urgent than others. All of them have to be balanced. The Handsome Sidekick and I are in this together, picking up the slack for each other, modelling what it is to be parents and partners. We are demonstrating to our children that everyone has needs and that we’re supporting theirs and each other’s.

You could argue that I’m splitting hairs, and that it comes down to semantics, and you know, I’d agree with that, but the words we use matter. They matter to women, to men, and to children. I’d like to think that what what Doty and Jankowski are saying is that they want their children to realise that they have a relationship with the children’s father which is important. They seem to be saying that you should want your children to realise that sometimes they’ll have to wait, or that that Mummy and Daddy need alone time. That you shouldn’t devote yourselves solely to being your children’s doormat.

And I applaud that.

Just don’t use language that implies you should be your husband’s.

2 thoughts on “Write Idea, Wrong Execution.

  1. I agree…I was very glad when I came to the part in the second article in which the writer mentioned that she sometimes even put her own needs before everyone else’s….good for you.

    I get the sentiment behind those articles, but I honestly don’t see why there should be a ranking in the importance of the people in your life…especially since priorities very much depend on the situation. Does a mother have to jump the moment the child demands her attention? No…but she (and the father as well) better make sure to be there when the child really needs its parents, no matter if the reason is illness, the school stage play, bullying or a nightmare. Should a woman drop everything because her husband wants her to? Again, not necessarily, but when something prays on his mind, you should be his confidant…the whole thing is a two way street, though. It doesn’t matter how much time you devote to either husband or kids, as long as he isn’t just as devoted to you and the children.

    • Yes, I was glad to read that, too! It also made me wonder if the titles of the articles are there as a kind of ‘clickbait’.

      That’s very much the point, isn’t it? That we should be simply prioritising everyone’s needs depending on what’s most urgent. It’s possible to be a good partner/wife/husband without having to exclude all others from your lives, and it’s not only possible, but imperative, to have other people than your children in your life! I think if I devoted myself only to my children both they and I would go bonkers!!

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