Why I can't always put my husband first

Love doesn't divide. It multiplies.

Why I can't always put my husband first

[Editor's note: This story is a an essay about a women and her husband. While this is one example of one type of relationship, we understand, appreciate and celebrate that relationships come in all forms and configurations.]

A few days ago a young, newly married Facebook friend of mine posted an article entitled “Why My Husband Will Always Come Before My Kids" by Amber Doty. In this article, Doty discusses her policy of always prioritizing the needs of her husband over those of her children. She explains that making him number one is the best way to divorce-proof their marriage and to model a good marriage for her children.

While I admire her efforts to keep her marriage intact and to provide her children with the basis for their own future happy marriages, I think she is colossally wrong.

Her article reminded me of a story I heard not long ago about a man who would tell his children that if the family boat were sinking and they were all drowning, he would swim past the children to save their mother. He told them this to stress the importance of the marital bond and to emphasize how much he loved their mother. I imagine, though, that to young children, who should see their parents as a united front determined to protect them, such a story would be confusing at best and terrifying at worst.

Don't get me wrong. Keeping my marriage healthy is a priority for me. I have seen and heard of too many couples who drifted apart because they had no shared interests. I certainly don't advocate couples putting their marriages on hold while they are raising their children. I believe that couples need to make creating strong marriages is important. I just don't believe the way to do this is to make one person in the family more important than all the others.

I admit that I don't always put my husband first. Why not? Well, if I am being honest, there are a lot of reasons – reasons I'm not proud of, but I am a flawed human being and an imperfect wife.

Sometimes I don't put my husband's needs first because I'm tired, or I'm hungry, or I'm grumpy. My favorite show is on. I'm into my book. He annoyed me. I want to sleep. I'm selfish. I'm angry. I'm feeling sorry for myself. I'm comfortable where I am. I want to go out. I want to stay in. I want my way…

You get the idea.

But beyond these reasons, I also don't always put my husband first because I don't think it's realistic or wise or the best thing we can do for our family. Here are the best reasons for not always putting my husband first.

I don't even know what that means

How does one always prioritize the needs of one person over those of other family members? What would that look like? Because let's be honest, putting my husband before our kids and always putting our marriage first would mean a lot more date nights and sipping wine by the fire and a lot less helping with math homework and driving kids to ball practice.

The reality is that being married and having kids means sometimes having to do things that don't necessarily bring us closer. In fact, sometimes all the going and doing makes us tired and grumpy and sometimes not so nice to each other. We do it for the kids because the kids are our priority—not always, but often. After all, if they aren't our priority, whose priority will they be? Do they have to wait until if/when they get married to be first on someone's list?

We put the person first who is the neediest in the moment

That makes sense. Right? Sometimes that's the kids. When they were small, it was often the kids. Sometimes it's my husband. Sometimes it's me.

The point is that we want to model sensitivity for our children. Who is really having a bad day? Who needs some extra attention? A pat on the back? A little one-on-one time? Trust me. When it's one of us, we don't hesitate to make that a priority. Date night is a very important part of our marriage, but when it's one of the kids who is the neediest, we aren't afraid our marriage will suffer because we put the kids first sometimes.

Love does not divide. It multiplies.

Doty points out that as much as she loves her children, she loves her husband more. Why? Why does someone have to be loved more? Why is anyone loved less? My husband and I are crazy about each other, and we are crazy about our kids. We have never thought of it as an either/or scenario. Our love created our children. There's no reason for us to see them as a threat to that love.

He doesn't expect me to put him first all the time.

If I always put my husband's needs before our kids', then our kids will see a man who thinks his needs are more important than theirs. They will see a great marriage built, at least in part, at their expense. We would rather they see a great marriage built on an extravagant, all-encompassing love.

And that guy with the boat? I can't speak for his wife, but if my husband swam past our drowning children to save me, he would be wasting his effort, because when he finally did get to me, I would kill him—by drowning him. I don't want to always be first, and I wouldn't want to be married to a man who always wants to be first either.

My marriage is a gift, one I intend to nurture, but one of the gifts of marriage should be that it helps both husband and wife be less selfish. It fills us more love to give—not less. To me, a marriage built on the idea that someone is more loved or is more important than the other members of the family misses the point of marriage.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


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To the mama who had a baby during the pandemic

You deserve hugs, love, recognition and so much more. But I will settle for the next best thing, which is to write you a little love letter.

I am a midwife, and that means two things:

  1. I am a total birth nerd
  2. I want to hug every new mom I see

But we are in a pandemic, which means that the latter is impossible—and this makes me impossibly sad. You deserve hugs, love, recognition and so much more. So I will settle for the next best thing, which is to write you a little love letter.

Darling new mama. Here are seven things you need to know:

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