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Why I Love My Child More Than My Husband

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Jeanne Sager: When your three-year-old climbs onto your lap and asks, "Do you love me the best, Mama?," what do you say? "Well, yes, but not as much as I love your Daddy?" I don't think so.

woman hugging daughter with jealous husband in background

And yet, when I got pregnant, I received some not-so-gentle advice from the older women in my life: "You're going to love this baby more than life itself. Just don't tell your husband," said one. "You don't want to neglect your husband, dear. Let him know he's still the most important person in your world," said another.

I didn't take their arguably sage advice. Here's why.

Since the 1980s, at least two dozen studies have posited the idea that the quality of a marriage drops once the couple has kids. These studies say that marital dissatisfaction comes from parents' loss of freedom and their childless status quo. And when kids leave the nest, studies show that parents are happier than at any other time in their relationship. Although they miss their kids, they revel in their new freedoms and revisit old marital activities, sometimes ones they haven't experienced since before the first child was born.

All this should have terrified me and my husband when we started The Talk -- the one about trying for a baby. After all, I'd heard for years that kids could break a marriage. But instead, my husband and I talked about money. My biggest worry was that the mounting cost of diapers would revive our old checkbook quarrels, so we agreed not to fight about spending on the baby.

Research shows that parents who plan ahead avoid the relationship-ruining discord the old studies talk about. A recent study by professors at the University of California at Berkeley found a flaw in the bulk of the "kids ruin marriage" studies: they didn't take into account parental mindset before baby made three.

Parents who disagreed about making a baby, parents who were complacent about the process, and parents who never had the chance to plan (the so-called "oops" pregnancy) were much more likely to struggle post-birth.

Professors Philip and Carolyn Cowan report that parents who walk in with their eyes wide open and all their wits about them are in for a pleasant surprise. Planning parenthood makes for happier parents, in other words.

When I gave birth to my daughter, we weren't looking to fix our marriage with a baby. We weren't on two different pages, one of us baby-hungry and the other just going along for the ride. We -- both of us -- wanted to be parents, which left us both open to falling in love; this time, that all-consuming love you have for your child.

And while we loved -- and still love -- each other, when we looked at the little bundle placed in my arms in the delivery room, we were -- as a couple -- hopelessly, totally gone. We love each other as two best friends who have shared passion and triumph and had a meeting of the minds. In the other, we found our other half, and we were fulfilled.

And we love our daughter, too. Fiercely. And in ways that we can't love each other. It's partly because we created her -- although I firmly believe that parents who adopt have as strong a claim to the love of a child as we do. It's also because we chose her -- we actively made a decision to become parents.

Since our daughter was born, love is Saturday mornings when I stay in bed while he gets up to turn on cartoons and pour cereal in bowls; it's the Sunday mornings I let him doze while I cuddle on the couch with our toddler and a pile of books. It's a kiss and a hug on the way out the door to work ... followed by a high-five, as directed by the three-year-old who gets the same routine. And I love him all the more for letting her play cruise director.

My husband and I became parents because we want to give everything we have to our daughter, and the reward will be watching her walk down a graduation aisle, get married, have children of her own. When she makes a mistake or lets us down, it doesn't decrease the love, it makes us work harder.

But perhaps the biggest difference lies as much in the past as it does in the future. With a child, you will always be her parent. Without me, there is no her. With a spouse, there is still that life before you met, the period of time when you were two distinct people. I am still me without my husband. Our daughter isn't.

Together we fell in love and made a child. Together, we fell in love with that child. As my husband says, "It's just a different kind of love completely." He calls how he feels about our daughter a complete attachment, a bond that he never saw being created and yet can't imagine ever undoing. He picked me (well, he asked me out!), he dated me, and he slowly fell in love with me, but he loved our daughter from the second she came screeching into the world.

So when my three-year-old works her way into my lap and asks, "Do you love me the best, Mama?" I wrap my arms around her and reassure her, "Yup, Mommy loves you more than anything else in the whole wide world."

Because I do. And her daddy is OK with that -- because he does too.


next: Can You Fall Back in Love After an Affair?
24 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous July 5, 2009, 8:36 AM

“It’s also because we chose her — we actively made a decision to become parents.”

I had two by choice and one by surprise at a point in my life where children were not wanted. Guess what? Makes no difference in how much love I have for them. I love them all like crazy. That arguement doesn’t work. Try again

ame i. July 5, 2009, 11:35 AM

My late husband resented the heck out of the fact that I could love our 2 daughters more than him. My current husband (this is his first marriage, my/our girls his only children)understands perfectly & I know he would save them before trying to save me.

Anonymous 2 July 5, 2009, 9:19 PM

Anonymous, I don’t think the author meant it in a bad way. My son (only child) was one of life’s “surprises” that got handed to me and I love him just as much as I’m sure the author loves her daughter, who was “chosen”. My son was “chosen” as well - because even before the “oops” happened, I knew that any time I got pregnant, there was no way I’d do anything but become the best mother I possibly could, and love the heck out of my kid(s). I “actively made the decision” as well - I could’ve aborted or given him up for adoption or whatever… but to me, those weren’t even options to consider!

And my SO knows that I love my son more. Sometimes he wishes he got a little more attention, but I give him as much as I can as well. And he’s been on the other end of it as well, so he understands. His mom basically chose her husband (third one) over him, and he doesn’t agree with that - he thinks that he should’ve come first, as her son. So while he gets jealous a little bit, he knows that this is how it should be for me!

Anonymous July 6, 2009, 12:51 AM

I really loved this article. I agree, I don’t think the authors intentions were to say that pregnancy’s that are unplanned or not agreed upon don’t make the cut. She was just stating a study that was done.

RachelAZ July 6, 2009, 1:36 AM

I don’t love my son MORE than my husband, I love him equally but differently. I think people misunderstand the difference in the 2 loves and interpret that to mean they love their child MORE. That is definitely not the case for me!

Anonymous July 6, 2009, 3:57 PM

Awww…this made me want to cry (happy tears)! I know exactly what she meant and feels. It was like I could have written the blog since it follows along with my life and how I feel about my daughter. My 6 yr old still tends to ask me who I love better (her vs the cat, her cousins, her dad) and I always tell her I love people in different ways but I love her more than life itself…and it is true. I believe the love of your child (whether biological or not, planned or surprise blessing) is THE strongest love you will ever feel….and so different from any other kind of love. This is my reality. While I understand how some people may read the blog and get a little “bent” by words used since they only apply to her reality, I think everyone should just read it and comment/share, not get defensive (ie: “That arguement doesn’t work. Try again”).

Sharon July 7, 2009, 9:53 AM

I loved this article, and I agree…especially this morning, there is NO question! ;-0
The author is still at an easy stage. haha I have an 18 (going to be soph. in college), 16 (going to be HS sen), 14 (soph), and 11 year old (6th grade/ starting MS). OY they can be very hurtful, and definitely selfish, but I still love them with all my heart! I totally admit that I doubt one of my kids and I would have ever been friends but I love her with all my heart too and know she’s great! [at many things even if she doesn’t…she’s extremely negative most of the time, and even though this posting probably does not sound like it I look for the brightsides…she’s a worrier and I refuse to worry (it does no good)]. My husband is a different story though.
The ‘who would you save’ thing is in part a good point. I would hate to have to choose between my children, but I think I would immediately think of age and ability for the situation and choose the one who needed more help. I know I would not choose my husband. I’ve told him for forever that he better choose the kids too! He wanted them as well, I actually wasn’t as gungho about a 4th, (I wanted him to have a vas. right after the 3rd but he wanted another), and if you ask my kids most of the time they would claim he’s my favorite.

Sharon July 7, 2009, 10:10 AM

Unfortunately, there are parents who don’t feel like all of us, and I don’t understand that at all!
I also don’t understand a friend of mine who had 16 yr old twins, was dating a guy who had grown children and told her right off he didn’t want any more…when she got pregnant he told her he would pay for the abortion and she promptly told him to go to hell (rightly so in my opinion, but I do totally see his side). Now the little boy is 4; she has been working and going to school his entire life, and one of the older sisters (who has pretty serious depression) is basically raising him and this year the mom starts dating a man whom she slowly has moved into their life, but he lives at least 45 miles away from them, the opposite direction of her job. She barely sees her kids, fine with the now 20 year olds obviously, but I just don’t understand! It’s like she quit being a mom. :-(

Janet July 7, 2009, 10:54 AM

What a great story. I love the way her husband says “It’s just a different kind of love completely.” And calls how he feels about their daughter “a complete attachment, a bond that he never saw being created and yet can’t imagine ever undoing.” Perfect synopsis.

Unfortunately, I know a LOT of women who say they love their children more than their spouse. To me, that’s sad.

I couldn’t have had my 2 kids without my husband. He is my love and my friend and the person I turn to for everything. My love for him is definitely different from my love for my kids. But, it’s just as strong. And he knows it. I make sure of it. And he reciprocates. =)

Alicia July 7, 2009, 11:05 AM

I don’t buy it. You can’t love your child more than your husband and expect to stay happily married.

Kristina July 7, 2009, 11:33 AM

I wouldn’t say I love my children “more” than my husband but I do agree with the statement that it’s a different kind of love. It’s a protective love in a way. When I had my children I knew it was my job to make sure they make it to adulthood happy, healthy and yes, alive. Some days … they alive part is not always easy when you deal with teens. (wink wink) I really don’t know if others feel this way but when a child grows inside you and you finally meet that little face, I just don’t think men can get the instant bond. Not saying they don’t have their bond with their child but I just feel its stronger for a woman.

Deb Hunt July 7, 2009, 11:42 AM

I think if you ask most mothers and probably most fathers they will say they love their child(ren) more. I have an adopted daughter and a daughter born to me naturally, I can honestly say that I love them both the same. Both girls know about the adoption and my younger daughter whom I carried for nine months, now wants to be adopted like her big Sissy! They are the two most wonderful children in the world and I would give my life for both of them, and yes I do love them more than my husband!!! But I believe he knows this and would probably say the same goes for him….

diane July 7, 2009, 12:32 PM

such a touchy subject, it is so easy to love your child, it takes commitment and ‘adulthood’ to love your husband,, you really can’t and shouldn’t compare.
To admire andlove your hubby for his sacrifices and care isn’t something a child can even understand or reciprocate. and shouldn’t . to learn to be a mature mom, a hubbies love makes it a bit easier, no to be compared to it can’t happen wihout a hubbies love.

Amber July 7, 2009, 2:53 PM

I think that it is less about loving one more than one another and more about which one you give priority to.

My husband and I both agreed that when we had kids; they came first no matter what!!

Three kids and eight years later we wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometimes it sucks to be put on the back burner, but in the end we care about each other more because of one another’s commitment to our boys.
-Amber

Sarah July 8, 2009, 9:22 AM

I agree that it is a matter of not loving one more than the other, but it is a different kind of love. Most of us did not know our spouses when they were babies - I met my husband when we were 19 and 20, and we dated for 5 years (off and on) before marrying. But, OF COURSE I love our 3 children more! I birthed them, breastfed them, taught them to walk and talk and write their names, and have invested tears, prayers and years into them. Babies are born completely helpless, so SOMEBODY had better be putting them first! That’s why God made them so cute, because they are so dependent.
Kids who are born to couples who put each other (and themselves) first usually turn out messed up - because NO ONE put them first. Most children of celebrities qualify, as do the kids of preachers - everyone else is more important than their own kids. And, Daddy’s job (his ego) is the most important thing in the family. The kids of Ronald and Nancy Reagan always felt like they were just in the way, because the two of them loved each other and themselves so much.
And, while I think it is natural for parents, especially mothers, to love the kids more, I think it opens the door to jealousy. My husband was extremely jealous of our firstborn, so he coped by putting himself first, since I wasn’t going to! His world still revolves around his ego, although we have come a long way in the 20 years we have been parents. Our time, when there are no kids at home, will come (about 7 more years). And, we do date nights and try to get away alone together when we can - after all, if you love your kids, you will give them the gift of a stable marriage!

Happily Married September 8, 2009, 3:40 PM

Good luck staying married…what a sad example you are teaching your child.

lea January 8, 2010, 11:01 PM

This is so true. Me and my husband didnt plan our son but we alway had a great relationship-

Having the understand as I explain to my husband a year ago when my son was one, that the love I have for him and my son are two different kinds of love.

He would alway tell me he loved our son more then he loved me, which I was perfectly ok with but I exlpained to him to different since he was alway saying I cant love him with all my love like I say but I can , cause the loves are different. Every nite I tell my son he holds all my love and alway will- which is very true since without my son- I am no one. I then tell my husband I love him with all my love. And that is true cause I do- in a completely different life partner way.

lea January 8, 2010, 11:06 PM

Alicia,

Your completely wrong. You can love your kids more then you love your husband and stay happily married if your husband loves them just as much.

If you did read the article fully- She is talking about two different kinds of love and if you havent exp. the kind of love for a child, she is talking about- I feel very sorry for you because its the best feeling in the world to love your child more then life itselfs and want to protect them completely.

mikal July 25, 2010, 1:31 AM

i’m a 23 yr old guy who stumbled on to this sight by accident.I find this topic very interesting.i believe the love for your child is stronger in the sense that you would sacrifice your life for them 1st as opposed to your spouse.but at the same time you should give the majority of your attention to your spouse because they are who you will spend the rest of your life with.a fatal mistake in marriage is that you “should” give most of your attention to your children because they “need” it more which is only true when they are very young.I would not be a jealous husband because thats pathetic to be envious of your baby,but once they reach a certain age your attention should shift back to your husband or wife.remember god said a man will leave his parents and must stick to his wife and become “One Flesh”, therefore your primary obligation is to your husband.But that doesn’t mean you love your children less or your husband more it just gives the proper priority in a family life.A successful marriage is based on eachother not children.

Linda January 23, 2011, 8:56 AM

This is why so many kids are screwed up today. I DID tell my children I loved their father more than I did them. They were the moons, but he was the sun. I could imagine life without the kids, but not without my husband. I also told them my wish for them was to find a husband/wife that THEY could love most. And they did.


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