I find the “who comes first the spouse or the kids” debate to be a fascinating one. I know it’s easy to get out of balance if you’re not paying attention, but I also don’t see the need, most of the time to set up a hierarchy of rank. Relationships are so much more complex that a simple priority list.
Children have needs they can’t meet for themselves.
While my spouse could be fine taking care of himself for the rest of his life if I were to pass away, my children would not.
On the other hand, I understand that letting your marriage suffer because you pour every last moment into caring for the kids is not a choice any of us can afford to make.
Marriage has to be a priority, children have to be a priority. Somehow each of us must find the balance here that works for our own families.
A lot of the time, I feel like this discussion boils down to semantics. Most of us aren’t faced with the decision between child and spouse on a large scale. It’s just a bunch of small decisions every day and for most of us the decision will be different depending on a thousand other factors that couldn’t be communicated through a simple statement like “the kids always come first” or “your spouse should always come first”.
The “come first” argument makes simple something that is complex, in that it pretends the decision is one that can be made once and then it is complete.
On the other hand the discussion overly complicates daily life that is usually made up of choosing to put different people, yourself included “first” in a variety of situations every single day.
For the most part, I’m not bothered with what order people prioritize their family members. Spouse, kids, self… as long as you are truly loving each well, I believe it evens out in the end, regardless of where you intend to draw those lines.
However, there is one instance in which I will adamantly argue that the children must come first. And that is in cases of safety. If your spouse is ever harming your child, that is a time when you can no longer think of your spouse first, or even second. In that moment, it is your job as parent to take care of the kids no matter what else.
Find help. Get help. Call a hotline. Get your kids away and to safety. Do whatever you have to do. In that moment, there is no more discussion or argument. Your kids come first.
It’s not popular to talk about. Or even think about, but I want you to know that you can put your kids first. That’s parenting. It’s hard and and it’s raw and it’s so much more difficult than that simple statement. That in those moments putting your kids first means completely disrupting their lives. It might mean a brand new journey in life that seems scary and uncertain.
But I can tell you that your kids need you to put them first. I hope that my story and the stories of those who have spoken out this month for Child Abuse Prevention month, can give you the encouragement you need to step out. To put your kids first.
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