Okay, I'm gonna drop the humorous parenting and housewife anecdotes for a minute here and talk about something a little more seriously. I apologize in advance for the lengthy rant I'm about to go on.
About a week ago, E! News celebrity Giuliana Rancic made the statement to US Weekly that she and her husband put their marriage first, baby second. She said, "...it's funny because a lot of people, when they have kids, they put the baby first, and the marriage second. That works for some people. For us, I find, we put our marriage first and our child second, because the best thing we can do for him is have a strong marriage."
I don't usually follow or pay attention to things like this, and I probably still wouldn't know about it if I hadn't been flipping through the channels on Friday and, for some reason, decided to start watching a bit on HLN where a couple reporters were discussing Rancic's comments. They were talking about why they agree with her, and discussing the fact that apparently, Rancic has received a lot of flack about these "controversial statements." Side note: I really hate it when people use that term. "Controversial statements" or remarks. It's silly. Most remarks celebrities make are perceived as controversial by SOMEONE - because they're human beings who have their own opinions and since they're famous, their opinions are often voiced louder than ours are, and there are always going to be plenty of people who disagree with them and want to make THEIR opinions heard too. But, I digress.
After I watched this bit about it on HLN, I thought about it for a little while and I realized--oh my god, that's exactly what my husband and I have been doing this whole time. We've made our kids our entire priority and the centers of our universe. Anyone who knows us personally may (or may not, I don't know) know that we've had our fair share of issues since we got married two years ago, and we've dealt with a lot of bullshit. We've gone through several really unpleasant, unhappy and downright ugly phases. I've heard a lot of married people say that the first year or two is the hardest. I've also heard a lot of married people say that the first year or two is the best. There really is no definitive answer, because everyone is different, every marriage is different, and what works for some people won't work for everyone. But what these people were saying seemed to me to be completely and 100% accurate and good advice. Basically, what it comes down to is this:
First of all, our children look to us as their parents for everything. Not just for the essentials to growing and survival, I mean for what to do in life. The first notions of marriage we get are from our parents. Hence why children of divorced parents often go on to marry and divorce, sometimes more than once--or often they use it as their knowledge of what NOT to do in a marriage. Whether we become another statistic because of the situation we were forced into or we use the situation we were forced into to our advantage or we have a good, solid memory and foundation of marriage because of our own parents' happy marriage, it all translates into: we look to our parents for guidance on marriage, just like we do (or did as kids, at least) for everything else. So if you have a strong, happy marriage, your children see that, and they emulate that later in life.
Second of all, when children see their parents are unhappy--and no, they don't have to see you fighting or arguing for those of you who think that by not fighting in front of the kids you're doing them a favor, you're not, kids are extremely perceptive and can feel any tension or negativity between you and your spouse--they often feel anxious, or nervous, or worried, or just plain stressed out. They don't know how to voice these emotions, if they're younger anyway, so it often turns into acting out. Misbehaving in school, talking back at home, things like that. So if your children can see the love you and your spouse have for each other, and can see the strong bond between you and that you are happy together and in love with each other, your kids feel more secure about their family and their home life.
In essence, if your MARRIAGE is strong, your entire "family unit" is strong. And I'm sorry but based on various blogs I've read, posts on Reddit and other websites I've seen, stories I've heard from people and MY OWN EXPERIENCE--I have YET to see a marriage that is strong and happy where the couple makes their entire world and relationship revolve around their kids. I'm not saying this doesn't happen, I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm just saying.
To explain a little better, I'm going to go on a tangent and make up a story about a random family. So, say, John and Jane are married with two kids, Sally and Andrew. Jane thinks her marriage is totally fine and happy, tells all their friends at dinner parties that she and John have never been happier, while John just silently nods his head and eats his dinner. Why? Well, apart from being annoyed that his entire family has nothing but these ridiculous cookie-cutter 1950's sitcom names, he also has been emotionally and physically neglected by Jane pretty much ever since Sally and Andrew came along. Where he and Jane used to be so happy and they had a great marriage and a great sex life, ever since having kids, they have no alone time, no date nights, and NO sex. Jane isn't ever interested in having sex and tells John there's no time for sex, or date nights, or just alone time, because after the kids get home from school, she fixes them a wholesome and delicious snack, and Sally has ballet practice Tuesdays and Thursdays and gymnastics on Fridays, and Andrew has karate on Mondays and soccer on Wednesdays and Fridays, and once they get home from all these utterly exhausting activities, Jane cooks her family a nice warm meal. After the undoubtedly rushed dinner the family eats (how could it not be rushed? After all, it must take hours to do all these incredibly exhausting things), then it's time for homework and then bedtime stories and then brushing teeth and baths and blah blah BLAH. So, after a while, John doesn't even try to have sex with Jane anymore, nor does he try to kiss her or give her hugs anymore, because, well, he doesn't want to hug or kiss her anymore, because she rarely reciprocates said kissing or hugging, and even when she does, it feels just as rushed as the rest of the day, and he just feels neglected and unfulfilled. Sometimes when Sally and Andrew are playing together in the backyard, they wonder why daddy never hugs mommy or buys her flowers anymore. So, while Jane is busy trying her damnedest to be mommy dearest, she's completely ignoring her marriage to John. So when Sally and Andrew are all grown up and have moved off to college, suddenly Jane seems absolutely stunned when she and John have nothing to talk about, nothing in common, and no real happiness left. And then she doesn't understand why John is suddenly handing her divorce papers...
Okay, so, this might be a little exaggerated according to some people, but I'm not kidding when I say, THIS IS NOT UNCOMMON, PEOPLE. This happens ALL THE TIME. I don't know about you, but I don't want that for my husband and me. It sounds AWFUL, not to mention, ridiculously exhausting, and totally unfair to everyone involved. And what's crazy is, the reason why Giuliana Rancic's comments were deemed so "controversial" by some is because, well, some parents and married couples seem to think it's backwards. OBVIOUSLY you should put the children first and HOW SELFISH do you have to be to put YOU and YOUR HUSBAND'S happiness above YOUR CHILDREN? BECAUSE EVERYONE KNOWS THAT ONCE YOU HAVE CHILDREN THE ONLY PERSON OR PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO MAKE YOU HAPPY IS YOUR CHILD OR CHILDREN AND IF ANYONE EVER MAKES YOU HAPPY WHO ISN'T ONE OF YOUR KIDS YOU ARE A HORRRRRIBLE PAAAAARENT!!!!! Seriously, that's how some of these folks think.
These are actual responses to what Giuliana Rancic said. One person had the NERVE to "blame" her logic on the fact that she and her husband used a surrogate due to fertility issues, and another is basically placing a wager on how long the marriage will last. In my opinion, THESE parents are the horrible ones, for being so goddamn judgmental.
It's ridiculous. They think that by saying "I put my marriage first," you're really saying, "I only care if my spouse and I are happy, I don't care whether or not the kids are happy," or they think you're saying, "YES, put your marriage first, and ignore your kids." Umm, no. No, no one is saying that at all, in fact that's the opposite of what I'm saying; you're just an asshole for trying to put words in my mouth and make me look like a shitty parent.
What it REALLY means is, if your marriage is happy, your family is happy. If your marriage is strong, your family is strong. If your kids can see that mommy is in love with daddy and daddy is in love with mommy, your kids are going to feel secure and safe, and they're going to go into their own marriages with memories of mommy and daddy being happy and they're going to use that to put towards their own marital bliss. This in no way translates into: focus everything on the spouse, forget the kids. No one is saying ignoring your children is the key. Just...make time for your damn spouse. Have SEX--an utterly ridiculous concept to some married couples, because "obviously" sex is only for procreation and all that nonsense, but for those of us who realize that, well, that's just moronic, yes, sex is good. It's not all about basal temperatures and tracking ovulation, or it shouldn't be anyway. It should be about connecting with your husband or wife, about intimacy, about closeness, about bonding, about romance and passion and all that other sappy stuff that may seem cheesy but that doesn't make it untrue. Plan date nights where you DON'T talk about your kids (okay that actually seriously does require effort, especially for stay at home moms like me, because if my husband asks about my day, it's always going to have an answer involving the kids), after the kids are in bed, instead of moving onto some kind of chore or going straight to bed, spend an hour or even just 30 minutes talking to your husband or wife, or snuggle up on the couch or in bed and watch TV or a movie together, read a book together in bed while holding hands, don't use TV or books as a way to ignore and disconnect from the other person by sitting on the opposite end of the couch or on total opposite sides of the bed. Start cooking dinner together once a week and be silly and have fun while you cook, take family walks in the evenings where you take turns pushing the stroller and you talk to each other the whole time, or have your oldest kid push the stroller or hold hands with the youngest kid or walk the dog or whatever and let them walk in front of you while you watch and walk behind them holding your husband's or wife's hand and just talk to each other. My god, it's not rocket science, I can't believe it's taken me this long to see it and put the advice to good use in my own marriage. Just be happy together.
If you and your spouse put your kids first AND HAVE A GENUINELY HAPPY MARRIAGE, not just one you THINK is happy but it ACTUALLY IS HAPPY, then obviously, keep on keepin' on, cuz what you're doing is working. But from what I've seen and experienced, putting the kids first will usually lead to unhappy marriages, and then what happens once your kids have moved out? IF YOUR WHOLE MARRIAGE WAS ABOUT YOUR KIDS, THEN WHEN THEY MOVE OUT, YOUR MARRIAGE HAS NOTHING LEFT. Duh. It's pretty simple logic, really.
But I can say this: ever since my husband and I talked about what I watched on HLN (I told him about it that same evening), and we've put the advice to use, we were already happier by the next damn day!!!! He's been giving me more compliments and sending me cute, sweet texts in the mornings for me to wake up to, we've got a date night planned for tomorrow night, I haven't been going off the wall losing my temper about every tiny little thing, I've been talking to him more and we haven't been arguing constantly like we used to. Our kids are still getting our attention, they haven't been getting ignored and neglected, there have been no trips to the ER because no one was watching and the baby hit his head on the corner of the fireplace or any other disastrous situation, we've just been putting in the effort to make OUR happiness a priority, and WE ARE HAPPIER FOR IT. If a year from today I am posting that my husband and I are miserable or that our whole family is homeless because we were so busy being lovesick teenagers that we became reckless and our house burned down, then any naysayers out there can feel free to do an "I told you so" dance around me as I cry shamelessly to our homeowners insurance company about needing our house rebuilt. Until then, quit being such a Negative Nancy and maybe take a good long look at your own marriage and decide if you should try not making your children the ENTIRE center of your universe as well.