Why My Kids Will Always Come First -- Even Before My Marriage

by Joanna McClanahan
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When I was young, I remember my mother telling me multiple times that her marriage was her top priority. The problem was, her marriage was an incredibly unhealthy one.

My parents fought like cats and dogs. They would scream at each other about the same things, night after night. They also loved to drink and sometimes things got physical. My dad would throw things and destroy the house. My mom would usually leave and I would have to clean up the mess left behind.

And still, my mom wholeheartedly believed that her marriage came first. She thought that by focusing on her marriage, she was ultimately helping us. She truly believed staying “together for the kids” was in my sister’s and my best interest.

She eventually divorced my father when I was in my mid-20s. I can’t say for sure whether my sister and I were better off with her married to my abusive father, or if she would have found another abusive husband.

But I can tell you what it taught me: My kids will always come first.

I would never tell either of my children, “Sorry, but my marriage comes first.” I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have that mentality. My kids’ well-being comes before my OWN well-being. I’m certainly not about to put any other relationships above them.

Romantic love is not unconditional; it’s flawed and fallible. People change, situations change, environments change. If we’re lucky, we grow with our partner, but it doesn’t always work that way.

We are bound to upset our partner at some point or another. But some partners harbor resentment, which builds into anger and mistrust. For a million different reasons, sometimes romantic relationships don’t work out.

I am lucky that I don’t know what it’s like to have an abusive husband. I was able to break through the cycle of abuse (through trial and error) and find someone who treats me with admiration and respect.

My marriage is a partnership based on love, trust, and commitment. But should that change? I will always fight for this love, but never to the point where I have to sacrifice a relationship with my children, or put them at risk in any way.

I’m not saying that you have to choose one or the other to focus on: marriage or children. I know that we women are trying to manage all of the things, and not let any of our loved ones feel neglected in the process.

I’m just saying that if you tell your children your marriage comes first, chances are you don’t need to tell them because they’ll already know. Kids deserve unconditional love. They are the ones who deserve the reassurance that you’ll put their needs above your own.

Does my husband deserve my love and attention? Absolutely. But he’s also a grown-ass man. He understands that our kids are only little for a short window of time. And he doesn’t feel threatened in any way by me putting our kids’ needs first.

He understands my childhood and background. He gets me and my reasoning. It’s part of the reason he loves and supports me.

My kids are my world. This doesn’t mean that I spoil them or give them the world on a silver platter, but it does mean that I’ll always put them first when it matters most.

I believe every parent should.