‘Do Your Kids Or Your Spouse Matter More?’ Is The Dumbest Question We Can’t Stop Asking

181082011“Who do you love more: your kids or your spouse?”

“Whose needs should come first–your children’s, or your husband’s?”

“Who matters the most to you, your wife or your offspring?”

These are questions we never seem to get tired of asking one another. This theme has cropped up in the New York Times, advice columns, probably every parenting blog in existence, and most recently on Reddit; and most people seem to have a strong opinion on one side or the other. My opinion, however? Stop asking this stupid question.

Maybe it’s the culture of top-ten lists and greatest-hits that we live in, but I don’t really understand why there has to be a single, definitive answer to the question of “who comes first” at all. I’ve been with my husband, dating or married, for mumblemumble years now, and when you’ve been with the same person for almost half the time you’ve been alive, your life is going to grow around them in ways you never foresaw. And my kids, who I made inside my own tummy? There’s no way to even put into words how close your own custom-made Baby Factory products are to your heart. So why exactly do I have to

Of course it’s another thing entirely if you’re estranged from your jerk-ass spouse, or if your child has special needs that demand your round-the-clock care. But otherwise, if you’re that solidly on Team Kids or Team Spouse, you can go sit in the corner and think about why you need to back one particular horse in this race at all. How can you unequivocally declare that your spouse’s needs should always come before your kids’, when he or she is a grown-ass adult who can at least somewhat do for himself? And how can you put your foot down and say that your kids always have to come first, no matter what your spouse’s emotional needs might be? Marriages don’t come with an eighteen-year pause button, folks.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to who needs more from you at any given moment. And unless you are the subject of a freshman year philosophy-class dilemma with your kids on one train track and your spouse on the other and the switch right in front of you, you’re probably not going to have to make that kind of unilateral choice anyway. I don’t need to make a ranked Top Three list of my immediate family members to know that I’m doing what’s best for them based on the actual circumstances in any given moment. As someone in the discussion on Reddit tidily summarized the subject with an ever-timely Parks and Recreation reference,

As the great Leslie Knope said, you’re not having a kid, you’re expanding an already great team. All team members are essential[.]

(Image: Skynesha / Getty)

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