I’ve suspected it for a while now, but it didn’t hit me–in concrete words–until the other day: I’d rather make my husband happy than my kids.
I do all sorts of things to make my husband happy.
He likes my hair long, so I keep it long. (Even though it’s a pain to maintain and, in the summertime, hot and sticky, as well.)
You know how they say that women dress for other women? So, so not true in my case. I could not care less about clothes or fashion. (If you don’t believe me, ask my mother. She begs to take me shopping so I might update the wardrobe I haven’t changed since roughly the late 1990s.) I dress exclusively for my husband. He likes to see me in long skirts and tight-fitting and/or cleavage baring tops. So I try to wear long skirts and tight-fitting and/or cleavage baring tops. When appropriate. I obviously don’t wear those to work. To work, I wear clothes from roughly the late 1990s.
For dinner, I try to cook what he likes to eat. (Though not everything he likes to eat. I am still worried about his weight.)
I make a point of carving out time to spend with only him, even if our three kids (ages just turned 14, almost 10, and 6 ½) are literally clamoring at the door. (The rules are: Is someone bleeding? Is someone vomiting? Is someone choking? Is someone on fire? If the answer is no, then you can wait. A broken crayon does not constitute an emergency.)
The latter, in particular, makes my children unhappy. (The 14-year-old isn’t ecstatic about how I dress, either. For his 8th grade graduation, he asked, “You’re not going to wear anything… weird, are you?” I let him pick out my outfit. It was, after all, a special occasion.)
But, I’m okay with making my children unhappy. I daresay, sometimes I even seek out opportunities to make them so.
Because, as a wife, my key responsibility is to make my husband happy.
As a mom, my key responsibility is to teach my children how to make themselves happy. Even when things aren’t going their way.
It is my job to raise my children. It is not my job to raise my husband.
And a big part of teaching people how to make themselves happy is to give them opportunities to, in the words of The Princess Bride: Get used to disappointment.
I realize that this goes against a great deal of established dogma. How can I not realize it when everywhere I turn I read and hear parents espousing that their child is their number one priority, the center of their universe, the most important thing in their lives?
I love my children. But they are a part of my life, not the center of it. Sometimes they come first, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they get what they want, and sometimes they just have to suck it up.
My kids weren’t happy that I went back to work. I did it anyway.
My younger son doesn’t like his older brother taking him to school, and the older one doesn’t like doing it. That’s too bad. The arrangement is necessary to make our household run smoothly.
I like to think that somewhere out there, my future son and daughters in law–not to mention my offspring’s eventual bosses and co-workers–are already feeling grateful that I didn’t raise kids who believe their needs and desires trump all others considerations. I also like to think that this will ultimately make my two guys and a girl happier in the long run. After all, if you don’t enter the adult world expecting to always get your way, you won’t be crushed when it doesn’t.
But, here’s the biggest irony of this entire post: At the same time that I proclaim I’d rather make my husband happy than my children, I also believe that the most important gift I can give my kids is to grow up in a home with a happy marriage. (So really, I’m doing this all for them. How’s that for a third act plot twist?)
Maybe–just maybe–my kids will take my example of putting their father first into their own adult relationships, which, in turn, will lead to satisfying personal lives for the next generation. (In case people are wondering, my husband puts me first, too. He’s the one who made it possible for me to go back to work, and he’s the one who agreed to having our kids raised Jewish and to vacationing with my parents every summer, among other things.
Or maybe I am completely and utterly mistaken about everything. (My mother very helpfully reassures me, “Don’t worry, whatever choices you make for your children, you will be wrong.”)
Maybe the day will come when my kids will inform me that every failure in their lives is due to my negligent, selfish and downright incompetent parenting (isn’t it adorable how I used the word maybe in that sentence? As if that wasn’t going to happen no matter what child-rearing approach I employed?).
Maybe they’ll blame me for not loving them enough, not being sensitive enough to their needs, not paying them enough attention. (Again with the cute, little maybe.)
I genuinely don’t know what the end result will be. (Does anyone? With any child? Why don’t kids come with a control group?)
We’re all just making this up as we go along and doing what feels right at the time. Aren’t we?