Country singer Keith Urban stirred a potential hornets’ nest in a recent interview, confessing that he puts his relationship with his wife, Nicole Kidman, ahead of his children.
In an honest and revealing chat with this month’s The Australian Women’s Weekly, Urban admits that no matter how lovely his girls are, he'll always love his wife more.
“We're very, very tight as a family unit and the children are our life, but I know the order of my love. It's my wife and then my daughters. I just think it's really important for the kids.”
When I read this I thought it was very romantic that he loved his wife that much. But could I relate to his stance of putting his spouse first? No way.
His words reminded me of an Oprah episode I saw many years ago. In it, Harvard-trained lawyer Ayelet Waldman discussed her provocative The New York Times article, in which she proclaimed, “I love my husband more than I love my children.”
Not surprisingly, this statement horrified the mums in Oprah's audience. They almost unanimously agreed this was crazy talk.
I wasn’t a mother myself when I saw that episode, so I didn’t have a strong opinion either way. But the implication from their reaction was clear: most mums love their kids more than their husbands.
Now that I’m a mum, I understand this completely. It would come as no surprise to my husband that once our first baby arrived, he moved down a rung in the love hierarchy. My love for him didn’t diminish – if anything, it grew. But the love I feel for my children is so powerful, so primal, so intense and all consuming that the two can’t possibly compare.
There’s also the simple matter that they need me more, so he loses by default.
However, knowing that, Ms Waldman’s interview did hit home a little. Particularly on this point: “As a society, we've kind of lost that balance. So many women today have become so focused on their children, they've developed these romantic entanglements with their children's lives, and the husbands are secondary ... I mean, you guys know Valentine's Day at your kids' schools. What happens on Valentine's Day? All the moms come in with perfectly frosted pink cupcakes that they've made with their kids. Well, what's Valentine's Day? Is Valentine's Day a day to make cupcakes with your children? No, Valentine's is supposed to be a day about romantic love.”
Um, guilty. Perhaps not of cupcake making, but of falling in love with my kids, of them being the centre of my world, of them getting the best of me.
Ms Waldman argues we’re supposed to be “in love” with our husbands and love our children. Not the other way round. Thinking about it, she makes a solid point.
When partners and marriages are starved of attention they often die. Failing to invest in your relationship because your children consume your heart, time and attention can be a recipe for disaster. And happy parents, happy homes, do equate to well-adjusted children, so the rationale of putting your relationship first makes sense.
But I think if you ask most mums, they’d still say their kids come first, rational or not.
A few weeks ago my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a night in a hotel. This is a rare occurrence and it was wonderful to spend some uninterrupted quality time together, to remember what it’s like to be ‘us’.
But, as much as I loved it, the next morning I was ready to get back to my kids. To kiss them, to hear about their day, to soak up their exuberant energy. My husband, on the other hand, could have happily stayed in that hotel for a week. As he said to me that morning, “I love our kids, but I do miss you.”
I thought that was a beautifully honest thing for him to say and I understood completely how he felt. Things are different, I’m different, and I know our relationship has taken a back seat over the last six years. And while I don’t apologise for investing so much into my kids, I’m mindful that our relationship needs that same investment in order for it to survive, let alone thrive.
As Keith Urban said, “There are too many parents who start to lose the plot a little and start to give all their love to the kids, and then the partner starts to go without. And then everybody loses. As a kid, all I needed to know was that my parents were solid. Kids shouldn't feel like they are being favoured. It's a dangerous place.”
Good point. It’s hard, though, to find any more energy to give some days. Young children are so mentally, emotionally and physically draining that it’s little wonder our partners are left wanting more from us.
Interestingly, when I asked my husband who he loved more, me or the kids, he answered with the very fence-sitting reply of “I love you the same, but differently”. I started to gently berate him for his cop out response, but then realised he had it right. Not more or less, just different.
Admitting he’s right in a national forum. Now THAT’S love!
This post has been edited by EBmel: 03/04/2012, 02:53 PM
Reason for edit: Edited by EBMel