I’ll start by saying I don’t know who Guiliana Ranic is. Beth-Anne’s introductory post to this week’s topic describes her as a “television personality”, and that’s enough for me. I’m not even googling her. I’m busy, and she doesn’t sound like someone I need to learn much from.
Making dedicated time for spouse during the early years of childhood? Yes, of course, I agree. Not just in an abstract way, but as something we’ve adopted in our lives. I can coast for longer than my husband can without time alone as a couple, but having jointly made time alone together a priority with regular date nights (even when money was tight), it’s absolutely been a positive thing that has strengthened our relationship and family.
But Guilana’s comment that she puts her husband first over her children? Firstly, it just seems kind of grade school – maybe she signed her notes with BFF in bubble letters too? Secondly, I can only hope it’s not true. I’d like to think that if Guiliana’s child truly needed her, she would prioritize that need, which means that sometimes hubby would not come first. Thirdly, to say you put your husband ahead of your child because it’s best for your child kind of means that you’re putting the child’s interests first – kind of circuitous, if you follow me. What her detractors are reacting to, and what she’s not addressing, is the suggestion that she would put her husband first before her child, even when it’s not in the best interest of the child.
Idealization of romantic love is as damaging as idealization of maternal love. A well-loved person is not the one who sits with her husband at the top of the love totem pole, but the one who is part of a web of inter-connected and invested relationships. And on a more self-interested note, there are no guarantees that come with your spousal relationship, and it’s unwise to put all your eggs in that basket. As the daughter of a woman who was widowed when she was 35, I have a personal appreciation for this. I will also never forget a conversation I had with a stranger upon learning that his marriage had ended. “I still have my sisters,” he told himself, “I still have my sisters.”
Ranking love within a family is ridiculous because nurturing personal needs, including the spousal relationship, can and ought to be compatible with raising children, provided you’re not putting your children on a pedestal. It only feels incompatible because the nuclear family unit, and often the mother in particular, lacks the support needed to address that unit’s multifarious needs. Parents need time to be alone as well as many other things, and children need multiple caregivers and role models. Another word for these needs: village.
Most of us don’t live in a truly supportive community, where friends and family are easily able and willing to share the responsibilities of child-rearing and life in general. Some of us are working to re-create this sense of community, some of us accept it as it is, and some of us don’t seem to recognize the deficit. But the help of family, friends, and caring neighbours and babysitters go a long way to making time and space for everyone.