news item: marriage first, child second?

Unless you’re living under a rock lately [eta – sorry, apparently I’m just way too addicted to G&B news – you don’t necessarily live under a rock *grin*], you’ve probably heard about the brou-ha-ha going around about Giuliana Rancic’s comments in a recent US Weekly interview about putting her marriage first and her child second.

“We’re husband and wife, but we’re also best friends, and it’s funny because a lot of people, when they have kids, they put the baby first, and the marriage second,” says the 37-year-old breast-cancer survivor. “That works for some people. For us, I find, we put our marriage first and our child second, because the best thing we can do for him is have a strong marriage.”

It’s a really interesting topic that people obviously feel very strongly about. Today Moms wrote a great follow up piece about the article that explored the concept a littler further. They even compared the Rancic’s parenting “style” if you will to the French-style of parenting talked about in one of our former PAIL book club choices, “Bringing up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman. Basically – the child is important, but not necessarily the center of the universe.

Some people disagree vehemently with this idea of putting marriage first, and they weren’t afraid to say it. Caution – don’t read the comments in the articles about this if you want to keep your cool. People throw out over the top phrases like “child abandonment” and “unfit to be a mother” and “not a real mother because she didn’t carry the baby herself” — as if that somehow makes her any less of a mother because they used a surrogate. GAH.

Guiana responded to the uproar by issuing this statement:

Bill and I understand that my comments have sparked some debate and feel it is a good thing to open the conversation about how to find a balance between your marriage and your children.

Your relationship is the first example your child learns from and we will do everything we can to show our child how much we love, respect and are devoted to one another. He can only benefit from this, and hopefully it will carry over into his other relationships throughout his life.

We get that there are as many parenting styles out there as there are parents, so we are curious what you think!


Do you put your marriage first or child first? Why?

Do you wish you prioritized the opposite of what you currently do?

Does the age of your child have an affect on which relationship you are currently prioritizing?

Do you think your ALI background affects your opinion on this?


Share. Visit. Read. Comment. Support.


  1. I’m a huge fan of Guiliana and have been watching her show and her struggles with infertility. I was so happy for her about the baby – never mind whether she carried it or not.
    I think people have been quick to criticize her, when all she is doing is honoring her marriage. I think it is a challenge to me to put hubby first, and I don’t always do that and I should.
    (and yes, I have been living under a rock, or very preoccupied with babes because I hadn’t heard about this story).

  2. I apparently live under a rock!

    I was raised in a family like this, and I agree with it 100%. I’m not practicing this all the time, but strive to. I agree with everything G said. I think it’s hard with young kids because they need so much of and from us, but my goal is to practice this line of thinking. For what it’s worth, my counselor/therapist agrees with this 100% and reminds me of it every time we meet.

  3. I also strive to put my husband first. It doesn’t always happen (and those are the times that our marriage ends up in a rough spot), but I do think it’s important to model a strong relationship and marriage with Stella’s father, first and foremost. It doesn’t mean I ignored her cries when she was an infant – she was always well taken care of, but it does mean that now with a toddler, we’re already working on teaching Stella patience and how to wait her turn, and if Daddy is telling Mommy a story about his work day, she doesn’t need to yell to get our attention – she can wait. I honestly think she’s starting to get it. Then when we are finished, we slather her with love and attention and ask what she wanted our attention for! 🙂

  4. Another one under a rock over here. For the most part, I agree with what she had to say. It is really hard to put into practice with a 10 mo but I strive to put a strong emphasis on my relationship with my hubs. I hope that it will get easier to find a balance once our son is a bit older but I have no idea if that is a realistic expectation or not. I agree, we are modeling behaviour and it is vital to set a healthy example. I love the idea of teaching patience like Josey, having your child understand that is not the center of the entire universe seems like a good foundation to build upon. Does that make me a bad mother? For some reason I feel the need to justify that C gets tons of love and attention and this is a pretty safe venue for comment, after all I am mostly anonymous. Good for her for putting an inflammatory sentiment out into the universe, even though it seems like she needed to justify it as well.
    One can probably make a pretty sound case for their ALI journey’s impact on their perspective but this seems like a parenting perspective regardless of how you arrived here, IMO.

  5. When my husband and I went through pre-canna, which is the Catholic marriage prep course (we also did the methodist version too as he is a methodist pastor and I am Catholic, whole other story) ANYWHO. The Catholic prep taught us that your life is in “circles” that the first circle is you and God (or spirituality or conscience, etc) the next circle is you and your spouse, then the third circle is you and your children. The theory being that you can’t be a good parent if you you are not in a stable relationship, and you can’t be in a stable relationship if you are not ‘right’ with God or your own soul/conscience. Also you have to think of the example you are setting. If I put Stella first all the time, above myself and husband, to the point of ignoring my husband and his and our needs, I set the example that she is the center of the universe and I end up with a spoiled child. It also models an unhealthy example of relationships. So I agree with her 100%.

    • Wow, I had totally forgotten about that part of our premarital counseling. We had the same lesson from our Presbyterian Pastor.

    • I really like that– it fits with the “how can you love someone else if you can’t love yourself” mentality. Not that I agree 100% in a literal sense, but I think to be a strong example for your children you do need that stability. Hmmmm, food for thought.

  6. Criticizing people for saying this is, like, so 2005. This article by Ayelet Waldman (wife of writer Michael Chabon) immediately came to mind because of all the firestorm it generated!

  7. This is how we are trying to raise our family too. It’s tough with an infant, but it’s important to have a strong foundation for our wee-lings to rely on. There are days when I know that the kids’ needs take precedence over our relationship, but we strive to be intentional about reconnecting when we can. Children need to see that their parents have priorities other than them. It doesn’t mean that the child is neglected, just learning that they aren’t the only thing in their parents’ lives. It’s about balance.

  8. My marriage struggled to make it through my infertility treatments. Then we finally got lucky and had a baby. My marriage suffered even more. I knew it was wrong, but Raegan needed so much. We have since remedied this, through individual and couple’s counseling. It has been a life saver, er, marriage saver. I think our relationship now is better than it has ever been. This is what I want to present to Raegan as she grows up. I want her to see love and respect for our partners. So as far as Giuliana is concerned, I agree 100% with her statements. How dare some people say some of the idiotic things they did! Seriously, these are the people who will have spoiled children who don’t know how to have a healthy relationship.

  9. Obviously, our marriage is first. Without it, I wouldn’t be parenting Abby.

    I’m sure ALI families have a different perspective on this than the ‘norm’. We’ve all had to fight so hard for what we have, if marriage didn’t become a priority before baby, baby might not be here. By that time, it’s natural to prioritize the marriage.

    And I DO live under a rock, no news, no TV, but I’d heard of this! I’m impressed that so many others haven’t.

  10. As a single mother by choice (of twin infants), I don’t have a marriage, or even a relationship, that comes before my children. Although I cannot imagine having enough of me to be both a good spouse and a good mother, I think if I was in a relationship that it would be very important to me that it be a healthy and strong one. But I still think the kids would come first.

  11. I feel confused. I’m never sure what it looks like to put your marriage “first”.

    We’re a family. Once everyone’s basic needs are seen to (3 kids, one medically complex, there’s a lot of needs!), we get onto wants. And sometimes that’s OUR wants as individuals or a couple, and sometimes that’s THEIR wants. Pretty much all on par with each other. Sometimes one person “needs” more of their “wants’ met. Sometimes it’s someone else. No one is prioritized above anyone else as a “rule” – it’s a very dynamic situation, shifting and flowing with the needs and “needs” of everyone in the family.

    We’re not slaves to our kids’ every whim. They’re being taught to distinguish something that warrants interrupting an adult conversation (vomit, accidents, someone doing something dangerous …. not TV, or a toy not working). We try to stay attuned to what the other needs and wants, and we try to keep communication open. What more can you do, really? Kids are young once, our marriage has survived a lot already … and we’ll have more “us” time when they’re bigger. We’re not first, but we’re not non-existent either. We’re a team.

    • For our little family, putting our marriage first means limiting kid activities to ones that don’t torment parents with things like 5am practice 3 days a week. It means we take a half hour every day to play together (yes we play a video game, but we have a good time together) rather than tell the elder kid 10 bedtime stories (we go with generally 2). It means we take care of ourselves first and we make time for self-care in all the child things that need doing. Does it mean we ignore our 2 girls? No, but it means that we carve out time for our relationship and ourselves. It isn’t much right now, but it is important. Even with a newborn I send the spouse to the gym twice a week at least. We have a daytime babysitter for the newborn so I can spend my evenings with my family rather than studying because it’s the only time I have childcare. For me, “marriage first, child(ren) second” means ensuring there’s a balance between kid time, work/school time, and couple time. Every day we get some time in each category and it’s important and worth sticking up for rather than taking on more things that would take away that time.

      • See, that generally makes sense, but I don’t know that I would personally call that prioritizing your marriage first. For me that’s just putting it on-par with the rest of the family’s needs. Putting it on the list of things that matter. I guess my confusion comes with “first” or “over” … my marriage is not MORE important than anything else in this family, but it’s not LESS either.

        • This is also a great point, Cathy! I think that a lot of parents forget to EVER put their relationship first though, and that’s hard on every relationship I’m aware of. Like you said, maybe “first” and “second” aren’t the best words here (I just used them b/c they were in the article I was quoting!) but like Ms. Future PharmD said, it’s more about making sure that you still TRY to do something to connect as a couple, even when the kids are … well, being kids. 🙂

  12. When I was a brand-new mom, I read in a book that you should *find ways to work your baby into your world, NOT change your world so that it revolves around your baby*. (I think it was the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding but I can’t be sure and that doesn’t seem like the kind of place this would be. Does anyone know?)

    At the time, that was a lightbulb moment for me. Because I had been wondering – how do I go grocery shopping with this baby? Out to eat? What do I do with this baby?! Just sit and stare at it all day? I’m bored – is it okay to be bored? How do I have a sex life now? How do I go on vacation? Is it okay to still want to go out at have “me time”? And what this book taught me was, within limits, just DO IT.

    Of course, in a sense your world does revolve around your baby, there are certainly places it’s inappropriate to take a child and things you may not feel like doing anymore now that you’re a mom. But overall, I thought this was really good advice and I find myself referencing it still.

  13. Oh man, as a therapist who has done couples work, I have seen far too many damaged relationships with major problems due to this very issue. Mothers (typically) becoming so enmeshed with their kids that it throws the entire balance of the family system off. Now that I’m a mom myself, I totally get how that can happen. When they’re young they just need you SO much, and to an extent that level of enmeshment is needed when they’re infants… but man, if the balance isn’t restored as the kid ages and individuates, it’s Trouble City with the marriage. There’s tons to say on this topic in terms of family systems theory, but I’ll leave it at that. Oh, but I would say this, on a personal level, if I were to ever get divorced, or if my husband should die (God forbid), I am pretty sure it would be my kids, numero UNO, before ANY man in my life until they were at least adults (and maybe even forever and ever after that, my precious babies). 🙂

    • I love hearing the therapist’s point of view! And I am with you on the kids being #1 for a very long time if anything should happen to our marriage/union. That was a great point!

  14. Most parents do reasonable things to preserve their relationship and intimacy that doesn’t completely sacrifice their children’s well-being. I think it can be generally assumed that if a parent says they are “putting their marriage first” and you see that their children are well cared for, healthy, happy and seem appropriately attached to their parents, then you probably don’t need to be up all night fretting about it. We can all define “putting X first” in a million ways. I started out reading this article with a bit of a wrinkled nose, noticed that I was doing it, thought about why, and now I realized I don’t care.

  15. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since it’s everywhere the past few days. To me, I think putting your marriage first just means you acknowledge that it takes effort, that your marriage isn’t going to just survive 18+ years of parenthood intact without some extra attention. For us, I would say it was very difficult to prioritize our marriage during the first year of our son’s life. But we did our best. It is definitely getting easier now that he is a toddler. All the effort we put into our son’s routine, schedules, etc that first year have made it so that it is easier for us now though, so I don’t think I would have done things differently- he goes to bed easily and early each night so we get time together as a couple and he is easily babysat by the grandparents so we can have an evening out. What has been the most beneficial for us as a couple is to continue the activities we used to do together before we were parents and that we can now include our son in, whether it’s a dinner out or an afternoon hike. It doesn’t necessarily need to be alone time to connect. I think it’s nice for him to see us doing things we enjoy together.
    Our family as whole is the number 1 priority but our outlook is that all the hard work we put into parenting is cancelled out if our marriage doesn’t survive.

    • Ooooh — this: “To me, I think putting your marriage first just means you acknowledge that it takes effort, that your marriage isn’t going to just survive 18+ years of parenthood intact without some extra attention.” — Exactly!!

  16. I read this earlier in the week and just haven’t had a chance to comment – it’s been a crazy week. But, I have been giving it a lot of thought. I agree with her about putting your relationship with your husband first – her reasoning is sound and that IS what we need to model for Alexis. But, I have to admit that this is something we need to work on. Not that she always comes first, but I think a lot of times she has. It’s never too late to start and so this is going to be a focus for me in the coming weeks and months – especially with number 2 on the way, when our time will be stretched even more.


  1. […] Bean’s conception, or perhaps even before, I have always put her first…husband second, me third.  Has that been the right decision, or even a healthy one?  […]

  2. […] posted a news item today that has a lot of people talking.  I read it first thing this morning, and it struck a chord […]

  3. […] us to weigh in on prioritizing our family relationships with this week’s news item. What comes first for you– marriage or kids– and what […]

%d bloggers like this: