So, who is more important? Who should we love more? Our spouse whom we have fallen in love with, and started the family with? Or the children whom we have given birth to, and have both the desire and responsibility to care for them and nurture them?
This has been quite the discussion between me and Yn. She was very sure that the spouse (which is me), is more important than the kids, and also, is the most important person in her life. However, in my mind, I could not confidently reciprocate the same sentiments towards her when she first told me this.
I have never thought of this question before. I have never thought that this was important to think about too. We have always cautioned each other that it was easy to neglect the spouse once the couple has kids, so both of us need to be conscious about putting in effort for the relationship. I fully agreed to this. But when it comes to the question of, who is more important, I got dumbfounded. Without any metrics to help me decide, my answer to her was, both are equally important.
To me, this question is similar to the Chinese saying of: “手心是肉，手背也是肉”。(Direct translation: the palm of hand is flesh, the back of hand is also flesh). I started to ask myself, could one really be more important than the other? Is there a morally right answer to this question that the society conforms to? With the power in my hands, (together with the greatness of the internet), I searched for answers across international borders and cultures, or whatever was on page 1 and 2 of google search.
There seemed to be voices from both sides. But the more professional ones sided with a focus on marriage. The main reason is because without a strong marriage, the nurturance of the kids will definitely be affected somewhat. The effects of a happy marriage trickled down to nurturing the kids. I fully agreed on this point.
On the other hand, there are also people who said that their kids are the most important, and they love them more than their spouses. Their reasoning is that they gave birth to the kids, and they love the kids from day 1 of the kids' lives. And the kids will always be their kids, while spouses may one day choose to leave, almost the same way of saying you can't change your parents. This point is a bit strange to me, as I have never really consider leaving yn, nor her leaving me. But of course, there are various reasons that people have to justify their viewpoints.
In the end, it doesn't seemed that there is that one right answer to this question. Different people have different attitudes, different priorities. They come from different upbringing, are in different situations, and therefore have 1,001 answers to this question.
Through the reading of some of these answers, I have gained some insights to what my answer is.
The love for a spouse is fundamentally different from the love for children. The love for a spouse is more intimate; she/he is a partner in hand, a confidant, someone who supports you and whom you support. On the other hand, the love for children is more nurturing; the wanting to have them grow up healthy and happy (and stereo typically for chinese asian families, getting A+ in academics). So, it's a different kind of love for both. Just like the love for parents. Spouse, parents, and children; all of them are people who you love, albeit the form of love is different for each. When faced with a question of who do I love more, this I admit, I have no answer for it. As the form of love is different, it's like comparing between apple, orange, and pear, and asking, which is the better fruit. I would have much lesser trouble deciding whether I love apple 1 or apple 2. As far as I'm concerned, I love all of them, and I want to give as much of my love to them all.
However, interestingly, on further self-questioning, who would I rather be with if I'm on a deserted island/deathbed/holiday/sad/happy, the answer is always her. Or, which form of love I can't do without, it's still her. Perhaps this makes my talkings above seemed obsolete, but I guessed it's just the truth. The forms of love may be different for each type of relationship, there's remains a preference or ranking for which love would you love more. I find it hard to say that I love her more than my parents and my future, possibly because it feels like I'm betraying the love that i have for them. It just doesn't feel nice to say it out. Could this be due to my culture? my perception of societal norms? Whichever it is, a preference is still a preference - I love her the most.
This was the question posted to me by her, which got me thinking about the whole topic in the first place. Isn't importance and love the same? Hmm... I would say largely. But i do not have the same confidence to say it's totally the same for all people.
After reading through other people's responses towards this topic, I realized I have got myself confused with the definition of importance, and needs. I have previously felt that children are as important as my spouse because nurturing children is a lot of efforts, and they have a lot of needs when they are growing up, from being a baby, to going to pre-school, and finally leaving the 'nest'. And as compared to a normal adult, the children have far more needs than the adult, and these needs often require urgent attention. My spouse would still survive on her own if I don't fulfill her needs, but my children won't (basically it's because the children's needs are more fundamental/physiological, but the spouse's needs are more emotional - can refer to Maslow's hierarchy of needs). And this makes me feel that children are as important as my spouse.
Some mother's reply on this enlightened my perception. The needs of a child may be quantitatively more, and more often than not, requires immediate attention, but that doesn't put the needs of a child above your spouse. Yes, you might need to attend to the child first (because the child is crying for milk), but the needs of a spouse would need to be fulfilled afterwards also. My previous perception of my children having more needs than my spouse placed my children on the same pedestal of importance together with my spouse. Upon reading the online reply, I realized that I shouldn't confuse needs and importance together. They are related, but are not completely the same entity.
So that kinda makes children less important... but what makes the spouse more important? For me, she is going to be the one who is standing by me in life. And this position can't be filled by my parents, my children, or my friends. It just has to be her.
But I have to say, it's complicated to think about these issues without meticulously jotting down my thought process. And no matter how one truly feels, it still feels awkward and carry a sense of guilt (perhaps personally) to compare and contrast the people that I love, or going to love. it's something that I would rather not crack my mind and heart to think about, and just love them the way my heart desires.