Theory & Essay

Spouse, Parents…or Kids: Who Should Rank “First?”

Decisions, Decisions

While teasing a few Patriots fans on Facebook yesterday (Even though it may be blasphemous for me to admit this as a Steeler fan, I dislike the Pats more than I dislike the Ravens. To repeat something I said on Twitter a couple weeks ago, if the Ravens are beets — a food I thoroughly dislike, but respect — the Pats are beets…covered in sh*t), I saw something in my news feed that caught my eye.

I happen to be friends with Anslem of Naked With Socks On fame, and if you’re familiar with him at all you probably know that he’s recently married and just launched a joint blog with his wife — who’s also a writer. Anyway, the thing that caught my eye was a new post on their blog titled “My Mama or My Wife: Who’s the No. 1 Woman in a Man’s Life?” — a piece where Anslem wonders exactly how his marriage has affected the decades-old dynamic he has with his mother.

It’s funny how there are certain questions in life that you never think about until you have to. I found myself faced with one of those questions the other day: Who do I love more my mama or my wife?

At any other point in my life if I were posed with a question that pitted my mother against any other person, place or thing in the world and the woman who gave me life would win hands down every time. No questions asked. None needed. But recently my ability to answer such a question with absolute and immediate conviction began to waver a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother unconditionally and with all my heart but I can say similar things about my wife. Unlike the latter, though, the Mrs. is someone I chose to love. Somehow that makes this different.


Now, because the loves are so drastically different, attempting to categorize the love one has for a husband or wife and the love one has for parents doesn’t seem to be possible. It’s like asking someone “Which do you need more? Water or your heart?” — both extremely vital, but both serving completely different functions.

But, the more you think about, the more you realize your answer has to be your spouse. They’re the ones you’re choosing to start a life with, the ones you vow to be with until death, the “top spot on any beneficiary form.” Basically, if your spouse doesn’t supersede all, you shouldn’t be getting married. Everything and everyone else should become secondary…including your children.

I imagine that most of you all were with me until those last three words. “Yeah, Champ. You’re right. As much as I love Mom Dukes, my wife has to be number one. Really, what’s the point of marrying someone if they don’t automatically get that number one spot, and…what? Wait? What? Kids? My wife should take priority over the people we bring into this Earth??? Can’t roll with you on this one, man”

Lemme explain.

I think that the best families operate through a hierarchical matrix that goes something like this:

Parents, as a collective unit and as individual people, should value their kids lives over their own. Their primary duty as parents is to protect and provide for the people they’ve created, and if they were forced to make a choice between their lives — individually or as a collective parental unit — or their children’s lives, it should be a no-brainer.

But, the parents as individuals should love and value each other more than they do their children.

You know I can’t make a point without including some contrived analogy that actually ends up confusing more than it clarifies, so…

Let’s imagine a four person family (two parents, two kids) was on the Titanic. The ship is sinking, and there’s only room on the lifeboat for two people. In this situation, the parents should definitely put the kids in the lifeboat — sacrificing their collective lives for the lives of their children.

Now, let’s say you’re on that same sinking ship, and you were knocked off the boat, but the sea current miraculously led you to the shore. Once you get out the water, you glance off the shore and see that your spouse and your young child are in the water behind you, struggling to stay afloat. You can only save one, though. In this situation, as heart-wrenching and devastating as this decision may be, you reach down and save your spouse…even if your spouse doesn’t want to be the one to be saved.

The (somewhat morbid) rationale behind this? If you believe your spouse was put on Earth to be your spouse, they’re irreplaceable. (And, if you don’t believe this, you probably shouldn’t be getting married…but that’s another topic for another day.) Your kids, as precious as they are, aren’t as irreplaceable. (I hate the way that sentence sounds, but there’s really no other way to put it.)

Heh. I just had a vision that, years (YEARS, I TELL YOU. YEARS!!!¹) from now, some precocious little big-headed boy that (hopefully) looks more like his mother than me will be googling his daddy’s name, searching for any information he can find on me. He’ll come across this article, read the entire thing (because he’s a smart motherf*cker just like his dad), frown, find me sitting on the couch, and ask “Is it true that you’d let me die.”

Me: “Ummm…well…ummm”

Champ Jr (CJ): “That’s ok Dad. I understand. That’s what you’re supposed to do. When I get a wife someday, I’ll let you die too.”

Me: “I taught you well and sh*t, son. I taught you well and sh*t.” 

¹Knocking on wood

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at Or don't. Whatever.

  • ehhhhhhh I’d never save anyone before saving my kids. But I agree with everything else.

  • Angel Baby

    ” Basically, if your spouse doesn’t supersede all, you shouldn’t be getting married. Everything and everyone else should become secondary…including your children.”

    This didn’t need explanation. I agree. Ok, going back to read your explanation anyway. lol

  • Anyone who desires to have a successful and happy marriage should put their spouse above their kids. When the husband/wife team are a happy united front then the kids automatically benefit. Making your spouse a priority over the kids doesn’t mean the children are deprived or neglected.

  • Iceprincess

    This wuda been a good topic bout family dynamics until champ took it all the way left talkn bout desert islands, who wud u save, & all dat. Things aint that black & white. Im sorry, he jus threw me a lil bit wit dat 1. Now my thought process is all jumbled. Lol

  • Iceprincess

    Ok ok i think i hav it now. It goes God, kids, spouse, parents. In dar order.

  • Angel Baby

    “You can only save one, though. In this situation, as heart-wrenching and devastating as this decision may be, you reach down and save your spouse…even if your spouse doesn’t want to be the one to be saved.”

    Okay “I-Robot” aka Champ (LMAO), NO, wrong rationale. I don’t feel like explaining right now. I agree spouse over children but not in this kind of example. I’ll give examples in the morning. lol you’re funny.

  • Actually, it goes God, Spouse, Kids, then Parents.

    All the lonely a$$ women be the ones putting kids before their spouse. Sooner or later your kids will leave the nest and you will have to find happiness, not to say that you have to find this happiness in a man but you can find it in a loving relationship with your spouse. And you don’t have to neglect your children to find love, but you have to draw lines.

    However, Champ I believe your spouse would resent you if you saved her and not the child. As a man, as a husband how would you be able to explain that to a woman? Even worse than losing your wife is having a wife that resents you for the rest of your life, because you saved her life and not the child.

    On the contrary it is understandable, but the psychological repercussions of such an act would be irrevocable. Leaving myself to beg the question: Would it be better if the man just risk his life to save wife and child, and die in the process?

    Nonetheless, good sh!t. And NWSO is always dropping those introspective, fuzzy sock, Drake Canada Dry blogs. I need to check out the one you referenced.

    Im out.

  • nillalatte

    Um, hell no. A spouse can be replaced. People do that all day erday. Maybe because you don’t have kids or because you aren’t married or whatever, but your kids come before anyone else. Always. Period. No one else or anything else matters.

    Now, that said, back in the day, that’s why people used to have large families. Both my grandmothers came from a family with 12 siblings. Most died in childhood. Few lived to be over 50. They had big families back in the day because mortality was horrid. They knew they’d lose children and if an adult made it to 40 they were considered very old and damn lucky.

    I can’t imagine one, not one incident where I would have chosen my husband (when I was married) over the survival of my children. You on your own bro. Better get those Rambo skills in order ’cause I’m gonna leave yo’ butt hanging in the wind. Can’t cut it? You ARE the weakest link. Next.

  • A Woman’s Eyes

    In the swimming to safety scenario, such a decision would cost you your whole family! Why? Because your wife/mother of your child will not let you save her! She will be fighting you to try to get to her baby to save her baby’s life!

    I was with you up until you mucked up your decision making capabilities while swimming from a sinking ship to safety!

  • A Woman’s Eyes

    And note: Her fighting you to try to get to her baby means the whole family gonna die, especially if you let her child die, she will kill you for not saving the baby. Come on now Champ.

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