Do you love your child or partner more?

If you’ve got to choose who you love the most, could you? Thinking about a recent terrible choice for a NZ dad who had to pick son or wife, here’s my own family tale about the time my Dad was parted from his mum. For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children follow this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see

This beautiful box has a collection of my grandfather's letters from the time he was stationed in Hong Kong in 1937. Some of those letters are dynamite.

This beautiful box has a collection of my grandfather’s letters from the time he was stationed in Hong Kong in 1937. Some of those letters are dynamite.

As it’s close to Valentine’s day is it OK to ask ‘who do you love the most’?

This isn’t a fairy tale asking you to decide which child you favour.

No this is the big love question – do you love your partner more than the children or vice versa?  For most of us there doesn’t have to be a choice but just recently a New Zealand man was told by his Armenian wife that if he wanted to keep their newborn Downs syndrome baby she would divorce him. He chose the baby, Leo. And she filed for divorce.

The full story is (Daily Mailified) here.

You have to think good for the Dad, making the right choice – however hideous. And how terrible for a new mum to be under such family pressure that her only choice was to set up a contest between husband and baby. Whatever the result, it would be sad for her.

Rewind to 1937
I’ve just spent a sunny winter afternoon at my kitchen table reading the letters my grandfather received when he was based in Hong Kong in 1937. The experience is amazing – though I do wish everyone’s handwriting was easier to read.  Because Grandpa was a solider there are a lot of letters from soldier friends talking about their posts in Nigeria and Somalia. There’s gossip about bad weather and poor fishing in Newbury; the make over of London’s Leicester Square – “the Alhambara and Prince of Wales Theatre have gone” and a lot about illnesses – cholera, infant death, scarlet fever and the humble cold.

At first I thought my Grandmother – writing from her father’s home in Wiltshire – was expecting twins. Gradually I realised she was trying to organise a bargain priced twin-bed cabin for a sea passage to Japan, where she hoped he would meet her and then they could go on to Hong Kong.  She is desperately missing him.

She’d already been in Hong Kong – just her and her soldier husband – but and had come home because their children, a little girl and her younger brother, my father, were being raised in Wiltshire.

I cried when I saw her write that their three-year-old son had asked the nanny where is “That lady from China we call Mummy?”

“We did laugh,” writes my Grandmother (I think bravely) “it’s good enough for Punch“.

How attitudes have changed in the UK. Few women admit to being willing to park their children for six months in another country, just so they can be with their husband. When Ayelet Waldman confessed “I love my husband more than my children” in a national newspaper back in 2009, she was pilloried.

And in 2015 Armenia it’s clear disability is shameful to some: in NZ it’s not.

Perhaps in the 21st century UK we do let our children take centre stage too much. But it feels like that’s the right way to err. My poor dad. My poor, brave Grandmother – “that lady from China we call Mummy”.

In the end the little boy did know his mother very well. It was his father he barely knew – first busy as a solider in Hong Kong and then once World War Two kicked off incarcerated in a prison camp until 1945.

What do you think?
Would you swan off to Hong Kong leaving the kids in the UK for the next six months? And how much do you think it would affect you and those motherless/fatherless babes?



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4 Comments on “Do you love your child or partner more?”

  1. Absolutely love the term ‘Daily Mailified’. Perfect!

  2. rachellplatt Says:

    Interesting blog Nicola, thanks.

    Attitudes towards what good parenting is have changed so much. Today most believe that the best way for children to be raised is by their parents. And for me good parenting is about carrying out my responsibilities as a parent, even if they don’t suit me. Of course the reason I want to be a good parent is because I love my children! I wouldn’t leave them for six months because I think that would be damaging to them and selfish on my part. But I can certainly imagine wanting to. My guess is your grandmother believed the children would be ok and that she was the one to suffer?

    But the question of who I love more is slightly different. Ultimately the children will share our lives for a fraction of the time I will spend with my partner (hopefully!). And I do feel like my love for him is just about us – there’s nothing forcing us to be together, no sense of responsibility that means we have to be there. And so it is a free choice. I think that makes it so so strong. I wouldn’t say I loved him ‘more’ than our kids – luckily I don’t have to choose. But for as long as it remains as good as it is now I’ll certainlybolace a very high value on it. (I suppose that’s the crux though – if it goes bad I’ll ditch it, whereas I’d never ditch the kids!)

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