What About Sex? — by Laura Houston
My eternally youthful, childless, single friend Tina recently wrote me and asked: “When are you going to write about sex? I hear having kids ruins your sex life.” I wish I could say that was just a nasty rumor, but it seems to be almost true. I say “almost” because it doesn’t last forever, but let’s be honest: that first year after the baby arrives is a bitch.
I think it’s important to talk about sex after having kids because you have to have a plan and you have to have a network of resources who will share their tips. I’m usually happy to convey my experience, but my experience isn’t enough. Plus, I had extenuating circumstances that first year. I had twins. I was 44-years old when I had them, and I had been through almost four years of infertility treatments, so my endocrine system was completely shot. Then we packed up and moved to the other side of the country just six months into parenthood. There were new jobs, new home, adjustments going on, and no network of support.
So my experience that first year feels extreme. However, I find that my parental colleagues are more than willing to discuss their challenges, especially on the playground when they are lacking sleep, freezing their butts off, and clinging to a cup of lukewarm coffee. They talk. Oh, yes, they do.
I reserve my discussions about sex to a few choice friends, but these more confident, more sophisticated Manhattan moms discuss sex with the same candidness that they discuss articles in the “New York Times.” Naturally, I asked questions and took notes. Over the course of many conversations I noticed two strong themes: the older mothers had a harder time finding the time and the energy for it, and the younger moms found time for it because they wanted to get pregnant again. But it was obvious among these women, who are mostly over 40, that saving a sex life is one of the greatest challenges of motherhood.
I know my husband and I talked about it at great length when we were planning our parenthood. We have always had an enjoyable sex life, and we didn’t want our intimate time together to change, so we promised we would work on it and make time for it. We wouldn’t become like those “other” couples who just let it slide and let themselves go. Oh no. We were above that.
Fast forward 18 months later and nothing is as we thought. (Insert your chuckle of smugness here.) Sex is still a priority, but we just don’t know where it falls on the list. The reality is that it’s hard to find the time, the energy and the privacy. When I asked my friends what they ranked sex on their list of priorities, it was right up there among the top five, but they echoed my sentiments: it’s hard to find the right moment.
My friends Kim and Susan tell me desire is not an issue for them even though they each have three children under the age of four. They most certainly yearn to have sex, to be close, and to enjoy the benefits of touch. However, for them the urge usually comes on around 10:00 in the morning. Perhaps right after they have just finished vacuuming or unloading the dishwasher. It’s the time of day when moms are not too exhausted from the labors of motherhood, and naptime is moments away. And our spouses are nowhere around. It’s unfortunate for them and us.
My friend Jen is a working mother here in Manhattan. She leaves her children every morning at 8am and does not return home again until after 6pm. She told me that along with some of the other women in her office, they acknowledge they think about sex frequently during the day. I asked her if it was because she was able to stay relatively clean throughout the day, but Jen said it was because she felt more stimulated mentally and therefore probably physically, as well. So I asked if she still had sex as often as she would like with her husband. But the answer was still “no.” She was too tired at the end of the day.
Apparently, we are all too tired.
So this is it? We’re just tired? Can’t some Ambien, a margarita, and a good night’s sleep fix that? Or is it that no matter how much rest we get, are our brains are more focused on what death defying stunt junior is pulling off in the next room than getting a little somethin’-somethin’ for ourselves?
Sometimes I think, hey, how hard could it be to introduce a little more sex? It’s a great opportunity to get in bed and lie down. How often does that happen to first-year mothers? Not often enough. Getting in bed any time of the day could be a great thing. But there are tricks to it. It requires skill to find the time, get in the mood, be playful, and most importantly relax. I just don’t know enough of these tricks. So I listen on the playgrounds. I read the parenting boards. And I depend on readers of this blog and friends to help me out.
So regardless if you have 10 kids or none, feel free to share with all of the sexually frustrated, stressed out, exhausted mothers out there. Unless, of course, you’re too tired.