In my last post, I started to list some of the physical obstacles to enjoying sex after you have had kids. Today I want to continue that theme, highlighting some of the social obstacles. I mentioned last time Dr. Rosie King. I listened to a webinar of hers last year and she said something that really stuck with me: 55% of women need the context to be just right before being able to enjoy sex.
55%! That’s over half of us, ladies. And that’s probably assuming fairly normal circumstances. But what about when you add to it all the daily issues involved in having a young family? I know for me, I need to book a night or two away before I am going to have “perfect conditions”; but with a baby and limited finances, that’s only happening about once a year. So, with that in mind, let’s look at some of the social issues.
A constant state of listening out for the kids
The kids have been in bed for a while and you know they are asleep, but you are still tuned in to them, waiting for that inevitable cry. You turn the baby monitor off thinking that you can ignore them that way, but that just makes you listen harder. Now half your attention is focused on your partner and the other half is worried that the kids might wake any second. Or, worse, that one of them quietly creeps into your room while you are distracted … awkward! It’s a legitimate concern, isn’t it? But even if you can manage to tune out the kids, there are other things going on in your head.
A head racing with thoughts
You have been focused on the kids all day and now you finally have an hour or two in the evening to get your thoughts in order. You are debriefing in your mind the events of the day while simultaneously planning tomorrow—but now there’s something else to focus on. You find yourself trying to engage with your partner, but your head is simply in another place. And he is likely to sense it, too. Let’s face it, organizing your meal plan, creating a shopping list, thinking about the numerous school activities that week, and the list goes on, while at the same time trying to get into an intimate headspace … the math just doesn’t add up. But let’s say you manage to clear your mind and can focus on your partner, is what’s about to happen out of desire or just a sense of duty?
Another “to do”
It sounds awful to admit this, but sometimes sex can become just another thing on the ever-growing “to do” list. What should be special, intimate, and fulfilling becomes another task alongside making the kids lunches, taking them to swimming, picking up milk, and so forth. Another box that needs to be ticked. It’s horrible to think, let alone verbalize. I mean, how exactly does one communicate: “can we just get this over with, I’ve got things to do,” without insult? These are only a few of the mental barriers, what about the physical ones?
Feeling touched out
At the end of a long day, particularly with young kids that spend a lot of time in your arms and on your breast, you need some space. In fact, there are days where you may feel genuinely repulsed at the idea of being touched; even a hug may be too much. And then, of course, you feel bad because your husband has probably been longing for some physical affection. The fact is, though, you just don’t have it in you to share your body with another person. Speaking of sharing, what about sharing your bed … with your kids, that is.
Children in the bed
I’ll admit, having our children climb into bed with me is something I actually enjoy. We haven’t been big co-sleepers and our babies have always had their own beds, but I do enjoy the opportunity to snuggle up with the kids. Needless to say, however, this is a serious barrier to intimacy—for obvious reasons. How you navigate the boundaries around this is up to you and your partner, and it can be tricky to get on the same page. I want to be able to indulge in my children while they are young, and I do as much as I can, but not at the cost of us having space for each other.
I don’t think I’m alone in a lot of these things. The reality is: creating an optimal context to feel relaxed and ready for pleasure is a challenge. It’s both a physical and social challenge, and, as we will see next time, mental as well. Be encouraged though: it’s only for a season. It won’t be like this forever. This is really important for both parties to remember. For now, however, it’s trickier and requires some navigation and compromise. It means creating realistic expectations around sex. Communicating your changing needs while still showing that your partner is important. I don’t know how long this season will continue for my husband and I; but what I do know is that, when my kids are grown up, l want to still have a healthy sex life with him. This is a difficult challenge for a sleep deprived, touched out mumma, but it’s a worthwhile motivation.
Hopefully this has been helpful. For the final installment, we’ll look at some of the mental obstacles. If this is resonating with you so far, stay tuned for the last of this trilogy.
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