It's generally not something you talk about with your friends, but you will find that the issue of sex after parenting is one that challenges many couples. So much so, that I wrote a book about it!
I'm also speaking at a workshop on Sunday 14th July in Sydney - which is free to Motherpedia readers - about these and many more issues. For those who can't make the workshop, here are my top tips for new (or even not-so-new) parents who might be wondering where their sex life went!
You both have to agree that sex is important and worth the effort. It is. A healthy sex life is a good thing. It’s good for bonding as a couple, it’s relaxing and energising, and it helps you feel good about yourself and about life in general.
And as to the ‘effort’ – you might think that there’s enough effort in your life already, but all the good things in life take effort – health does, wealth does, and so does love. But the good news is that even a small effort creates a feedback loop that makes it easier: good sex strengthens the relationship and makes sex easier.
2. Forget spontaneity
Where did the myth come from that sex is supposed to be spontaneous? It certainly wasn’t when you were first dating, you would have put a huge amount of effort into your appearance and arrangements. You still have to in terms of planning, creating the right atmosphere, distracting the kids, and experimenting with timing and locations. And if all that planning turns you off, at least plan for the possibility of spontaneity by spending relaxing time together when the kids have gone to bed – if you’re together and you’re relaxed, then spontaneity is much more likely!
3. You don’t have to be “in the mood” to have sex
If you think you have to be “in the mood”, already aroused, to have sex, you could be waiting a very long time. Instead, be emotionally agreeable to starting to make love, and let your physical arousal occur as part of the act. Even if you’re an exhausted phase-one mum you can just lie back and let your partner give you the delicious attention you so deserve.
4. Tell the kids you need “Cuddle Time”
They like cuddles, so they’ll understand that you do too. Then it’s easier to distract them, you’re less likely to be interrupted and it’s easier to deal with if you are – “Hey, Mummy and Daddy and having cuddle time, go back and watch the rest of the movie and we’ll go for an ice-cream after!” (Yes, bribery is a useful tool too.)
5. Work as a team with your partner
When you become parents your roles and responsibilities will change and will continue to change. You need to share the parenting and be clear about who’s doing what. Otherwise you’ll build resentments and you’ll become exhausted, and those are dead cert libido killers.
6. Live life
Don’t reduce your relationship just to logistics – live life as foreplay. This means the two of you have to make an effort to get on together, to keep your feelings of intimacy and closeness high, to communicate and to be kind, to actually treat each other like lovers. You have to nurture your relationship, because without tender nurturing anything withers and dies, or at best limps along lamely.
7. Shift from ‘sexiness’ to ‘sensuality’
If you feel like you have to look and feel like a skinny teenager to be sexy and have good sex, then you won’t! Think sensual: it’s softer, rounder, full of depth and warmth, rather gorgeous really. And becoming a parent can enhance your sensuality, because you are surrounded by these wonderful little creatures who are incredibly sensual, who approach the world through their senses.
8. Practice selfish selflessness
You have to look after yourself to look after your kids well. Tired, grumpy, resentful, flustered people do not make the best parents. You’ll enjoy your parenting and your kids will enjoy your parenting more if you’re relaxed and energised and getting on well with your partner. That might seem like a big ask, but it’s actually all about small things that lighten your load and make life easier. So you do less, take life more gently, let life flow and welcome back a long-lost sense of horniness! This puts the spark back into life so that you build up your love of life.
9. You’ve gotta love life to have a love life
Learn from your children, savour and enjoy life like they do – be playful and carefree, appreciate all the little things that go to make up your life. Synergise with your kids’ energy rather than fighting it. Engage in and really experience life, especially when you’re busy and harried. Do this and you’ll love life all the more, and that means your love life will improve -another great feedback loop that makes the tough stuff progressively easier.
Actually, it’s all about love – keep the love between you and your partner strong and that’ll spread to your kids and you’ll have a happy loving family all round.
* * *
You can order a signed copy of Jacqueline's book 'The Sex Life Survival Guide for Parents – how to have great sex in spite of the kids' online.
To register for Sunday's workshop at the special complimentary rate for Motherpedia readers, follow the instructions in the second item of this linked article