Just because you’re busy parents doesn't mean your sex life has to suffer
Babies are bundles of unbridled joy; there's no denying it. But as incredibly exciting as it is to become new parents, all-new challenges are part of the package: your sex life is often the first casualty of parenthood. Whether you’ve just had your first baby, have several young kids, or are raising teens, parenting can take up a lot of space (if not all the space), and be downright exhausting. Last time I checked, being stressed and/or chronically exhausted wasn’t the most powerful aphrodisiac. Here’s the thing, though: sex is never just sex. A healthy sex life is integral to the health of any relationship. As such, it’s kinda sorta important not to let it flail in the wind.
Fortunately, although breathing new life into your sexual partnership may seem impossible to your likely sleep-deprived mind, all hope is not lost. Many couples with children can and do still enjoy big, bad, exciting sex lives.
Here are a few tips to help you count yourselves among them (please note that this piece is focused on 2-parent households):
1. Share childcare duties evenly
Let’s face it: this is everything! Research (on hetero couples) shows that couples who split childcare duties evenly have superior sex lives—both frequency and quality-wise. Unsurprisingly, they also have more satisfying relationships overall. Highlight: the couples that reported the lowest quality sex lives and relationships were the ones in which the women did most or all of the childcare. These findings are hardly a shocker given that it’s common for both parents to have to go to work, but for the mother to still bear the brunt of cooking, cleaning, and childcare duties. Naturally, arrangements like these create resentment, emotional distance, and bad sex. To counter this and reclaim your sex life (and your relationship as a whole), it’s 100% necessary to communicate with your partner and work together to find ways to share childcare more evenly. And if necessary, there’s no shame in seeking outside counsel in the form of couple’s therapy.
2. Be vocal about your desire
Communication is the common thread running through every point on this list. Parenting is inherently busy, and you may feel that regardless of how much you want it, there’s no time or energy for sex—a sad state of affairs. If every moment of your day is spoken for, it's perfectly normal to be exhausted at the mere thought of coming on to your partner before finally catching some shuteye. It’s not easy, but start small: openly express your desire as it arises—whether there's an opportunity (or the will) to do something about it or not. Keeping the possibility of sex alive and taking advantage of opportunities to nurture sexual tension are avenues toward flirting, kissing, and even making out! If you remain open to the small stuff, like running around sneaking kisses in dark corners like teenagers, the chances of hot sex flowing organically from that (even if you're tired) are a lot higher.
3. Give thanks
Your sex life can be a pretty accurate barometer of what’s going on in your relationship. If the sex is suffering, one or both of you may need to be reminded of life’s simple joys, which can be easy to lose track of when you do something life-altering like bring another human being into the world. Reclaim intimate connection by cultivating strong communication with your partner. One way to do this is to get in touch with your sense of gratitude. Thank your partner for the little things they do that you appreciate (i.e. cooking, cleaning, or massaging your feet—hopefully all three). Similarly, when it comes to your sex life, don’t hesitate to give positive feedback—and let it be known if you appreciate that they prioritize a hot sex life too. You might find new levels of complicity with one another through your shared appreciation of sex—which, in an of itself makes good foreplay while you’re waiting for the right moment.
4. Don’t make a habit of letting your kids share your bed
It’s entirely understandable to want to share your bed with your baby or toddler, whether to facilitate breastfeeding or simply as a way of emulating love, affection, and a safe environment. Particularly as kids get older, cuddling as a family can be sooooo lovely, but try not to normalize sharing your bedroom with your kids, because this makes getting that crucial 1-on-1 time that’s needed to build physical and emotional intimacy with one another even harder to come by.
5. Make time for yourself
As impossible as it may seem at times, and as counterintuitive as it may feel to take time alone so you might take time together, having the luxury of alone time reminds you you’re still you and helps keep you in touch with your sense of desire. Carving out time and space to practice self-lovin’ self-care also keeps you in touch with those little things that keep you feeling attractive and confident (i.e., painting your nails, getting new lingerie, taking a nap, reading a book in the park, or going on a run). Taking care of yourself will make you feel sexier, thereby fueling your partner’s attraction to you: it's a law of the universe.
6. Focus on quality over quantity
Communication is key to learning to truly satisfy one other sexually. Have honest conversations about what turns you on—and what doesn't. Take your time with foreplay, get creative, and experiment with new things—like an oil massage, a naughty game, morning sex (gasp), sex in a different room (when the kids are out), or some new sex toys. And while long, drawn out sex sessions are great, don't be averse to the occasional quickie! Drs. Julie and John Gottman of the Gottman Insititute say couples need both spontaneous quickies and “gourmet sex.” Sex can be just as exciting when it just happens in the moment and doesn’t last for hours.
7. Don’t underestimate ‘date night’
Scheduling a regular date—be it weekly or monthly—might may seem unsexy, but think of it as an opportunity to reconnect outside of your role as parents. Do what it takes to find a reliable childcare option that can liberate you for an evening, and get busy getting to know each other all over again! Whether you’re going out or staying in, you might enjoy a romantic meal, play tourists in your own town, recreate your first date, have a picnic, or head straight to the bedroom (or the seedy motel)—only you as a couple knows where the real need lies. Also, friendly reminder: there’s no shame in scheduling sex—there really isn’t. When life is busy, we simply have to be more intentional about making space for it.
Bottom line: the stronger your relationship and your sex life, the better parents you’ll be. So don't stop expressing desire, initiating contact, and communicating openly. After all, this is the stuff of real intimacy and an enviable sex life! <3